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 afternoon everyone.

Good news first because it’s Good News Monday.

There is increased minimum wage for kasambahays in NCR.

An increase of P1,000 in the minimum wage for kasambahay or domestic helpers in the NCR was approved by the Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board last month as immediate relief measure to manage with the rising cost of living.

From P2,500, kasambahays will soon be able to receive a minimum wage rate of P3,500. Under the Wage Order, the wage hike is applicable to all domestic workers, whether on a live-in or live-out arrangement including general househelp, yaya, cook, gardener, laundry person or any person who regularly performs domestic work in one household on an occupational basis.

Further good news: The Fitch Rating Upgrade.

We are pleased with Fitch Ratings’ upgrade of the Philippines’ Long-Term Foreign-Currency Issuer Default Rating to “BBB” from “BBB-“.

The global leader in credit ratings and research likewise made its forecast that the Philippines will have a real GDP growth of 6.8 [percent] in 2018 and 2019 due to expected higher infrastructure spending.

Our stable outlook comes after the country’s strong and consistent macroeconomic performance, sound policies which support high and sustainable growth rates, and strong investor sentiment due to concrete domestic demand and inflows of foreign direct investment.

Fitch also noted that investor confidence remains unaffected citing that “there is no evidence so far that incidents of violence associated with the administration’s campaign against the illegal drug trade.”

Now, of course, you have copies already of the letter sent to Congress. So you cannot complain that the House of Representatives beat you to reporting it.

So we have the official communication to Congress dated 08 December 2017 asking for further extension of the proclamation of martial law and suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus.

The President cited the letter of Secretary of National Defense Delfin Lorenzana as martial administrating — as martial law administrator stating that based on current security assessment made by the Chief of Staff, Armed Forces of the Philippines, recommending the extension of martial law for another 12 months or one year beginning 1st of January 2018 until 31 December covering the whole island of Mindanao primarily to ensure total eradication of DAESH-inspired Da’awatul Islamiyah Waliyatul Masriq, other like-minded Local/Foreign Terrorist Groups and Armed Lawless Groups and communist terrorists and their coddlers, supporters and financiers.

We are hopeful that Congress would see the need for further extension of martial law as explained in PRRD’s official communication to finally put an end to the ongoing rebellion in Mindanao. Public safety after all is our primordial concern. We must unite against these evil forces.

So you have a copy of the letter which I believe had already been received by Congress this afternoon.

Now, just to set the record straight because there are ongoing fake news that I personally opposed Secretary Ubial because she opposed the dengue vaccine.

I have with me the video of my testimony in the Commission on Appointments. I opposed the nomination of Secretary Ubial because of her flip-flop on at least two issues: on the Zika virus, she started by saying we didn’t have it, admitted we had it, she said it was not endemic and then information came out that as early as the 1930’s, we knew that Zika was endemic in the Philippines which affected the proposed response which then was a 500-million budget for the Bureau of Quarantine which I believe went to waste because Zika being endemic the solution is still to have cleaner neighborhoods.

On the issue of dengue, she flip-flopped twice on this issue. She started out by attempting to stop it, then she implemented, she attempted to stop it, then she implemented.

I have actually the videos of Secretary Ubial saying it was safe and the video of my opposition to her in the Court of Appeals in the Commission on Appointments. I said clearly that my basis for opposition was her flip-flops.

We expected or we have a right to expect from the Department of Health that she will tell the people if dengue vaccine was safe or unsafe but she can’t say both depending on who is asking.

Fake news circulating is that I opposed Ubial because I wanted the dengue vaccine implemented which is wrong because the truth of the matter was: number one, I was in no position to influence; and number two, I did not like that she did not know whether or not the dengue vaccine was safe or unsafe.

Just for the record because I have seen for myself fake news on the Internet.

So are there further questions?

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS:

Joseph Morong (GMA-7): Sir, in the letter of the President to Congress he outlined some of the reasons ‘no. I think there are probably at least three or four groups — terrorist groups plus the CPP-NPA — but outside — excluding CPP-NPA. Was the martial law effective in combating the first four groups of terrorist groups like the DAESH-inspired group and then…?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: I think the martial law was largely responsible for the fact that we liberated the city of Marawi.

Having said that, the information on the ground is that at least five groups continue to operate and although there has been cessation of shootings in Marawi, the President has always said that the recruitment of Maute continues and that they expect fighting again in some other area ‘no and that is why he has requested for extension of martial law.

Again, the groups mentioned by the President for basis for extending martial law is because the following groups are still on the act of committing acts of rebellion, Hapilon, Maute group, Turaifie Group, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, remnants of Abu Sayyaf, and DAESH-inspired DIWM and other local terrorist groups including, of course, the New People’s Army which is waging a rebellion which according to the Guinness Book of World Records is the longest ever in human history.

Mr. Morong: Sir, isn’t the President considering that problem just a security, law enforcement problem as such that we really don’t need martial law for it?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Well, actually this was a recommendation of the administrator of martial law, General Lorenzana and we have no basis to question the factual finding of the troops on the ground and our commanders on the ground.

Mr. Morong: Sir, just one last point on the NPA. This is something new ‘no? He’s including the NPA in that “grouping”. Now is the President going to use martial law against the NPA just for categorical answer?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Well, for as long as there are acts of rebellion being committed in the island province of Mindanao, yes, he will use the full force of martial law against the NPA as well.

Mr. Morong: In an operational sense, how is he going to run after the NPA using martial law?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Well, it is an ongoing armed conflict and I think we know how an ongoing armed conflict is effected ‘no.

Unfortunately, there will be fighting between government forces and the New People’s Army.

Mr. Morong: But halimbawa, sir, if — let’s put our perspective let’s say “member of the NPA,” should you be worried more because you have the martial law now and why?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: I do not know because I’m not in a position to speak for the NPA. Perhaps we should ask their spokesperson.

Mr. Morong: Okay, but they have to commit crimes before you could use the martial law against them?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Well, the act of rebellion is a continuing crime. So for as long as they don’t have — they don’t lay down their grounds, they are committing a criminal act.

Mr. Morong: Would you have like an arrest order like they did in Marawi?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Of course. That goes without saying ‘no that the martial law administrator is empowered to order the arrest of individuals and because the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus is also suspended, then they would have to await the lifting of martial law for judicial remedy.

Mr. Morong: [Off mic]

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Ha?

Mr. Morong: Context ‘yun ng NPA?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Of course, because they were included in the groups engaged in the crime of rebellion which is the basis for the extension of martial law.

Mr. Morong: Okay, sir. Thank you.

Pia Ranada (Rappler): Sir, just on the terms. The President said that the martial law extension request is primarily to ensure total eradication of the DAESH-inspired groups and the other groups. Sir, how does the President define total eradication?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Well, we need to ensure that they no longer present a threat that all acts of rebellion emanating from them had ceased.

Ms. Ranada: So, sir…

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: And that they are not in a position to endanger public security.

Ms. Ranada: Okay. So, sir, incapacitated, it’s not that all of the members have to be neutralized, killed? It’s oppression of their —

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Well, I think, that’s governed already — that’s governed already by International Humanitarian Law.

The military objective is a complete subjugation of the enemy, so much so that they cease to commit the act of rebellion or terrorism.

Ms. Ranada: And, sir, how about the inclusion of the NPA? Because we also know that the NPA are present not only in Mindanao but in other parts of the country. Can we expect the President to — based on his reasoning in the letter expand eventually the coverage of martial law to the whole of the country given that the NPA are present in other parts?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Well, I will not speculate. But he could have, but he did not. So he only asked for extension of martial law in the island province of Mindanao.

Ms. Ranada: And, sir, lastly, he also mentioned that he would — he wants to target the financiers of the communist ter — communist terrorists. So can we expect, sir, that mining companies who’ve been paying revolutionary tax will be also the subject of arrest orders given the previous announcements of the President?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: There is a special law against financing of terrorist organization that is one effect of the declaration and proclamation that the NPA is a terrorist group.

Although, the petition pursuant to the UN’s Human Security Act still has to be filed in the Regional Trial Court of Manila. But individuals who will contribute financial resources may be investigated and prosecuted for funding terrorist organization.

Ms. Ranada: But would it be just to include the mining companies given that they’re — they say they are forced to pay this tax?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Let them invoke that as legal defense.

Reymund Tinaza (Bombo Radyo): Good afternoon. Sir, given na malapit na mag-recess ‘yung session ng Congress, so are you still confident na this request of the President will be ultimately granted before the previous extension would expire?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: I believe so. Because there’s talk that Congress will either convene in joint session either on Wednesday or Thursday. So if it’s Thursday, then they will have to have a special session.

Mr. Tinaza: Sir, lastly, so aside from those previous terrorists in the arrest order from the Department of National Defense, so do we expect that the list would be expanded including now the NPA members?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: That’s to be decided by the martial law administrator and I will inform you if he does in fact do so.

Mr. Tinaza: Thank you, sir.

Rose Novenario (Hataw): Sir, good afternoon. Sir, nung unang-unang pag-deklara ng martial law ni Presidente, sabi po niya pinopondohan ng illegal drugs ‘yung terrorism sa Mindanao at actually, kasama dun sa may arrest order ‘yung ilang narco-politicians. Bakit po ngayon, hindi niya nabanggit ‘yun as reason for the extension of martial law?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Well, he doesn’t need to because this is just an extension. The ground basically is there is still acts of rebellion being committed.

But I’m sure that these groups are able to conduct the crime of rebellion for as long as they have because of drug financing precisely.

Ms. Novenario: So included po ‘yung — mai-include pa rin po ‘yung narco-politicians o ‘yung arrest order po nung previous declaration of martial law is in effect pa rin po?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: That will still be in effect because it hasn’t been lifted. Okay.

Ms. Novenario: Thank you.

David Santos (CNN Philippines): Sir, is it clear to the President based on the letter or the explanation of the SND and AFP Chief kung bakit po one year? Ano ‘yung mga parameters na kinonsider kung bakit ganito katagal ang magiging — hinihiling na extension po?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Well, I think they want a final period ‘no to deal with these acts of rebellion.

But then again, even before, we gave ourselves a timeline on when to liberate Marawi and we failed to actually meet those deadlines ‘no.

So let’s just give them the leeway ‘no because after all, as soon as it is extended, it can be cut short if there is no need for it.

Mr. Santos: Thank you, sir.

Philip Tubeza (Philippine Daily Inquirer): Sir, good afternoon. Senator Drilon is saying that there’s no factual basis for extending martial law because there’s no actual rebellion in Mindanao after the liberation of Marawi?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Well, we are relying on what the commanders and the troops are saying, and these commanders and troops are on the ground. We’re not in a position to second-guess them.

In any case, they are free to challenge martial law anew in the Supreme Court. But please note that there’s been two challenges and in both instances, the Palace has been upheld.

Mr. Tubeza: Sir, the Archbishop of Cagayan de Oro, Archbishop Ledesma is saying that it is — the extension is unnecessary because the police and the military can deal with these problems through their normal capacity?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Again, I’m not in a position to substitute the view of the Archbishop — his view in ex — or in favor of the view made by the military commanders on the ground.

Mr. Tubeza: He is also concerned that it would — it might affect the economy of Mindanao, if it’s going to be a one year extension?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: So far, it hasn’t ‘no. The enac — the economic figures that we have reported, all of which show solid performance of the economy, include of course, the economy in Mindanao.

Alexis Romero (Philippine Star): Secretary, just for the record, why did the President cite the NPA threat in the request to extend martial law?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Because we expect intensified fighting on the part of the NPA. As in fact, they have been exhibiting more intense targeting of our soldiers and civilians after the President had already classified them as a terrorist group.

Mr. Romero: Okay, that’s what make it different, because we all know the NPAs have been there in Mindanao and previous administrations did not see the need to declare martial law in the area?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: As in fact, we engaged them in peace talks, and we hoped that in fact there would be eventual peace between the government and the NPA.

We were frustrated because as you know, they never stopped attacking soldiers and civilians.

Mr. Romero: Another question. Does the government already have an idea who this Turaifie is — or Turaifie is? ‘Yung Turaifie group?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Anyway, we’re meeting tomorrow, I’ll ask, okay? We have a press briefing tomorrow anyway.

Mr. Romero: Thank you, Secretary.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: I will inquire.

Pia Gutierrez (ABS-CBN): Good afternoon, sir. Sir, si Congressman Edcel Lagman, in his interview this morning sa ANC mentioned that the threat that President Duterte was mentioning constitutes imminent danger, something which the 1987 Constitution abolished as a requirement for declaring martial law. Ano pong masasabi niyo dito, sir?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: He has filed two petitions in the Supreme Court challenging the two earlier declarations of martial law, in both instances, his petitions were denied.

He’s welcome to question this third one and I’m confident that the government can justify martial law anew in the Supreme Court.

Ms. Gutierrez: Thank you, sir.

Mr. Morong: Just on the length. Sir, from Representative Lagman, he said that the extension of the extension is contrary to this period of the 1987 Constitution as far as martial is concerned, meaning the Constitution intended to just have it 60 days?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Well again, that’s his view. I’m sure he will question it anew in the Supreme Court and I’m sure we can defend the government position in the Supreme Court again.

Mr. Morong: Sir, but 60 days, you don’t think it’s enough for the President?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Obviously, they — there was a decision made that it wasn’t enough, that they wanted the whole year and needed the whole year.

Mr. Morong: Thank you.

Celerina Monte (Manila Shimbun): Good afternoon, sir, on another issue, regarding the comfort women. There was this recent unveiling of the statue in Manila of these comfort women. May we know the Palace reaction on this? Would this mean that the government is supporting the — the call of these comfort women, like the apology and financial assistance from the Japanese government?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: As far as I know, there’s no official position on the issue of comfort women.

The fact that the statue was unveiled — well, is a fact. It was not stopped by the government. So for all intents and purposes, there is a statue allowed to be erected in memory of the comfort women.

Ms. Monte: Does the government support this move to have this statue?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: It does not support, it does not oppose. It has no position currently.

Ms. Monte: What do you think would be the reaction of Japan considering that Japan is not recognizing these comfort women here in the Philippines?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: What do I think will be their response? Nothing.

Ms. Monte: Don’t you think it would affect somehow the relationship of the two countries?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: I don’t think so because the relationship is at record close, if there is such a thing.

And I don’t think this will, in any way, affect our very good bilateral relationship with Japan right now.

— END —

Source: PCOO-PND (Presidential News Desk)

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