Press Briefing by Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella with Philippine Commission on Women Chairperson Rhodora T. Masilang-Bucoy and Philippine Commission on Women Executive Director Emmeline L. Verzosa
Press Briefing Room, New Executive Building
07 March 2017

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Good morning. We are privileged this morning to have two lovely ladies. I don’t know if they want to be referred to as ladies but…[laughs]

Anyway, today is… We have invited Chairperson Rhodora T. Masilang-Bucoy and Executive Director Emmeline Versoza of the Philippine Commission on Women.

Chairperson Rhodora Bucoy and Executive Director Emmeline Versoza have been invited simply to—not simply — precisely because we are highlighting Women’s Month. All right.

Dr. Bucoy is a retired Associate Professor of Political Science and Development and Gender Studies at the University of the Philippines Cebu.

She is a recognized gender and development champion, human rights advocate and practitioner, and educator.

Executive Director Emmeline Verzosa, on the other hand, has over 35 years of experience in gender development, women’s empowerment, health and nutrition, first as an NGO worker, and a nutrition professor, and later as an independent consultant.

They have very substantial things to share with us this morning. So without further ado, we’d like to — you to welcome our guests PCW Chairperson Rhodora Bucoy and Executive Director Emmeline Versoza.

Chairperson will speak first. They’ll have a few minutes of speaking and then we’ll have a Q&A afterwards.

CHAIRPERSON BUCOY: Good morning. Maayong buntag, the beautiful men and women of the Malacañang Press Corps. Good morning to Secretary Abella.

I would like to present this year’s theme of the National Women’s Month celebration spearheaded by the Philippine Commission on Women.

If you have read our statement in our — have gone through the website of the PCW, this year’s National Women’s Month is celebrated with a theme: “We Make Change, Work for Women.”

And we here, aside from meaning us or “tayo”, stands also for the concept women empowerment which is a fundamental goal that we seek to achieve in our gender mainstreaming program in the government.

And we want to ensure that change would really benefit our women especially the vulnerable sectors of our society.

And when we say “we,” we mean that this is a collective effort of all. This is a multi-stakeholders effort involving government, which is a duty-bearer to implement the Magna Carta of Women, the civil society organizations, and all other, and even the private sector.

The word “Change” is a theme also stands for “Compassionate and Harmonized Actions and Networks for Gender Equality.” C-H-A-N-G-E. And this refers to the need for synergy and convergences among different actors to ensure that we are able to achieve the fundamental goals of gender equality and women empowerment.

The first letters of our theme stands also for “M-C-W”, which is the Magna Carta of Women. The Magna Carta of Women is of course our comprehensive law addressing equality and non-discrimination. It is the Philippine version of the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women and it covers women’s socio-cultural, economic, civil, and political rights.

Our celebration this year aims to promote the full implementation of the Magna Carta of Women, from the national down to the barangay level.

They asked me to look — huge enlarger facing the strong men and women of the Malacañang Press Corps.

As I have said, we focus on the full implementation of the Magna Carta of Women and this was clearly enunciated by the President if you recall in his first State of the Nation Address last July 2016.

Furthering the empowerment of Filipino women requires that the issues and challenges articulated in the Magna Carta of Women as well as implementing the programs and services correspond to the issues and challenges which will be later elaborated by Executive Director Emmeline Versoza.

At the same time, our present administration under PRRD has laid out his development agenda goals through AmBisyon 2040, which identifies “matatag, maginhawa, at panatag na buhay” as the cornerstone of the government endeavors.

Our press briefing this morning will therefore focus on presenting the state of the Filipino women in the country on key areas especially political empowerment, health, violence against women, and other issues and concerns.

I welcome you all to this press briefing in connection with our celebration of the Women’s Month.

Isang makabuluhan at maligayang selebrasyon ng ating Buwan ng Kababaihan.

Good morning.

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR VERZOSA: Good morning or magandang tanghali na po. Isang maligaya at makabuluhang pagdiriwang po ng buwan ng kababaihan, Presidential Spokesperson Abella and members of the Press Corps.

Sana eh makabuluhan talaga ang ating pagdiriwang ‘no. At nagpapasalamat kami sa PCO at sa office na napaunlakan kami ng press briefing na ito.

Well, we’ve come a long way in making and measuring the progress of gender equality and women’s empowerment in the Philippines.

The Philippine Commission on Women has — is 41 years old. We were established in 1975. So we really had a lot of efforts already in terms of pushing for women’s empowerment and gender equality.

So alongside what the Chair said, following the anchor of AmBisyon 2040, of being “matatag, maginhawa, at panatag na buhay,” allow me to focus on specific areas on the situation of women, in terms of health — on women’s health and wellness, that is malusog at ligtas na pamumuhay which makes us matatag.

A stable life or matatag na buhay requires that the Filipino women is healthy and well. And what is the measure for that? Filipino women we know has a longer life expectancy than men and that is common to all — many countries. And that is also what — one of the factors that make us, along with education, number 7 in the World Economic Forum Gender Gap Index. Pinagmamalaki po natin ‘yan.

We are the only country in Asia who has been in the top 10 since 2006. We lagged only in terms of economic empowerment and political participation. But we hope that we will remain in the top 10 in the years to come.

So aside from life expectancy, we are however worried about maternal mortality ratios. If you recall the MDGs, we did not meet the target of 52. The data hovers around 200, 221 and using the national demographic and health survey and the family health survey, 2021 ‘yan as of 2011.

But we were able to pass the Reproductive Health Law and therefore we hope that with DOH at the helm and with the participation of the local government units, as well as the private sector and the NGOs, we will fully implement the Reproductive Health Law so that women will have better access to the means so that they can plan their families, they can plan their pregnancies and space them properly. And we also ask the men to their part in this reproductive health concerns.

What is worrisome, however, is that the rate of teenage pregnancy is increasing. If we look at the 2013 Young Adult Fertility Survey or the YAFS, they reported that girls aged 15 to 19, who became mothers, rose to 13. 6 percent, from 6.3 in 2002. Imagine, so that’s almost double.

And bringing this about is the high prevalence of premarital sex among young adults which researches report rose from 23.2 percent in 2002 to 32 percent in 2013.

So more males, 35.5 percent, versus females, 28 percent, are now engaging in premarital sex, and that is usually unsafe and unprotected, that’s — that runs to about 78 percent are unprotected.

These numbers are alarming and bring to the fore issues on adolescent reproductive health and comprehensive sexuality education. And we know that at the Department of Education lessons now, they are now tweaking the curriculum so that gender sensitivity training is being done as well as comprehensive sexuality education.  Age-appropriate is done — is given to them.

We are also happy that the President has — in his SONA – an EO has already issued a full implementation of the Reproductive Health Act.

In education, we know that the Commission on Higher Education has created a technical panel so that policies, standards and guidelines for state universities and colleges and higher educational institutions can be guided in case they want to set up a gender studies program for masteral women’s studies. So that’s underway and we are part of the committee who reviews all this and that shall be launched pretty soon.

At the CHED as well, cases of sexual harassment has been happening so that they monitor the creation of the committee on decorum and investigation in all state colleges and universities. And some professors who have been found guilty of sexual harassment have already been dismissed. And unlike before na nililipat lang sa another school or another college, the policy now of CHED is really to dismiss them totally.

In TESDA, they continue to provide non-traditional courses for women. We know that women have been known to be very good welders and they can learn also about electronic and automotive so that they can have higher incomes.

In political representation and participation, at least in the House of Representatives, the number of women in the House has increased from 26 percent in the last administration to the current 29 percent. But in the Senate, we know that there are six women, so that’s 25 percent who are women in the Senate.

In the Executive branch, we also monitor the number of women in third–level positions who occupy career executive service positions and the current number is 43 percent, a lag with the target that has been set in the Magna Carta of Women of 50-50.

So we encourage those who are appoint— hindi pa na-a-appoint, sana po may pagtanaw na… I’m sure there are a lot of qualified women who are still — who have yet to be appointed from assistant director up to undersecretary and we are watching that and we are counting on that.

Then we go to women’s economic empowerment, which is our “Maginhawa at Maunlad na Buhay” encore. When we talk of women’s economic empowerment, Filipino women are laborers, workers in the informal economy, entrepreneurs, overseas workers, agricultural, fishery, forestry workers, as well as home managers and family care givers. So that’s a whole range. So women are not — no longer confined to the home, we know that. They are very productive citizens.

And in implementing the Magna Carta of Women, provisions pertaining to the rights and empowerment of the marginalized sectors need to be strengthened now more than ever and that is the focus that we are now doing, in partnership with the Department of Agriculture, Department of Agrarian Reform, DENR, and the like, including the NCIP and the Bangsamoro communities.

The number of landowners, for example, is very low. Emancipation patents for example, is only 13.8 percent to women compared to 86.2 percent in 2015 and among those awarded CLOAs, or Certificate of Land Ownership and Agreements, 32 percent lang ang sa kababaihan.

The Magna Carta of Women also directs the establishment of investment-friendly environment and provision for technical support for returning migrant workers. 

We all know that there are a lot of migrant women, when they return, we hope that they would be able to come back and serve the country as well.

So we know that the OWWA as well as the National Integration Center for OFWs have programs in line so that OFWs who wish to come back can have jobs as well as opportunities and skills and capital to set up their own businesses and to help fellow Filipinos who remain here.

The pursuit of decent work and access to social protection are also directed by the Magna Carta of Women and this — we are concerned very much with workers in the informal economy or the informal sector.

Kasi they don’t have the social insurance, they don’t have paid vacation leaves, they don’t have sick leaves, they don’t have maternity leaves, so they don’t have security of tenure.

So these are very vulnerable groups of women and majority of those people in the informal sector like vendors are women so we are concerned about that.

So women have nothing to cushion them from the impact of economic crisis or in the event of illness, disability, work injury, unemployment or old age.

At least now, we are seeing the pension if they do pay their own individual pensions with SSS, we see an increase, so that’s something good.

And we also know that PhilHealth’s target is universal healthcare, that’s also good. And we know that the extended maternity leave is about to be a law. We know that the Senate has recently passed it on third reading and we are monitoring the House of Representatives to pass the extended maternity leave as well.

And that should benefit formal employment, formally employed workers. ‘Pag informal, ‘yun nga, wala sila.

So when we come to entrepreneurs, we know that when we talk of MSMEs, micro, small, medium enterprises, majority of them are women, 90 percent.

Over 90 percent are in micro, the big businesses are very small amount and they’re usually women who start up their businesses but when they put up big, kung minsan nililipat ‘yung pangalan ng negosyo niya sa lalaki. So that’s something that we also need to talk about.

But what is important is to converge the services that micro entrepreneurs need so that they can move up the value chain. So access to credit, access to technology, access to information, access to skills as well as leadership so that they can move up and become members of their board are the things that we work with together with the Department of Trade and Industry, Department of Labor, Agriculture and Science and Technology.

In our GREAT Women project, this is a Canadian project that the Philippine Commission on Women has been implementing as a policy making and coordinating body. We’ve seen good results when agencies converge their efforts and move away from working in silos, results happen as we have seen in our project sites in the LGUs.

Allow me now to move to “Panatag na Buhay”. Violence against women is still an important issue that women face. In the national demographic and health survey of 2013, this is the prevalence of violence against women, we see one out of five women who are physically abused, that can run to millions of women aged — of reproductive age 15 to 49, and that has not differed from the 2008 figure.

We hope that when they conduct the survey this year, this will move because we know that we have been having a lot of annual campaigns to end violence against women every November so that women can be… Have the courage to break their silence ‘no. It’s not… Hindi na ‘yon tama na if a woman is beaten up, that she should remain silent.

It is now a public crime. It is not a private matter because we have laws which protect women, the Anti-Violence Against Women and their Children Act.

But there’s very few who are reporting their cases ‘no. 

The PNP reports in 2015, for example, 30,800. Last year, it went up by 4,000 cases — 34,800. So kulang pa rin ‘yung pag-report. So that these women do not have to suffer in silence when their partners or their loved ones beat them up or curse them or treat them like a doormat.

So violence against women and girls happen not only inside their homes but also in schools, workplaces, streets, public transportation systems and media.

So advancing information technology has given rise to new forms of violence against women and girls particularly cyber prostitution and cyber pornography.

Various news agencies have reported that cyber pornography was declared by the PNP as the No. 1 crime in the Philippines and that the countries among the top 10 countries where cyber pornography is rampant. [inaudible] blaming by both men and women in cases of harassment and other forms of violence against women is still rampant.

The PSA statistical authority estimates in terms of rape that 28 persons are raped daily. The PNP is the basis of their estimation, which tabulated 4,738 cases in 2012 rising up to 10,200 in 2015.

So the Magna Carta of Women again directs mandatory training of gender and human rights for all government personnel involved in the protection and defense of women against gender based violence.

It also directs all barangays to establish a violence against women desk to assist among others violence against women victim survivors.

To date, the DILG reports that 88 percent of the 42,036 barangays have already established VAW desks. The question is, is the person whom they designated as the VAW desk officer knowledgeable of what to do when a VAW victim goes to her?

So, we do have an assessment tool and a functionality protocols to determine the functionality of the violence against women desk and we are currently training, together with the DILG, how these VAW desks can be functional.

There are lots of good practices Davao City for one is our local learning hub where there are very good referral systems within the city.

They have full time lawyers who can help these women and we hope that other LGUs can follow suit with the good practices that these cities have.

Women are also affected by disasters and climate change so there are efforts that we work with NDRRMC. We advocate that in relief they have hygiene kits for specific needs of women.

The DSWD should be setting up women friendly spaces in evacuation sites so that women are not vulnerable to traffickers or illegal recruiters.

We also advocate that women participate in terms of recovery and rehabilitation when they start planning the community and the houses, women’s voices must be there.

Briefly role of media, of course, we recognize that the Magna Carta of Women has a media and gender quality committee chaired by the PCOO and that the task is it’s a multi-agency body, the task is to make sure that women are portrayed in a non-derogatory manner and if we could portray women in positive roles rather than laging malungkot o biktima ‘no.

So that’s — we do that in partnership with PCO and PCW being the co-chair or vice chair.

So again our National Women’s Month with the theme: “We Make Change, Work for Women,” what kind of changes do we want to see? Change can be sudden and radical and we must learn how to adopt the change.

We should welcome change and be transformed in the process. Let us be mindful of our own biases and prejudices. Let us keep an open mind, speak the truth and respect differences.

We call on our partners in government and non-government and civil society organizations, academe and the private sector to continue working for the elimination of abuse and exploitation, discrimination and disparities.

Let us recommit to the full implementation of the Magna Carta of Women and all women related loss.

Let us work for true change and change for us means compassionate and harmonized actions and networks for gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls.

Our change shall move towards attaining our AmBisyon 2040 of a strongly rooted or matatag, comfortable or maginhawa and the secure, it’s panatag life for all Filipinos.

Let us continue to become agents of change and become the change which we admission to see.

Again magandang tanghali po sa ating lahat. Salamat po.


Genalyn Kabiling (Manila Bulletin): Good afternoon ma’am.


Ms. Kabiling: Ma’am, may we know your position on rape being included in the list of offenses punishable by death. Are you in favor of its inclusion?

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR VERSOZA: We don’t have an official position in terms of the Philippine Commission on Women because we have yet to convene our board. We have… Our board is composed of 10 government agencies as well as 12 non-government organizations — representatives, sectoral representatives and not all of them have been appointed yet.

Rose Novenario (Hataw): Good morning po, kailan po kayo makakapag-convene at may plano po ba kayong idulog sa Kongreso ‘yung rape isama sa death penalty?

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR VERSOZA: Meron ho kaming ibang panukala tungkol sa rape.

Ms. Novenario: Ano po ‘yon?

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR VERSOZA: Isinusulong po namin baguhin po ‘yung Anti-Rape Law na isama doon sa definition ng rape ay lack of consent as the center of definition of rape. Kasi we’ve seen a lot of cases of date rape, where the rapist have become — have been acquitted.

We have two celebrated cases actually which have reached [inaudible] expert body in Geneva and they found us to have found [inaudible] because the judges acquitted the rapist because date. So ang definition dapat ‘pag nagsabi ang babaeng “no”, no ‘yon at hindi na kailangan hanapin na tumakbo siya or napunit siya or may nagdugo ganyan ‘yung struggle ‘no. Because usually when that happens, the women just freeze and just don’t know what to do. So that should be the center of rape.

The other amendment that we would like to see is to raise the age of statutory rape because as of now it is 12. So we would like to raise to 16 — at least 16.

In other countries it’s 18. But we are happy to make it 16. There are also provisions on the forgiveness clause because current Anti-Rape Law, RA 8353, enclosed marital rape. So it doesn’t mean that if you are married and your husband wants to have sex and you don’t want to, he cannot force himself on you.

So meron na rin pong jurisprudence on that. But however the current rape says that if there is forgiveness, mawawalang bahala.

So the CEDAW Committee has also been recommending that the State, ‘coz we are signatories to this international human rights treaty, to look into the forgiveness clause. So that it is [inaudible]. That is our rape law.

Joseph Morong (GMA-7): Ma’am, can we just get again your data ‘yung rape data ninyo, there’s only a count that 20 persons are raped everyday, this is what year?

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR VERSOZA: That’s in the… If you check the website of the PSA, they have… Yeah, I have it here. They have a women — fact sheets on women and men, 28 percent are raped everyday.

Mr. Morong: Percent or people?

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR VERSOZA: Persons, persons sorry. That’s what I said.

Okay, in 2015 PSA estimates that 28 persons are raped daily. The basis is PNP’s reported cases of rape, which has been increasing from 2012 from 4,738 cases to 10,298 in 2015.

Mr. Morong: Ma’am just a clarification sa statutory rape you are going — you prefer na 16 to 12?

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR VERSOZA: From 12, we need to raise it up to 16 because parang age of consent din ‘yon eh. Parang bata pa ‘yon from 16 and below. 16 and below.

Mr. Morong: Ibig sabihin ‘yung [inaudible] 16 ‘pag 12? At present it’s 12?

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR VERSOZA: ‘Pag 12 currently ngayon. Okay, the rapist gets higher penalties if he rapes a 12 year old.

But if he rapes a 15 year old, he should be also getting a higher penalty because below 16 is still a child. ‘Di ba child is 18? So child pa rin siya. So wala pa siyang sense of consent or discernment, age of discernment.

So we want to raise the age of discernment. Yeah it follows the age of discernment. Yeah, well, 18, pwede rin.

Actually some of our drafts were 18 pero consensus ‘yon with the other government agencies.

Mr. Morong: Ma’am should rape be excluded from the list of crimes that can be punished by death penalty? Your personal…As a woman crusader…It’s hard for the women commission to come up with a board position at least from you guys who is leading the commission? It’s not so hard to come up with a position?

CHAIRPERSON BUCOY: Actually there are still discussions and exchanges regarding this issue because we in government, we are encouraged to do a lot of [inaudible] of important policies that are being pushed through. But as of now, among the — among the women’s groups, there are still [inaudible] that the best punishment would be reclusion perpetua. So forever the person that committed rape will suffer instead of immediately snapping back.

With due respect to the House of Representatives in pushing for this, we believe that at PCW, we continue to reflect on this fundamental issue that even divides the House and the Senate.

So, we are still continuing our discernment on this very fundamental issue.

Mr. Morong: So ibig sabihin, ma’am, reclusion is a better punishment —

CHAIRPERSON BUCOY:  [inaudible] personally but the commission has come up with pros and cons even on the death penalty issue. And in our still unfinished proposal which will be subjected to scrutiny by the board, we’ll raise also pros of the proposal so as cons. And we will be releasing that once we are able to firm up with this recommendation or position on the death penalty issue.


We’d like to give a few updates. Tomorrow we celebrate Women’s Day and it’s a timely way to celebrate by announcing that the Palace welcomes the good news that 8 out of 10 of the topnotchers in the graduating class of PMA are women.

The nation expects that these women cadets as scholars of the Filipino people will perform their duties to their abilities. We are proud of their achievements in the Academy and expect the best when they serve our Armed Forces where they would decide, lead, motivate, set example and accomplish the mission to defend the Republic.

Also, the Duterte administration’s Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022 is now available in the NEDA official website. We are pleased to announce that everyone can now access the Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022 online. It is anchored on pushing forward the 10-point socioeconomic agenda of the Duterte administration. This is also the first step in achieving our long-term vision dubbed as AmBisyon 2040.

Also, President Duterte has approved the 2017 IPP or Investment Priorities Plan.

The investment areas consist of manufacturing including agri-processing; agriculture, fishery and forestry; strategic services; infrastructure and logistics including local government unit and public-private partnership; health care services including drug rehabilitation; mass housing; inclusive business models; environment and climate change; innovative drivers; energy and export businesses. In other words everything to provide a sound business environment.

We are open to a few questions.

AC Nichols (CNN Philippines): Hi, sir. Sir, can we get the Palace reaction, there is this upcoming episode on a US show called “Madam Secretary” wherein it seems like the President of the Philippines is being portrayed in fact it’s written in the description and the character ends up being punched by the leading role, the Madam Secretary, because the Philippine President, the new unconventional Philippine President, made a pass at the Madam Secretary?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I think they are confusing their images. I think they are projecting something that they really would like to say about their own situation. Really I think they should use a fictional US President. Thank you.

Maricel Halili (TV-5): Sir, just a follow up po. Don’t you find it insulting that some US actors are portraying this kind of role?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Well, they engage in something that they would like to…It’s their business, it’s their craft. You cannot deny them their craft — their taste perhaps.

Leila Salaverria (Philippine Daily Inquirer): Good afternoon, sir. We just like to get confirmation, is it true that the President berated Mindanao lawmakers for supposedly trying to bribe him on behalf of a cigarette company? And did the President order the arrest of the owner of this company?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Actually that’s really a matter of Cabinet conversation. However, since you have brought it out, he simply was saying… He was not berating Mindanao politicians. He was simply saying that in time past, there was a certain attempt to influence him financially.

Ms. Salaverria: Who made the offer? How did it go down?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I think that should be better kept.

Ms. Salaverria: Sir, it’s the President being bribed so why would…?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: No, because he was not making a public statement, right? It was being discussed within the Cabinet. So let’s let the natural processes of…Let’s let due process take its…

Ms. Salaverria: Sir, did he order the arrest or the prosecution or the investigation of anybody involved in this scenario?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Let’s just say, let’s watch the DOJ go ahead.

Dexter Ganibe (DZMM): Sir, follow up doon sa kay Leila. May reports na binabanggit naghahanda ang NBI for the possible surrender of this ‘yung Mighty Corporation today for the bribery attempt?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Then hintayin na lang po natin kung ano po ang mangyayari. Salamat po.

Mr. Morong: Sir, this is a bribery attempt on the President, why shouldn’t it make public?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Simply because he has not commented on it publicly. If he feels, if he feels he should then he will, okay.

Mr. Morong: Sir, Mighty Corporation ba ito?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I don’t have any opinions regarding the matter. Thank you.

Mr. Morong: Any facts about this, sir? Any other information?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Like I said, these things were discussed — some things were discussed in the Cabinet and it’s best to leave it there for the moment. Thank you.

Hannah Sancho (Sonshine Radio): Sir, during the Cabinet meeting po may inannounce ho ba ang Pangulo sa mga bagong appointment like ‘yung pumalit kay Laviña sa NIA?


Ms. Sancho: Pero na-mention po ni — kanina sa presscon ni Secretary Piñol na si Visaya po ang inappoint ng Pangulo?


Ms. Sancho: Inannounce daw last night sa Cabinet, can we confirm, sir?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Nothing…I don’t think anything has yet reached the Office of the Executive Secretary. So, we only speak officially here. Thank you.

Deo de Guzman (RMN): Good morning, sir. Kasi po… Regarding po doon sa nabanggit galing kay Secretary Piñol, regarding the reorganization of PCOO na sa inyo po under ang Content and Messaging. And yet kahapon po kasi itong si Secretary Piñol mas mabilis po na naglalabas ng content and messaging regarding doon sa Cabinet meeting at nauunahan po kayo. Ano po ang talagang stand po ba kasi po parang ‘yung nako-quote namin ay from Department of Agriculture na dapat na from the Presidential Spokesman? Papaano po ba ang magiging proseso ‘non?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Katulad po ng sinabi ay dapat makinig tayo sa Spokesperson. Salamat po.

Mr. de Guzman: So you are saying, sir, na…You are saying, sir, na hindi po namin dapat paniniwalaan ‘yung sinasabi ni Secretary Piñol na nasa Cabinet meeting na rin, high-ranking official din naman po?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Wala po akong sinasabi na ganyan. Ang sinasabi lang po natin, sundan po natin ang proseso. Kung ang tagapagsalita po ang Office of the Presidential — is the OPS — then doon po tayo makinig.

Mr. de Guzman: Okay, sir. Kasi we are waiting po din kahapon about updates on the Cabinet meeting, wala din pong lumalabas under…

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Kasi po tinitimbang natin ‘di ba?

[Update ng alin?] Okay unahin natin si Ms. Pia, sige.

Pia Ranada (Rappler): Hi, sir. Sir, CA members in the Senate say that they are likely or they are actually sure to reject the appointment of Secretary Yasay tomorrow because of the issue of him denying owning a US passport under oath and then just yesterday admitting that he in fact had a US passport. What’s the Palace reaction to this? And what will be the game plan of the President if indeed his appointment is rejected, will he reappoint Yasay or will he find another secretary?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: What was the preceding statement that you made? Who was making the — ?

Ms. Ranada: Commission on Appointments, sir, in the Senate.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Was verbalizing — was verbalizing their opinion?

Ms. Ranada: Yes, sir. It was Senator Ping Lacson who said that they believe na talagang nagkaroon siya ng US citizenship and that it’s likely for them to not — to reject his appointment.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Well, I think they are speaking ahead of time. However, Secretary Yasay has already made a statement and it was logical, credible and open and transparent.

He described…He actually described the process of how — of the process that he went through. And quoting his statement it says: “As the affidavit dated February 23, 1993 said I submitted to the US Immigration and Naturalization Service attests the grant of US citizenship to me on or about November 26 was invalid because of a preconceived intent to abandon. Followed by the actual abandonment of my United States residency three months thereafter on January 8 when I returned to the Philippines for good as a Filipino.”

Ms. Ranada: Sir, but the issue here now is perjury because he admitted just in a TV interview that he had a US passport when under oath in the Senate he denied it. So, the case is now perjury not…

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Well, let’s leave it to them. On the other hand, I think what he was stating as far as he was conveyed verbally he said that he was granted but he never really obtained it, okay. He never really obtained it because there was intent to…

Ms. Ranada: Sir, if the — if indeed the rejection of appointment comes to pass tomorrow, what will be the President’s second option? Will he reappoint a new secretary?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Let’s take…Let’s take each step at a time. Thank you.

Ms. Sancho: Sir, any update po doon sa Cabinet meeting po?


[Laughs] Since you are talking about…Okay, two things…Let me just check.

One thing is about the smoking ban, okay.

[overlapping voices]

Basically, Secretary Ubial was given the directive to make sure that part four of the existing EO would be revised and to follow the Davao model.

The one that they presented is — allows for smoking indoors. The Davao model does not include for models indoor — for smoking indoors. And so that was revised and so there would be no smoking indoors, Mr. Morong. [laughter]

All right. Just to finish, it will be signed as soon as the President…The revision was already submitted at 8 a.m. this morning to the Office of the Executive Secretary and then — and then it will be signed as soon as the President comes back. I think he is in Sulu right now.

[I’m sorry, where is he?] [laughter]

No, no, no. As soon as he comes to office.

Mr. Ganibe: Sir, may binabanggit kayo meron pang other updates doon sa Cabinet meeting?


Mr. Ganibe: Other updates pa doon sa Cabinet meeting?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Basically it was a…Basically it was a discussion on the contingencies of the GOCCs. It was a very graphic presentation. I think the DOF should make the same presentation here.

Mr. Ganibe: Sir, ‘yung sa National Broadband plan, anong detalye ‘non? Papapasukin na po ba sa bansa ‘yung ibang — ?


Mr. Ganibe: Iyong ibang telcom companies?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Well, the intent is to really make sure that the Philippines [garbled] few things need to be addressed, okay.

Mr. Ganibe: Doon sa smoking ban lang, sir, follow up lang. Kapag napirmahan iyon, sir, mawawala na ‘yung mga smoking — designated smoking areas sa mga government — national government agencies?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Dapat siguro sa labas sila — hindi sa loob, sa labas.

Mr. Ganibe: Pero public place din sa labas.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Hindi, in other words hindi sa loob ng building, okay. May ire-reserve na ano…Iyon yata ‘yon na walang bubong para hindi mangangamoy, for example, katulad ng restroom, ganun.

Ms. Kabiling: Sir, just quick doon sa bribery attempt. May we just know the Palace position on bribery — trying to bribe the President and other government officials?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Well, I think that’s very obvious because, you know, the President puts priority on anti-crime, anti-corruption and anti-illegal drugs. That’s part of his three-point campaign promise, right? So he is very high [inaudible] on that.

So does that answer your question?

Ms. Kabiling: Sir, do you have any warning to businessmen or other groups trying to bribe any government official?


Ms. Kabiling: Why, sir?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Because the law will come down full force upon them.

JP Bencito (The Manila Standard): Hi, sir, good morning. Sir, there were reports that allegedly Mighty Corporation had faked some tax stamps for their cigarettes. Sir, what will be the next steps of the Palace given this big incident na almost half of the market is — has been polluted or merong fake tax stamps? Anong magiging next step ng Palace?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Everything goes with due process. Okay.

Mr. Morong: Sir, I’ll go by your statement kanina with regard to the bribery. You said that there was “an attempt to influence him financially.” But I wasn’t able to catch it if he rejected the — ?


Mr. Morong: I just want the sound bite, sir. And then you said, sir, that if there a bribery attempts, the full force of the law will come down on whoever —

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: This is part of the President’s campaign, yes.

Mr. Morong: With regard to this incident, sir, what is the President going to do with that attempt?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I am sure the full force will start to grind.

Mr. Morong: Start to grind — starting grinding now?


Mr. Ganibe: Two points lang, sir, follow up doon kay JP. Doon sa mga tax stamps na sinasabing na-peke, hindi po ba ang tax stamps ang gumagawa ay ang PCOO?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Hayaan po natin, hindi po natin ano… Hindi po natin masasagot ‘yan at this stage, all right.

Mr. Ganibe: May… Alam ko may imbestigasyon na rin dati eh na isinagawa ang PCOO, ano na ang resulta doon, sir?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Hayaan na lang po natin na ang korte ang siyang mag-ano — magbigay linaw sa kalagayang iyan.

Mr. Ganibe:  Sir, second point, last for my part, kasi ‘pag may mga Cabinet meeting may pinopost na mga video ang RTVM, ang hindi ko lang napansin — kanina ko lang napansin din ‘yung pinost na nakalagay doon na may the prayer was led — parang binanggit na may prayer, parang naantig yata ‘yung mga Cabinet doon sa prayer…


Mr. Ganibe: Pero doon sa… Doon sa post, sir, ngayon lang naglagay na — the prayer was led by Ms. Gina.


Mr. Ganibe: Parang may nagsabi din parang may mga naantig doon sa wordings ng kanyang prayer…


Mr. Ganibe: Can you share it, sir?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: It was a very moving prayer. Well, actually the words of the President it is a very poignant prayer.

Poignant, spell [laughs], no poignant meaning… It was very moving. It was actually quite moving.

Why don’t we ask her for a meditation purposes? [laughs] No it was really a great…It was really a very moving prayer. Thank you.

Ms. Salaverria: Sir, speaking of Secretary Lopez, there’s a report that she pressured the DOE to release the permit for a solar energy project. What’s the Palace going to do about it and will this affect the President’s support for her?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I don’t know. I mean, I don’t know about regarding the matter, but I’m sure if it’s mentioned, it will be duly looked into.

Ms. Salaverria: By whom, sir?


Ms. Salaverria: Who will look into the — this reported attempt?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Well, the proper — the proper complaint has to be made.

Ms. Salaveria: A complaint has to be filed?


Mr. Bencito: Hi, sir. Sir, the Secretary yesterday night verbalized…


Mr. Bencito: Secretary Lopez, sir.


Mr. Bencito: Gina Lopez, sir. Sir, she verbalized to the President her intention for the President to suspend the review of the mining review conducted by MICC. Sir, paano—how was… What does the President’s reaction to these pronouncements of the Secretary? What will be the next step of the Palace in case?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: It was not discussed in the Cabinet meeting so I cannot make any comments regarding that.

Mr. Bencito: Sir, ano nalang po. The Secretary has verbalized to secretary — Senator Pacquiao to move the confirmation hearings to May. Since magkakaroon po ng parang… She will be technically bypassed by the CA because of Holy Week, sir, can expect the Palace to reappoint Secretary Gina for an ad interim appointment by that time?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Well, let’s wait for the right — let’s wait for the right moment and then the Palace will move.

Mr. Bencito: Thank you, sir.

Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star): Secretary, Secretary Evasco just issued a statement against the NFA administrator, eh nabanggit niya na parang maba-bypass ‘yung council regarding some decisions regarding sa rice importation. Mag-a-appoint ba ng bagong NFA administrator si Presidente?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: We will have to clarify that, okay, we’ll also refer to OES. I’ll take note of that question. Thank you.

Mr. Romero: Okay, pero anong masasabi ng Palasyo doon sa mga statements ni Secretary Evasco considering na siya mismo ‘yung nagki-criticize sa mga officials ng NFA ngayon?


Mr. Romero: What’s the Palace’s take on the issue—‘yung mismo si Evasco na ang nagki-criticize sa NFA?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Well, in effect, Mr. Evasco — Secretary Evasco is an alter ego of the President. So if he makes a comment like that then it must have some basis and must be given some weight.

Mr. Romero: So anong action ng Palace doon, hahayaan niyo lang or meron ba kayong gagawing action?


Mr. Romero: Ang Palasyo po.


Mr. Romero : Doon sa — sa mga sinabi ni Secretary Evasco?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Hayaan po natin na… Antabayanin natin ang mga sumusunod na kabanata.

Ms. Salaverria: Sir, we just want to ask for clarification. You mentioned an attempt to bribe the President, but what was he asked to do — what was the bribe for?


[Someone quips: Madam Secretary?]

[Laughs] No, it was really within the Cabinet… It’s within the Cabinet meeting. So really the only reason why I referred to that is because somebody talked about it.

Ordinarily, things like these are not discussed outside.

Ms. Salaverria: Who brought it up? Was it the President himself?


Like I said let us…Let’s keep it within the [inaudible]… Let’s not add to something that was already been…

Ms. Salaverria: Sir, can we expect this to be made public because the President is very strongly anti-corruption?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Correct, correct. He is very strongly anti-corruption.

But let’s leave it to him to make public statements, okay.

Mr. Morong: Sir, bakit parang ang lakas naman ng loob that they can go straight to the President and who is this person, sir?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Ang lakas nga ng loob. Thank you very much.


SOURCE: PCO PND Transcriber