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

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Good morning. I’d like to touch on a few points this morning, before we begin our question and answer period:

Number 1, I’d like to refer to Senator Grace Poe’s request for the draft FOI to remove restrictive rules regarding the release of SALNs. The senator’s comment will be taken into account. But presently, the draft is still undergoing review at the Office of the Executive Secretary.

Number 2, in relation to that, Bayan’s request for Department of [Transportation] to release the minutes of meetings between LRTA and the former DOTC. This is not the first request made regarding access to public information.

Mr. Greco Belgica made a request to DBM regarding DAP and the documents were released. So this move by Bayan is a welcome move.

Department of National Defense — According to reports, 15 soldiers were already killed in the heightened campaign versus the ASG group. It is unfortunate that the number of our troops have already lost their lives.

However, as Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said on August 29: We are going full force at tsaka all out operations sa kanila doon. We are adding five battalions or about 2,500 people and that they’ll only be in Sulu.

Number 4, point 4, regarding the death of the Odicta couple. Police have already formed a special task force that would look into the deaths, and the Chief Supt. Gentiles has already directed… the director of Western Visayas region police has said that they do value the life of every individual and respect due process.

Regarding– That will be just about all. But in closing, we just like to summarize by saying that we continue to recognize the President’s campaign against drugs has been successful.

A world-record of more than 600,000 surrenderees proved the effectivity of the campaign. While it is not been perfect, it gives the government momentum to move on to the next phase.

Among others, this swift disposition of justice and the rehabilitation of surrenderees.

In closing, we’d also like to recognize… we’d like to just make the announcement that recently, just last Sunday, the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan gave the President an award. It’s called the ‘Gawad Supremo Award.’ Bilang pagpapakilala ng kanyang pagsasabuhay sa mga adhikain ni Gat Andres Bonifacio at ng kabataang makabayan at pagsulong ng makabayan at demokratikong interest ng sambayanan.

This was given to him last Sunday at the UP Film Institute.

Thank you. Questions?


Ted Tuvera (Daily Tribune): Sir, good morning sir. Sir, how does the President think of the series of offensives, encounters in Sulu? Is this the reckoning that has been, that he has been warning all along? Sir could this be considered an all out war against the Abu Sayyaf?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Well, definitely the President is focused on making sure that the threat from the Abu Sayyaf Group should be terminated as soon as possible.

Mr. Tuvera: So, sir is the President planning to wage an all out war against–?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Already these are manifestations of his campaign against the Abu Sayyaf Group.

Henry Uri (DZRH): Secretary, last night one of the messages of the President was like in the coming days, it will be hard for us. So, meron ba tayong ganon? Meron ba tayong seryoso banta ng terorismo o ano mang seryosong pagbabanta mula sa mga kalaban ng pamahalaan?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I believe the President is simply calling our attention to the fact that we should all be vigilant, especially because for example there are groups like terrorist groups like the Abu Sayyaf and he is concentrating full force against these.

Mr. Uri: ‘Yung pagtakas ‘nong mga prisoners sa Marawi, paano kinokonsidera ho ng pamahalaan ito?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: They’re already looking into that. Already the proper, the designated authorities are already investigating that and pursuing the right action.

Mr. Uri: So, wala hong dapat ipangamba ang taong bayan?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Wala naman po. I mean not pangamba, but concern. You should be all aware and be concerned. Okay. Thank you po.

Mr. Tuvera: Sir, is there a timeline in destroying the Abu Sayyaf sir?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Wala po akong timeline, wala naman siyang nire-release. But, it should be within a reasonable period.

Mr. Tuvera: Ano po ‘yung reasonable period sir?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: ‘Yun po, wala kaming definite timeline. But within a reason—In other words, it should not be an extended, it should not be an extended engagement.

Maricel Halili (TV 5): Hi sir. Good morning. Sir, on the President’s trip to ASEAN Summit. What are the chances that he’ll be meeting US President Barack Obama?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: We’re not sure about that. But if at all, it may be on the sides. I’m not sure.

Ms. Halili: But, is there a request to meet the President?


Ms. Halili: Kung sakaling matuloy po ‘yung meeting. What particular issues ang ibi-bring up ni President Duterte?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Well basically, they’ll establish muna ‘yung ano… just establish acquaintances muna, establish a foreign relationship.

Ms. Halili: How about human rights issues, sir?


Ms. Halili: ‘Yung mga issues about extrajudicial killings, ibi-bring up din daw po ba ‘to ni Presidente kung matuloy man ‘yung mga meeting nila?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: This is not… We’re not referring to those matters. Okay?

Ms. Halili: Aside from US President Obama, will there be any bilateral talks sa side po ng ASEAN Summit?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I suppose there will be informal meetings with the others, yes.

Ms. Halili: What particular countries?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: We’re not exactly sure about that yet.

Ms. Halili: Sir, on the trip of the President to Brunei and Indonesia, ano-ano po ‘yung mga issues na pag-uusapan?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Well basically, one thing I can tell you is that he’ll be meeting up with the local communities, local Filipino communities, that’s for sure. 

Ms. Halili: Thank you sir.


Leila Salaverria (Philippine Daily Inquirer): Sir, what’s the reason for there being so many exceptions to the FOI?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I think these are really the standard exceptions, you know, those are, those exceptions are basically–

Ms. Salaverria: Standard? What do you mean by ‘standard’?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I mean, basically, it’s all self-explanatory. There are certain items there that are not, you know, cannot be revealed because of confidentiality, because of personal– That sort of thing.

Ms. Salaverria: Sir, what’s the justification for the exceptions saying that government officials can’t be compelled to prepare lists and detailed reports on how congressional funds were disbursed. Sir, doesn’t this go against the essence of the FOI since it’s supposed to be a transparency measure?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: It is a transparency measure. However, the details are still being worked out.

Ms. Salaverria: Does it mean the list might be trimmed down?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I’m not sure if it will be trimmed down but it will be further clarified.

Joseph Morong (GMA 7): Sir, can I go to some of the details of the exemptions?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I’m not privy to. I’m not the expert regarding that, but I can answer general questions regarding–

Mr. Morong: Okay sir. So right now as things stand, kailan ‘yung final draft nito and when can people start maybe making subok ‘yung FOI na ito?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Well, basically, the fact that you already have in your hand the draft, that means to say that the large part of the work has already been done. Okay. So let’s just– I don’t have the timeline.

Mr. Morong: So requests can be made already?


Mr. Morong: Sige sir.

Ina Andolong (CNN Philippines): Hi sir. Sir, this EO on the FOI as previously mentioned only covers the Executive and yet the exemptions include restrictions on access to court documents and court pleadings. So it somewhat also interferes with some documents in the other branch. How do you explain that?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Okay. Come again? Each one, each particular Department, each particular branch of the government will have its own issues and I think that’s part of the thing that is being dovetailed.
They’re working out, they’re making sure that everything dovetails so that it does not conflict with one another.

Ms. Andolong: As it is, sir, I do believe we already have, we can access court documents pertaining to cases. Bakit po biglang lalagyan ng exemption doon?


Ms. Andolong: In the exemption in the draft EO says: “Court documents including pleadings are considered confidential.” And yet, I do believe we can easily access them from the clerk of court, right?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Well, in which case, this could be part of the things that are being worked out through the office of the ES.

Ms. Andolong: Thank you.


Alexis Romero (Philippine Star): May I refer to number 152. Non-disclosure of SALN if the purpose is any of the following purposes: Any purpose contrary to morals or public policy or any commercial purpose other than by news and communications media for dissemination to the general public. Why this exception?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I think basically, it’s a safeguard against the malicious use of the information.

Mr. Romero: Malicious use? So ibig sabihin, ‘yung mga nangde-defame? Pero ‘di ba ngayon ‘yung SALN, anyone can access regardless of the reason kasi it’s an open document?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Right. But I think it’s — what do you call it?– It’s already… part of the proposed, if example, even Grace Poe said it should be redacted. You know, in other words, para walang referrals to the details.

Mr. Romero: So ‘yung net worth na lang at tsaka ‘yung assets?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I’m not entirely sure about that but I suppose that will be more or less as simplified as possible para walang mga malicious misuse of the information.

Mr. Romero: Pero hindi ba ito putting restrictions to something that is already being given freely right now?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Well, if they see fit to restudy it, then probably it’s addressing that particular situation.

Ms. Andolong: Quick. You mentioned sir these are standard exemptions. Did you base this from somewhere else? Another FOI from–?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: No, no, no. I’m basically saying that these are already… some of them already — what do you call it? — in existence. Okay. So basically that. May mga existing na mga ano na, na mga–

Mr. JP Bencito (Manila Standard): Good morning, sir. Sir, may we know who are the people working behind this draft FOI EO?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: As far as I can tell you, they belong to the Office of the Executive Secretary.

Mr. Bencito: Sir, is it possible that the names of the people who were involved can be released to the public?


Mr. Bencito: In the drafting of this EO, sir? Specifics?


Mr. Bencito: Transparency, disclosure sir.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I‘m not sure about that particular question but we’ll find out and get back to you. Thank you.

Johnson Manabat (DZMM): Sir, good morning. Sir, ‘yun hong sa naging announcement lang ni Pangulo kahapon about the two million peso reward money. Unang-una ho, saan ho kukunin ‘yung pondo? And secondly, ‘yun ho bang mga pulis ay pwede rin makakuha ng reward money?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I don’t know about the details pero may pagkukuhanan ‘yun, may pagkukuhanan talaga ‘yun.

On the other hand, ang pagkakasabi yata niya is… it is basically — ano ba ‘yun? — to reveal the names of those who you know are involved, okay. So ‘yung mga nag-reveal, ‘yung ang makakatanggap.

Q: [off mic]

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Depende. Kung ‘yun ang tenor ng pagkakasabi ng Presidente, I suppose so.

Alvin Baltazar (Radyo ng Bayan): I’m sorry sir pero mukhang natanong na ni Johnson pero follow-up na rin, sir. Ulitin lang natin: Pwe-pwedeng makatanggap ang isang pulis pagka meron silang alam na kasama nila na ninja cop?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Okay. I will clarify that. Okay. I will clarify that.

Mr. Baltazar: Sir, kasi ang pagkakaalam din ng marami, within the organization, alam din ng mga pulis kung sino ‘yung mga kasama nilang sangkot sa illegal drugs.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Well, ‘yun ang pagkaka-ano, that is the assumption. But since you are asking for a very specific answer, I will get back to you regarding that matter. Thank you.

Mr. Tuvera: Sir you mentioned earlier na there are imperfections in the drugs campaign. Sir, could you clarify or tell us what the manifestations of such imperfections are?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Let us respect the way it was said. In the campaign, it has been very successful but there have been imperfections. Thank you.

Mr. Morong: Sir, ‘yung China, I think yesterday ‘no, said that they are open to allowing – not that it’s really up to them – but they are open to allowing our fishermen to fish in the disputed waters. Sir, are we inclined to tell our fishermen now that they can fish?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I don’t know about the exact dates. But that’s exactly one of the things na inilapit yata ng Presidente — to treat our people not as enemies; let us not be adversaries but instead that we are friends, parang ganon; to allow them to be able to fish.

So in other words, kung kailan man, kung baga inilapit niya ‘yun. Apparently, the Ambassador also responded in kind ‘no.

Mr. Morong: And positively sir?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: And positively yes. So, apparently there’s a, well, they are maybe kinks in the relationship. There is a positive opening. There is a window of opportunity. There is a warm… That is a… windows of opportunity are–

Mr. Morong: So pwede na sir, pumunta ‘yung mga–?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I don’t know about the exact kung pwede na, but yes definitely nailapit ‘yan. At sabi naman nila, oo. What may need to be clarified, is maybe, well aside from– Maybe the best thing to do is just test the waters.

Mr. Morong: Literally also? Sige sir. Thank you.

Ms. Salaverria: Sir, this is asked last time. But I just want to follow-up: Maybe, have you discussed with the President, the BBC report on the female assassin killing drug dealers on orders of a policeman?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: No, we were not able to discuss that with the President.

Ms. Salaverria: How about with other police officials, police authorities? Have there been orders to look into this?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: No, we’re not able to clarify that.

Ms. Salaverria: Sir, is the Palace not concerned about this story?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Of course it is. Except that, you know, there’s a whole array of things that need to be considered and many of them basically have the same complexion.