SEC. ROQUE: We are in Sara, Iloilo for the first ever Palace briefing in Sara, Iloilo. As you know, in a few minutes, the President will be arriving to condole with the Demafelis family. And the primary message of the Philippines as you know is that it was the death of Joanna—It was the fate of Joanna Demafelis that led to the ban on the deployment of Filipino overseas workers to Kuwait, because the President says that he gives primary consideration to the welfare and safety of our Overseas Filipino Workers, rather than the economic gains.
The status right now is that the deployment ban remains and we are hopeful that while negotiations are ongoing for a bilateral agreement that would protect the rights of migrant workers in Kuwait, that ties will normalize when this agreement is finally agreed upon by both countries.
Now let me proceed to some good news. The first Cancer Institute in Western Visayas was opened—was approved only recently. The Development Bank of the Philippines recently approved a 259 million term loan to Medicos Cancer Institute and the first cancer institute in Western Visayas. With this loan, the Medicos Cancer Institute Inc. will soon be able to deliver better treatment and support to cancer patients in the region.
Incidentally, before I proceed, I am joined by Congressman Richard Garin of the First District of Iloilo.
Now, another good news: We laud the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines for passing the Universal Safety Oversight Audit Program conducted by the International Civil Aviation Organization.
CAAP scored an overall rating of 69.68% which is above the world average of 64.85%. This exhibits a significant 10.77 improvement from 2016’s overall rating of 58.91. The score indicates CAAP’s improvement in its effective implementation and the country’s better compliance with international safety standards.
We are pleased to announce also that the electronic industry’s export reached 32.7 billion dollars in 2017, an 11% increase from exports in 2016. According to the Semi-Conductor and Electronics Industry in the Philippine Foundation Inc., the Philippines exceeded two fold its expected growth of 5 to 6 % in 2017 when its actual sales reached 11%. The electronics industry accounted for 52% of the 62.87 billion total merchandize exports in 2017.
Now, the Philippine mainstream media yesterday bannered a click bait headline, describing the President as threat to democracy… or a regional threat. I responded when asked during a live phone patch interview by saying that we view this with concern. Later on with that day, with the relevant information on the issue forwarded to me by my staff, I prepared and issued a statement responsive to the pertinent portion of the US Intelligence Community’s report in the Philippines under the administration and/or governance of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte.
In particular, we described as myopic and speculative, it’s reference to the President’s suspending the Constitution declaring revolutionary government and imposing nationwide martial law. I hope this clarifies this matter.
Now, are there questions from local media or can I go ahead and read the questions from Manila?
MARIO HILONGGO / ACTION RADIO-ILOILO: Good afternoon, Mr. Secretary. I’m Action Mario Hilonggo of Action Radio-iloilo. My tanong lang: Meron na po ba tayong update with regards to the case of Joanna Demafelis?
SEC. ROQUE: Well, I followed the Senate hearing yesterday. Apparently the Lebanese employers are still at large. We are hoping that Kuwaiti authorities can give justice to Joanna and her family. Again, the position under international law is that Joanna should be treated in the same manner as all nationals of Kuwait and under international law, Kuwait is duty bound to give Joanna’s family adequate domestic remedy under Kuwaiti Law.
Meaning, it should be investigated, prosecuted and the perpetrators punished at soonest time possible.
MARIO HILONGGO / ACTION RADIO-ILOILO: With regards sa hiling ng pamilya, merong apat na hinihingi ang pamilya: number one, iyong justice; secondly, na matubos iyong nai-sanla na lupa; third, ang pagpapatapos kay Joyce Demafelis iyong youngest nila; at saka mapatapos iyong bahay nila, Secretary. So, is it possible na maibigay po ito ng gobyerno?
SEC. ROQUE: As to first, the justice – the Philippine government will actively espouse the right of the family of Joanna’s to obtain justice. The Lebanese employers must be caught, prosecuted and punished and we will take this up as a matter of obligation. That is what it meant by ‘espousal.’
As to the other assistance to be extended to Joanna, I am sure the government is able and ready to provide all these assistance. But I will wait for the President to make the declaration on all the benefits that will be given t0 Joanna’s family.
If there no local questions, let me proceed.
DEO DE GUZMAN OF THE DZXL-RMN: With the indefinite extension of the tour of duty of PNP Chief Bato, does this mean that President Duterte does not trust any PNP General except for General Bato?
SEC. ROQUE: My answer is: The President has expressed absolute trust and confidence on General Bato, let’s leave it at that.
FROM LEILA SALAVERRIA OF INQUIRER: Sir, you said you were concerned about the US Intel assessment about President Duterte and maintained the US attempt to unseat the government in Nicaragua. What do you think about the effect or consequences from this assessment of the US intel-community, are you saying it will seek to unseat President Duterte as well or undermine this government?
SEC. ROQUE: As I said, I was made to comment on a click bait, which turned out to be untrue. There was no assessment of the US Intel-community that the President was in anyway a threat to democracy or freedom.
However, I issued a statement on the US Intel reports’ statement that the President might declare martial law throughout the country or declare a revolutionary government. As I said, we described this as being myopic and speculative.
FROM LEILA AGAIN: You said the President banned Rappler because President accused Rappler publishing fake news. Journo groups have said this is an attack on freedom of the press and have a chilling effect on media.
SEC. ROQUE: Leila as I said, ang nangyari rito, pinapapasok ang Rappler, si Pia, sa tahanan ng Presidente; dahil ang Malacanang naman po ay tahanan ng Presidente. Eh nabastos po ang Presidente kasi hindi lang nag-fake news ang Rappler pinagpilitan pa na katotohanan ang kaniyang fake news matapos ang imbestigasyon ng Senado.
Iyong pagpapatuloy po ng coverage ni Pia Rañada at Rappler, ito po ay tinutulan na ng napakadaming abogado sa Malacañang matapos sabihin ng SEC na kontrolado ng dayuhan ang Rappler. Pinagpatuloy nga lang po iyan ng Presidente dahil malapit sa kaniya itong si Pia.
Pero ito pong pagpipilitan niya sa kaniyang fake news bagama’t na-establish na sa Senado na wala talagang katotohanan, iyan po talaga ang naging dahilan kung bakit tuluyan nang ipinagbawal si Pia at ang Rappler sa Malacañang.
Kayo naman po, sa sarili ninyong tahanan babastusin kayo ng bisita, masisisi ninyo ba kung palalabasin sa tahanan ninyo iyong nambabatos? Ganoon din po ang Presidente.
NOW, FURTHER QUESTION OF LEILA: Doesn’t this send a message to the media who want to actually cover the President must only produce stories that make him happy? Does this mean that any news org that displeases him for his stories runs the risk of being ban? How do you reconcile the ban with the President himself recognizing nature of media’s job?
SEC. ROQUE: Una, Leila, wala pong mabuting nasulat ang Rappler. Hindi naman po binan sa Malacañang. Na-ban lang sila dahil nagpipilitan sila na totoo daw ang istorya na napatunayan nang fake news. Hindi ka naman ganyan, Leila. Hindi ka maba-ban.
Does this mean we must only produce stories that make him happy?
SEC. ROQUE: Diyos ko po, kung totoo iyan, eh di matagal nang na-ban ang Inquirer at ang Rappler dahil wala naman pong mabuting balita na na-publish ang Rappler at saka Inquirer. Isang taon at kalahati na po ang Presidente sa Malacañang, hindi naman sila na-ban, until dito sa pagpipilit na fake news at saka iyong desisyon nga ng SEC. Ang Inquirer, Pilipinong-Pilipino naman talaga so walang ganyang issue.
Does this mean any news org that displeases him through stories runs the risk of being banned covering Malacañang?
SEC. ROQUE: Bihira po ang magagandang write up ni Presidente, hindi naman po kayo na-ban.
How do you reconcile the ban with the President himself recognizing the adversarial nature of of the media’s job?
SEC. ROQUE: I repeat po: Unang-una, dayuhan ang Rappler; pangalawa, pinagpilitan pang katotohanan ang fake news. Alam ninyo, kung na-fake news at siguro nag-acknowledge na lang sila ng errata o nagkamali sila, walang problema. Pero iyong ipagpipilitan mo na katotohanan ang napatunayan nang fake news, pambabastos po iyon. Uulitin ko, tahanan naman iyon ni Presidente.
FROM HENRY URI: Patanong po, kung sang-ayon ang Malacañang sa proposal ni Senator Nancy Binay na ipagbawal na totally ang pagpapadala ng DH sa Middle East?
SEC. ROQUE: Pag-aaralan po iyan. Basta ang sabi ng Presidente, pangunahing interes ng estado ang pangalagaan po ang karapatang mabuhay at ang karapatang pantao ng mga Pilipinong nagtatrabaho sa iba’t ibang parte ng daigdig. At ito nga pong deployment ban sa Kuwait, ito po ay nagpapakita na mas importante sa atin ang katauhan ng ating mga mamamayan kaysa doon sa kikitain nila sa mga bansang umaabuso sa ating mga kababayan.
FROM VIVIENNE OF ABS-CBN: May I get Palace’s comment on DICT’s statement that it won’t be able to announce the third telco by March as the President wanted. Is the President amenable to DICT? May timeline? Or will he insist on having it next month?
SEC. ROQUE: Siguro po ay overtaken na tayo by events. Ang pagkakaintindi ko, OIC Del Rio has had to move the deadlines because it is physically impossible to meet them. The President did not approve of the extension. Pero I think, the turn of events will eventually make it necessary to move the deadlines.
FROM ROSALIE COZ OF UNTV: Ano po ang program ng government sa anniversary ng EDSA People Power Revolution? Ano rin po ang panawagan o reaksiyon ng Malacañang sa mga grupong magsasagawa ng anti-government protest sa araw na iyon? Will the celebration be simple this year until the end of President Duterte? Bakit po?
SEC. ROQUE: Well, it celebrated as you know, it is a public holiday and as far as the President is concerned, people have the right to resort to their right of peaceful assembly. Hindi po iyan sinusupil. So we welcome any and all protest on that day.
FROM VIVIENNE AGAIN: May nag-send na po ng question about expanded ban on Rappler to cover the entire Malacañang Palace?
SEC. ROQUE: Well, I confirm po. Pia is no longer allowed into the Malacañang complex.
FROM PIA RAÑADA OF RAPPLER: According to Office of Ombudsman, they terminated probe into PRRD’s wealth because AMLC refused to cooperate. Did Malacañang have anything to do with AMLC’s refusal? Does PRRD’s threats versus AMLC officials before have any impact on AMLC’s cooperation with Ombudsman?
SEC. ROQUE: Ask AMLC, Pia. Why are you asking us to comment on something that we did not decide on? Obviously, you need to ask AMLC. As far as the Palace is concerned, the Ombudsman has the Constitutional power to open any and all bank accounts which, it did during the time impeachment of Chief Justice Renato Corona.
Nagpapatunay lang po na iyong pagbabasura sa reklamo tungkol sa diumanong tagong yaman ni Presidente, PRRD, ay wala pong basehan. No basis in law or in fact.
FROM GEN KABILING OF MANILA BULLETIN: Will Philippine government formally protest the US intel report tagging President Duterte as a democratic threat? Do you consider the US report as setback on Philippine-US ties? Will the government review whether or not to continue the strategic partnership with its defense ally?
SEC. ROQUE: Well, Gen, apparently, clickbait po iyong napabalita sa lahat ng mainstream media. Uulitin ko po, hindi naman siya fake news kasi talagang sinabi ng intel department na baka magdeklara ng martial law sa buong Pilipinas at baka magdeklara ng revgov. Pero iyong sinasabi na binansagan daw ang Pangulong Duterte na threat to democracy in Southeast Asia, clickbait po iyon, walang katuturan so hindi na natin sasagutin ang tanong ni Gen Kabiling.
FROM LEILA: Follow up sana sa second question ko. The DND Secretary condemned the PSG Chief’s threat to reporters on his statement that they should be happy they weren’t harmed, they persistently asked questions from an officer. The PSG Chief is standing on his ground. What does the Commander in Chief have to say about this?
SEC. ROQUE: Hindi ko po alam kung ano ang sinabi ng PSG Chief. Hindi ko po narinig. Pero ang Presidente po, wala po kami kahit sinong sinusupil. Wala po kaming sini-censor. Kung talagang sini-censor po kami bakit walang tigil ang banat ng Inquirer at ng Rappler sa Presidente. Hindi po namin kinukondena ang kahit anong paggamit ng dahas laban sa sibilyan pero wala pong ganyang nangyari. If at all, ang nakita natin sa telebisyon ay kinuyog ng mga reporters iyong kaisa-isahang PSG na nagbabantay sa gate ng Malacañang.
FROM AILEEN TALIPING OF ABANTE NEWS: Pahingi po ng reaksiyon, Manny Pangilinan accuses Presidente Duterte of lying. PLDT SMART never asked three billion for frequency.
SEC. ROQUE: Hindi ko po alam if Manny Pangilinan in fact accused the President of lying. I will not comment on tsismis.
FROM ARJAY BALINBIN OF BUSINESS WORLD: Baka may details po kung ano ang outcome nina President Duterte at Japanese conglomerates kahapon po?
SEC. ROQUE: I have a prepared statement on this and I will read it:
The President thanked Japan for their whole-hearted support to his government programs and to the humanitarian assistance they have extended to the Filipino people. He pledged his commitment to ensure that Japan projects will receive attention, free of bureaucratic delays whether government-to-government or business-to-business.
The President welcome partnerships between and among the Philippines conglomerates and Japanese conglomerates for infrastructure and trade. He supports some market driven economy and he wants his government to be fair and effective. From Virgie Lopez of GMA news online: “The House of Representatives committee on population and family relations passed the divorce law and will soon be debated in the Plenary with the present law—will the proposed law stand a chance of getting enacted considering that the President is reportedly against divorce?”
A newspaper report in March 2016, quoted him and saying that he was not in favor of divorce for the sake of the children. I confirm that the President in March of 2016 said in a newspaper interview that he was against divorce for the sake of the children and he is definitely against abortion. I further confirm that the President remains steadfastly against abortion although I will seek clarification within the day if his position on divorce and that he sees against divorce still stands because this is as of March of 2016 or two years ago.
From Mylene Alfonso: “Minority centers demand joint calls for the immediate release of opposition Senator Leila De Lima who will mark her first year of illegal arrest and unjust detention on Saturday February 24. Happy First Anniversary in detention, Senator Leila De Lima.” As to the call of the Senators, that’s up to the Courts. I hope the Senators will not politicize our Courts. Let our Courts function as they should, free from political interference. I’m appealing to the opposition senators, do not influence the judges.
From Prince: “Following the Palace ban on Rappler reporter Pia Ranada, could be serve as a precedent for other branches of government being covered by Rappler to ban its reporters.” We leave it to the other line agencies, to determine for their own—under own or for their own purpose what to do with Rappler but the legal position of lawyers in Malacañang is that the SEC ruling clearly said that Rappler is controlled by foreigners and the position of Malacañang is that it was only the generosity of the President that allowed Pia Ranada and Rappler to continue reporting from Malacañang despite the SEC ruling.
From Jo Montemayor: “Baka po may updates sa meeting ni PRRD with Lucio Tan?” Nabasa ko na po iyong aking report.
From Leo Palo: “Nag-react ka sa intel report ng US against PRRD. Totoo bang na-fake news ka?” Well ang aking reaksiyon po diyan, tinatanong ako na di umano, sabi ng US inter-report, ang Presidente daw ay banta sa demokrasya sa South East Asia. Sumagot ako, pero noong tiningnan po namin iyong report ay sinagot ko rin iyong sinabi ng report na magdedeklara daw ng martial law ang Presidente sa buong Pilipinas at magdedeklara ng revolutionary government. At sinabi ko nga po myopic po iyang paningin na iyan at saka speculative.
From Aileen Taliping: “Sang-ayon ba ang Palasyo sa mungkahi ni House Speaker Alvarez na i-abolish ang UN at sa halip ay magtatag ng UN of Asia para hindi makapasok ang Westerners?”
Iyan po ay personal na opinyon ni Speaker Alvarez, nirerespeto po namin iyan.
From Rosalie: “Ano po ang reaksiyon ninyo sa ikinasang 1 million signature campaign ng ilang sectors kontra TRAIN law at ang ginagawang draft bill ng Makabayan bloc to repel TRAIN law?”
Good luck, Makabayan bloc on your proposed bill. And it’s a free country you can get even up to a billion signatures if you want to. Any further questions?
Q: Sir follow up question. With regard sa OWWA doon sa nilapitan ng family ni Joana Demafeliz, na-identify na po natin kung sino iyong taga OWWA at kung sakaling na-identify natin. Ano ang sanction ng—
SEC. ROQUE: Ano ba iyong ginawa di umano ng OWWA? Hindi ko po alam. Ang alam ko iyong bagong OWWA deputy administrator po naririto na sa bayang ito. Si…sino ito, iyong dating taga PAGCOR? Si Arnel Ignacio arrived earlier in the day, dito sa bahay nila Joana. So, ano ho ba iyong sinasabi mong ginawa noong OWWA?
Q: Hindi iyong pumunta iyong pamilya ni Joana Demafeliz prior to—na nakita siya sa loob ng freezer at sabi daw ng pamilya na naipasa-pasa daw ng OWWA, POEA. So na-identify po ba natin ang taong ito sa OWWA?
SEC. ROQUE: Wala pa po akong impormasyon bagama’t ang mga naanunsiyo po ni Labor Secretary kahapon ay iyong dalawang labor attaché natin sa Kuwait at saka iyong OWWA Welfare officer natin ay pina-recall na po niya dahil nakapatagal bago sila umaksiyon para hanapin kung nasaan si Joanna bagama’t nai-report na po na nawawala itong si Joana. Okay?
Q: Sir, good afternoon under of UNTV sir. Sir, after po ma-reveal sa Senate iyong hearing ang 196 OFW na namatay sa Kuwait in three years. May assistance po ba na natanggap from government ang mga relatives nun?
SEC. ROQUE: Ay sigurado naman pong may standard assistance kasi na ibinibigay. Mayroon po talagang repatriation assistance at mayroon pong mga death benefits na na ibibigay ang OWWA.
Q: Iyon po sa—in case sa mga hindi po nakatanggap. Saan po sila maaring magpunta?
SEC. ROQUE: Pumunta lang po sila sa OWWA. Ngayon pong nandiyan na si Arnel, puntahan ninyo po si Arnel Ignacio. Si Arnel Ignacio po napakataas ng suweldo niyan sa PAGCOR bilang isang Vice President, lumipat po talaga siya sa OWWA dahil gusto niyang manilbihan sa ating mga kababayang OWFs.
Q: At saka isa pa po sir. May iba pang bansa na maaring mapuntahan ng mga OFW na pauwi from Kuwait na gusto ulit mag-abroad not only for DH or maging skilled, or semi-skilled?
SEC. ROQUE: Opo binigyan na po natin ng instruction ang lahat ng ating mga diplomatic and consular posts na humanap ng mga alternatibong mga destinasyon para sa ating OFW, iyong mga lumagda po sa ILO convention that would protect the rights of our migrant workers at kasama na po diyan iyong bansang Oman at Bahrain kasi wala po halos nagrereklamo diyan sa mga Pilipinong nagtatrabaho sa Oman at saka sa Bahrain.
Q: At saka isa pa sir ang—sa plan po ng government na magpapadala po ng OFW sa Russia. Ano po iyong—
SEC. ROQUE: Ah pinag-uusapan pa po iyan dahil gusto rin ng Russia at gusto rin po ng bansang Tsina na makapagtanggap ng ating mga manggagawa, pinag-uusapan po ngayon iyan ng mga opisyales ng DOLE, DFA at sa kanilang mga counterparts sa Russia at saka sa Tsina.
Q: At saka updates din po sa napauwi po na OFW from Kuwait na kaya pa bang mapauwi ang lahat ng mga OFWs doon, iyong mga undocumented—
SEC. ROQUE: Iyong mga ayaw na pong manatili sa Kuwait, ang pangako ni Presidente, sige po umuwi kayo at tutulungan natin kayo.
Q: Ano raw ho iyong naghihintay na trabaho po pag-uwi nila ng Pinas?
SEC. ROQUE: Well mayroon naman pong mga oportunidad dito dahil nga dito sa ating build, build, build program at saka mayroon pong mga training na ibinibigay ang TESDA para doon sa mga bagong uwi po lalong-lalo na iyong galing sa Kuwait.
Q: Regarding naman po sa pag-walk out ng mga militante, estudyante bukas. May isa pong in-interview po kasi na militante, sabi nila na hindi sila natatakot na ma-kick out, dapat daw si Presidente Duterte daw ay i-kick out. Wala po bang lalabagin o pananagutan ang estudyante kasi ongoing class aalis sila?
SEC. ROQUE: Well bahala po sila kung gusto nilang ma-kick out sila. Sayang po iyan lalong-lalo na iyong mga nakikinabang sa libreng tuition ng taong 2017. Panawagan lang huwag sayangin po ang libreng tuition dahil ang mga nagbabayad ng tuition para maging libre iyong mga gaya ni Joanna Demafeliz, iyong mga nagsusumikap, nagtatrabaho malayo sa kanilang pamilya, binubuwis ang kanilang mga buhay at binabayaran—nagbabayad sa pamamagitan ng luha at ng kanilang mga dugo.
So sana po huwag nating balewalain iyong sakripisyo ng mga Pilipino na nagbabayad ng buwis para mapag-aral ng libre ang ating mga estudyante sa ating State Universities and Colleges. Pero karapatan po nila iyan, konsensiya po nila iyan!
Q: Lastly po. Ano po iyong option ng pamahalaan kung hindi magkapirmahan ang Philippine government at Kuwait regarding po sa OFW—
SEC. ROQUE: Sa ngayon po mayroon tayong absolute deployment ban papunta ng Kuwait.
Q: Thank you po.
SEC. ROQUE: Salamat po. Kung wala na pong ibang tanong, maraming salamat po sa ating mga kababayan dito sa Iloilo, lalong-lalo na sa municipality ng Sara. Maraming salamat kay Mayor Hermelita Salcedo dahil hinayaan niya tayong gamitin ang kaniyang session room, at maraming salamat din kay first district Congressman Richard Garin! Papunta na po kami sa bahay ng mga Demafeliz. Salamat po.
SOURCE: PCOO – NIB (News and Information Bureau)