Press briefing by Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella with Neil Anthony Estrella Bureau of customs Acting Spokesperson for Enforcement and Intelligence Operations
Press Briefing Room, New Executive Building, Malacanang
20 December 2016


PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Good morning. Good morning, Press Corps. 

This morning we have as a guest, Retired Colonel Neil Estrella and he has been here before but let me just try to refresh your mind regarding him. 

He’s a retired marine officer who has worked extensively in intelligence and public affairs and he is now with the Bureau of Customs, acting as spokesperson for enforcement and intelligence operations. 

So, ladies and gentlemen of the Press Corps. Let us give a warm welcome to Colonel Estrella of the Bureau of Customs.

ESTRELLA: Thank you, sir. Good morning, everyone. We just want to give you an updates on your Bureau of Custom. 

For the Overseas Filipino Workers, the Bureau of Customs is happy to announce that to our estimated millions of Overseas Filipino Workers, starting December 25, Christmas Day, balikbayan boxes will — with value not exceeding 150,000 pesos will be exempt from duties and taxes.

This is after the 15 days publication of the IRR. 

The BOC and DOF has signed this month Customs Administrative Order 05-2016 which lifts taxes on balikbayan boxes for Qualified Filipinos While Abroad. 

Considered QFWA are OFWS, Filipino citizens who are residing abroad and Pinoys who are holders of student, investors, and tourist visas. 

To be covered by this ruling, balikbayan boxes shall contain personal and household effects only, and content should not be in commercial quantities or intended for sale. 

Also, the availment of this privilege is limited to a maximum of three times per calendar year. 

Apart from this order, the Bureau of Customs also created an online OFW corner which serves as an online portal for issues and concerns of our unsung heroes abroad. 

This is where our OFWs can file any balikbayan box related complaints or questions they have for the Bureau of Customs. 

A link to the OFW corner may be found at the uppermost part of our website, 

BOC on anti-smuggling campaign, the BOC maintains its heightened alert against illegal smuggling of goods in the country.

Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon has issued memorandum to remind all officials and personnels to keep a tight watch on the entry of illegal finished firecrackers, fireworks, and other pyrotechnic devices in the country. 

The commissioner also issued a memorandum in compliance with Republic Act No. 7183, which prohibits the importation of finished firecrackers and fireworks. 

Only importation of ingredients in making workers is allowed by law, provided it also has accompanying documents and permits. 

This memorandum was released after the Bureau of Customs was blamed for the proliferation of smuggled firecrackers, being circulated and distributed locally. 

BOC is now coordinating with the Philippine National Police to clarify if they’re giving import clearances even for finished firecrackers.

Also the Bureau of Customs has already submitted the draft implementing rules and regulation of Republic Act No. 10845 or the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act of 2016 to the Department of Finance for final review. 

Under this draft, the IRR large-scale agricultural smuggling will be classified as economic sabotage. 

Offenders will be imposed with a maximum penalty of life imprisonment and a fine of twice the fair value of the smuggled agricultural product and the aggregate amount of the taxes, duties, and other charges. 

This is part of the commitment of the Bureau of Custom, in the fight to eradicate smuggling in the country. 

Moreover, the Bureau of Custom reported on December 16, that its operative has recently seized a total of 20 20-footer containers containing rice and other items worth about 40 million pesos at the Manila International Container Port. 

Commissioner Faeldon says this is already constitute an economic sabotage, and warned the suspects involved in the illegal transshipment will be held accountable.

Then, on December 18, the Bureau of Custom also, was able to seize about 700-million worth of smuggled fuel, following the seizure of two oil vessels at the Port of Limay. 

Related details of this is already at BOC website. All these efforts are in pursuant to the instructions of President Rodrigo Duterte to the Bureau of Custom in his fight against corruption and smuggling. 

The BOC war on drugs. Following its successful series of drug bust operation, the director of Anti-Illegal Drug Group PNP, Police Superintendent Albert Ignatius Ferro, awarded the Bureau of Customs a Plaque of Recognition for his relentless effort in his war against drugs. 

The recognition came just five months after Commissioner Faeldon assumed office in the Bureau. 

The Bureau of Customs was able to seize around almost two billion pesos worth of illegal drugs, like shabu, cocaine, marijuana, and ecstasy. 

Also, the Bureau of Custom through its informant, was able to receive a cash reward of two million pesos under operation Private Eye, awarded by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency. 

Commissioner Faeldon encouraged other informants to be courageous enough in sharing more information against persons involved in illegal drug trade. 

The Bureau of Custom on revenue collection. For the first half of December, the Bureau of Customs has already collected 19.947 billion, which is 57 percent of the total 35.116 billion assessed target for the last month of the year, which is the month of December.

The Bureau expects to achieve a good revenue collection performance this month, similar to that of November when the Bureau was able to exceed its target revenue collection by more than three billion or close to four billion. 

Also, as per the MICP district collector Atty. [Jeff Marolina?] said his port has already achieved 7 percent surplus as of this date. 

Given this improvement, the Bureau of Custom is already 93.3 percent of the 409 billion assessed target for the whole year. 

This enhanced revenue collection is attributed to the positive trust rating of the Bureau of Custom and the reduction of corruption, also the cooperation of stakeholders and transparency in the Bureau of Customs transaction, these full efforts of traders in helping the agency increase its revenue collection. 

The BOC on hiring and promotion. An estimated 2, 500 interested applicants submitted their application for more than 1,000 vacant positions posted by the Bureau last month. 

This includes opening for both new hire and employees up to for promotion. 

The Bureau of Customs employees who passed their applications and are qualified for higher promotions, are all up for promotion this month. 

The Bureau of Customs is hiring new employees on the first quarter of 2017, to fill up positions that were left vacant for years, as a result of rationalization policies and freeze on hiring of the past administrations. 

Also, this mass hiring in the Bureau aims to augment the reform in the Bureau, with newly-recruited or promoted employees are expected to overhaul the tainted image of the agency.  

The Bureau of Custom on its new appointee. Malacañang has officially appointed Atty. Edward James A. Dy Buco as Deputy Commissioner for Assessment and Operations and Coordinating Group. 

He will oversee the publishing of the values of commodities imported to the country, and the monitoring — and monitoring the implementation of rules and regulation governing exportation, warehousing, and auction. 

Under him will be the offices of the import and assessment service and the port operation service. 

Prior to his appointment, the newly-designated Deputy Commissioner used to work in the different divisions of the ports of Cebu and Davao. 

He is also a product of Ateneo Law School and has more than 20 years of experience in various of fields in the legal discipline.

Deputy Commissioner Dy Buco officially took oath last December 8 before Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon. 

That ends our update for the Bureau of Customs. We’re now ready for your questions. 

Thank you.


Leo Palo (DZME): Sir, good morning. Congratulations sa target niyo at pinuri nga actually kayo ng Pangulo. Anyway, matanong ko lang, sir, ‘yung IRR na sinasabi ninyo doon sa balikbayan boxes, 15 days pa kasi, so meaning tapos na ang Christmas? 

ESTRELLA: No, sir. Na-publish po ‘to 15 days ago and it will be effective on the 25thof December. 

Mr. Palo: Okay, sir. Kiliti lang ng konti. Namatay si Deputy Commissioner Lachica. Kumusta na po ang investigation ni Commissioner Faeldon? 

ESTRELLA:Yes, sir. Both the Philippine National Police and the National Bureau of Investigation are the lead agencies investigating the death of Deputy Commissioner Lachica.

The task given to us by Commissioner Faeldon is to assist and give full support to the investigating units. 

As of now, NBI already issued subpoenas to persons of interest and likewise were able also to acquire documents and currently reviewing those cases that were handled by the late Deputy Commissioner.  

Mr. Palo: So wala pang update, sir? 

ESTRELLA: Sa ngayon po, sir, that was the latest update that we got from the lead agencies investigating. Siguro for the next update, we will ask also for also the NBI and the PNP. 

Mr. Palo: Thank you, sir. 

ESTRELLA: Thank you. 

Henry Uri  (DZRH): Sir, follow up lang dun sa nakumpiska ninyong 1.3 billion worth ng shabu. Sino yung mga concessionaire nito at saang bansa ito ho galing? 

ESTRELLA: You are talking about the one that was seized in Cagayan five months ago? 

Mr. Uri: Yes, sir. 

ESTRELLA: Sir, ang… We are actually — that case is still being investigated but the initial report that we got is it came from another country closest to our northern territory. 

Mr. Uri: Anong bansa po ito if I may add? 

ESTRELLA: Sa ngayon, ang nakikita nating malapit na bansa sa atin diyan ay Taiwan at China. But we are still validating those informations. 

Mr. Uri: May particular name kung sino ho ang pinanggalingan nito? 

ESTRELLA: Well, if you remember, following that operation we were able to arrest at least four Hong Kong nationals in a alleged floating shabu, in a ship registered under another country. 

So we are still validating the connection because the information that we got from our intelligence community is that this ship that was seized also by a combined operatives of the PNP and the Bureau of Custom is also the ship that is delivering a finished shabu or drugs to our country via our northern regions and provinces. 

Mr. Uri: Sir, yun hong shabu talagang shabu talaga, hindi isinakay sa ibang produkto o hindi nag – gumamit ng ibang produkto? 

ESTRELLA: Hindi po. Nung na-seize po natin ‘to wala pong – hindi po ito dumaan ng ports. Ang… Just to clarify, hindi po dumaan ng port ‘to at hindi po ‘to container rise. Ito po ay ini-smuggle papasok po sa napakalawak po nating coastal areas. 

Joseph Morong (GMA 7): Sir, ‘yung sa tax exemptions lang kasi sa 25 pa yung exempted ‘yung 150 below right? So papano yung — so dapat ang advise ba kung, if you wanna avail of it, better na mag-wait until maybe after Christmas? 

ESTRELLA: Well, palagay ko as we speak marami nang in transit ngayon at nakargahan na nila ng mga laman ‘yung mga kanilang mga kargamento. 

One thing we can assure our public right now is ‘yun pong policy natin na hindi po natin dapat basta-bastang buksan ‘yung kahon, not unless we have a strong reason and information na ito’y naglalaman ng kontrabando.

So hindi po ito makakapagpa-abala, mapapabilis natin ‘yan at konting tiis nalang po, ilang araw na lang eh effective na po ‘yung 150,000 natin na tax exempt. 

Ace Romero (Philippine Star): Colonel, ano ‘yung chances na mami-meet ninyo yung full year target? 

ESTRELLA: Sa ngayon, all indicators are pointing that we will meet again the target for this month considering that last November, we exceeded around more than 3 billion.   

Iyon pong momentum ay hindi naman po naputol. So tuluy-tuloy and kumpara po doon sa mga nakaraang taon, kapagka pagdating ng November and December dapat pababa ay ‘to. 

Nag-iba po ang trend ngayon, November sumobra tayo. As I have mentioned earlier, for the second week na nireport po sa atin ng ating collection department ay 57 percent na po ‘yung ating naabot and revenues are still continuing to come in. 

Mr. Romero: So mami-meet — mae-exceed pa ba ‘yung target na 409 billion? 

ESTRELLA: That’s our expectation. 

Mr. Romero: Ma-e-exceed by how much? 

ESTRELLA: Sa ngayon I still don’t have the figure by how much we will exceed but like what I said earlier, last year – ay last month we were able to exceed by 3 billion. I hope we will also exceed by that — 

Mr. Romero: What could make you exceed the target? What are the factors? Just for clarification. 

ESTRELLA: The factors are the continuous pasok po ng ating mga kargamento. Hindi po nagbabawas, bagkus, dumadami ho ang entries na pumapasok on a day-to-day basis. 

Mr. Romero: Okay last question na lang. So, how likely will you exceed your target? 

ESTRELLA: Very likely to exceed. ‘Yun ang nakikita namin. 

Mr. Romero: Thank you, Colonel. 

Marlon Ramos (Philippine Daily Inquirer): Good morning po, sir. Sir, previously ‘yung ano, the balikbayan boxes have been used to smuggle not only drugs but firearms and gun parts, sir. How will you address this concern, sir, now that the BOC has — parang naging lax na sa dun sa in opening up of the balikbayan boxes? 

ESTRELLA: Well, ang nakita po nating positibo sa ngayon, our agencies are very much coordinated not only into the fight against illegal drugs. 

If you have noticed, like the Bureau of Custom is very much involved into the anti-illegal drug operation in coordination, of course, with our lead agencies like PDEA and PNP. 

Kasama po nito yung coordination natin dito sa illegal firearms and also, of course, alam natin ang balikbayan box pupwedeng magamit talaga na — to transit drugs. And facts will show na maraming, marami tayong huli sa airport na ginamit ‘yung parcels natin, ginamit ‘yung mga forwarding company into sending drugs to the country whether in or going out. 

Because of this enhanced and strong coordinations with other agencies, mas malaki ‘yung tyansa that we are able to interdict and do arrest. 

At ang isa pa hong kakaibang ginagawa natin ngayon, we are doing control deliveries. Kapagka alam natin, we do not have to stop only from — seizing — I mean na ma-seize ‘yung ano ‘no, ‘yung kontrabando, ‘yung drugs. But to find out who sent it and sino yung pupuntahan, who will receive that illegal drugs para lahat ho talaga masampahan ng kaso. 

At ‘yung coordination natin even with other countries are also being done sa ngayon. 

Going back to the question on firearms, yes, we’re doing X-rays at ang kasama pa rin nitong technical intelligence or the technology na tumutulong sa ating intelligence gathering, very important ‘yung human intelligence pa rin. 

’Yung informants na nagbibigay sa atin ng mga validated information at ‘yun pong mga member ng intelligence community who are sharing to us their informations. 

This is helping us na ma-stop yung pag-smuggle ng firearms to the country via balikbayan boxes. 

Mr. Ramos: Sir, I understand besides the agri products, the most common smuggled goods in the Philippines are actually oil products, plastics and steel. How does the BOC address this concern? 

ESTRELLA: We now have a focus group dealing with that. Katulad nga po ng binabanggit namin sa inyo nung mga nakaraan naming forum, kaagapay po natin dito regulatory agencies. 

Ang trabaho po ng Bureau of Customs is to facilitate trade and, of course, revenue collection other than border security, ‘yung sa smuggling natin. 

But, of course, ‘yung regulatory agencies po ang nagsasabi ano ‘yung kailangang papel, ano ‘yung kailangang dokumento, standard ba ‘to, sub-standard ’to. Hindi po Bureau of Customs ang masasabi no’n. Ang magtuturo po sa atin no’n at maga-guide sa atin, ang ating regulatory agencies. 

That’s why we are strengthening our coordination, again and as I’ve said, there is a focused committee dealing with these prime commodities. 

Iyong sa fuel, I’ve mentioned, we were able to seize about 44,000 metric tons of oil under the power of the collector of Port of Limay na nag-issue ng warrant of seizure and detention. 

We are currently investigating and still examining documents. But for now, what we were able to see are initial violations only that gave us the reason for us to issue alert orders. 

Mr. Ramos: Sir, when Captain Faeldon attended the press briefing here, he said he’ll be setting up CCTVs in the BOC headquarters. I wonder kung meron na bang na-Argosino and Robles doon sa BOC or caught receiving payoffs sa CCTV? 

ESTRELLA: Within BOC premises in the Port of Manila, all CCTVs are already in place. 

Yes, there are incidents that our personnel were asked to explain, asked to report to the — our investigation department because of the CCTVs that we have all over the premises. 

The intent of those CCTV cameras is to augment our command center. Ang pinakadulo pong ‘nung design na ’to ay magkaroon po ng iosang command center wherein the BOC headquarters will have a real-time view of all its facilities nationwide. 

So ang inuuna po natin nito ‘yung ating vicinity sa Port of Manila then ang kasunod po natin nito ‘yung ating mga airports kung saan meron po tayong BOC personnel. 

Mr. Ramos: Can you give us kahit one or two specific incidents wherein BOC personnel were asked to explain? 

ESTRELLA: Yeah, merong insidente that one of our employees were seen handling small bills on top of his table. And she was asked to explain why she was holding cash amount of money on top of his table whereas ang dapat pong may hawak nito ay ang ating mga kahera. 

So she was asked to explain…At that time she was able to depend herself that she was counting money because she intends to buy something or she was sending an errand to buy something for her. 

Mr. Ramos: How about, sir, ‘yung mga  corruption—outside the office BOC premises. How do you monitor that? 

ESTRELLA:Well, ang importante po rito is we continues on a day-to-day basis, we continuously remove the opportunity. Specific violations of the Code of Conduct are always reminded, being reminded to our employees. And kapag ka meron naman po ditong erring personnel na ipinapatupad po natin ‘yung principle of reward and punishment. 

‘Yung pong mga nakaka-accomplish ng kanilang trabaho at maganda pong ginagawa  are being  rewarded. And those who are, of course, erring at meron pong navava-violate doon sa  ating Code of Conduct are being  investigated. 

So marami tayong on going investigations ngayon. And, of course, after all these investigations kung ano po ang mga magiging resulta will let the public know that’s part of our transparency program. 

Dexter Ganibe (DZMM): Hi, sir, good, good afternoon. Balikan ko lang ‘yung sa isyu ng balik-bayan box, pasensiya na po at hindi namin pa nabubusisi ‘yung  IRR. Papaano ‘pag ‘yung balik-bayan box ay nag-exceed ng 150,000? Saan po doon ‘yung ita-tax? Iyong excess o ‘yung buo na?. Halimbawa, nagpadala ng 155,000 ‘yung kanyang amount ‘yung worth ‘nung kanyang ipinadala? 

ESTRELLA:Well, maliwanag… 

Mr Ganibe: Iyong 155,000 ang ita-tax o ‘yung excess na 5,000? 

ESTRELLA:Well, maliwanag po na ang limit po ay 150,000. So ‘yung sosobra po doon ‘yun po  ‘yung ita-tax natin. 

Ang importante po dito ‘yung tingin ko doon sa mga nag—nagpapadala ng balik-bayan box. Ito po ‘yung….Alam naman po natin ito ‘eh ating pong mga kasama mga Filipino ay sanay na sanay po magpadala ng balik-bayan box sa kani-kanilang mga pamilya. 

Huwag na po nating gamitin itong, ito pong pribilehiyo na ibinibigay po sa atin ng pamahalaan na gamitin po na magdala ng commercial value. 

Iyong commercial value na ang intention na hindi talaga pasalubong o padala sa ating mga pamilya, kung hindi talaga ibebenta at ititinda. 

Kasi doon po magsisimula ‘yung problema natin doon. ‘Pag nakita po natin ‘yan, kahit nga po i-insist natin ‘yung value niyan is 150,000 lang, ‘pag nakita nating commercial value ‘yan—at mas—ang intent ay malinaw na ‘yan po ay gagamitin sa pag-ne-negosyo, ay magkaka-problema po ang inyong kahon. At posible pong ma-seieze po natin ‘yan. 

Mr. Ganibe: Meron po bang mga nakalista or sinusunod ang BOC na patakaran para malaman kung ito for commercial or for personal? 

ESTRELLA: Yes, mayroon pong nakalista doon na detalye ‘no. Hindi ko lang hawak ‘yung dokumento ngayon. But I think we have it in our website, ‘yung pong mga number of items na pupwede nating i-consider na commercial value. 

Ang pagkakantanda ko, kapagka lumagpas po ito ng isang dosena ay commercial value na ‘yan. At alam naman po natin kung dalawapung sapatos ‘yung pinadala mo. Mahirap naman kung dalawangpu ‘yung i-insist natin, ang dalawampu ay gagamitin lang po ng isang pamilya. 

So from that point, meron pong karapatan po tayong magtanong at may karapatan naman po tayong i-justify ‘yung pong laman ng ating kahon. 

Mr. Palo: Sir, dagdag ko lang, ‘yung sa QFWAs kasi kasama doon ‘yung investors ‘eh. So papaano po ang ganoon? Kung ako investor manggagaling sa Amerika ‘yung aking balik-bayan boxes eh surely talagang pang commercial ‘yon, investor ako eh. 

ESTRELLA:Pero dapat maliwanag naman po sa batas na ‘yan po ay isinama kayo diyan, as matter of privilege ay huwag lang po natin na gawing…

Mr. Palo: Baka maabuso kasi.

ESTRELLA:Oo, ‘yung po ‘yung ating… Huwag natin samantalahin ‘yung pagkakataon ng double meaning na ako ‘yung investor, ako’y nagnenegosyo, so ang dapat dala ko balik-bayan box.

Magka-iba po ‘yon. Iyong pagne-negosyo kung commercial value ‘yun ipadaan po  natin ‘yan sa ibang proseso. ‘Iyong formal entry natin, ‘pag balik-bayan box lang po. 

Mr. Palo: Sa three times per calendar year. Kung– paano kung ika-apat hinid napu-pwede, may tax na ‘yun? 

ESTRELLA: Iyong pong 150,000 ay hahatiin po natin sa tatlong part lang po sa isang taon. 

Mr. Palo: Ah, okay thank you po. 


I just like to touch an a few points. Number one, LTO Metro Manila driver licenses have been released. The Land Transportation Office has started releasing 700,000 plastic driver’s license cards in Metro Manila starting December 19, Monday. These are the ones that have been backlogged from January 1 to October 16 of this year.    

LTO Assistant Secretary Edgar Galvante warns the public about fixers. Claimants need not pay any additional fees for the transaction but are required to bring their official receipts. 

Also, regarding free tuition in state universities and colleges. Starting 2017, tuition will be free in all state colleges and universities across the country as the government has allocated an additional 8 billion peso fund for the Commission on Higher Education under the 3.35 trillion 2017 National Budget. 

The appropriation will cover the tuition of over 1.4 million students of 114 SUCs in the country and students will however still have to pay miscellaneous and other fees. 

Despite the additional 8.3 billion budget, lawmakers on Saturday stressed the importance of enacting a law that would make public higher education permanently tuition free. 

Also, free hospitalization government hospitals. In 2017, poor Filipinos need not worry about the hospital and medicine bills. This will be free, according to Health Department Secretary Paulyn Jean Rosell-Ubial on Saturday, December 17.

She said this after an increase of the funds being given by the Budget Department to cover the hospital needs of needy Filipinos. 

The Health Department, according to her, is now in good financial standing after the Budget Department paid last November the arrears of the 32 billion from the 42 billion deficits of PhilHealth. 

Lastly, free medicine. Also she mentioned additional subsidies of free medicine from government agencies including the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation. 

Moreover, she said that next year there will be no more buying of medicines in government pharmacies because every needy family can get it free from the government health program. 

Mr. Ganibe: Asec, good afternoon. Follow up lang doon sa free tuition fee. Clarification, 2017 binabanggit… Is it calendar year 2017 or school year 2017? 

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I assume it will be school year 2017. 

Mr. Ganibe: So that would start June? 

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I assume.  I am just assuming that 2017. Thank you. 

Mr. Ramos: Sir, yesterday the PNP Chief announced that the President would be giving as much as 400,000 in bonuses to the policemen. Tatanong lang namin, sir. The funds for these bonuses where will the President get this? 

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I clarified it with him this morning and he said apparently it has not been released and may not be. 

Mr. Ramos: May not? 


Mr. Ramos: Why? 

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I don’t know but that’s what he said. It was not released. 

Mr. Ramos: Was the President surprised when you mentioned it to him? 

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Not the President. I talked to General Bato, I’m sorry. I talked to General Bato. I clarified with General Bato. I apologized. 

Mr. Ramos: How about the President, sir? 

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: No. I have not clarified with him. But General Bato he said nothing seemed to be forthcoming. 

Mr. Ramos: Walang ibinigay si General Dela Rosa any reason? Why the bonuses…? 


Mr. Ganibe: Sir, clarification lang ano. Kasi may mga state universities na nag-end na ‘yung school year nila this December. It would start another school year for January 2017. 

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Then it will begin with the school year. 

Mr. Ganibe: Kasama pa rin? 

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I am assuming that it will begin with the school year. Thank you. 

Vanz Fernandez (DZRJ): Sir, I am here. Regarding doon sa mga bonuses, it was mentioned earlier in a radio program that it was taken from the Presidential funds. Now, it is said that it is not — it’s somewhat illegal? How about this ano bibigyan po din po ba ang mga kawani tulad ng mga teachers and also the PSG ng mga bonuses? 

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Ma’am, as I said earlier, regarding the bonuses being given for the PNP, according to General Bato it is not forthcoming. 

Ms. Fernandez: It is not forthcoming. 

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Thank you. It has not been given and apparently it is not forthcoming. 

Tina Mendez (Philippine Star): Why was he announcing in the first place?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: That I do not know. But as far I can tell you what can I tell you authoritatively is that, according to General Bato, it has not been released and apparently it is not forthcoming. Thank you. 

Mr. Morong: Sir, on that point, so sabi ni General Bato hindi na matutuloy, tama? 


Sabi niya, walang dumating at mukhang hindi matutuloy. 

Mr. Morong: And that’s according to…Sinong kausap niya na hindi na matutuloy?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Hindi ko po itinanong. Ang ano ko lang is ang masasagot ko sa inyo is kausap ko siya at ‘yun ang sagot niya sa akin.

Mr. Morong: But whose plan was it in the first place to give them bonuses?


AC Nichols (CNN Philippines): Hi, sir, good afternoon. I’m just wondering din, was it discussed prior? May na-mention ba kahit casually lang between the President and the PNP Chief? Would you know anything about it?


Ms. Nichols: So, you never heard any discussions about Christmas gifts to high-ranking police officials?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: No. I did not hear anything about Christmas gifts. The only thing I did was to clarify as per the question whether what sources it was gonna from. However, what he said was that nothing was received and it seemed apparently that nothing is forthcoming. That is according to his statement to me.

Ms. Nichols: Okay, sir, he apparently also mentioned that hindi na nga daw po matutuloy because na-expose na daw sa media. So, na-mention din ba niya sa inyo na hindi na nga kasi he talked about it yesterday and then it became a big issue. Did he say anything about that?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: No, he did not. We just had a very brief conversation…

Mr. Morong: Okay, this is a direct quote from him, ang sabi ni General Bato: ‘Sabi ng Malacañan, sige hintay lang kayo. Maghanap pa kami ng pera. Baka sa kuwan na, bago mag New Year bigyan ko kayo ng tig-isang sako ng bigas.’ Who is he talking to here?


Mr. Morong: Baka from 400,000, isang sakong bigas na lang? Pero, whose idea was it in the first place, sir? 

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Frankly, I don’t know. You know, I mean, let’s just put it this way, I asked General Bato where the bonus is gonna come from, okay, because apparently it was promised to them, right? 

Mr. Morong: By whom? 

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: It was promised by the —  what did you say? 

Mr. Morong: Palasyo. 

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Palace, okay. So but according to him when I talked to him prior to coming here. He said that we have not received anything and apparently, nothing is forthcoming. 

Mr. Morong: Sir, ‘yung mga Cab Sec, meron? 


Mr. Morong: Mga Cab Secs, meron? 


Mr. Morong: Sir, magkano 400,000 din? 

Mr. Ramos: Again, did somebody play Grinch on the policemen? 


Mr. Ramos: Did somebody order to withhold whatever bonuses? 

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: The Grinch who stole Christmas, huh? No, well, I wouldn’t know. I wouldn’t know about anybody playing Grinch. 

Probably so, I cannot say authoritatively. However, they have their own logic why it was announced and then why it was not and why it was said not to be forthcoming. 

Mr. Ramos: Yesterday, sir, reporters covering the PNP beat actually asked General dela Rosa where the bonuses would come from. And he said, ‘Huwag na lang kayong magtanong.’ In a government which is advocating transparency—utmost transparency—hearing that statement coming from a senior official of the government, is that appropriate?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Let’s just base it on results. Based on results, it is not—according to him—is has not arrived and it may not be forthcoming.

Mr. Ramos: No but the statement of the PNP Chief saying na ‘huwag na kayong magtanong’ — just don’t ask.


Mr. Ramos: Sir, kahapon he told reporters asking him regarding the source of the bonuses na ‘huwag na kayong magtanong’

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Well, he may have his reasons for doing that. However, let’s base it on results. Based on results, it is not forthcoming.

Mr. Romero: Usec, does the Palace think policemen deserve such bonus?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: As far as I’m concerned and this is my opinion, I’m going out of my opinion, those who deserve…Those who do their work well deserve their — deserve whatever rewards that they can get.

Mr. Romero: Does that include policemen?


Mr. Romero: Policemen. Does that include policemen?


Mr. Romero: So they deserve such bonus in the event that it…

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: In the event that…Okay, here’s what I can say. According to…Based on statements made by the President, those who do their job well — all government — and that applies to all government workers. 

Mr. Romero: So, you are saying hindi nanggaling sa Malacañang ‘yung sinabi ni PNP Chief, tama po? 


Mr. Romero: Iyong bonus? 

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I did not say that. I said in fact, hindi ba I quoted you guys, you said it came from the President. 

Mr. Romero: Can you confirm that na galing nga sa Malacañang ‘yon? 


Mr. Romero: Iyong sinasabi niyang may bonus daw sila? 

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I can find out. But you know…I can find out. But based on that last statement that I received from PNP Chief. It was that they did not receive anything and that it seems that nothing is forthcoming. 

Ms. Nichols: Sir, going back to the bonuses lang, ‘coz when he made the announcement, I know it’s not pushing through according to him. But when he made the announcement, he said that high ranking officials, sir, ‘yung may bonus and apparently may mga junior officers na parang medyo nagtampo na if ever there will be a bonus, how come ‘yung mga nasa frontlines daw, sir, ay hindi naman daw mabibigyan since sila ‘yung nasa frontlines ng war on drugs. And doesn’t it worry the Palace that the PNP Chief is making such statements and apparently wala naman palang ganoong utos from the President so… 

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Well, let’s put it…You’re asking if the Palace is worried? I mean, let’s put it this way: things happen in the course of…This is all part of a work process and we need to adjust when there are changes that demand changes. 

So, when…If and when the PNP Chief made some statements regarding that, then if he corrected himself then it stands to reason that there are circumstances that demand correction. Thank you. 

Ms. Mendez: Sir, on another note but still on the PNP. No less than the Chief PNP General Bato asked for Lord’s forgiveness for the killings. Can we consider this as admission of guilt?


Ms. Mendez: The Chief PNP asked for forgiveness — Lord’s forgiveness for the killings in behalf of the police officers who were involved in the killings. Is this an admission of guilt that they killed? 

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: It is an admission of engagement in police processes, you know. 

So, basically, you know, these are not murders being committed. These people are engaged in police operations and that’s why even the President couches his terms in, for example, war on drugs. 

This is not ordinary…This is not homicide or what. I mean, this is not ordinary—sprees, killing sprees. These are…General Bato is saying that these — they are engaged in legitimate police operations. 

Ms. Mendez: But, sir, is it an indication that they have no clear conscience? 

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Madame, you need to understand what he’s saying that people are being…There are actually casualties during legitimate police operations. That’s what he’s saying. That’s what he’s asking for —apologies for. 

Leila Salaverria (The Philippine Daily Inquirer): Sir, the President mentioned last night that — about the possibility of developing oil in Scarborough and “maghati-hati na lang tayo”. Is it the official government policy now to share resources with China in the disputed waters? 

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Regarding that matter and this is my opinion…It’s not yet clarified. These are not…I believe, I believe, these are not government to government agreements but it may be business to business agreements.

Not necessarily…These are not government to government agreements. So they’re not official. It may be private sector.

Ms. Salaverria: Businesses? Philippine and China businesses, is that it?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: It may be. I’m just saying that since there is no government policy regarding matter — covering that matter at this stage. But I suppose what he’s saying — what he was referring to is the possibility of business to business partnerships.

Ms. Salaverria: Sir, clarification. How will this affect the government’s insistence that it will adhere — it will adhere strictly to the arbitral ruling this joint exploration? 

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: That’s true. The government can still — will continue to adhere to the rulings because there are our properties, technically our properties.

JP Bencito (The Manila Standard): Hi sir, on another topic po. Sir, are we — ‘yung regarding doon sa narco-list ni Presidente, are we confident na we can prosecute ‘yung mga nandoon sa mga — sa narco list ng Presidente? Kasi the President mentioned yesterday na there’s no proof beyond reasonable doubt, only probable cause doon sa mga politicians involved in those narco-list. So, are we confident of a prosecution eventually? 

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Well, the one thing we can be confident about is that he will adhere to due process. 

Mr. Morong: Sir, last na lang, sir. Would you agree that the President’s health is a matter of public concern? 

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: The President’s health is very transparent. You know, like people ask should we have a medical bulletin? But I think he’s so transparent about himself. 

But based on results, I’d like to just stress this. Based on results, the President seems to be in the pink of his health, you know, considering his schedules. 

You’ve been with him in some of his trips. I mean those office hours that, those working hours that he has are amazing. He goes beyond the mere 8 hours, he goes to 14, he goes to 16 hours and still keeps going. You know, sometimes it takes God to stop him [laughs]. You know what I mean — God has a conversation with him. But my point is — 

Mr. Morong: Yeah. It takes God na ah. Continue, sir. 

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: So my point is that you know, he’s very, very transparent about what he takes, what he has stopped and when he does it. 

So in a sense, this is where we have the benefit of an extremely transparent President and so, he keeps us updated. 

But based on results, he seem to be going very very well. Apparently, he draws strength from his inner source of well being. I don’t know where he gets it but he certainly has. He’s in the pink of health. 

Mr. Morong: So, sir, ‘yung calls po to officially release a medical bulletin, there’s no need for that? 

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: He tells us. [laughs] He actually keeps us updated with what’s happening to him. 

Mr. Morong: But if it’s on paper, he cannot take back his words, sir. 

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Yeah. But, what’s the point? What do you trust, the paper or his actions? You know, you see him, he’s all over the place. 

Mr. Morong: Sir, baka naman mamaya sabihin niya na joke lang yun, istorya lang yun. Paano nga ‘yon, sir? 

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Ang alin? No, I’ll give you an insight into it. You take him seriously but not literally. Okay? Unless it is really from the state of — 

Mr. Morong: So, sir, ‘yung mga sinabi niyang back pain, that’s real? 


Mr. Morong: ‘Yung mga back pain niya, ‘yung mga Fentanyl niya na tine-take, those are truths?  

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Don’t take him seriously in the sense that he doesn’t always feel in the pink of health. 

However, as my daughter said in Philippine Heart Center, she said, ‘Much of these things you go through are really wear and tear.’ I mean, he’s 72 years old, give him a break. Give him a break. 

But considering the fact that he’s, he keeps just going, he’s got an Energizer bunny somewhere in there. Okay but — 

Mr. Morong: We know, sir. We wonder also pero, sir, totoo ‘yun, ‘yung mga back pain pain niya, ‘yung Fentanyl niya na tine-take, fact ‘yun? 

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Not about the Fentanyl okay because he has said that he has already stopped that thing. Back pains, yeah. Thank you.