Press Briefing

Press Briefing by Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque

Event Press Briefing
Location Malacañang Press Briefing Room, New Executive Building

OPENING STATEMENT:

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen of the media.

Let me begin by addressing the request of BURI for an audience with the President.

We find no reason to have the requested meeting. We have already canceled the contract with BURI and the government decided to meanwhile take over the maintenance of MRT.

Now, also as of now, as of 11:32, we have not officially received any word about the reported resignation of Department of Transportation Undersecretary Cesar Chavez.

And therefore, I still cannot comment on this reported resignation ‘no.

Now, the Executive Secretary has also requested me to read a notice to the public that he issued last 21 November 2017 and I read as follows:

“Notice is hereby given to the public that unscrupulous individuals have been posing as members of the Cabinet, including the Executive Secretary or namedropping the latter in fraudulent schemes to solicit funds from the public.

In particular, please be warned that the Office of the President or the Office of the Executive Secretary has not authorized any person to solicit money or other things of value from the public for the alleged benefit of Marawi soldiers, senior citizens, illegal drug campaign, or for any other course for that matter.”

So I reiterate, the Palace, none of the Cabinet members has authorized anyone to raise funds for any purpose.

Now, I also committed to report to you the Negative List in our last press briefing. And I have before me now, Memorandum Order No. 16, the Negative List for the year includes private recruitment; local or overseas employment; practice of particular professions when allowing foreign participation will redound to the public benefit; contracts for the construction and repair of locally-funded public works; public services, except activities and systems that are recognized as public utilities such as transmission…

Let me — or should I just distribute copies of this? Medyo mahaba eh. We’ll just distribute copies of Memorandum No. 16 directing the NEDA Board and its member agencies to exert utmost efforts to ease restrictions on certain investment areas or activities with limited foreign participation ‘no.

Okay. To raise the Philippine level of competitiveness and to foster higher economic growth, the NEDA Board and its member agency are hereby directed to take immediate steps to lift or ease restricting — existing restrictions on foreign participation.

This is to ease foreign restrictions, as I said, private recruitment; practice of particular professions where foreign participation will redound to the public benefit; contracts for the construction and repair of locally-funded public works; public services, except activities and systems that are recognized as public utilities such as transmission and distribution of electricity, water, pipeline, distribution system and sewerage pipeline system; culture production, milling processing, and trading except retailing of rice and corn, and acquiring by bulk purchases or otherwise rice and corn and by-products thereof; teaching at higher education levels; retail, domestic enterprises, and domestic market enterprises.

So the NEDA Board are hereby directed to earnestly support in a coordinated manner such legislative efforts as maybe necessary to eliminate or relax aforesaid restrictions including pending legislation seeking to clarify the definition of public utilities ‘no.

Now, today is November 23, we will… We are commemorating the November 23 Maguindanao massacre and we have as guest later Undersecretary Egco, head of the Presidential Task Force on Media Security.

We are also joined later this morning by relatives of media, kins, some of the media kin who perished in the Maguindanao massacre.

And perhaps, a last point is I have gotten many queries on Agnes Callamard despite press statement that has already been issued.

I reiterate the position that the President should be taken seriously but not literally. The President has expressed his greatest displeasure at the conduct of Agnes Callamard who came to the Philippines uninvited despite the fact that at that time, we were already negotiating the requisite invitation required for special rapporteurs to be able to investigate in member nations of the United Nations ‘no.

So what she did to come here despite the fact that negotiation was still pending was an act of bad faith. And of course, what angered the President in particular is on her visit here, she brought a resource person who the President believes stated that prohibited drugs is not harmful to human health.

And that is why, at all occasions, and I believe members of the media who went to Viet Nam with us, know that the President has been distributing a UN literature ‘no on the adverse effects of different kinds of prohibited drugs.

So that is the reason for the President’s anger and displeasure at Agnes Callamard.

So I hope that clarifies the Palace position.

Now, my advice, don’t come to the Philippines when uninvited. Yes.

Let us now take questions.

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS:

Leila Salaverria (Philippine Daily Inquirer): Sir, on rapporteur, the special rapporteur. Sir, I understand her visit was not to conduct a fact-finding investigation but to attend the drug policy conference upon the invitation of a lawyers’ group. So are we still objecting to that because that wasn’t what was under negotiation with the government?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Considering there were negotiations ongoing about an official visit to the country, she should have resisted.

Ms. Salaverria: Even if it’s not related to the fact-finding?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: No, but she still made her comments on a matter that should be investigated first.

So the position of the Palace is, how could she have come up with conclusions when she had not yet conducted an investigation?

So to ask, because she already had conclusions even before an investigation, she has preconceived conclusions about the issue of alleged killings on the drug war.

Pia Ranada (Rappler): Hi, sir. Sir, yesterday the President said he would order the arrest of members of communist legal fronts. Can he do this?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Yes he can. President is a former prosecutor. He knows that there can be a conspiracy to commit a crime of both rebellion and the violation of the Human Security Act because you can now be prosecuted, for acts, overt acts constituting rebellion, also for violation of the Human Security Act, where the taking up of arms is intended for the purpose of inflicting fear or terror in the minds of the general public.

And I think the statement of the President delivered in Taguig on the occasion of honoring the fallen soldiers from Taguig, signifies that his legal basis would be that they are in conspiracy to commit both rebellion and acts of terrorism under the Human Security Act.

Ms. Ranada: But, sir, he also mentioned that this would apply to legal fronts, meaning non-armed necessarily. So how do we accuse them of rebellion when they’re not necessarily armed?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: The President as public prosecutor has said that conspiracy is sufficient basis to accuse them of both rebellion and acts of terrorism because in a conspiracy the act of one is the act of all.

Even if they did not physically take up arms, if they are part of a conspiracy to commit acts of terror or rebellion, then they can be held liable under the theory of conspiracy.

Ms. Ranada: So being part of a leftist organization is automatically meaning that they are conspiring against the government?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Not necessarily. Only what the President described as the legal front of the New People’s Army, the CPP-NPA, the legal front.

And I think we leave it at that because those were the words used by the President. He will be advised by security forces on which of these legal fronts should be charged with conspiracy.

Ms. Ranada: So, sir, we’re talking about just these three? Not Akbayan, Bayan, the other, many other leftist organizations. Piston…

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Akbayan claimed that they were victim of — of purging on the part of the CPP-NPA.

Ms. Ranada: Sorry. Sir, Bayan. Those… I mean those kinds.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: So, obviously you’re very young.

Ms. Ranada: Sorry, sir.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: You do not know the purge but the…

Ms. Ranada: Bayan, Piston, so many..

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: The security forces will advise the President. And the Department of Justice prosecutors will act accordingly.

Joseph Morong (GMA-7): Sir, what are they doing now to merit the filing or to merit the arrest?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Well, the President said that it is a conspiracy. The President has shown frustration that while the Philippine government was exerting utmost effort to come up with the peace deal with the New People’s Army — while talking peace with the New People’s Army — had been attacking our soldiers and civilians.

So napika na po ang Presidente. Nais niya talagang magkaroon ng kapayapaan, nakipag-usap siya, pero habang nakikipag-usap, wala pong hupa ang pag-aatake ng NPA.

Kaya nga po sabi niya, “tingin ko, terorista na ‘yang mga ‘yan at panahon na para talagang mapanagot sila.”

Mr. Morong: Well, probably the NPA actions are very clear, overt acts ‘no. How about the legal fronts?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Well, nasagot ko na po ‘yan. Ang legal basis ng ating Presidente ay conspiracy ‘no, in the commission of the crime of both rebellion and acts punishable under the Human Security Act.

Mr. Morong: And how is this established, sir?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Well, the lawyers of course, will take care of this.

In conspiracy, there must be an agreement for a common purpose and a common design and for overt acts also to reach that common purpose.

Mr. Morong: So, sir, it comes from the Palace, who are these legal fronts?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: The President has not declared. I’m sure he will be guided by security and intelligence agencies of the government.

Mr. Morong: Sir, regarding the peace talks. How different is this statement — the statement yesterday where he said he doesn’t want to talk anymore from the previous statements where he said the same thing? What makes it different now?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: He said the same thing —

Mr. Morong: Yes, but…

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: That he has halted the process of negotiating a peace deal with the communists for now.

Mr. Morong: The past three statements did not include mga notice of termination and mga — what happens to JASIG given the statement of the President yesterday?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Well, I think the office of the OPAPP will be taking its cue from the President and I do not want to second-guess what the OPAPP will do.

Mr. Morong: So ‘yung notice of termination po, what will happen? Meron ba tayong magiging ganun?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Well, it’s up to the OPAPP now to act accordingly after the President issued basically, repeated verbal orders that he wants to put a halt to ongoing peace talks for the time being.

Mr. Morong: So without the notice of termination, what do we call this stage? Is it suspended or terminated?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: What the President has said that he will not resume peace talks for now. I do not know if it’s a mere suspension or termination but it’s an unwillingness to proceed with the peace talks.

Mr. Morong: One last question, sir. ‘Yung proclamation, wala pa?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: None.

Mr. Morong: Thank you.

Ina Andolong (CNN Philippines): Sir, nabanggit din po ni Pangulo that [sir, here, sir] that he wants to have the NPA leaders arrested again. Now, they’re out on bail, will the DOJ or any concerned agency be moving to suspend the temporary bail granted sa kanila?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Well, again, it’s for the DOJ to act accordingly pursuant to the order of the President.

In answer to your question, they should because he has said that their temporary passes are effectively revoked and if there are existing warrants of arrest against them, then they should be arrested anew.

Ms. Andolong: Sir, similar to Joseph. How final is this supposed cancellation? Because again, he’s been talking about this for the past few months, cancelling talks and yet —

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: It’s final for now.

Ms. Andolong: But, sir, because many people again, are waiting for the notice of termination, which again, despite his pronouncements over the past few months has never came. I mean, never came, yeah.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: I’ll clarify the matter with OPAPP ‘no. But as I said, the President is the Chief Executive, he has issued verbal orders repeatedly on the subject matter, which are identical.

So it is final for now. No more peace talks with the NPA.

Reymund Tinaza (Bombo Radyo): Sir, just a quick one. Sir, so aside from the declaration there must — terrorist sa NPA — hindi ba kailangan ng parang batas para, I mean legally declare them as terrorist. Hindi na kailangan? So proclamation na lang ilalabas ng Pangulo?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: I don’t think so because in the first place, it is within the powers of the Chief Executive to characterize threats to national security ‘no.

Although the criminal prosecution will have to be pursuant to an existing law, okay.

Mr. Tinaza: Sir, because of the declaration of the President na ‘no more talks with the NPA,’ so mababalewala na lahat ’yung mga local talks? Like for example, ‘yung kay Davao City Mayor Inday Duterte, I understand she is doing her own talks with the NPAs there in Davao. So what will happen to the local negotiations?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: I think local leaders can do as they deem fit. The order to cease with negotiations applies to agencies directly under the Office of the President and I’m referring to the OPAPP.

Mr. Tinaza: Sir, last point. Sir, aside from the NPA, ‘yung sa kabila naman, ‘yung Alex Boncayao Brigade and other rebel groups, no plans yet to declare them also as terrorists?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: So far, the NPA was the only one targeted or stated by the President. I do not know if he will also declare other groups as being terrorist groups.

Rose Novenario (Hataw): Good morning, sir. Sir, nabanggit niyo po na ano, na ipapataw na po ‘yung — o gagamitin na ‘yung Human Security Act against the CPP-NPA. ‘Yun po bang Human Security Act ay ginamit po laban sa mga ISIS-inspired Maute terrorists sa kasagsagan po ng Marawi dahil ang sinampa lang po sa kanila ay rebellion cases lang po?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Correct po. But what I do know is DOJ is also investigating acts that could be prosecuted under the IHL Law and under the Human Security Act.

Ms. Novenario: Pati po sa iba pang mga terror groups po sa Mindanao, i-a-apply din po ‘yung Human Security Act?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: What I do know is that they are also studying filing cases involving the IHL Act and the HSA in the Zamboanga siege.

Ms. Novenario: Okay, thank you.

Maricel Halili (TV-5): Hi sir, good morning.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Good morning.

Ms. Halili: Sir, I understand that you haven’t received the resignation letter from Usec. Chavez. But since he already announced it this morning, I just would like to get your view. What do you think of the timing of the resignation, considering the series of problems that are being encountered in the MRT?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: I’m sorry. I can’t comment on something that I have not confirmed.

Ms. Halili: Pero sir —

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: I’m sure as journalists, you’d follow the same practice ‘no. But we’ll wait for the resignation and we will have a reaction in due course.

Ms. Halili: Kahit, sir, na-announce na niya?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Unless it’s official, I can’t comment.

Ms. Halili: All right. Sir, on other issue. May we have your reaction with regards doon sa ginawa po ng isang UK-based organization wherein they included President Duterte on their playing cards tapos ang feature sa kanya, as Joker and ang bansag is, “One of the hypocritical politicians.”

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Is there anything we can do about that? That was their decision, let it be. The President has always respected freedom of expression, so be it.

Ms. Halili: Do you find this, sir, as an insult to the President, to the administration’s efforts?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Let’s just say that worst things have said about the President. He takes it in stride.

Ms. Halili: Thank you, sir.

Alexis Romero (Philippine Star): Secretary, the President recently reappointed Ariel Nepomuceno and Teddy Raval to the Bureau of Customs. And we all know they are two of the officials tagged in the bribery scandal. Considering that the President is — implements a zero tolerance for graft and corruption and you said that even a whiff of corruption is enough to dismiss or to lose his confidence and trust. How would we reconcile this?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: It must be because there has been thorough investigation conducted by the House, the Senate, the DOJ, and even from within the Palace.

And it must be because these two officials were found not to be in anyway involved in the 6.4 billion scandal.

Mr. Romero: Okay. Thank you, Secretary.

Mr. Morong: Sir, sa drug war. Yesterday, he said that, “I might have to — I have to return the power to the police.” Has he made a decision to return the drug war to the hands of the PNP?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Well, I think a decision will soon be made. But like you said, he did make the statement that, “I may have to return it to the police to avoid the problem from worsening” ‘no.

So I guess that’s the latest — that is the latest pronouncement of the President. There is now a very strong likelihood that it could be returned to the PNP.

Mr. Morong: And the reason being?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: As he said ‘no, what he said was, “to prevent the problem from worsening”.

Mr. Morong: The drug problem ‘no?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: The drug problem.

Mr. Morong: Okay, thank you, sir.

Llanesca Panti (Manila Times): Good morning, sir.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Yes.

Ms. Panti: Sir, about the drug war still. Do you think the amount of time given to the PDEA is enough to evaluate if the problem is already worsening at this point?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: That’s the President’s call.

Ms. Panti: So, sir, it’s an enough time to evaluate, would you say?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: That’s President’s call ‘no. If he thinks it must be returned, then it must be that they — that the PDEA has been given enough time.

Mr. Romero: Secretary, I recall you presented data from the PDEA about its accomplishments. So does this mean the President is not satisfied with the performance of the PDEA?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: I think we need to accept what the President has said. He does not want the problem to worsen and that is why…

The thing is, he used “may” ‘no. So I do not know if a formal directive has been issued ‘no. I would have, I would have…

Mr. Romero: Whether I like it or not.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Effectively, effectively, he has manifested already a decision to return it to the PNP.

Mr. Romero: But how would we assess the data or the accomplishments presented by PDEA.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Because the President returned it, he must not be satisfied. He wants more.

Mr. Romero: But it will require another document, right? Because he issued a document when he transferred the lead role to PDEA.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Certainly. The Office of the Executive Secretary would have to document this.

Mr. Romero: So are they drafting it already?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: As of now, I do not know yet. But if the President said so, that’s a presidential directive.

Mr. Romero: Thank you, Secretary.

John Paolo Bencito (Manila Standard): Sir, good morning.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Good morning.

Mr. Bencito: Sir, isn’t it alarming that the President will be returning the drug war back to the PNP when the President himself said that “the PNP is corrupt to the core” and no major reforms has — have yet to be implemented in the police force?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: I think the President has acknowledged that the PNP is not a perfect organization.

He has said that he will clean up the ranks of the PNP. He has said that he will prosecute policemen who may be guilty of murder as in the case of Kian.

But he has also said that, by and large, not everyone in the PNP is corrupt. And therefore, he still believes in the institution.

Mr. Bencito: Sir, can we just get an update on what are the efforts currently undertaken by the government to cleanse the PNP?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Well, the killing of Kian, I don’t know if you read it, ‘no — the PNP — IAS, Internal Affairs Service, has actually said that the policemen are guilty of killing Kian ‘no.

So they did not justify the killing as part of a legal engagement. So that shows in no uncertain terms that when the police abuse their power, they will be punished.

Mr. Bencito: Thank you, sir.

Henry Uri (DZRH): Sir, follow up lang doon sa pagbabalik ng control ng illegal drug campaign sa PNP. Ano ho ‘yung talagang nag-mitsa bakit ang Pangulo gusto na agad or gusto na uling kunin at ibalik sa PNP ‘yung — anong mga pangyayari na nagpapanting ng tenga sa Pangulo?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Well, kakasabi lang po niya ito kailan lamang ‘no. At ang sinabi lang niyang rason ay para hindi na lumala pa ang problema.

So ang kasagutan ko po eh sinagot na po ‘yan ng Presidente. Ayaw niyang lumalala pa ang problema. Ang tingin niya baka lumala ang problema kung hindi maibalik sa PNP.

Pia Gutierrez (ABS-CBN): Sir, President Duterte has also said that there are around 9,000 policemen involved in drugs. May we get updates po on efforts by the government to cleanse the ranks of the PNP just like what you said?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: We will monitor that because the President has really committed that the way to win the war on drugs is also to have a professional police force.

The fact that he has identified at least 9,000 scalawags is an acknowledgment that it’s not perfect, but he is taking steps to clean up the ranks of the PNP.

Ms. Guttierez: May we know, sir, ano ba ‘yung mga steps na ‘yun? Is there a PNP-wide investigation forthcoming following his pronouncement kasi the pronouncement was made, I think, two or three months ago?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Napakadami pong mga ahensya na pwedeng mag-imbestiga ng mga tiwaling police.

Pupwedeng IAS, pupwedeng NAPOLCOM, pupwedeng PLEB, pupwedeng Ombudsman ‘no. So lahat po ‘yan ay gagamitin para malinis ang hanay ng ating kapulisan.

Now, let’s move now to the commemoration. Today is the… 12 o’clock na ‘no.

Ms. Gutierrez: Sir, just one question lang. Sir, what will happen to Oplan Tokhang? Mare-reactivate (activate) ba siya?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: We do not know. Oplan Tokhang itself really is an ongoing — it’s an ongoing. Anyway, I do not know what that is ‘no. [laugher]

Ms. Gutierrez: Because the DBM said they are not likely to allocate the 900 million budget for Tokhang to other projects, sir. Other agencies of the government so…

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: I think that answers your — the government. If that’s the declaration of DBM and it’s not funded, can possibly continue, if it’s not funded.

But we already have the victims ‘no.

Mr. Morong: Sir, we have a — ‘yung news research namin had a story two days ago, 7,000 housing for soldiers and policemen remain unoccupied and are now deteriorating. What is the government’s steps to maybe pakinabangan ‘yon? Ano ‘yung instructions sa NHA? This is 7,000 in — all over the country.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: I’ll have to find, number one, find out if the figure of 7,000 is accurate because as you said it’s your research.

So I’ll have to inquire from the NHA and I will have to find out what steps they will be taken.

Mr. Morong: Thank you.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Now we commemorate, last.

Ms. Panti: Sir, about China being a telco player here, wala bang concerns si Presidente considering ‘yung mga past infrastructure projects involving China NBN, North Rail were cancelled because of allegations of corruption? So wala bang ganoong mangyayari na naman kasi China na naman ‘yung involved?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Well…

Ms. Panti: Walang concern about that?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: I think we just have to, number one, accept the fact that the Philippine President is serious about his campaign against corruption and he will not tolerate corruption at any level particularly at the highest level. Okay?

Now, today we commemorate — it’s already the 8th year ‘no? The 8th year of the Maguindanao massacre involving 58 victims, 33 of whom were members of the media.

We are joined today by some of the kin of the murdered media professionals.

But before we proceed, I’d like to recognize our guests, Usec. Joel Egco who is the head of Task Force on Media Safety. The floor is yours, Usec.

UNDERSECRETARY JOEL EGCO: Thank you very much, Secretary Roque. Good morning my colleagues.

First, gusto ko pong maki-isa sa lahat ‘no — mga kapatid natin sa hanap-buhay at sa buong bansa sa paggunita noong ika-walong anibersaryo ng karumal-dumal na Maguindanao massacre.

So I’d like to proceed by reading a statement that we came up after our last meeting last Friday ‘no during the regular meeting of the Task Force — Presidential Task Force on Media Security:

“The Presidential Task Force on Media Security on its regular meeting last November 17, 2017 had the anniversary of the Maguinadanao massacre today as the most important item in the agenda.

The member agencies and media observers arrived at a consensus that it is high time for the Task Force to declare its condemnation of the tragic event that led to the killing of 32 media workers along with 26 others who are non-media.

In this meeting, the Department of Justice which sits as chair of the Task Force through Assistant Secretary Juvy R. Manwong updated the body regarding the status of the said case.

Since the trial has been going on for the last eight years, the Task Force urgently pushes for the following — there are four important measures that we’re pushing right now.

First is, of course, end impunity; second is speedier trial; third is [impartial] judgment; and number four is the intensified manhunt for those suspects who are still at large.

As of our last tally, 58 counts of murder have been filed against 188 accused, 106 of whom are now behind bars. Three have died while incarcerated while two are out on bail. One has been released based on writ of habeas corpus.

Eighty-two suspects are still at large but as of date letters to PNP Chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa and National Bureau of Investigation Director Dante Gierran who are members of the Task Force have been sent out by the body based on the inter-agency members and resource persons move for the intensified manhunt for the remaining suspects who are yet to be put behind bars.

The most welcome developments are the following: the prosecution has terminated the presentations of 190 witnesses, while 63 have been presented by the defense so far.

Currently, 22 of the suspects have terminated their presentation of evidence. Thirteen of which were submitted for decision. There are 21 accused who are currently presenting their evidence.

Take note, a memorandum will be filed by the prosecution within the month for Akmad Ampatuan Sr. and Anwar Ampatuan Sr. and thereafter be submitted for decision.

The DOJ estimated that at the rate the trial is moving the case may be resolved. Conservative projection po ito — well within four years or well within the term of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Based on the assumption that the offense — the defense will present an equal number of witnesses as that of the prosecution. Kung 190 ang prosecution, baka mag-present ito ng mga 190 or 200 din.

The representatives of the member agencies and media observers who attended the meeting and moved for the expeditious action of the PNP and NBI in putting those suspects who are still at large behind bars include: Asec. Manwong of the DOJ; Kahlil Macan of the PCOO; Tito Fajardo of the Presidential Human Rights Committee; Joan Cordero of the Commission on Human Rights; Melanie Pinlac, representing the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility; Nelson Santos of the — President of the Publishers Association of the Philippines; Paul Gutierrez, President of the National Press Club; Arsenio Andolong, Chief of the Public Affairs Office of the Department of National Defense, representing the Defense Secretary; Alejandro Papa, the Armed Forces of the Chief-of-Staff OJ6; Darren Salipsip, Representing the Office of the Chief Presidential Legal Counsel; Carlo Limyu, Special Agent of the National Bureau of Investigation, representing Director Dante Gierran; and police Chief Inspector Bryan Gregorio, Public Information Office of the PNP.

The PTFoMS will keep a close watch and strictly monitor the progress of the judicial process regarding the Maguindanao massacre.

The good news is, after a long and tedious search for justice, we can now see the light at the end of the tunnel.

That long period of uncertainty is finally over. Hoping against hope, we expect justice to be completely served for the victims and families of this most gruesome crime.

I’m now ready to take your questions.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Perhaps before we take questions, can we hear from some of the victims ‘no.

Now, I underscored the fact that when I was still private lawyer, we had proposed a system to expedite the prosecution, and this includes the first-in, first-out, which means that we don’t have to finish with the reception of all evidence against all the accused before there could be promulgation of judgment.

We could proceed with promulgation of judgments as against the accused whose presentations of evidence have been concluded ‘no.

And we’re hoping that earlier than the four years mentioned by the Undersecretary that there could at least one or two accused who will have a promulgation of judgment.

Now, we’re joined here now by some members of well, kin of murdered media professionals. I have here Noemi Parcon. Noemi, please?

Noemi Parcon: Yes, good morning po sa ating lahat. Ako po si Mrs. Noemi Parcon, asawa po ng isang media na pinatay during the Ampatuan massacre.

It’s been eight years nung nangyari ‘yun pero masakit pa rin. Although we have moved on but the search for justice is still there.

During the time of the previous administration, we are hoping na bago bumaba si PNoy, makamit namin ‘yung hustisya na hinihingi namin para sa aming mga mahal sa buhay. Pero hindi ‘yun nangyari.

Noong manalo si President Rodrigo Duterte, nagkaroon kami ng pag-asa, dahil alam namin na ‘yung kanyang campaign against drugs would really help na mapabilis ‘yung takbo ng kaso, dahil alam namin na nagawa ‘yun ng mga Ampatuan, nasa influence sila ng drugs.

Alam namin, doon sa aming lugar na isa sila sa mga drug lords doon sa aming lugar. Sila ang nagpo-produce ng mga shabu, may shabu laboratory sila.

Kaya sabi namin, nagkaroon kami ng malaking pag-asa na dahil ang trend, ang kampanya ng ating bagong Pangulo is really on the — ‘yung paghinto ng droga sa ating bansa, then we are very happy ‘no.

So sa narinig ko kanina, within four years. Kung nakapag-antay kami ng walong taon, maantay namin ‘yung apat na taon. Pero kung, sana, mas earlier, mas magiging masaya po kami.

‘Yung sa amin lang po, bago sana bumaba ‘yung ating bagong Pangulo, mabigyan ng hustisya ang pagkamatay ng aming mga mahal sa buhay.

And isa sa kampanya niya is against corruption. Hindi naman po sana masamain nung mga — tamaan na lang po, ‘yung — bato-bato sa langit, ang tamaan ‘wag magalit.

Pero there are some, I believe ‘no, that there are some officials ng ating government na na ano siguro ng corruption dahil alam natin ‘yung kalaban namin maraming pera.

So ngayon, dahil isa ‘yan sa kampanya ng ating Pangulo, against corruption, so malaki po ang aming tiwala, malaki po ang aming pag-asa na bago siya bababa bilang Presidente ng Pilipinas, makakamit talaga namin ‘yung hustisya. Hustisya po para sa mga mahal namin sa buhay.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: I’d like to call another victim of our media kin. She is from Davao City ‘no, a constituent of Mayor Duterte.

Maria Cirpriana Gatchalian: Ako po si Maria Cirpriana Gatchalian. Asawa po ako ni Santos Parisa Gatchalian Jr.

‘Yung — kung pwede ko sasabihin ulit kung ano ‘yung naramdaman ko nang makita ko ‘yung katawan ng aking husband na pinatay na parang hayop, hindi katulad ng isang tao.

Kung ano ‘yung nakita ko, kasi kinuha ko ‘yung body niya doon, inilagak sa isang punerarya. Hinukay siya, nahukay, nalibing na siya ng three days, hinukay siya eh. Inilagay siya, inilagak siya doon sa punerarya ng — tinawag siya na ano — doon sa Koronadal.

Noong makita ko ‘yung itsura niya, ‘yung tama niya, hindi ko ma — hindi ko maisip na ‘yung umalis siya sa bahay, buong-buo siya, alagang-alaga niya ‘yung katawan, pero nakita ko ‘yung body niya, hindi siya mukhang tao.

Marami siyang tama, wala nang laman ‘yung loob niya, lumabas na ‘yung — wala nang laman ‘yung utak niya, tama niya galing sa binti, doon sa tuhod, sa paa, dito sa lower torso niya, doon sa — doon, dito, dito sa ano ‘to, meron pa siyang sugat dito, may sugat din siya sa ulo.

Ang sabi ko, “Parang hindi tao ang gumawa nito. Ito ay kagagawan ng isang tao na isang adik, na isang demonyo.” ‘Yun ang tawag ko nung makita ko ‘yung body niya.

Alagang-alaga ko ‘yun — alagang-alaga ng husband ko ‘yung katawan niya. ‘Yun lang pala, hindi na siya mukhang tao kasi bloated na siya.

Sabi ko doon sa punerarya, “Ma’am, isauli mo ‘yung mukha niya, ma’am, kasi gusto ko makita siya ng anak ko, ma’am.” “Ma’am, hindi pwede ke ibalot namin ‘yan.”

“Papaano ‘yan makita ng anak ko, ma’am?” Sabi nila, “Ma’am, lagyan mo na lang ng malaking picture ang coffin niya.”

Nung dumating sa bahay kina — dinala ko siya doon sa Davao, doon ko siya inilibing. Nagha — nag-hire ako ng van, sasakyan ng coffin niya, tapos dinala ko siya sa Davao, doon ko siya inilibing.

Inilibing ko siya ng masamang — ‘yung mabuting pagkalibing sa kanya. Sabi ng anak ko, “Ma, gusto naming makita ‘yung mukha niya.” Hindi pwede.

Kaya hindi natanggap ng mga anak ko na patay na papa nila, parang akala nila nagbakasyon ‘yung papa nila.

One year, hindi natanggap ng anak ko ang pagkamatay ng papa nila. Alam ba niyo anong ginawa ko? Kasi para silang — na-depress sila, sabi ko sa kanila, “Mga anak, isipin na lang niyo nagbakasyon ‘yung papa ninyo. Ito na lang tignan niyo ‘yung picture niya dun sa table natin.”

Nilagyan ko ‘yun ng flowers at saka kandila, the whole day, meron siyang kandila. So everyday, meron siyang vigil candle.

Sabi ko, “Every end of the week, pupunta tayo sa libingan niya, kausapin niyo siya. Talk to him in your heart.” Ginawa ko niyan ng one year na ganun, na-heal ang mga anak ko.

Pero kahit isang picture ng husband ko na nasa coffin, wala kami kahit isa. Ang alam ko lang, patay na ang husband ko, ‘yung death certificate. Ayaw mabasa ng mga anak ko ang resulta ng medico legal, ayaw nilang makinig. Masakit sa kanila.

Kaya gusto ko makamtan ang hustisya, kahit naka-move on na kaming mga anak ko. Sabi ko, “Mga anak, grow up normally. Ako lang ang mag-fight ng case. I want you to be happy and live up a normal life. Be happy, be contented, ako na ang bahala.”

Sa awa ng Diyos, ang mga anak ko, normal ngayon. Nakatapos na sila sa kanilang pagsisikap at sa tulong ng mga NGO na mga — ng NUJP, ng FFFJ, ng Bantay Bata. Sa awa ng Diyos.

Pero ipagpatuloy ko ang pagpakibaka na makamit ang hustisya para sa katahimikan ng husband ko at ng mga biktima ng Maguindanao massacre kasi ang iba hindi pa naka-recover.

Thank you.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Gusto niyo hong magsalita? Ayaw na. Kayo po, gusto niyo magsalita? Okay.

Now, thirteen of these media victims will have an audience with the President this afternoon at 4:30.

I’m not sure if it will be open to the media. Chances are the meeting itself will be private, but there may be a brief encounter with the media.

Okay, so as Usec. Egco has said, the President remains committed to according justice to the victims of the Ampatuan massacre and to all victims of illegal drugs in our country.

Thank you very much. That ends our press briefing. Ah meron pa lang question kay Joel Egco.

USEC. EGCO: Pwedeng hindi na.

Mr. Tinaza: Kay Usec. Egco.

USEC. EGCO: Yes, sir.

Mr. Tinaza: Sir, I understand, sabi mo four years na lang pero it’s been long and tiring trial. Kumusta po ‘yung update natin kung lahat ba ng pamilya ng biktima ay lumalaban pa rin at — ?

USEC. EGCO: All right.

Mr. Tinaza: I understand na may gumagapang, moneyed, influential ‘yung mga suspects. So may umatras na ba? At sana naman ay wala.

USEC. EGCO: Okay. Good question. Thank you for raising that up. During our last meeting, it was raised by one of the media representatives ‘no sa Task Force.

If I’m not mistaken, it was Paul Gutierrez of the National Press Club. And he informed the body that out of the 32 families, it seems that only 18 yata ang… According to them, this is not my information, 18 ang interesado.

So what I did was I threw the question to the body and asked them, “What if, worst- case scenario, hindi na interesado lahat?” ‘no. Hindi naman po mangyayari ‘yun, I’m sure.

What if hindi — mawalan nga ng interes? So ang resounding reply by everybody, the lawyers, the law enforce — law enforcement officials there and also the media representatives, wala pong magiging problema.

Because it’s a crime against the people and tuloy-tuloy ‘yan. Tuloy-tuloy na ‘yan whether or not may mawalan ng interes or mabuo.

But ang habol po natin ngayon, that’s why we are saying this now during this press briefing is that we are seeing now the light at the end of the tunnel.

And I hope bumalik ‘yung interes nung mga sinasabing nawalan ng interes. May pag-asa po. May pag-asa po. Malapit na po.

Benjie Liwanag (DZBB): Sir, itanong ko lang. Do they still receive threats or may mga banta pa ba sa mga buhay ninyo?

  1. PARCON: So far po wala naman po. Wala na po. At saka gusto ko pong i-clarify ‘yung mga bribery-bribery ng mga Ampatuan.

Wala po sa grupo namin na nag-offer na bayaran kami para umatras po sa kaso kaya tuloy-tuloy ang laban namin kahit…

Noong una po meron, merong mga ano na ‘yung bago pa lang nangyari. Pero sa ngayon po, talagang we are decided talaga kami na ipaglaban ‘yung kaso kahit na po walang pera basta makuha namin ‘yung hustisya po para sa pamilya namin.

Mr. Liwanag: May supporta pa ba na natatanggap kayo coming from the government?

  1. PARCON: So far po wala.

Mr. Liwanag: Maraming salamat po.

Mr. Morong: Spox, you represented some of the victims ‘no?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Yes.

Mr. Morong: And from a legal point of view, how is the four years going to be possible? Meaning what steps can the government take, can the DOJ take to expedite the trial given the sheer number of witnesses and the accused?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Alam niyo po, ‘yung iminungkahe namin na inadopt naman ng Korte Suprema na first-in first-out, kung gagamitin po ‘yan within the year, kakayanin magkaroon ng desisyon laban sa isa, dalawang akusado.

Although there are 58 counts of murder, we only need one to put everyone behind bars. So ang akin po, hindi ko na po aantayin ‘yung four years ‘no.

Dahil ako naman po ay natalaga din Presidential Adviser on Human Rights ‘no. Gagawa rin po ako ng hakbang para naman masiguro na magamit ‘yung first-in, first-out, at tignan po natin kung either this year or early next year ay magkaroon ng promulgation of judgment against one or two of the accused.

Mr. Morong: For sound bite ‘no. Can you just explain the first-in, first-out concept?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: ‘Yung first-in, first-out po, dati- rati kasi kinakailangan tapusin lahat ng ebidensya laban sa lahat nang nasasakdal.

Pero iminungkahi po namin, tapusin natin ‘yung ebidensya laban sa ilan at kung kanino matapos ‘yung presentation ng evidence doon sa nasasakdal na ‘yun ay pwedeng magkaroon na ng promulgation of judgment.

So hindi na po kinakailangan tapusin ang lahat ng ebidensya laban sa lahat bago magkaroon ng promulgation of judgment.

Mr. Morong: Where we at with regard to the primary suspect, sir?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERON ROQUE: Well, gaya ng sabi ni Undersecretary Egco, meron nang dalawa na submitted for resolution.

So pupwede na sigurong magkaroon ng desisyon dito sa dalawang ito.

USEC. EGCO: ‘Yung ano, ‘yung subject ng memorandum to be filed ‘no, within the month — by next week — ‘yung kay Akmad Ampatuan Sr. and Anwar Ampatuan Sr.

So plus 13 na initially nag-submit for final decision, we are looking at the fastest siguro, 15.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: There are 15 submitted.

USEC. EGCO: Submitted.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: I think we don’t have to wait four years for a con —

USEC. EGCO: Yes, yes.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: — a decision ‘no, a promulgation of judgment. We don’t want to second guess the courts on what the decision will be.

But definitely, eight years has been too long.

USEC. EGCO: Yes, yes.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: We deserve a promulgation of judgment very, very soon.

USEC. EGCO: If I may add Secretary, how the DOJ came up with that projection ‘no, ‘yun nga, if 190 ang priniresent ng prosecution, tapos na sila.

So right now, they’re looking at by worst-case scenario, 190 rin ang ipe-present ng defense or say 200, they have already presented 63. So we’re looking at worst-case scenario again, 140 to 150 na witnesses.

So doon nila binase ‘yon kung ganun kahaba aabot malamang ng four years at the rate the trial is going. However, my question was, “What if 100 lang?” So mas mabilis.

But of course, tama as Secretary Roque said, we don’t want to second guess the court or jump the gun on the judge who is actually… Well, the members of the Task Force welcomed the pace at which the trial is ongoing.

Imagine, three hearings every week. So at that rate, hopefully talagang let’s hope against hope ‘yung four years, kahit man ako’y naiinip pero umasa po kayo.

Sabi nga po, alam ko kabisado po ni Secretary Roque ‘yan. Umasa po kayo baka hindi talaga umabot ng four.

Pero ayaw naming magbigay ng false hopes ika nga.

Doon lang tayo sa sinasabi ng mga datos, na mga impormasyon at ‘yung aktwal na galaw ng kaso na noon po kami man ay bulag, hindi namin alam ang nangyayari before.

Ngayon po, alam na natin.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Well, ako naman po ‘no dahil in my capacity as Presidential Adviser on Human Rights, hindi tayo papayag na apat na taon pa. Gagawa tayo ng hakbang.

Okay. Thank you very much.

— END —

source: PCOO-PND (Presidential News Desk)

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