Press Briefing by Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella
Press Briefing Room, New Executive Bldg,  Malacañang
26 August 2016


PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Good morning. I’d just like to begin by making reference to three points and then we’ll be open to a few questions. Alright.

Regarding a newspaper headline that says ‘Courts are out to stop slide into anarchy.’ I’d just like to say that the actual statement of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno was actually a statement of the court ideal, that the judiciary’s role is to keep the social fabric intact, to address people’s cry for justice and thereby prevent society’s descent into anarchy.

There’s… the statement is very clear, that it was a simple explanation and not a statement on the state of things.

In connection, we’d also like to make reference to Chief Justice Sereno’s statement about graft-triggered TROs. The statement is in reference to the response of the High Court regarding the alarm that President Duterte raised that there are judges who received bribes from losing bidders to halt government projects.

In response to this, the High Court issued several circulars, 70 to be exact and this is much appreciated that there is a cooperation between branches of government.

Third, we’d also like to make reference to the agreement between the Philippines and the NDF who agreed on an accelerated timetable for peace talks. We’re happy that, with the ongoing peace talks in Oslo, where both parties had promised to complete the work on the Comprehensive Agreement on Socioeconomic Reforms within six months.

As Secretary Bello mentioned, the CASER is considered the heart and soul of the peace negotiations between GRP and NDF as it tackles issues such as agrarian reform, national industrialization, and foreign policy.

That’s all for now. We’re open to questions.


Dexter Ganibe (DZMM): Sec, magandang umaga po.


Mr. Ganibe: Nakarating na po sa inyong tanggapan ‘yung naging komento ng US State Department ‘yung kanilang—

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Okay. Alright. ‘Yung tanong niyo?

Mr. Ganibe: Ano po ang comment or statement ng Palasyo at medyo naging malabnaw na sila doon sa pagbatikos?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Right. We just like to say that we’re open to the opinions and positions of certain governments. But, we’d like to just say, we’d also like to reiterate that the relationship between the US and the Philippines remains basically solid and we do have a good relationship.

Mr. Ganibe: Follow-up question sir. Nabanggit na rin ng Pangulo na mukhang nakikusap na ang US na maglagay na tayo ng ambassador sa US or something like that. Meron na po ba? As soon as possible sabi—

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: We’re working on it, for the plain and simple reason that I think na Mr. Teodoro is… Wala pa ‘no. So, as of now there’s none but we’re working on it.

Maricel Halili (TV 5): Sir, aside kay former Secretary Gilbert Teodoro, meron na bang ina-eye si Presidente na possible na pumalit kay Secretary Lorenzana sa Defense kung ma-appoint na siya as ambassador?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Wala pa siyang binabanggit na pangalan. Pero I believe he has a shortlist.

Ms. Halili: How many sir?


Ms. Halili: Sir, shortlist for the DND?


Joseph Morong (GMA 7): Sir, just a clarification or more details on the matrix. It does outline the personalities involved. But how did the President come up with it? And can you elaborate on the operation, if it is about the drug operation inside the Bilibid?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Basically, I’d like to refer to the first part of your question, which is that actually whatever he comes out with is based on, you know, collected intelligence. It’s a collaborative intelligence and so he has certain basis for which we are not privy to. Thank you.

Mr. Morong: Pero sir, if it’s going to— He did say it’s about the drug operation but the matrix did not illustrate the operation, meaning who, what takes, who takes what. Can we have more details on that?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Let’s just take a cue na lang from what DOJ said, that several witnesses have surfaced to prove certain allegations versus, against certain personalities and they’re in the process of taking the affidavits of these particular witnesses including NBP guards, inmates, and former friends of these personalities that had been referred to.

And, if and when there had been finally verified, the charges made have to deal with graft and drug-related graft, once information is actually verified.

Leila Salaverria (Philippine Daily Inquirer): Sir, clarify ko lang. So the information released by the President hasn’t been verified? Is that what you’re saying?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: No, I’m not saying it’s not verified. They’re verified as of the personalities but the other links, the so-called links are being finalized.

Ms. Salaverria: Sir, on a related topic. There remains a lot of criticism or observations about the ongoing drug war and the violence. Aren’t this giving the government… maybe getting it to reassess it’s strategy so it won’t be so bloody?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Let me just give you my understanding of the whole matter. You have to set it in context, you have to set the whole operation, the whole campaign in context. That from where the President is and from where the President stands, what he sees is basically a nation that is really, has really entered into the moss of narco-politics, when people who are in government and people who are in authority have consciously made choices that actually allowed the proliferation of drugs.

So, he frames the whole matter in terms of a war, framed to a war. And he actually makes, he actually brings out and highlights the fact that the 600,000 surrenderees is simply almost a tip of a large iceberg of how deeply, how deeply this frightening drug is being used… especially in the lower sectors of society.

So basically the President’s concern is to staunch, to staunch the supply that’s coming in to the country and to make sure that the demand is stopped.

Ms. Salaverria: As to the strategy or the approach, are you saying they want parang scorched-earth approach na wala ng parang moderation na, kasi—?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I think the terms that you used imply that a lot of these are state sanction, you know. If you read very carefully, actually if you listen very carefully to what the President is saying, and how the strategy is being carried out, it really does not implicate, it really does not implicate police authority. There is no statement, there is no policy, especially what you just termed as a frightening landscape.

Ms. Salaverria: Sir, last na lang. What do you make of the PNP Chief’s statement calling on drug dealers to burn down the houses of drug lords? Parang doesn’t that perpetuate an environment or culture of violence?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Again let me bring back. Let me bring it back. They consider… the PNP Chief has taken also part of the role of the action arm of the President, who has taken on the role of ‘parens patriae.’ He is saying, he’s really calling out… This is a time of crisis.

You know the reason why perhaps people have not fully appreciated how deeply the spread of the drug menace is because it’s only now that it’s being revealed. For the longest time, it was either ignored or not attended to and so people are not aware of the depths, it’s only now. And that’s why he’s making a large, loud call.

So even that, I would say, is a call. It’s not an incitement to kill. It’s a warning, it’s a heads-up.

Ms. Salaverria: Thank you.

Henry Uri (DZRH): Secretary, good morning. Some of the witnesses at the Senate hearing claimed that they’re being involved in illegal drugs is because of poverty. So walang matinong trabaho kaya nagtutulak na lang ng droga. How would this administration address that particular problem?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: If you’ve been giving attention to the President, to the entire Cabinet’s efforts, I mean, this is such a hard-working Cabinet. It’s really surprising. They’re running all over the place. You know, the 10-point economic program, the social development progam. If you study it and look at it, it’s so pro-poor. There’s a lot of efforts going into creation of more jobs. And as you very well know, it’s not a magic wand, that you know… There’s only been less than 100 days. So, but it’s being attended to now.

In other words, the current efforts of the government is not just to increase GDP, so to speak. But it is to make sure that people, in the words of some candidates have said, the ‘laylayan’ you know, actually involved.

Mr. Uri: Follow-up lang sir. Is the President planning to give special package like livelihood program for them?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: No, there is an entire menu. There’s an entire menu of job creation. It isn’t just a question of giving, it’s a question of making available all these opportunities. Thank you.

Mr. Ganibe: Sir, sa laki ‘nong, or sa dami ‘nong mga nagsipag-suko na mga drug-dependent at mga pusher, may isang binabanggit ang Department of Health na isang rehabilitation center na ito lang ‘yung kaya nilang ma-accommodate and then pag gabi, ‘yung buong, pati sa mga hallway, may mga banig na nakalagay doon para matulugan and hanggang six months lang nila– I mean, ‘yung mga nire-rehab ay hanggang six months na lang and then pinapauwi na kahit hindi pa ganoon ka—?


Mr. Ganibe: Isa sa mga facilities ng Department of Health, sir. Gaano na po ang, gaano ba ka-urgent itong mga rehabilitations na gustong itayo ng gobyerno dahil alam natin, sabihin na natin nasa 600,000 ‘yung mga drug users and then kulang ‘yung facilities.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Okay. You know, if the DOH has a matrix, I’m not sure about the modified matrix but they have a matrix ‘no. Of the 100 percent, 90 percent of that are experiential users and about nine percent of that are actual heavy users and one percent are hardcore.

So I believe, out of the 600,000, they can give attention, special attention to about the 60,000 or more. My numbers may not be out there ‘no, but basically, the project is to attend, not to everybody, not to all 600,000 because this can be done through the barangays, it can be done through faith-based groups and stuff like that.

But already there are efforts. In fact, I was, you know, I’ve been around, I’ve been, we’ve been, we were able to look at some of the sites and one of the sites is in Fort Magsaysay. They’re developing at least 10 hectares there. Ten hectares, as far as I know, I’m not sure if it’s the exact state of the matter but we actually looked at a 10-hectare plan for housing and also, you know, alongside that was a sustainable farming, and sustainable green programs so that when the clients come out, they will have a better, they would have been better, you know, there will not only be deep talks but they will also have learned some skills and some sustainable things.

In other words, the government is very, very aware and is very concerned that it’s not just a, that drugs are not just a national security issue but also a public health issue.

Mr. Ganibe: May mga hakbang po ba para doon sa mga private entities o mga NGOs na ma-tap ng government, kasi may mga drug dependents na hindi naman ganoon pa kalulong o hindi pa ganoon—?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Actually, meron. They’re all beginning to work. It’s just very quiet. It’s just in the background, and that’s exactly, ‘yun ang mga ano dapat naha-highlight din at this stage of the game eh ‘no na meron actually some very credible and very admirable efforts that are being done in order to address.

Mr. Ganibe: Pwede bang maglabas ang Palace ng mga listahan nitong mga government entities na pwede nating mapuntahan at magawan ng kwento, mga?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Meron po sila. I’m sure that, I’m sure the one that can supply you with that is DILG and DOH. Yes. Thank you.

Ina Andolong (CNN Philippines): Hi sir. Going back to the statement of the PNP chief, I just want to clarify: Is his statements sanctioned by Malacañang? I mean, do you share the same call para sunugin ‘yung mga bahay ng mga drug lords?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: No, I think it’s very obvious. There’s no such statement like, “C’mon let’s burn that house.” It’s a passionate call, it’s a passionate call to resist.

Ms. Andolong: And going back to the matrix, sir. You talked about some links still being finalized. What links are these and does this mean that the matrix is still incomplete?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: No, the matrix, as far as… You know, the details, the matrix per se is complete as presented by the President, you know, on that particular aspect of the matrix. But details are being worked out.

Ms. Andolong: I used the word incomplete because wala pong naka-mention doon sa matrix na drug lord or a convict inside, when previously, the President kept on stressing the fact that Senator De Lima has been collecting money from drug lords through his, through her former aide. So where is that character in the matrix because it’s not there?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Well, as far as I know, these are the things that he has allowed to be revealed and in time, it shall also be completed. Okay?

Q: [off mic]

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Oh well, like I said, in that particular aspect, in that particular aspect where he wants to link certain personalities, it’s foundational.

Mr. Morong: Sir, just a quick clarification. ‘Yung sa Fort Magsaysay, sir, weren’t you referring to the penitentiary or dalawa ‘yung bini-build natin?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: No, dalawa. Aside from the penitentiary, there is a rehab center.

Mr. Morong: Okay. And then sir, just so it comes from you. The drug-related graft case will be filed against whom, sir?


Mr. Morong: The drug-related graft case will be filed against whom?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Against the leading personality in the matrix.

Tina Mendez (Philippine Star): Sir, there is a report sa BBC about female assassins in the Philippines, here in Manila. They are hired for P20,000 per hit. Opo. ‘Yung they kill ‘yung mga identified drug personalities. Any comment?


Ms. Mendez: Why?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I don’t know about it, okay?

Ms. Mendez: Sir, is the government not going to look into the matter?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Well, I’m sure they are but at the present, it has not been part of the landscape, of the media landscape.

Ms. Mendez: Sir, sa fa-filean (file), target personalities, fa-filean ng kaso related to the matrix, does that include Congressman Espino?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Was it in the matrix? Congressman Espino?

Ms. Mendez: Yes.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Pangasinan governor. Okay. Well, let’s wait until the next step.

Hannah Sancho (Sonshine Radio): Good morning, Secretary. Sir, na-mention ni President Duterte sa Davao ‘yung nakatanggap na ng P50-million ransom ‘yung Abu Sayyaf para doon sa Norwegian, kay Sekkingstad po. Saan po galing ‘yung ransom?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I’m not privy to that. But it was, I think it was also raised by third parties.

Ms. Sancho: Pero ‘yung position natin sir, no ransom policy pa rin po ba?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Not from the government. Ransom not from the government.

Ms. Sancho: Pero okay sa inyo ‘yung ransom pero ‘wag lang galing sa government or ine-encourage natin?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Well that is… Hindi po… No. Ang sinasabi ko po, the government has also a no ransom policy, right?

Ms. Sancho: Pero ine-encourage natin o hindi doon sa ibang—?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: We don’t encourage. If they make negotiations, that is their negotiation.

Ms. Sancho: Sir, ano pong status doon sir sa ginagawa ngayon ng mga security forces natin para makuha ‘yung si Sekkingstad po? Kasi ‘di ba may order po ‘yung Pangulo na—?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I think, I believe they’re working quietly.

Mr. Uri (DZRH): Sir, clarification lang. ‘Yung Governor Espino na nasa matrix, ‘yun ba ‘yung governor na binabanggit na ng Pangulo na kasali sa papangalanan niya in the next few days?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I’ll check that, okay? About Espino. We’ll clarify. We’ll get back to you on that.

Ros Coz (UNTV): Good morning, sir. It has been a month since po pinirmahan ng Pangulo ‘yun pong Executive Order on FOI. Ano na pong nangyari doon po sa inventory po ng exceptions? Nakapag-pasa na po ba ang DOJ?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Meron na po, meron na po siya.

Ms. Coz: Kailan po ipa-publish?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Si Sec. Andanar had actually a draft the other day. Dala-dala niya actually, including the exceptions.

Q: [off mic]


Q: Ipapalabas daw?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Ipapalabas. Okay. As soon as he’s… but there is actually ano but that’s actually a draft version, ‘yung binigay niya.

Q: [off mic]

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I believe it’s complete. I believe it’s complete ha. I believe it’s complete.

Mr. Morong: Sir, China lang. Ang sabi ‘nong People’s Daily, I think this is the paper of the Communist Party. Ang sabi is that there’s no chance for any talks to proceed if we do not abandon ‘yung arbitration ruling or, and we have limited cards to play, they say.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: You’re talking PPD, right? ‘Yun ang kanilang local paper. Mas maigi siguro intindihin natin na meron silang pananalita sa labas at meron silang pananalita sa loob. ‘Yun pong binanggit niyo, para sa kanila po ‘yun. Marami pong salamat.