Press Briefing

Press Briefing by Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque

Event Press Briefing

SEC. ROQUE:                                   …(recording starts). The sense of optimism for a better Philippines is very probable as we start the New Year. We must therefore continue the strong start we have made to sustain our economic momentum, make our community safe and secure and bring governance closer to the people.

Second good news, the DTI reports on the Philippine manufacturing sector ‘no. We are bullish to see manufacturing sector hitting record numbers consistently. We take note that the Philippines has maintained its top place among ASEAN countries in the manufacturing sector according to the Nikkei Philippines Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index or the PMI.

This is a good indication of increasing overall production capacity if we are to restructure our economy and elevate our country from a net importing to a net exporter country. It is noteworthy to mention that manufacturing is a key driver for growth and reliable source of jobs for our people. Manufacturing grew by 8.3 percent during the first three quarters of 2017 and employed 3.4 million workers as of October 2017. To sustain this we are therefore committed to create an environment conducive for high scale, high value, high impact and manufacturing operations.

The President has tasked me to announce that he has terminated the services of Mr. Marcial QC Amaro, administrator of MARINA. On December 22, the Office of the President received a complaint purportedly coming from employees of the MARINA complaining that administrator Amaro has had 11 foreign trips in 2017 alone. The President ordered an investigation, the Department of Transportation furnished the Office of the President with the list of travel of Mr. Amaro. It turns out that the complaint of the employees is wrong, because while the employee said that Mr. Amaro made 11 trips in 2017 alone, the DOTr reported that Mr. Amaro in fact made 18 official travels in 2017.

In 2016 he had 6 or a total of 24 travels. The President has decided therefore to terminate his services. We underscore the fact that previously Chair Terry Ridon was also terminated because of 7 foreign travel and if 7 foreign travel was deemed excessive by the President, 24 travels definitely is excessive by the President’s standard.

Let this be a reminder to all public officials that the President is serious in his mandate that they should live modest lives, that they should be true to their calling, and that they should avoid unnecessary trips. I’d like to highlight that all of the trips except for one are official but the point of the President is we have to be selective in the trips that we will undertake and that definitely 24 travels is excessive; of the 24 travels only about 3 were sponsored trips, all the other trips were paid for by the Philippine government and in all the other—almost all the trips he received honorarium and other sums for his trips abroad. Questions?

EDITH REGALADO/PHILIPPINE STAR:             Good afternoon, sir. I just would like to know of all those trips, you said three were financed by the organizers who invited him. Now the others were paid by government and he collected honorarium?

SEC. ROQUE:                                   The plane fares were paid for by Philippine government and he collected honorariums.

EDITH/PHIL. STAR:                      Sir, I would just like to know, is it only the trips that made the President decide or were there other complaints inside his office that the office has been used for something else for business purposes of whatever?

SEC. ROQUE:                                   Well other documentation furnished to me by the PMS were, number one, the complaint of the employees; and number two, the report of the Department of Transportation detailing the trips and whether not they were funded by Philippine government funds. So I only had two documents turned over by PMS.

EDITH/PHIL. STAR:                      So nothing about him using the office as—for some business purposes?

SEC. ROQUE:                                   The PMS did not turn over any such document to me. But I have to admit that I have heard some reports but the PMS did not dwell on those reports.

MADONNA TIMBAL/ABS-CBN:           Okay sir. Dahil sinibak na nga sir. May ipapalit na po ba sa puwesto?

SEC. ROQUE:                                   Wala pa pong ina-announce ang ating Presidente.

MADONNA/ABS-CBN:               Pero possibly sir sino po ba ang mga nakalinya sir na posibleng papalit sa kaniya? Mayroon bang mga potential na mga personality sir na posibleng papalit sa kaniya sa puwesto?

SEC. ROQUE:                                   Wala pa pong nabanggit sa akin. Bagama’t with 100 million Filipinos, we’re confident that there would be a Filipino who can do the job in the MARINA.

MADONNA/ABS-CBN:               Ano pong mga qualifications pa po na kailangan sir sa papalit na official sa puwesto po?

SEC. ROQUE:                                   Alam mo naman ang Presidente natin simple lang ang kaniyang marching order sa lahat ng taong gobyerno ‘no. Do your job well, serve the people well. Do not lie. Be honest. And do not engage in junkets.

MADONNA/ABS-CBN:               Sir isang follow up lang po pala. Why the delay in the announcement when you should have announced it December 30 and then yesterday—supposedly yesterday in the press briefing in Malacañang and then finally you announced it here in Davao?

SEC. ROQUE:                                   There was only one day delay because I was asked by the Palace to postpone the announcement yesterday ‘no. The order was to announce it in the next press briefing. So the next press briefing from the date it was first relay to me was only yesterday January 3 because we cancelled our January 1 briefing ‘no. So that was the—the occasion. Yesterday should have been the occasion but I was asked to hold it in abeyance for a day.

MADONNA/ABS-CBN:               Thank you, sir.

BAM ALEGRE/GMA7:                 Good afternoon, sir. So, so far MARINA lang po, ito lang po ang announcement natin today sir?

SEC. ROQUE:                                   Yes, MARINA.

BAM/GMA7:                                    Sir, request lang po ng reaction sir. Si Mayor Sarah Duterte raw nakapasok doon sa magic 12 noong—

SEC. ROQUE:                                   Well, I read a news from a news magazine online. But I have not seen the survey myself.

BAM/GMA7:                                    So no comment muna?

SEC. ROQUE:                                   Oo no comment po. And I think, Mayor Duterte has her own Spokesperson in City Hall.

RUTH DUMANDAN/RADYO PILIPINAS:                         Sir, aside from Ridon and Amaro. Are there any other officials na iniimbestigahan pa rin due to iyong foreign trips nila sir?

SEC. ROQUE:                                   I don’t know about foreign trips but I think yesterday I also declared that quite a number of police officials including Colonels ‘no will soon be terminated. But the names have not been provided to me yet.

RUTH/RADYO PILIPINAS:       Can you give us the number sir? How many?

SEC. ROQUE:                                   I know there’s a number of them but the exact list will be given to me. I was just told that the investigation is almost over.

RUTH/RADYO PILIPINAS:       Okay. Sir, on Paolo Duterte’s resignation. Have you talked to the President about it?

SEC. ROQUE:                                   Well I’m here because I wish to talk to the President and we have not met. I only arrived this morning.

RUTH/RADYO PILIPINAS:       So, so far wala pang desisyon si President? Okay. Thank you sir.

IAN MELIJOR/PHILIPPINE NEWS AGENCY:                 Good afternoon, Ian Melijor from Philippine News Agency. Just a follow up on foreign travels, yesterday, the President issued the guidelines for foreign trips. Have you—do you have any records sir how much is the government spending for foreign trips of government officials?

SEC. ROQUE:                                   I don’t have the figure with me. But that’s one of the figures I wanted to get from the 2018 national budget ‘no. And I’m going to look into that ‘no. But right now the guidelines have been issued. Foreign trips must be related to the functions of the government. It must not be too pricy, it must not be too costly and the benefits to the country of the trip must be substantial ‘no. So those are the three guidelines ‘no in order that foreign trips will be approved. All government employees need to get approval for any foreign travel be it official or personal.

IAN MELIJOR/PNA:                     May mga ano ba sir… limits on the number of travels na nire-require on government [officials] and what—did the Commission on Audit also called the attention of the government about this foreign trip?

SEC. ROQUE:                                   Hindi po. This is the President’s unilateral decision to crack down on foreign travels of government officials. He believes that government officials should concentrate on their jobs here in the Philippines. The travels should be only for officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs and that any foreign travel must conform with the guidelines related to the agency’s mandate, must not be too costly and must have significant benefits to the country.


Q:                                                           Sir, iyong problema sa PCSO, Alexander Balutan and Sandra Cam. Ano iyong message ni President Duterte dito, sir?

SEC. ROQUE:                                   Wala pa po ‘no. Wala pa pong nasasabi sa akin si Presidente. And I am here because I will confer with the President.

Q:                                                           Sir question lang po. Speaker Alvarez floated the idea  of no-el and  then Senate President Koko Pimentel said something  about  term extension. So, where does the President stand on this?

SEC. ROQUE:                                   The President has spoken on these issues. Number one, the President is the Chief implementor of the Constitution and the laws of the land, unless and until the Constitution is amended and ratified by the people, elections will push through in 2019. And what the President promises is that if election push through, we will have a credible and honest elections.

On the possible term extension, he has said it before. If we can amend the Constitution and provide for provisions that will minimize graft and corruption, he will even resign   prior to the end of his term of office in 2022. So, the President is considering shortening his term but has definitely rejected even the idea of   prolonging his term.

Q:                                                           What the Speaker   said and what the Senate President said, do these things have something to do with or does the ano, iyong the push for shift to  federal form of government  have something to do with such ideas?

SEC. ROQUE:                                   Well, as I said ‘no, the President has no wish to extend his term. If the Constitution can be amended, to provide for federalism and to provide for provisions that would strengthen public accountability, he  has said, he is willing to cut short his term. So the idea of prolonging his term is out of the question. Inuulit ko po, walang pagnanais si Presidente na pahabaan pa ang kanyang termino, gusto nga niya pong paikiliin pa kung pupuwede.


Q:                                                           Sir, any reaction po, the expose  that  the PCSO  hosted  a costly na Christmas party. Is there is a possibility na gaya nung sa Marina official na matatanggal din sa puwesto if positive na ganun iyong nangyari?


SEC. ROQUE:                                   Wala pa po akong alam diyan. But I think both officials of the PCSO have spoken. And what I do know, is the   President is fully cognizant of what transpired and I’m sure, if he has any decision he will make it known soon.

JOEY DALUMPINES/PIA:         Sir what’s the veracity of the information that  church leaders pleaded  to the President not to call  the communist rebels as terror organization?

SEC. ROQUE:                                   No idea, because the Department of Justice is about to file the pleading before the Regional Trial Court of Manila to declare the CPP-NPA as a terrorists organization pursuant to the Human Security Act.

MADONNA:                                     Okay, sir with regards sa excise tax. Ano po kaya ang epekto  nito sa poorest of the poor, sir?

SEC. ROQUE:                                   Well, ang alam ko po ay magkakaroon nga tayo ng mitigating cash transfer which will be implemented in the first half of this year. If I am not mistaken, it is, magkano ba iyon, 200 or 300 pesos ata ‘no na ibibigay by way of  conditional cash transfer to the poorest of the  poor. And of course, I’d like to highlight that the proceeds of TRAIN will be spent for build, build, build. The build, build, build program will not only provide us with better infrastructure, it will also stimulate the economy, create more jobs and therefore create more income for everyone.

Q:                                                           Sir on the barangay and SK elections. There are questions whether the President would postpone the elections in Mindanao since last year  it was also moved        citing the declaration of  martial law.

SEC. ROQUE:                                   Well, the decision to postpone elections is one made by Congress not by the President. So, it’s an issue of policy. So Congress will have to legislate on this regard.

Q:                                                           Sec, iyong anti-arson Task Force po meron na silang findings.

SEC. ROQUE:                                   Anti?

Q:                                                           Iyong anti-arson task force dito sa NCCC mall inter-agency task force. Meron na silang findings na it’s a short circuit po. May comment po ang Malacañang  dito a progress po po ng investigation doon sa nangyaring sunog?

SEC. ROQUE:                                   Well, not per se on this on this finding. But I understand yesterday that the President met with the Bureau of Fire people and the PNP here in Davao and the agenda was how to strengthen 911.    What the President wants is to make Davao the showcase for 911 and he wants all reforms   on 911 implemented in Davao, to be implemented nationwide.  Now, there was an information given to the media that the President somehow lectured the police. He did not lecture them on anything outside of  issues affecting  the police force, such as you  know,  how to serve warrants, instances  of warrantless arrest. So,  it’s basically Constitutional  Law one for police officers and of course the President having been a former fiscal knows the relevant rules, provisions,  rules and criminal procedure and on the Constitution that governs the  topic of arrest and seizures.  So that what he lectured them on.

Before we take the question, the President also met with the Indonesian Foreign Minister yesterday here in Panacan. There were some agreements with the Indonesia relating to security that was agreed  upon by Philippine President  and President Widodo, although  details cannot be divulge.

Q:                                                           Hi sir, regarding po doon sa meeting with Foreign Minister Marsudi  baka po meron  kayong iba pong mase-share, mababanggit?

SEC. ROQUE:                                   Iyon lang po. Ang binanggit lang po ay it was actually a courtesy call, it was Tete-a-tete, tama ba iyong pronunciation ko doon? And the President indicated that there  were security agreements and arrangements agreed upon between the two countries but obviously, because these are security matters, it cannot be  divulged.

Q:                                                           There is a question here from Dexter of ABS-Manila. Medyo balik na naman tayo doon.  The Marina Admin and Deputy Admin shall be appointed by the President for a term of six years.  That the President may remove the Admin, Deputy Admin from office for a cause upon recommendation of the board. So parang sinasabi niya Marina charter daw po is a presidential  decree no. 474 particularly sa section 9.  Puwedeng sibakin ng Pangulo and Administrator or Deputy Administrator have recommendation ng board, kailangan ba itong masunod?

SEC. ROQUE:                                 Well, the President has decided to  terminate the administrator  whatever is required to  terminate it  has to be complied  with  by the board,if there is any such requirement. There are some GOCCs where appointments are made by the board and what the President does is to issue “I wish to elect  peson x,y,z as a member 0f the  board  or as chairman of the board.” So, the board members would have to comply. So what I am saying is, if there is such a requirement and the board has to act.

Q:                                                           Para malinaw lang po, sir.  May legal basis daw po ba iyong termination daw po kay Amaro?

SEC. ROQUE:                                   That’s for cause, 24 foreign trips in span of 13 months.  That’s an average of two. If he stays three days per trip, that basically half the time he was abroad.

Q:                                                           Sir, there are questions from Manila, sir.

SEC. ROQUE:                                   Yes, let me see. I think I had only that question also from Manila. Wait let me see if there are other questions. I just announced it.  Mr. Uri. And then Joseph Morong, it’s not a question, it’s a comment.  No further questions from Malacañang Press Corps.  Malacañang Press Corps, if you have further questions, please text them now or, forever hold your piece until next Monday.

Q:                                                           The President promised to give assistance to mall-fire victims. I just want to clarify if this is–iyong financial assistance ibibigay ng DOLE kung ito na iyon? That was approved yesterday by Secretary Bello, sir?

SEC. ROQUE:                                   I do not know if that’s exclusively sum, but I do not know if there will be other assistance. But what I do know is that the President is able to give from his own funds, outside of funds coming from other departments.

Q:                                                           Sir regarding doon sa excise tax, sabi ninyo may mitigating  cash transfer na ibibigay 200  or 3oo pesos. Kailan po mag-uumpisa itong cash?

SEC. ROQUE:                                  I am not sure if it’s 200 or 300 now ha. I have the exact number because I responded to that yesterday only.

Q:                                                           But kelan po kaya possible mag-uumpisa itong cash transfer, sir, para sa poorest of the poor, sir?

SEC. ROQUE:                                   Alam mo sandal lang ha, kasi that’s one of the things I mentioned in yesterday’s briefing, senior moment, hindi ko maalala na. But what I do know is that, there will be implementing rules  to be  finalized  and if I am not mistaken, it’s within the year of 2018.

Q:                                                           First quarter, second quarter, third quarter?

SEC. ROQUE:                                   If I am not mistaken, it is from January to July of this year.

Q:                                                           So sapat po ba  itong 200 to 300 pesos na ano, sir?

SEC. ROQUE:                                   Alam mo  kasi, this is only mitigating, ang tawag naman mitigating para maibsan pero ito naman po ay pupunta sa pinakamahirap, ibig sabihin iyong mga mahirap naman hindi rin masyadong  maraming nabibili na   mga commodities na subject to excise tax. So kahit papaano makakatulong talaga itong mitigating conditional cash transfer.

Q:                                                           Ano iyong mga parameters, sir para hindi rin—mapupunta talaga doon sa mga mahihirap sir, itong mga cash transfer at hindi mate-take advantage ng mga –

SEC. ROQUE:                                   Yes, because we already have list of beneficiaries in the conditional cash transfer. It will be the same population that will benefit from this cash mitigation which  is a provision  of  the  tax reform act, the TRAIN.

Q:                                                           There is a question here from Reymund Tinaza  of Bombo, the President of MPC. Sabi po ni Senator Sotto: “ang daming  pinakalat ng  oposisyon na maling info kaugnay sa TRAIN Law.” And he urges government officials to counter this by explaining to the public the details of the law. Will the government conduct massive info drive to explain the new tax law para maiwasan ang misunderstanding at pag-abuso ng mga   negosyante gamit  ang batas?

SEC. ROQUE:                                   Opo, in fact,  kahapon po halos lahat ng ahensiya ng gobyerno nagsasabi na hindi dapat na tumaas kaagad ang presyo ng mga bilihin, dahil ang excise tax naman po ay pinapataw hindi doon sa old inventory,  kung hindi sa mga bagong inventory. So walang dahilan  para  tumaas ang presyo on day one of  the effectivity of the law. So kung hindi po ako nagpunta sa Davao, magkakaroon   sana ako ng guest from the Department of Finance si Usec. Carl. Pero since we decided to have this press briefing  in Davao hindi po natuloy. But on Monday, I will invite again Department of Finance. I also know that PCOO is working double-time to   embark on a dissemination campaign on the salient features of the TRAIN. And likewise the DTI will not hesitate to prosecute individuals who will take advantage of price hikes invoking TRAIN as a legal basis. I stress that the excise tax will be imposed   on new inventory and not on existing inventory. So, kailangan maubos muna iyong current inventory bago sila magtaas  by virtue  of the TRAIN.

Q:                                                           But if the draft charter provides for the President staying on in a  transitory capacity, what will he do. Would you tell his allies in Congress not to involve him in any transition government?

SEC. ROQUE:                                   Well malinaw po ang sinabi ni Presidente: kung mapapaaga ang charter change para magkaroon probisyon na mapapaigting natin iyong laban natin laban sa korapsyon maski maaga niyang tapusin ang termino niya. Pero wala po siyang sinabi na siya ay nagnanais na palawakin pa o patagalin pa ang kaniyang termino. Malinaw na malinaw po si Presidente diyan.


And I think even the Senate President said that the President would have to consent ‘no. And given the emphatic statement of the President that he does not wish to stay one minute longer than his term, I do not think it is something that he finds attractive.

Q:                                                           Sir isang question na lang po. You made mention about police official as high as Colonels who are in the list—were supposed to be—and you said something about investigation going on. Do we have a timeline or kung kailan iyan?

SEC. ROQUE:                                   Well sinabi na po sa akin iyan December 10 na malapit na ‘no. And before December 10, there was also information given to me already ‘no that I could tell the public in advance that they are going to terminate quite a number—

Q:                                                           Is it 60 or 90?

SEC. ROQUE:                                   Hindi ko po alam talaga kung ano iyong numbers ‘no. Again inulit po sa akin na halos tapos na ang imbestigasyon. So maybe this month.

Q:                                                           This month?

SEC. ROQUE:                                   Maybe this month.

Q:                                                           The announcement for those who—

SEC. ROQUE:                                   It’s likely that it will come out this month.

Q:                                                           Thank you sir.

SEC. ROQUE:                                   So lahat naman po ito inuulit-ulit ko dahil kinakailangan iparating ang mensahe sa mga taong gobyerno: Nandito po tayo para manilbihan, kung nais po nating magpayaman, kung nais nating magbiyahe, sa pribadong sector na po tayo.

Q:                                                           Sir, Rudolf from PIA. Does the regulation on travel also extend to rank and file not just to officials?

SEC. ROQUE:                                   Of course, it applies to everyone. Alam mo kaya importante din na kailangan ma-approve maski personal trips, mayroon naman kasing Unexplained Wealth Act ‘no, kung biyahe ka nang biyahe na personal nga, walang gastos ng gobyerno, saan mo naman kinukuha iyong pambiyahe mo ‘no kung madalas na madalas iyan.

Q:                                                           Sir, last question lang along that line, about biyahe-biyahe.

SEC. ROQUE:                                   Yes, Ma’am.

Q:                                                           Could you confirm or ano—does the President check on the passports of the government officials?

SEC. ROQUE:                                   I don’t think he physically does. But there is now a provision in the memorandum issued yesterday that heads of office must furnish the office of the Executive Secretary with a list of officials who have travelled on a regular basis.

Q:                                                           So no need to check on the passports or anything because the head of office should furnish—

SEC. ROQUE:                                   Yes. There is now a report required of heads of offices on who have been given travel permits.

Q:                                                           No cover ups?

SEC. ROQUE:                                   No cover ups.

Q:                                                           Okay.

SEC. ROQUE:                                   Yes.

RUTH DUMANDAN/RADYO PILIPINAS:                         Yes sir, any updates lang sa Marawi rehabilitation sir.

SEC. ROQUE:                                   Well we were in Marawi, unfortunately whether prevented the President’s chopper from landing in Marawi.

The good news was on the 23rd we delivered 800 temporary shelters ‘no, the first 800 temporary shelters intended for the Bakwits ‘no. 300 of which were built and funded by PAGCOR and 500 by the National Housing Authority. That’s the first batch. I know that there will be another 200 minimum in the next month. And another further 171 ‘no next month. So next month there could be a minimum of additional 371 ‘no. Of course the total target is to build 6,700 housing units for Bakwits.

So I’m happy to note that barely two months after Marawi was liberated we had turned over 800 housing units which roughly amounts to 12, 13 percent of our target.

RUTH/RADYO PILIPINAS:       Anong timeline sa completion sir?

SEC. ROQUE:                                   Well napakabilis po eh. Nagulat ako na napakabilis kasi ang ginagamit naman po nila eh mga imported technology na parang prefab houses ‘no kaya mabilis po ‘no. So I think kung matuloy po iyong 300 we would have 1,100 done within three months after liberation of Marawi. So I could see that it is not impossible that in one year’s time we could achieve the target ‘no, sa bilis po ng pagtatayo nitong mga temporary shelters.

Now we call them temporary shelters but noong nakita ko po sila permanent shelters po iyon. In fact may mga ilang bahay po na 5 years ang binibigay na termino para doon sa mga titira ‘no pero ang sabi nga ng mga housing agent eh sino pang titira diyan after 5 years kasi lahat naman sila mabibigyan ng temporary shelter ‘no.

So mabilis po ang proseso, mabilis po ang pagbangon ng Marawi and that’s because the President promised to rebuild Marawi in the soonest time possible.

MODERATOR:                                                May pahabol dito sa Dexter of DZMM: Anong aktibidad ng Pangulo sa Martes, Translasyon ng Black Nazarene and another ang pagsibak ba kay MARINA Admin ay dahil sa mga travel abroad o may iba pang dahilan?

SEC. ROQUE:                                   Ang alam ko lang po dalawa pong dokumento ang ibinigay sa akin ng PMS. Iyong letter ng complaint at iyong report ng DOTr doon sa kaniyang mga travels.

MODERATOR:                                                Okay, no more questions?  No more?

SEC. ROQUE:                                   Okay so—

MODERATOR:                                                I would like to ask our Secretary for his final statement. Sir?

SEC. ROQUE:                                   Well iyon lang po. Tingin ko po wala ng kaduda-duda na seryoso ang ating Presidente dito sa kampanya laban sa korapsyon. Uulitin ko lang po, kung nagnanais po kayong yumaman, kung nagnanais kayong magbumiyahe, huwag na po kayong magtrabaho sa gobyerno, nandiyan naman po ang pribadong sektor. Maraming salamat po at good afternoon to all of you.

MODERATOR:                                                Maraming salamat po, Secretary and back to PTV and Radyo Pilipinas. Thank you guys. Thank you, MPC.


Source: PCOO-NIB (News and Information Bureau)