Press Briefing by Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella and Solicitor General Jose Calida
Press Briefing Room, New Executive Building, Malacañang
19 January 2017

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Good morning Malacañang Press Corps. Our guest for today is the 48th Solicitor General of the Republic of the Philippines.

He served as Undersecretary of the Department of Justice from 2001 to 2004 where he was in charge of the National Bureau of Investigation, the Witness Protection Security and Benefits Program, Office of the Government Corporate Counsel, DOJ National Task Force on Terrorism and Internal Security, DOJ Task Force on Financial Fraud and Money Laundering.

He also served as Executive Director of the Dangerous Drugs Board in 2004. He finished law in the Ateneo and passed the bar in 1973 with a 100 percent rating in Criminal Law.

Solicitor Calida is a gun enthusiast, an accomplished sharp shooter with numerous shooting titles and so forth and so on.

Ladies and gentlemen of the Malacañang Press Corps, let us give a warm welcome… It’s just an interesting aspect.

Please welcome Solicitor General Jose Calida.

SOLICITOR GENERAL CALIDA: Thank you for the introduction Secretary Ernie. Ernie and I go a way long back. We are both from Davao City and at one point in our college life, we were classmates in some subjects at the Ateneo de Davao. But anyway, thank you for inviting me and good morning to you.

I was asked to give you some highlights of what we accomplished at the Office of the Solicitor General. For your information, the Office of the Solicitor General, under the law, is that we are the principal law office of the Republic of the Philippines, including all its departments, bureaus, agencies. And to summarize it, my office, and I am the Republic’s defender and at the same time also the people’s tribune.

The people’s tribune was patterned after Rome when the Patricians and the Plebians, they often had clashes. And there was this tribune appointed to defend the rights of the plebs.

And I have the discretion to decline appearing as counsel for a government agency, if in my opinion, the welfare of the people is at stake and the public interest is that I should side with the people of the Philippines.

Now, to go to our accomplishments, the biggest case that was decided during my watch was the West Philippine Sea case in which we won by a unanimous decision.

You’re probably aware that in this case, this case is the crowning glory of international law and the law of the seas as well as the rule of law. Basically, the Arbitral Tribunal ruled that China has no legal basis to claim historic rights over resources in the sea waters of the so-called nine-dash line. But I will not dwell on that because that is already a public knowledge.

The second case that I personally handled was the Marcos burial case. This was my maiden appearance at the Supreme Court. And with a vote of 9-5 and one abstention, the government won the case.

Now, another case that we handled is the — is the Aguinaldo versus the President Aquino case concerning the appointment of justices at the Sandiganbayan. And we were able to win this case for government because the Judicial and Bar Council clustered certain nominees into six separate shortlist for the six vacancies of the Sandiganbayan associate.

So the Supreme Court upheld the power of the President to appoint members of the judiciary and is not shackled by the JBC’s order of preference of the priorities of who will be appointed as justice of the Sandiganbayan.

Another case we are handling now is the Alliance for Family Foundation Philippines versus Dr. Garin. This is about the RH Law. We filed a motion for reconsideration because the Supreme Court’s Second Division issued a TRO claiming that certain — certain contraceptive drugs and devices including Implanon and Implanon NXT which were registered and re-certified were abortifacients.

Now, in our argument we said that the registration and the re-certification of contraceptive drugs and devices involve the exercise of FDA, Food and Drug Administration’s regulatory and administrative power and therefore it does not require notice and hearing. So this is still to be decided by the Supreme Court.

Now, I’ll give you an example of a case in which I invoked the power of the tribune. This is the case of the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino or PDP-Laban and Congressman Pantaleon “Bebot” Alvarez versus the Comelec.

The Comelec in its Resolution No. 10147 extended the period within which to file the Statement of Campaign of Expenses — Contribution, and Expenses. I defended not…I did not defend the Comelec this time. I defended the petitioners because the Comelec usurped legislative power when it issued this resolution because the Comelec cannot extend a deadline imposed by law. Again, this is still…The Supreme Court has not yet decided on this.

And there’s another interesting case concerning public enemy number one. And I’m referring to Senator Leila de Lima versus Rodrigo Roa Duterte in the case for the issuance of a Writ of Habeas Data. Again, I cannot yet argue the merits because this is still sub judice.

And another example of my exercise of the tribune’s power is when I offered the services of my office to represent as co-counsel the complainants against Senator De Lima before the Department of Justice during a preliminary investigation of the drug cases.

And I did this because in my opinion this affects the welfare of the people as the ends of justice may require and therefore I represented the people and not the Senator.

Okay. There’s another interesting case. This has lasted for 25 years. This is the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board and Secretary of Transportation versus Pantranco Employees Association and Patranco Retrenched Employees Association.

We did because of the social justice requirement that we have protect the rights of every individual especially the poor.

We sided in favor of the drivers who were illegally dismissed and for 25 years they were fighting for their cause.

So that is a preview of the cases that we are handling at the OSG. And our programs during my watch will be to improve the caliber and quality of our solicitors.

And therefore we have embarked in a campaign to lure the best and the brightest lawyers in the Philippines to join us.

If you are — if you have friends who are valedictorians or topnotchers of the Bar exams, please endorse them to us because we will accelerate their entry from associate solicitor I to associate solicitor III. And we have capacity-building seminars and conferences. We send our solicitors abroad to study the recent trends in law especially now the arbitration law.

And, of course, our main mission here is to defend the Republic of the Philippines from its enemies whether internal or external.

So if you have any questions, I am free to answer everyone.


Joseph Morong (GMA-7): Hi, sir. Good morning. How are you?


Mr. Morong: Sir, with regard to the relationship of the departments – executive, judicial, and legislative. What do you think is the judiciary’s role with regard to the actions of the executive and the legislative branches? 

SOLICITOR GENERAL CALIDA: Well, the Constitution allocates the power to these three branches of government. The legislative government’s purpose is to enact laws. The purpose of the judicial department is to interpret laws and the function of the executive department is to execute and enforce laws. 

Mr. Morong: Sir, the reason I asked this is yesterday that the President seemed to suggest that with regard to martial law if there is a stalemate between the legislative and the executive actions. Sabi niya yesterday, it was, it is the President who has the final say. Is this a correct interpretation to Constitution?

SOLICITOR GENERAL CALIDA: Well, let me put it this way. The President has the power under the Constitution to declare martial law if there are certain conditions which are present at that particular time.

Now, I think your point is just because the President was quoted as having said, ‘if I decide to declare martial law.’ It is not your drift? 

Mr. Morong: Sir, yesterday, he said that should there be a stalemate, say for example, Congress says, ‘okay, you can continue with the martial law’ and Supreme Court says, ‘you cannot.’ The final say, because both branches cannot decide to what — it is the President daw who will be, who will have the final say on the matter meaning, he is the final arbiter, not the Supreme Court.

SOLICITOR GENERAL CALIDA: Well, let me put it this way. There is a saying and motto that “Salus Populi Est Suprema Lex” — “The welfare of the people is the supreme law.”

In fact, during the 1986 EDSA Revolution, if you notice, there was no martial law declared but there was a change in government. It was an extra-Constitutional movement that changed the government.

Why? Because probably during that time, there was really a need to do so. So we cannot put the President in a box and tell him you only do these things because the President cares for the country and if the country face imminent danger and nobody is acting, then the welfare of the people is the supreme law.

Mr. Morong: So that means the President was correct in his interpretation —

SOLICITOR GENERAL CALIDA: This is my answer, not his answer.

Mr. Morong: Sir, in your interpretation as the SolGen, as a lawyer of the Republic, that is your correct interpretation? Even if it’s existing in the regime of the 1987 Constitution?

SOLICITOR GENERAL CALIDA: Well as I said, there are certain conditions. If it is really necessary, the fate of our country hangs on the balance and nobody moves, under the Constitution, the President is the one who executes the law.

Marlon Ramos (Philippine Daily Inquirer): Good morning po, SolGen. So we may not be accused of misquoting or misreporting the President, I will just read the official transcript of his remarks yesterday.

The President said: “Pagdating sa Supreme Court, sabihin ng Supreme Court, ‘it is baseless’, ‘it does not amount to any legal basis.’ Eh sabihin ng Congress, ‘go ahead because it is the national security which is at stake here.’ Who decides now? Supreme Court sabi huwag; sabi ng Congress, yes. Who decides? Eh siyempre ‘yung President. So ako.

I now can interpret the law itself and it is final.” Is the President really the final interpreter?

SOLICITOR GENERAL CALIDA: Well, personally, I did not hear him say but if that is what he said, I will interpret it in this manner: The President cares so much for the future of the Philippines that’s why he put at stake his life, his honor, and the presidency itself because he will not allow, for example, the proliferation of drugs to destroy our youth.

He will not allow lawlessness to rule our country. Now, if the other branches of the government will not help him, what will he do? Will he just wash his hands like Pontius Pilate?

If you know him, he will act and he will act for the greater interest of the Filipino people. That is my answer.

Mr. Ramos: Sir, but can the President declare martial law besides the two requirements of the Constitution — during invasion and rebellion?

SOLICITOR GENERAL CALIDA: That is what is placed in the textbook. But you know, there are certain situations, as I said, and these are hypothetical situations.

When there is really a clear and present danger to our country and nobody will help the President do his job as the father of the nation, then he will not allow his family so to speak, us Filipinos, to suffer because of — [how do you call this?] — the inability or unwillingness of certain functionaries to do what is right for the country.

Mr. Ramos: So he can go beyond what is written in our Constitution? The 1987 Constitution?

SOLICITOR GENERAL CALIDA: Just like what Cory did. They did what is outside of the Constitution when they toppled Marcos.

AC Nichols (CNN Philippines): Hi, sir. Sir, just a follow up. So even if the Supreme Court, for example, says that the President cannot do it, the Pres — you will support the President’s decision if he does decide to declare martial law?

SOLICITOR GENERAL CALIDA: Well, under the conditions that I mentioned, when it is already the life of the country that is at stake, the lives of the citizens of this country, the President will not stand by, you know, just like Nero and let Rome burn.

That is his style of…You know, our President is a political genius actually. 

Ms. Nichols: But sir —

SOLICITOR GENERAL CALIDA: Sometimes, what you hear from him is not really what he wants to communicate. So we have to read between the lines. But the bottom line here is, if this country is put in danger and nobody acts, he will act.

Ms. Nichols: Sir, following that logic, isn’t the Supreme Court there also to help the President in the sense na it’s not only one person deciding for the whole country. So you’re telling us that depending on the conditions nga but you’re saying that only the President can determine kung ano ‘yung conditions na ‘yun. And if he says na those conditions make his decision to declare martial law valid, then he will still do it even if other branches say that it — those reasons are not valid?

SOLICITOR GENERAL CALIDA: Remember, he said, ‘if I want to.’ It doesn’t mean he will do it. But he can do it if he wants to okay?

So there has to be a set of circumstances that will lead a president, not necessarily President Duterte, a president to do something for his country when it is already on the throes of danger.

In other words, somebody has to be responsible. If other people will not take responsibility, somebody has to stand for the Philippines. Can I have a water break please?

Celerina Monte (Manila Shimbun): Good morning, sir. Sir, you have mentioned — I’m here, sir…Sir, you have mentioned that, you have cited the incident in 1986 wherein the welfare of the people is the supreme law, that’s what you’re saying. So when the President so decides that he will declare martial law despite the ruling of the court that it’s unconstitutional, you’re mentioning some conditions eh during that period, there was this People Power. So would there be a need for a People Power first before the President would not obey the decision of the Supreme Court?

SOLICITOR GENERAL CALIDA: Well, there is a saying, ‘different folks, different strokes.’ It depends again on the condition when the President will have to make a decision.

So I cannot imagine the circumstances now because there may be different circumstances. But the principle here is, somebody has to take care of the welfare of this country.

Ms. Monte: But as a lawyer, sir, currently, would you say that it’s really the Supreme Court, which is the final arbiter?

SOLICITOR GENERAL CALIDA: Yes. Under the Constitution, it has the power to interpret laws.

Henry Uri (DZRH): Secretary, good morning. Para ho sa mga nakikinig at nanonood, para eksakto na lang ho ‘yung inyong paliwanag. Ano ho ‘yung mga bagay, ano ‘yung mga pangyayari na maaring maglagay sa ating Pangulo at magbigay ng kapangyarihan sa kanya para magdeklara ho ng martial law?

SOLICITOR GENERAL CALIDA: Well, under the Constitution, there are two situations: invasion and rebellion, when the public safety requires it, he can impose martial law.

In fact, the President has already declared a state of lawlessness because of the bombings in Davao City and Mindanao, et cetera. So your question is what will…? Can you please? What will you tell him?

Mr. Uri: What are those circumstances that might prompt the President to declare martial law?

SOLICITOR GENERAL CALIDA: Well, I cannot really exactly describe the exact scenario but it’s something like this: when the country is in great danger, when the youth of this country is also in great danger and there is criminality that is, that cannot be stopped anymore, then probably, somebody has to make a decision.

And being the father of this nation, he will not allow his family, meaning us, to suffer needlessly. Something has to be done and he will do it.

Mr. Uri: Given the circumstances, SolGen, ito hong sa lumalalang problema sa illegal drugs, may nahuli na namang umano’y supplier ni Kerwin sa Iligan at ito’y talagang malaki hong — malaki pong isda ito sabi ng PNP. Pagkatapos ‘yun hong — kasunod ito ‘nung pagkaka, pagkakahuli ng mga illegal drug trader doon sa San Juan na umabot po, kung hindi ako nagkakamali, sa anim na bilyong halaga ng shabu ‘yun hong nakumpiska roon. Ito bang mga ganitong pangyayari eh posible nang maging daan para gamiting nasisira na ang bansa lalo na ang kinabukasan ng ating mga kabataan sa problema natin sa illegal drugs at kinakailangan na pong magdeklara ng martial law ang Pangulo?

SOLICITOR GENERAL CALIDA: I think you answered your question.

Mr. Uri: No, but we want your answer, SolGen. With all due respect.

SOLICITOR GENERAL CALIDA: Well as I said, ‘yung — it is the personal judgment of the President when the time comes.

So I cannot anticipate what will be his judgment because he said, ‘if I want to declare martial law’. He did not say, ‘I will surely declare martial law.’ In fact, he said he’s not kwan — kalokohan ‘yang martial law ‘di ba.

But there will be serious situations maybe, which might lead to that ’no. But, of course, I cannot answer for him.

Pia Ranada (Rappler): Good afternoon, sir. Sir, if either of the two branches or Congress or Supreme Court decide to challenge the martial law declaration, is it right for the President to have the sole judgment in saying that that’s them being uncooperative or can he not entertain the idea that they have basis for challenging the martial law declaration?

SOLICITOR GENERAL CALIDA: Well, again, the question is hypothetical and, therefore, I cannot make a categorical answer on that. I do not know how the Congress will react. They may support the President for all we know.

Ms. Ranada: Yes, sir, but the President himself floated this scenario. So I’m just asking you based on his scenario that he himself floated. Is it right for him to be given the sole authority to decide if this is them being uncooperative simply or them having basis for challenging his declaration?

SOLICITOR GENERAL CALIDA: Well, for all we know the Congress may see the light and support him. So under that scenario we have no problem.

Ms. Ranada: Sir, just a follow up. Sir, the President also expressed qualms about Constitutional provisions safeguarding the public against abuse of martial law. For example, the limitation of 60 — that he can — the extension of 60 days can only be done with the approval of Congress. And for any citizen to challenge the legal basis of the martial law declaration to the Supreme Court. He said he has qualms about these provisions. Do you agree with him that these provisions should be taken out if the Constitution is amended and why, sir?

SOLICITOR GENERAL CALIDA: Well, we are talking here of emergency aren’t we? We are talking here of the possible destruction of our youth and our country. Now, you dilly-dally for 60 days? You are unmindful of the emergency if you do that.

Dexter Ganibe (DZMM): Hi, good afternoon, SolGen. SolGen, sa mga nakalipas na pronouncement ng Pangulo kaugnay nga sa martial law pa rin. Hindi kaya bino-brought ng Pangulo ‘yung isyu para mapag-usapan at parang binabanggit niya kasi lumalabas na may mga butas doon sa batas, sa Konstitusyon. Hindi kaya binabanggit niya na dapat itong maamiyendahan?

SOLICITOR GENERAL CALIDA: Well, that is a possibility. Actually as I said earlier, the President is a political genius.

Sometimes his statements are so deep that you may misinterpret what he’s really saying. But, you know, somebody said the mouth is also a weapon of mass destruction. So, probably he’s just messaging it so that people will get the idea and agree with him.

In fact, look at what he has done. He was criticized as not being a polished diplomat. But look what he has done. He was able to get what? One trillion, ODA. Can any…Do you know of any previous presidents who did that by bad-mouthing those who criticized our President and insulted him and this sovereignty of the Filipino people?

So, he’s a maverick and you cannot put him in a box. But we should judge the results of what he is saying.

Mr. Ganibe: So there is a possibility ‘pag — doon sa isinusulong niyang federalism ay maaaring mabago ‘yung probisyon kaugnay sa pagde-deklara ng martial law, would you?

SOLICITOR GENERAL CALIDA: Well, anything is possible, as I said.

Mr. Ganibe: Last point, SolGen. Nabanggit niyo po ‘yung paghi-hire ng mga bagong staff or mga associate solgen. Kamusta po ‘yung bilang ng mga staff or mga associate solgens natin sa buong bansa? Sapat po ba ito at kailangan nating mag-hire ngayon at tawag doon? Iyong promotion nila agad-agad sa associate?

SOLICITOR GENERAL CALIDA: Yes, right now we are considered to be the biggest law firm in the Philippines. But considering also the cases that are filed in court everyday, there is really a need to increase our manpower. And we intend to hire the best and the brightest lawyers in the country.

Mr. Ganibe: Do you have a target, sir, for…

SOLICITOR GENERAL CALIDA: Well, I have six years as my tenure in the office. So hopefully within my term, I will be able to increase not only the number but the quality of our legal services.

Mr. Ganibe: By…Gaano kadami, sir, or ilang porsiyento?

SOLICITOR GENERAL CALIDA: Under the natural law, we should have at least 30 assistant solicitor generals. Right now, we have 24. So we are still short of the minimum number of assistant solicitor generals.

Kristine Sabillo (Inquirer Online): Sir, just going back to martial law. I’m just trying to understand your explanation. You said the President can oppose martial law even if the Supreme Court decides it is not okay. The example you gave was extralegal or beyond the Constitution already the EDSA People Power, which is actually the overturning or as you said the change in government. But the scenario you said when one of my fellow reporters asked what kind of scenario would allow that was more on criminality or danger against the youth. My question is, what would be the use of the Constitutional provision on martial law if the President can go beyond that because under the Constitution — I am not a lawyer — but just my understanding is — my simple understanding is the Constitution only allows it if there’s invasion or rebellion. It’s not an or when public safety requires it but just the two. Do you think your example is equal to the example of the EDSA People Power and…It’s very difficult for me to imagine how that would be for the President to decide that even if, for example, the Supreme Court would not allow it.

SOLICITOR GENERAL CALIDA: We are talking here of certain conditions which cannot be predicted. However, it must be very extreme. In other words, for example, you are aware of the plot to oust the President. What if they will bomb Malacañang? They will bomb — put bombs in our malls, you know, to create trouble. And there will be again, you know, the drug lords will hire assassins to kill him. And some parties might be in cahoots with this plot.

In other words, there is already a breakdown of law and order. And nobody is acting or they are afraid to act. Somebody has to act and it should be the President.

Reymund Tinaza (Bombo Radyo): Sir, magandang hapon po. Sir, mag-scenario lamang. Kasi ang tanging makapagdeklara ng martial law ay Presidente hindi Supreme Court or Kongreso so mauuna yung premise na magdeklara siya. So to follow na lang kung meron mag-desisyon. So anong ‘yung maging scenario kung after niyang mag-declare consumed na. Inexecute na yung martial law. Ano ‘yung magiging scenario kung sabihin ng Supreme Court ngayon na illegal iyan, unconstitutional? So will you advise the President to push through with his declaration or withdrew?

SOLICITOR GENERAL CALIDA: We will decide when we reach the point.

Mr. Tinaza: So, sir, pagka ‘yung halimbawa ‘yung nagdeklara na ‘yung Pangulo ng martial law. So ano ‘yung magiging —  maaari niyang gawin — abnormal situation na eh, martial law na. Ano ‘yung maaari niyang gawin doon sa Supreme Court at sa Kongreso kasi hawak niya ‘yung military eh — the Supreme Court has no military has no police, so what can he do na maaaring makabalewala na doon sa kapangyarihan ng Supreme Court o ng Kongreso kasi siya na ‘yung Presidente, the sole decision-maker ng martial law and executioner?

SOLICITOR GENERAL CALIDA: First of all, I will defend his position before the Supreme Court and hopefully they will agree with us.

I think you asked the hardest questions sa lahat ng mga guests dito.

Mr. Morong: Sir, can President Duterte suspend the 1987 Constitution? 

SOLICITOR GENERAL CALIDA: Can he suspend? Under normal circumstances, no. 

Mr. Morong: Under abnormal circumstances. 

SOLICITOR GENERAL CALIDA: Then I will answer you abnormally also.

Mr. Morong: No, because the… I don’t know if you are aware of the column of the former Chief Justice Panganiban. And he did say that that is an option that remains for the President?

SOLICITOR GENERAL CALIDA: Actually, in every country that is an option. Look at America.

Mr. Morong: He can suspend it in short?

SOLICITOR GENERAL CALIDA: You know, look at the…In the realm of possibility anything is possible. Okay?

Mr. Ramos: SolGen, just a clarification. Again, ‘yung mga tanong po kanina. So who is the final arbiter of the Constitution? I think the operative word there is “final”. 

SOLICITOR GENERAL CALIDA: The final arbiter of the Constitution under our law is the Supreme Court.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Good morning. We continue to look at the Philippine socio-economic political landscape and note that based on evidence there were business seems to be affirming the administration’s aggressive efforts on nation-building.

Asia Business Outlook survey for 2017 showed that based on survey result 39.4% percent of respondents said that they will increase investment against just 4.3% who said that they will reduce levels. 

The Duterte administration’s economic pronouncements appeared to be clear and consistent and want to achieve an economic growth that’s not only robust and sustainable but actually inclusive for more Filipinos.

Also the Department of Education is set to release 977 million hardship allowance for teachers. Teachers assigned to multi-grade classes, mobile teachers and alternative learning system coordinated is set to receive the respective special hardship allowances amounting to 997,405,080. After the Department of Education Secretary Liling Briones approved on Wednesday, January 18.

Filipinos now have access also to an improved and widened radial road or R-10, which they may opt to use as an alternate route to EDSA via Bonifacio Drive and Roxas Boulevard and travelling from North to South and vice versa.

I am open to questions.

Mr. Uri: Sir, ‘yung tungkol lang dun sa 977 million hardship allowances ng mga teachers, can you please elaborate i

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I can read some notes. The incoming SHA covers a total of 14,896 recipient schools for teachers assigned in hardship posts and multi-grade classes and 2,395 recipient school districts and community learning centers, CLSCs, or for mobile and LAS teachers.

The allowance of teachers assigned in hardship posts is computed based on the distance from the nearest point of available transport, which corresponds to a certain percentage of their basic salary.

Hardship posts include schools with transport inaccessibility as well as those that are in difficult situations such as exposure to calamities and armed conflicts.

Computation of the allowance from multi-grade, mobile and house coordinators are based on the number of classes or learning levels that the teachers handle.

Mr. Ramos: Good afternoon, Usec. Sir, kahapon the President sent a personal letter to the Pope.


Mr. Ramos: But until a few hours after he taunted some Catholic bishops to try and use illegal drugs to see for themselves kung ano ‘yung effect ‘non sa isang tao. Sir, what do you make of that remark or statement of the President?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I’m not aware of the taunting. But regarding the letter, I think it was — it touched down — it was an appreciation of — it was an expression of gratitude for the Pope’s visit in 2015, I believe.

Mr. Ramos: Sir, regarding dun sa — the President’s remarks regarding the bishops? Can we have a clarification on that?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I don’t have — we can get a clarification on that. Thank you.

Mr. Morong: Sir, ‘yung meeting lang po later sa mga governors, how many are we expecting? And he did say yesterday na sasabihan niya ‘yung mga governors na if you don’t stop, I won’t have a choice but to kill you again. Ano bang hinihintay niyang actions from the governor — governors? Those who are involved and those who are not involved?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Basically its — it’s a small gathering just to apprise local chief executives on the gravity of illegal drugs. Basically, it’s going to be a conversation regarding the proliferation of illegal drugs.

Mr. Morong: How many are we expecting, sir?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: We don’t have the exact number.

Mr. Morong: Pero, sir, what does he expect from the governors? I mean, of course, hindi ka naman magpapatawag ng meeting without any expectation or an action from the governors.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I suppose cooperation. Cooperation in terms of making sure that the fight against crime, corruption and illegal drugs proceeds.

Mr. Ramos: Sir, on the martial law issue.


Mr. Ramos: Opo. If I remember it right, sir, it was the President himself who started all these talks about martial law. Do you have any idea why the President brought up this issue? Because it was not o it was an unprovoked, the media did not ask him about it, it was him who discussed it several times during his speeches.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: If you’re asking me if I know why, he said that I do not know why specifically.

But based on, based on his past — based on the issues that he has addressed, he perceives and he sees and based on results that he’s — the length and breadth and depth of illegal drugs is apparently massive.

So it’s a way of expressing the intensity and the need to be able to confront it. And again, as the Solicitor General said, he’s stating that he could

but he will not.

In other words, he’s just simply addressing the enormity. It’s a graphic way of addressing the enormity of the drug problem.

Mr. Ramos: Did the President mention or even discuss this during the one of the Cabinet meetings?


Ms. Nichols: Hi, sir, can we just get your reaction on something that Trump’s nominee for — as UN ambassador when she was asked about the alleged extrajudicial killings here in the country. She did say that — she believes that the alleged EJKs violate basic human rights and that she will speak up about it in the UN. Can we get your reaction?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: That is a very recent statement and perhaps it’s also best to just clarify that we do not have EJKs. We have you know — it’s best, I think, to just refer to it as extralegal killings.

Regarding that her statement, we’ll just simply have to listen first to what she says and respond to her statement.

Ms. Ranada: Sir, earlier you concluded that — when Duterte — when President Duterte talks about martial law, he’s stating that he could but he will not, but in the same speech he also often says he will if he wants to. So how do you reconcile those two —

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I think, that yeah…He just said he will if he wants to but he will not. You know, he could if he…

Ms. Ranada: No, but he’s creating a scenario if in the future he might want to, and then he even said yesterday that the ISIS problem is a possible reason for him to declare martial law. So as much as he also says he won’t, how can you reconcile the fact that immediately after he says he will if wants to and nobody can stop him?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA:  Again, let me just state what SolGen said, he is reiterating the fact that it is his prerogative he could, but given the circumstances right now, he will not.

Ms. Ranada: So, sir, he can in the future? He will in a future, if he wants to?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: If the conditions demand it.

Ted Tuvera (Daily Tribune): Sir, good afternoon po.


Mr. Tuvera: Kasi, sir, paulit-ulit nga po na binabanggit ‘yung sa martial law. Sir, is it really necessary for the President to dangle martial law in confronting criminals and…?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA:  Is it really necessary to…From his perspective, apparently it is, from his perspective, apparently it is necessary to frame it that way.

But again he said that it’s a — if conditions are right, it could happen but he will not, okay.

He is simply saying that at this stage he will not. In other words, he’s reiterating his position that he is protector of the country, he is after the protection of people, of the community especially the youth.

Mr. Tuvera: But is he aware of the implications it gives to the people, perhaps sowing fear knowing martial law?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Regarding sowing fear, regarding sowing fear, I suppose the best answer I could say that is — to those who are concerned, it may cause fear but for those who are not, okay.

Thank you very much.