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: Yes, good afternoon. Good morning to all of you. It’s not yet 12.

But anyway, on the Dengvaxia issue, the DOJ has already commenced with its investigation. They have included even former President Noynoy Aquino in their investigation. Let’s await for the results of the investigation.

We would like to assure the public that we’re not taking down the Dengvaxia issue sitting down. And that if there are people or if there will be culprits and if it is proven that there’s a cause of action against them, then this administration will not hesitate to use the full force of the law against them ‘no. But so far, let us await for the investigation ‘no.

And meanwhile, as you know, the Food and Drug Administration has suspended the sale and distribution of Dengvaxia.

Now also, Mr. George San Mateo of PISTON was ordered arrested pursuant to a warrant of arrest. I have a copy of the warrant of arrest here. And the warrant of arrest is for violation of Section 20(k) of Commonwealth Act No. 14[6] and that is for a franchise holder.

I quote, Section 19 of the law says, “It shall be unlawful for any public service to provide or maintain any service that is unsafe, improper, or inadequate or withhold or refuse any service which can reasonably be demanded and furnished, as found and determined by the Commission in a final order.”

This is of course for the earlier tigil pasada ‘no. Because that’s actually a violation of the Public Service law.

There’s still no decision on the Christmas truce. But there will be the 20th Cabinet meeting this afternoon. Among the agenda include: resiliency of the greater Metro Manila area, and the proposed new Clark City, and efforts to improve Internet connectivity in the Philippines.

I’m sure there will be some announcements to be made and that is why let us meet tomorrow so that we can discuss these announcements to be discussed in this evening’s Cabinet meeting.

Questions now.

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS:

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

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Good morning.

Ms. Halili: Sir, activist group Bayan condemns the attempt to arrest George San Mateo saying that this is pure harassment and intimidation on the part of the government. May we have your reaction, sir?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: I think he was warned that as a holder of a franchise, a certificate of public convenience, it is criminal and it is illegal for them to participate in any tigil pasada.

As I said, it is also pursuant to a warrant of arrest duly issued by a court and therefore, there can be no harassment here ‘no. We are just allowing the rule of law to prevail.

The warning was made. He defied. He now has to face the consequences.

Ms. Halili: Kasi, sir, ang sinasabi po ng Bayan, this case nangyari daw po following the statement of the President that he will order the arrest of legal fronts of the NPA? So is this somehow connected with the statement of the President?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: As I said, there is a copy of the warrant of arrest. Please be… Please read the document and judge for yourself.

This has nothing to do with arresting legal fronts. This has something to do with violating the Public Service law. Okay?

Ms. Halili: Aside, sir, sa case po ni George San Mateo, Bayan also condemns what happened to Fr. Tito Paez. Kasi he’s known to help ‘yung political prisoner na mag-post ng bail. And this also came after the statement of the President.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Well, I think the incident will be investigated by authorities. Let’s await the findings of the investigation.

Ms. Halili: Meron po bang specific order na ibibigay ang Malacañang with regards to this case?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: There’s none. But like all killings, they will investigated by police authorities. And if there’s sufficient evidence to charge anyone, then authorities are duty-bound to file the necessary information.

Ms. Halili: Sir, panghuli na lang po. Activist group Bayan is also planning to conduct protest rally on December 10. Meron po bang instruction dito ‘yung Malacañang? Or will you still allow them to pursue with their rally?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Freedom of expression, freedom of peaceful assembly is guaranteed by the Constitution, so let it be.

We will let them express their opinions and we will let them exercise the right to peaceful assembly.

Ms. Halili: Thank you, sir.

Rose Novenario (Hataw): Hi, sir. Follow up lang po kay Fr. Paez. Sir, classified po ito as political killing dahil sabi po ng mga human rights group, siya po ‘yung ano aktibong tumutulong doon sa pag-release ng political detainees sa Central Luzon. So paano po ma-ire-relate ‘yung pagpapatuloy po ng political killings doon po sa pangako ni President Duterte noong kanyang first SONA na aktibong siyang magsusulong ng kapayapaan po sa panahon ng kanyang administrasyon?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Number one, we do not know yet if this is a political killing pursuant to the definition of the Supreme Court on extralegal killings ‘no, which is a killing of political activist and a killing of journalist.

However, it will be investigated. And if authorities decide that this is an instance of a killing of an activist, then we have AO 35 that was created precisely to investigate and prosecute these cases.

So if it is determined by authorities and it is state authorities that will determine whether or not it is a political killing, then it will be covered by AO 35.

Ms. Novenario: Follow up lang po, sir. Sir, magkakaroon po kaya ng performance audit sa ating law enforcement agencies tungkol po doon sa kanilang performance sa pagso-solve po ng mga patayan, drug war man o political killings man po? At ‘yung Task Force Usig po ba aktibo pa?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Ano ‘yung tanong mo uli?

Ms. Novenario: Performance audit po sa PNP or sa NBI doon po sa kanilang kung baga performance po sa pagso-solve ng mga killings, drug war related or politically related?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Well, as an appointed Presidential Adviser on Human Rights, that’s one of the things that I intend to undertake ‘no to ensure that we are in discharge of our state obligation on the right to life ‘no.

So I will eventually find the time to meet with the inter-agency group. I will ask for a report and I will examine the cases that they have in fact focused on. And we will agree on if there are new cases that the task force should focused on as well.

Ms. Novenario: Thank you.

Joseph Morong (GMA-7): Sir, just staying on kay George San Mateo. Does it not set a precedent for all those jeepney drivers or mga transport sectors na they cannot hold mga protest actions because that can be a violation of the Public Service Act?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Well, it sends the message that if you violate the law, you will be prosecuted by authorities. That is after all the duty of the state ‘no. We can’t have it any other way.

They were warned that although there is freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, it is limited in the case of holders of certificates of public convenience because the law says so and the law metes the penalty.

So now that the law is being implemented, they can only… They should only blame themselves for it.

Mr. Morong: So dapat hindi na sila nagra-rally? Because they can be…

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Ang mga certificate — holders ng certificates of public convenience should not resort to tigil pasada, full stop. Otherwise, they will be prosecuted under the existing law.

Mr. Morong: Sir, which is higher, the Bill of Rights or this specific law?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: This is an exception to the Bill of Rights?

Mr. Morong: Because?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Remember — because the law says so. And why? Because the public eventually will be affected by their acts.

Why do you have a certificate of public convenience? To render a service necessary to the public. That’s why you’re given the legal authority to conduct this business.

But if you will be a tool to inconvenience the public, then that’s a violation of the trust repose in you by the state because that certificate of a public convenience is not a right. It’s a privilege reserved only for those who can meet the obligations of franchise holders.

Mr. Morong: Sir, on another topic. When is the President going to make his decision whether to extend or not martial law because Congress is going to go on recess on December 14? Does he have to make the decision before December 14?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Well, the President knows being a lawyer that if it expires on the 31st of December, then he needs Congress concurrence either before or if after, then they will have to be a special session.

In any case, there’s also a command conference later on this afternoon followed by a Cabinet meeting, let us see if it will be discussed there.

My gut tells me that in the command conference the Armed Forces will reiterate the recommendation that I’m sure they have already submitted to the President.

Mr. Morong: Would you know the recommendation?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE:  I do not know yet because I was not privy.

Pia Ranada (Rappler): Sir, just going back to the strike. Sir, because how do we explain the position of the Palace supporting this case against Piston’s leader? But also the President having said in the past that he encourages the strikes, in fact, he had many statements when he said, “Oh, go ahead and do monthly strikes.” Freedom of speech and all that. How do we explain the…?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Well, as I said ‘no, the freedom of expression and peaceful to — freedom — or the right to peaceful assembly is guaranteed by the Constitution subject to limitations set by law.

And one limitation is, if you’re a holder of certificate of public convenience, you can’t engage in a transport strike.

In the same way that government workers can’t engage also in strikes. They can only form associations ‘no.

So the freedom of expression is one of those that is subject to limitations. The only right that’s really not subject to limitation under Human Rights law is the right to life. But under Humanitarian law it’s not consider criminal if you can justify the military necessity of taking a life.

Ms. Ranada: Sir, another question. Could you expound to us what you will be doing in the States with the ICC? 

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Oh, it’s just… it’s… The International Criminal Court Assembly of State Parties, which is a policy-making body of the International Criminal Court.

As you know, we are a party to the Rome Statute of the ICC and the statement that is still being finalized will focus on the principle of complementarity, which says that the court cannot exercise jurisdiction unless a specific act complained about has been acted upon by domestic institutions ‘no.

The principle of complementarity says that the ICC will not exercise jurisdiction unless local authorities, local courts are unable or unwilling to do so.

There is unwillingness if there are reasons for the states not to prosecute when there’s a clear duty to prosecute and there is an inability if there is no state organ in existence to prosecute ‘no, such as in the case of failed states such as Somalia.

Since we are not a Somalia, the issue is whether or not the ICC can take cognizance on any matter in the Philippines given that our courts — the only issue there is whether or not our courts are unwilling to prosecute a crime that is cognizable by the ICC. 

Ms. Ranada: So, sir, the statement you will be making in what venue of the ICC event? 

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: It’s the Assembly of State Parties in the general debates.

Ms. Ranada: Ah general debates. So sir, in front of the other parties to the ICC? 

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: In front of all parties to the International Criminal Court. 

Ms. Ranada: As well as to the court, the judges, is that right? 

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Well the judges, they don’t all attend but the prosecutor will be in attendance.

Ms. Ranada: So, sir, it’s right to say that you will be making a case for the Philippines in saying that the ICC no longer needs to intervene with the drug war? That’s what you’re — the case you’re going to make? 

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Although the statement has not been finalized, my statement is we agreed to be a member of the ICC because of the principle of complementarity that the court will only exercise jurisdiction if our courts are unwilling or unable to exercise jurisdiction on any crime cognizable by the International Criminal Court.

And to violate the principle of complementarity would be to violate the very basis of our consent to be bound by the Rome Statute. And if this will happen, then there may be a possibility that the Philippines, like the three other African states, may withdraw from the Rome Statute of the ICC.

Ms. Ranada: Sir, when will you be making the trip?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Postponed now. Postponed because I have to attend the Cabinet meeting and I have to give you a briefing but I’m scheduled to address the general debates on the 7th.

So I will arrive, if I leave tomorrow at 10 pm on the 6th in New York.

Now, having said that, remember the final statement is still being drafted.

So I do not know if the entirety of what I said will be actually read but I’m sure the delegation in the UN will record and take a video of our statement as I deliver it. So you will know what exactly our position will be.

Unfortunately, I will not be able to attend the last meeting of the Philippine delegation preparing the statement because I will not be there on time. 

Ina Andolong (CNN Philippines): Sir, still on George San Mateo. This isn’t the first transport strike. Last October nagkaroon din po sila and Malacañang even suspended the school and work. Why are concerned transport agencies or basically officials only moving to arrest or hold transport leaders accountable for participating in these transport strikes? 

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: There’s a process. You don’t automatically have a warrant of arrest issued. There has to be a preliminary investigation.

And in this case, a preliminary investigation because this is a very light offense was conducted by the MTC judge himself.

And so the criminal complaint must have been filed immediately after the first transport strike because this is dated 1 December 2017 ‘no. So this must have been for the earlier transport strike.

Q: [off mic] 

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Yes. So there was a two-month lull and the reason is because they had to draft a complaint and the MTC of Quezon City had to conduct a preliminary investigation.

Light offenses — some light offenses don’t have to be the subject of preliminary investigation by fiscals. It is the MTC itself that conducts the preliminary investigation, if I am not mistaken, because that’s the language of the court ‘no.

Ms. Andolong: Sir, nung nangyari ‘yung strike noong October, President Duterte said that PISTON was committing rebellion in conducting the strike. So just to be clear, as far as Malacañang is concerned or the President is concerned, transport leaders of transport groups that will participate in strikes — those actions constitute rebellion, ganun po ba? 

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Well, there was no information filed for rebellion. And as far as I know, there is also no complaint for rebellion filed.

There was a complaint filed for violation of the Public Service law, CA 146. 

Ms. Andolong: Okay, so how do we make then of what the President said before? ‘Yun po ‘yung quote niyo dati sir eh, rebellion ang tinawag niya doon. Committing a rebellion. 

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Well, the President said it, but there was no case filed for rebellion. Let’s leave it at that. 

Mr. Morong: Ano po ‘yung message, ano po ‘yung mensahe ng Palasyo doon sa mga jeepney drivers or kahit ‘yung mga siguro mga transport sector natin whose — na nagpaplano na mag-strike given this decision? 

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Idaan po natin sa tamang proseso ‘yung mga hinihingi nila sa gobyerno dahil sila naman po ay binigyan ng pribilehiyo na magkaroon ng ganitong negosyo para magbigay ng serbisyo sa taong bayan.

Pero ‘yung protesta po, hindi po ‘yan serbisyo sa taumbayan. ‘Yan po ay pabigat sa ating mga mananakay at ipinagbabawal po ‘yan ng batas.

Kaya nga kapag kayo’y lumabag sa batas, kayo po’y iimbestigahan, lilitisin at paparusahan. 

Ms. Ranada: Sir, ano po ‘yung tamang proseso you’re referring to? Just to be clear about it. 

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Eh ‘di makipag-ugnayan sila sa gobyerno. Makipag-usap sila. Gaya ng ginawa ngayon nila ‘no. Kinancel (cancel) nila ‘yung transport strike at nais nilang magkaroon ng dayalogo sa gobyerno ‘no.

Bakit naman hindi sila nakipag-dayalogo before ‘no? Hindi naman kinakailangan na magkaroon ng perwisyo ang mananakay na publiko para maparating ang kanilang mensahe.

Uulitin ko, hindi naman lahat ng transport strike suportado siya. In fact, iisang grupo lang ang tumututol dito sa privatization, tanging Piston lang po ang tumututol.   

Leila Salaverria (Philippine Daily Inquirer): Sir, is the President inclined to declare a ceasefire with the NPA this Christmas as had been the tradition in the past? 

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: You know, I promised to ask him but I was a bit distracted because yesterday, he visited, as I said, poor and sick people with no media coverage.

But I guess that’s his Christmas activity ‘no. So I was sidelined. I forgot to ask him because there were too many babies that he was visiting and he visited confined infants ‘no, at least in the hospital that I went to, Mary Johnston. 

Ms. Salaverria: Sir, did he promise to give them anything during the visit?  

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: He gave them some financial assistance. Because these are hospitals catering to the poor.

He went to Hospicio de San Jose, Fabella and Mary Johnston Hospital in Tondo.

Mr. Morong: [off mic] Mostly kids?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Mostly kids. 

Ms. Salaverria: Sir, iba na lang. Sir, the President has spoken recently of the need to amend the Constitution. What has happened to his consultative committee that he was supposed to form? I mean he issued the EO a year ago. Why hasn’t anybody been appointed up to now? 

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Well, the answer is I do not know but what I do know is Congress has divided its members and they have now agreed that they will make specific proposals on how to revise the Constitution and every article of the Constitution was divided and there were House members appointed to all these articles. 

Ms. Salaverria: So, sir, you’re saying, there won’t be any need for this consultative committee now? 

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Well, let’s just say that since Congress voted on constituent assembly as a mode that they decided that Congress itself will study the Constitution and propose revisions.

Ms. Andolong: Sir, doon sa pagbisita niya kahapon sa mga ospital, is this maybe a first of more unannounced visits to these places? Because when he was mayor sir, around this time pag mga December, nag-iikot talaga siya sa mga iba’t-ibang mga — 

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Yes —

Ms. Andolong: Like centers. Ang ibig ko sabihin, is he planning to do this now unannounced? 

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Yes. Actually, it’s not unannounced. Asec. Queenie called my attention that the schedule that I have is not for public disclosure.

That’s why I wasn’t even supposed to say that he visited the poor and the sick yesterday. It was supposed to be confidential and I don’t know if I should even be discussing what he did yesterday but in the interest of transparency ‘no.

I guess ayaw lang niya mapulaan for doing what he has traditionally done as mayor in the month of December. There are more visits and, now I know, it is unannounced.

Philip Tubeza (Philippine Daily Inquirer): Good morning, sir. Hihingi lang po ng comment. Kasi ‘yung Foreign Policy magazine named Senator Leila de Lima as one of their leading global thinkers. Ang sabi po ng magazine na, one of the editors said, “the government is trying to totally silence dissent and cultivate double standard of justice where those allied with the President and his family are accorded impunity.” 

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: What can I say? That’s the decision of the magazine ‘no. So c’est la vie ‘no.

As far as the Philippine authorities are concerned, she stands charged —a very serious charges and there is in fact no bail recommended for her provisional liberty. That’s the position of the State.

Thank you very much.  

—END—

source: PCOO-PND (Presidential News Desk)

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