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 everyone.

First is the Palace statement on the attempted terror attack at the Port Authority of New York:

Terrorism and hate have no place in society.

We pray for the speedy recovery of those injured in the New York explosion.

The Department of Foreign Affairs, through our Consulate General in New York, is in touch with the leaders of the Filipino-American community in the city. They reported that no Filipino or Filipino-American has been affected by the incident.

The Consulate General is closely monitoring the situation especially as it pertains to the safety and well-being of our kababayans in New York.

The President has also asked me to identify the commission that he intends to abolish. This is the Presidential Commission [for] the Urban Poor. And the President stated two grounds behind his decision to abolish the commission.

Number one, it is — according to him, a collegial body and they have not met as a collegial body. And number two, that the commissioners are notorious for junkets abroad.

So this kind of work performance has no place in the Duterte administration. We reiterate we are serious about the drive against corruption in government and this latest decision of the President to abolish the PCUP — the PCUP among others for unnecessary junkets of its officials prove beyond doubt that the President is very serious in his anti-corruption campaign.

You have questions?

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS:  

Celerina Monte (Manila Shimbun): Good morning, sir. So what will happen to the employees under this commission?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: I do not know yet ‘no. But an abolition of an office under our law means that they will all be severed from government.  

Ms. Monte: So there will be like a package kasi they will be severed from government so there will be higher like any remuneration for them? 

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: I do not know because the written memorandum on the abolition has not yet been issued.

Ted Tuvera (Daily Tribune): Secretary, good morning. Regarding sa PCUP, wala naman po sigurong — hindi naman po siguro dahil sa association ni Commissioner Terry Ridon sa left ‘yung dahilan nito, sir? 

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: I doubt it because the two grounds mentioned to me by the President is that it’s a collegial body and they don’t appear to be working as a collegial body and junkets of the commissioners. 

Mr. Tuvera: Thank you, sir. 

Joseph Morong (GMA-7): Sir, can we have more details on the unauthorized junkets? Who and how frequent? 

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: I’ll have it available as soon as I get it. As I said, the written memorandum or executive order on the abolition still has to be prepared.

But I was given already… I was requested already by the President to announce this information last night. 

Mr. Morong: How did the President find out about the junkets?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: I do not know personally. He just asked me to make the announcement that it is in line with the government drive against graft and corruption. 

Mr. Morong: Will there be charges against the officials there? 

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Perhaps that would be a logical conclusion. But let us await the official memorandum ‘no in this regard. 

Mr. Morong: Thank you, sir.

Rose Novenario (Hataw): Hi, good morning, sir. Sir, sino po ‘yung gaganap doon sa tungkulin ng PCUP? Sino po ‘yung tututok doon sa mga anti-poverty measures or programs po ng administrasyon? 

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: I do not know as yet. I was just asked to identify the commission that he said last Saturday he would abolish, and that is the PCUP. 

Ms. Novenario: Wala po kaya itong ano — kinalaman doon sa pagiging left-leaning ni Mr. Terry Ridon? 

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Alam mo maski left-leaning naman si Terry Ridon eh alam kong hiwalay naman siya doon sa grupo ng makakaliwa ‘no dahil hindi na nga siya kinuha bilang nominado ng partylist na Kabataan ng pangalawang beses. Minsan lang siya nanilbihan bilang nominado ng Kabataan Partylist.

Alexis Romero (Philippine Star): Given that the PCUP plays a key role on anti-poverty policies, will the President come up with a new body to replace it?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: I have no doubt that there will be no vacuum as far as fulfilling the mandate of the PCUP is concerned.

He decided to abolish the commission because it is not performing its mandate precisely. So I’m sure the President will have something na more workable ‘no in the near future. 

Mr. Romero: Pero may NAPC pa ‘di ba? 

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Yes, meron naman pong NAPC. 

Mr. Romero: Pero isa pa, Sec… Clarification lang, this is an abolition not just a revamp? 

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: It’s an abolition, that’s what he said. Now having said that, there is a pending bill in Congress creating the Department of Housing.

So perhaps the functions of the PCUP will be undertaken by the proposed Department of Housing which is also part of the legislative agenda of the Palace.  

Mr. Romero: Nasabihan na po ba si Mr. Ridon about this move by the President? 

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: I believe he had information about it. He suspected that it was his agency.

I talked to him before the briefing and he confirmed that he had suspicions that the President was referring to PCUP.

But he himself was not personally notified by the President. I had to tell him. 

Mr. Romero: Thank you, Secretary.  

Mr. Tuvera: Sir, kelan po ‘yung ano effective ‘yung abolition, sir, if ever?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: I was just asked by the President to reveal this ‘no. The details I’m sure will be known as soon as they have the written memorandum from the President.  

Mr. Tuvera: Thank you.  

Leila Salaverria (Philippine Daily Inquirer): Good morning. Sir, has the President given any directive on whether he wants the PNP to resume Oplan Tokhang and Oplan Double Barrel? 

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: I think it’s very clear, he already issued the memorandum that the PNP shall assist anew the PDEA in conducting the anti-drug operations in the country.

So the memorandum speaks for itself. PDEA remains the lead but the PNP will not support as well. 

Ms. Salaverria: So what does it mean for Oplan Tokhang? Can the PNP resume it? 

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: I suppose they would have to coordinate with PDEA because PDEA pursuant to the memorandum was still the lead agency ‘no in the anti-drug campaign. 

Ms. Salaverria: But the President himself hasn’t said anything about whether he wants specifically Tokhang and Double Barrel to resume? 

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: He hasn’t mentioned anything other than he wants the PNP to provide support anew to the PDEA. 

Mr. Morong: Sir, ‘yung TRAIN I think tapos na sila sa bicam ‘no, ‘yung tax reform?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: I’m not sure if it — completely, ha? I know that they only agreed as of yesterday on some provisions on coal. I’m not sure if they’re completely done. 

Mr. Morong: All right, but so far, sir, I think there is going to be increases in excise tax on vehicles, automobiles and then tobacco? Comments on those already approved or already agreed upon provisions? 

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Well, these were provisions which were proposed in the Palace version of the bill ‘no, higher excise tax on transportation as well as on tobacco products ‘no.

Of course, the provision on tobacco products reiterates only the provision of the Sin Tax Law which provides that the additional excise taxes on tobacco would be used to fund universal health care.

Mr. Morong: Some are saying, sir, that there’s going to be… Well, there’s going to be increases in several taxes, but there’s also going to be increases in the take home. But they say, some say, na parang naka-cancel off din, meaning, tataas nga ‘yung sweldo pero may mga — maybe some things that you need na medyo  tataas din ‘yung presyo. Your comment whether ‘yung increases sa take-home pay will really make up for the increases in the taxes, in several taxes?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Well, what we’re sure is that the additional excise tax ‘no will be used to fund the Build, Build, Build program of the government.

Although, there was also a campaign promise nga to increase the tax exempt portion in one’s income tax annually ‘no and that was done by the TRAIN.

Peng Aliño (Radyo Pilipinas): Yeah, ‘yung sa taxes po. Do we expect — I mean ‘yung mga… What will to happen to the poor people who are talagang makikita natin na kung mataas ‘yung tax, matatamaan din sila?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: There were provisions naman included in the bill itself ‘no to help alleviate the impact on the very poor sector ‘no.

There’s of course continuing conditional cash transfer program of the government, we will pursue that.

And I think there are other provisions providing further subsidy and supports to the very poor. 

Rocky Ignacio (PTV-4): Like ‘yung increase daw po sa gasoline, price ng energy like sa kuryente and gasoline?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Well, that’s also in the proposed version of the TRAIN but for our press briefing on Thursday, I will have a comparison ready on the original Palace version, the Senate version, the House version, and the final version, if it is true that they have concluded with bicam ‘no.

Rosalie Coz (UNTV): Hi, sir. Good morning po. Tanong rin po namin ‘yung reaction regarding sa panawagan ng ilang empleyado ng Development Academy of the Philippines, mga alegasyon laban sa pamunuan po nito na same din, junket, naglalagay ng mga hindi kwalipikadong tao sa posisyon and — ‘yun po. May na-i-report na po ba sa Presidente hinggil po dito?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Well, it was made in a very public manner. And I’m sure the President will investigate this particular complaint.

As you can see, the President does not take issues of corruption sitting down.

Mr. Romero: Secretary, tinanong ko ‘to kahapon. Any information now on the supposed potential successor of Hapilon, si Turaifie?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: No information as of yet.

Mr. Romero: Ah okay. Pero are there instructions now to run after him? Considering na sinabi doon sa martial law letter ni President Duterte na he poses a threat and he could be a potential leader of ISIS in Southeast Asia?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: I think the request for extension carries with it impliedly the need to exercise martial law powers in order to apprehend other individuals who are connected with the rebellion. And I’m sure this will apply to the person that you just mentioned.

Mr. Romero: May idea na ba ‘yung government forces regarding his whereabouts?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Naku, I wouldn’t know that. And even if they have, I don’t think they will share it with us.

Mr. Romero: Okay. Thank you, Secretary.

Ms. Salaverria: Sir, on the entry of the third telco player. Sir, if the idea is to increase competition to improve service, why are we limiting it to China?  

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Well, I guess it’s a… It was brought up in bilateral negotiations between the Philippines and China.

And the eventual player that was chosen by China, China Telecom without doubt is one of the biggest in the world ‘no. And of course, we want to avail of the fact that we’re very proximate to China ‘no.

But it was a political decision of the President to —  

Ms. Salaverria: Political?  

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE:  — to offer it to a Chinese company. Intended I guess also to strengthen our bilateral ties with China, coupled with the fact that given the huge telecoms market in China, Chinese companies ought to have already technical know-how ‘no in providing competent and reliable telecom services.  

Ms. Salaverria: But sir, what can the Palace say about security concerns being raised about the entry of China in the telecom industry? And is the government not going to open the industry to other foreign players?  

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Well, as far as security considerations are concerned, we will look into that because there are really concerns overall on cyber security in general.

And it’s been a priority of the government anyway ‘no. And your second question is?  

Ms. Salaverria: Are we going to open the industry to other foreign players? 

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Well, right now, let’s see ‘no because there’s a third operator that was invited to come in — that’s already fraught with challenges. Take note that we are still in the process of hearing a case involving the frequencies ‘no that was awarded to what should have been the third player and the buyers of that frequency are still challenging before the Supreme Court now ‘no whether or not the Competition Commission can even look into the merger ‘no.

So it would not be as simple as it seems. There will be legal challenges. But we are confident we can overcome all these challenges because after all it is our commitment to provide viable public service in the telecoms industry to the Filipino people. 

Ms. Novenario: Hi, good morning uli, sir. Sir, ‘yung dalawang beses na, dalawang opisyal na po ang nasibak ni Pangulong Duterte tungkol po dito sa junket trips ‘no — si General Santiago and si Terry Ridon. ‘Yun pong Anti-Graft Commission, nabuo na po ba ng Pangulo, na in-announce po niya mga two months ago? At magkakaroon po ba ng review sa lahat po ng mga trips ng mga lahat ng opisyal ng administrasyon bunsod po nitong ganitong mga hakbang ng Pangulo?  

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: ‘Yung commission itself, I think there’s already an executive issuance on it ‘no.

If at all, we are — the Palace is still vetting ‘no the individuals who will man the Presidential Anti-Graft Commission.

Ms. Novenario: Kasama po sa trabaho nila ‘yung lifestyle check sa mga government officials?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Ay siguradong-sigurado po ‘yan.

Ms. Novenario: And ‘yung pagre-review po ng mga junket trips ng mga officials?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: I think the President has given a topmost priority to running after government officials who are engaged in junketing ‘no or “government junketeers”, that’s the correct term.

Mr. Morong: Sir, just two short ones. How is the President viewing the Dengvaxia issue?  

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Well, the President is awaiting results of the investigation. And he has promised that after investigation are — has been or have been conducted both by the Senate and the Department of Justice — that he will run after all individuals who may have criminal culpability for this ‘no.

Meanwhile, he stands by the recommendation of the DOH to hold Sanofi responsible. We want, by way of mere — by way of minimum, a refund of what we have paid already for the Dengvaxia. That’s the declaration already of the DOH Secretary ‘no. He wants a refund of what we had paid because there was concealment of a material fact and that is that children who have not developed dengue may acquire the disease three to six years after the vaccination. That was not a known fact when government decided to embark on the vaccination program.  

Mr. Morong: Sir, on the martial law, do you expect an easy sailing as far as the discussion or the special session on the 14th, I think. Not a special session, but a session.  

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: A session on Wednesday ‘no.  

Mr. Morong: Wednesday.  

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: So… Well, we look to… We look forward to the support which has been given in the past by Congress.

We have factual basis for the declaration of martial law and we see no reason why Congress will not give its usual support to this initiative of the Chief Executive. 

Mr. Morong: Thank you.  

— END — 

source: PCOO-PND (Presidential News Desk)

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