Press Conference of Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella with Peter Wallace
Press Briefing Room, New Executive Bldg, Malacañang
05 OCTOBER 2016

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Good afternoon to everybody. Unang-una, nagpapasalamat tayo for all of you being here. And if you’d notice this past week, we’ve started to focus on some of the achievements of the 100 days of the President.

And we’ve been inviting people who are in business specifically those who have been either directly in business or economic analysts.

And this morning, we have invited Mr. Peter Wallace.

Peter Wallace has been living in the Philippines for the past 41 years and has consequently become fully imbibed into Philippine society. Kaya lang hindi pa daw siya nananagalog.

Congress recently granted him and approved by the President Philippine citizenship. So, ini-embrace niya ang ating pagka-Pinoy.

Peter started his professional career as an electrical engineer and subsequently completed a course in Business Economics.

In 1975, he was sent to Manila to build a factory manufacturing maintenance products.

Three years later, he accepted the position of chairman of a conglomerate which is Columbian Philippines that manufactured rope, process abaca, represented airlines, shipping and automotive companies, and operated even a laundry operation — sanitary laundry if I’m right —okay, and was involved in processing of food.

Then on to being CEO of Getz Corporation, the largest trading company at that time. Later he founded his own business, the Wallace business forum in 1982, a company that is in its 34th year of success at helping CEOs understand business environment in the Philippines.

He writes a weekly column in the Inquirer and is involved in a number of charitable endeavors.

Also, he is a strong and active advocate for development of the mining in the ICT sectors.

We have invited him to give his insights and inputs about the first hundred days. And apparently he has a long list. I’d like to call Peter Wallace this morning. Please welcome.

MR. WALLACE: Thanks Ernie. Good afternoon everyone. Good afternoon. It’s been a hundred days and everyone in their dawg is analyzing what’s going on. I actually have 14 dawgs and I talked to them first, so I’m well-versed in their opinion of Duterte.

It’s been a very interesting period and certainly a controversial one in some ways. There’s no question that there’s been much discussion about the manner of the President and how he swears a lot. But, we wanted change. Remember, in the vote, in the campaign. We had two trapos and we had a lady who was beginning to be one, who wasn’t yet and wouldn’t be.

And we had a man who came out of nowhere and was totally radical, was an obvious maverick, who’s quite strange and yet that’s what we wanted.

He promised change and we wanted change so the people voted for him and he won overwhelmingly, promising that change. And now people are complaining that he’s changed, that he’s different. And yet that’s what we wanted. We wanted to get away from the old political systems and get to something new and different. But we have something new and different. And we need to start to understand and accept what he is.

I’ve been studying this man for quite some time. I’ve known him for quite some time. And I know that the way he talks is not the way in which he thinks.
This is a man who genuinely cares for this country and genuinely cares for its people. And what I particularly like, cares for them out what really matters in the provinces where we have the poorest of the poor and the people suffering the most.

And so he’s angry and he’s frustrated and he takes this out by swearing, which is not terribly abnormal in the society that he is mixed in. But it is difficult for particularly foreigners to understand.

And what happens unfortunately is too often what he says is taken literally rather than interpreting what he actually meant. Because if you do that, you find that most of the swearing is just top of the head type of stuff, that doesn’t have any real importance to it, that isn’t the real intent. It’s underlying that behind that really matters. And what’s underlying behind that is that he wants change and he wants to get things done.

We’ve had almost a 100 days now; and we’ve had things done. I’m quite amazed really how many things have been accomplished. I’ve got a list of 20 or more right here.

But I think the one that struck us all immediately was after what? Five presidents, 25 years, we didn’t have a Freedom of Information Act. Within six days, we had one. Just like that. He did the sensible thing. He passed an executive order.

So at least, the government side, the administration now has to release information to us if and when we want it. That needs to be institutionalized now and expanded to cover the judiciary and the legislature. So it needs a law and he has asked for that law to be passed.

And I’ve no doubt given the majority he has in both Houses, that law will be passed. And so within just a few days we’ve had the Freedom of Information, which we struggled to get forever so long.

He also has said that he is not an economist, he’s not an expert on business and what is very un-Filipino he said, “I’m the President, I’m the leader but I don’t know it all.” When was the last time a president in this country said, “I don’t know it all.” Right?

And therefore I will rely on the people I have appointed to do who are experts. And he has appointed into his Cabinet, some expert Cabinet secretaries in the field that I specialized in which is economics and business.

His economic cluster is a very well chosen cluster of people who are former businessmen and academics who know their job and know what has to be done. And he has said on numerous occasions, he will rely on them and their guidance as to where to go.

And they have said, they have drafted and released a 10-point agenda which the business community reviewed and agreed with, have a few extra things to add to it but essentially agreed with it.

And it’s first one is we will continue the good policies of the previous government. That in itself is a remarkable change.

Each government has wanted to just to throw out the baby with the bathwater and start all over again. He said “no, continuity is important, we’ll continue with those things that are good and we’ll speed them up.”

The PPP for example. In the last administration, it’s six years, they have managed to approve 10 projects. Duterte has promised 17 before the end of the year. So in six months, not six years, he has done almost double what the previous government did and we will start to see that.

He has said or Sonny Dominguez says that we are going from two and a half percent of spending on infrastructure to 5 percent, doubling. And if any — all of you know, this is one of the greatest weaknesses today, is the lack of infrastructure.

For the past 25 years, we’ve spent half of what we should have, half of what the rest of ASEAN or Asia has spent on infrastructure and it certainly shows.

He has asked for emergency powers and I see that that’s a bit stuck in Congress at that moment. And I think, and I certainly hope that this will change. They are arguing and reasonably that they want full detail, exact detail of what it’s going to cover.

Well, I think they’ve got most of it from Art Tugade. Maybe just a few areas to clean up. But as I said in a column I wrote the other day, I’d like to see Congress act with emergency powers to and pass this before they go into recess on October 22.

If any of you have ever been stuck in traffic, has anybody here have been stuck in traffic, ha? Everyone. Everyone. For hours on end. Don’t we need emergency powers? Don’t we need to act rapidly and quickly and drastically to solve this problem?

So we need Congress to do that too. Stop all these hearings and things for now. Concentrate just on getting emergency powers so the government can act with speed to get things done.

One of the first under those emergency powers where we would see immediate result is that all traffic would come under central authority no longer under the various mayors throughout the country, throughout the city who have different ideas on what should be done and how it should be done so there’s no coordination.

This is not the way to do it. It is has to have an overall coordinated approach to doing it and we need that tomorrow. We need it today actually before I go home.

So I would like to see that and I think I’ll stop there for a few minutes. And maybe just a couple of questions people would like to ask.


Reymund Tinaza (Bombo Radyo): Hi, sir. Sir, I understand you’ve been into the mining sector for decades now—quite some time. So, you understand pretty well how much the Philippine government is not getting the expected or what we deserve revenue from the mining sector. So will you ever support for the increase of the tax or revenue collection from the mining sectors specifically how much the damage you’ve been doing to—I mean the mining industry, some mining industries have been doing to the nature—to our territories?

MR. WALLACE: Yes, I come from a country that grew wealthy on mining and agriculture. So I’m very keen on both those because I’ve seen the success they can achieve.

Mining which doing very well but there is one clear distinction you must make here and that’s between responsible mining and the irresponsible. And I include in the “irresponsible”, small-scale mining. We should stop small-scale mining entirely whether it’s legal or not, whether it’s responsible or not. You can’t do mining in small-scale, right? It just doesn’t work.

So if we focus just on those companies that will act responsibly, that will meet all the strict international requirements for operating a mine, which many of them can, then we should be encouraging them to do so.

We need the wealth that is in the ground to create jobs for people, to bring wealth to the country and to generate dollars which are useful to have but it must be responsibly done.

As to the taxes, Aquino was wrongly informed that we weren’t getting enough tax. The IMF did an intensive study of not only the Philippines but comparative countries and determined that the Philippines in fact is paying one of the highest in taxes in government of all the mining countries around the world. Some 46 percent, I believe, which is almost half their revenues. This is good, right? They are paying enough. There’s no need to look at the taxes. The taxes are okay.

What needs to be done is to rescind EO 79 which has too many faults in it. Go back to responsible mining as originally intended. Make sure that it is done that way. Those companies that have 14,000 and one classification, they are acting responsibly because the international experts have come in and determined that they are. That should be more than enough to say that they are. But they must look after the environment. That’s part of responsibility. They must be committed to putting the land back into as good or better condition at the end of the mine, and they are.

Mr. Tinaza: So, sir, I understand in Davao area in Mindanao there are at least—please correct me if I’m wrong—there are 30,000 pits and could be small, small-scale mining. So what could we…How…What can you suggest to correct this wrong practice? I understand some reports are also saying that some NPA or the rebel groups are maintaining small-scale mining, and a sort of that. So what can you suggest to finally correct this wrong practice?

MR. WALLACE: I’ll do with Duterte, I’d close them down. As I said, small-scale mining employs kids, uses mercury, does not in any way look after the local environment, right? It is not a good thing to have. I would just close them down.

Ina Andolong (CNN Philippines): Good afternoon, sir. Earlier you talked about understanding how the President speaks and many consider him as the country’s top diplomat being the President. How would you describe his recent tirades against US President Barack Obama. Yesterday, he said and I quote, “Mr. Obama you can go to hell.” How would you describe… How do you understand where he’s coming from when he said that?

MR. WALLACE: I think you know, as I said earlier, firstly I am not sure that there is a hell. I don’t think it exists, actually.

But again, it’s his manner of speaking, right? It’s his expressionism. He doesn’t mean for Obama to go to hell, right? It’s just the way he talks, right?

He’s trying I think to establish that the Philippines is a truly independent country. It is no longer a colony of the US. It is no longer subservient in any way to the US. It wants its independence and in a fairly dramatic way that he’s trying to put that across, right? Now, it’s an unusual way. It certainly isn’t politically, internationally unacceptable way. It doesn’t go with the normal foreign policies the way you deal with people.

But it’s his way, right? I’m not sure that the foreign community will ever be able to understand it but I think people in the US government will, right? I think the people in the White House are smart enough to know that what he’s saying is not what he intends.

I don’t see him as trying to divorce himself from America. That would make no sense, right? He’s just trying to establish an equal partnership and that’s a different thing.

Ms. Andolong: Sir, how…Are you satisfied or…

MR. WALLACE: I’m never satisfied…

Ms. Andolong: Sorry, sir, are you satisfied with how the government is responding to allegations of extrajudicial killings and do you see this concern over this matter affecting trade deals we have, for instance, the EU, GSP where we are, the Philippines is a beneficiary of?

MR. WALLACE: I’m not sure how successful this will be. It certainly been…It certainly had an impact to date, right?

There’s no question all the numbers seem to say that drug proliferation has declined dramatically. Whether this can be continued, I’m not sure.

Experience elsewhere in the world says it will be difficult to do. Not impossible but difficult to do. So it may not be the right approach. My own thinking which is very radical even more than his, is to legalize drugs.

Countries that have done this have found that the number of deaths from overdose, et cetera, the number of crime has decreased dramatically.

But when you…When you don’t legalize it, you de-criminalize it. And so you can’t take them but it has to be under controlled conditions.

Marijuana, for example, is proven medically to be less harmful than cigarettes and yet cigarettes are legal so why isn’t marijuana? As a very first step I would legalize marijuana. Just it, that’s it.

What harms it going to do? But certainly I’d look into it and certainly I would research the alternatives to drugs too. Because worldwide, in 1998 I think, there was a worldwide attempt—a promise to reduce, to eliminate drugs in 10 years. It was a complete failure. Some 300-odd billion dollars were spent and it failed. This is a very difficult problem.

Ms. Andolong: Sir, the second part of my question. Do you see these allegations of extrajudicial killings affecting our the—treaties or deals like the EU GSP?

MR. WALLACE: I don’t see it… No I don’t. And I don’t see if affecting business particularly. There’s no question that there has been some concern raised by some of the foreign business community over this. But nobody — nobody is withdrawing, no companies are going out, alright.

Business is not affected directly, right. It’s more perceptual. For new foreign investors they’re going to need a more intensive, if you like—explanation—to realize that in fact this doesn’t have an effect on business.

Joseph Morong (GMA 7): Sir, can you elaborate more on your point to legalize drugs. Of course, you don’t mean to legalize shabu, right? You didn’t mean to — refer to shabu as that to be legalized?

MR. WALLACE: I think it depends on the drugs. I’m not an expert on drugs. So I haven’t really tried one. But, there are some drugs which are not terribly harmful. There are some which are terrible.

If you give people something that is legal and not too harmful, maybe you are able to stop the really harmful ones from being wanted. I think it’s a kind of research that needs to be done. I can’t give an easy answer to it. But I think it’s worth looking into. Because Poland, I do remember reading, Poland has done this, and has been successful. So let’s look at the example of Poland and see if we can replicate it.

And I would add to it, that what’s needed is education. If you start off with a kid — when a child is five years old, educating them on how harmful drugs are that they are not the thing to do, there’s a good chance that by the time they get to their teens they wouldn’t want to try.

We’ve seen this in cigarettes. The decline in cigarette smoking is quite noticeable throughout the world today because of the education. Because of the information that is being given out about the harm it can do.

So fewer and fewer young people smoke today than they did when I was a kid. And fewer than when my dad was a kid. The trend is definitely down. So something legal but not good, once it is explained, people tend not to want to take it.

Vanz Fernandez (Police Files): Yes, good morning, sir. My question is, what frustrates us is we know is traffic. Now, we lack of foresight…Traffic. Yes, traffic. Now, what can you suggest to lessen this traffic?

MR. WALLACE: Discipline. Discipline. Doing what is supposed to do. I’ll give you one simple example that drives me mad, is I come to an intersection, and the light is green, and I can’t go through because the traffic on the other side has blocked the road. So I can’t get through. Right?

Two minutes is wasted. There’s a blank road on the other side, there is a great stock of cars here, and there is five cars blocking the road. Stop it. That alone will stop the speed of traffic.

In Australia, if you have an accident, by law, you must remove the vehicles if you can. In the Philippines, you leave them for an hour before the traffic aides and whoever, turn up to take pictures and talk to the people. And the traffic bangs up and bangs up. Right? Impose that right now.

There is a whole list of things like that. Small things than can be done. Buses must stay in one lane. There must be no overtaking by a bus under any circumstances in any place. Mall, schools, any public, any — anything like that, you must go off the road to unload or load. Turn around the corner if they don’t have the access to do it. It’s been found that if you stop for just 20 seconds you create a road block that lasts for many minutes beyond. It just slows, you got to keep — you’ve got to keep the flow going.

As soon as you put a break in it, everything gets dislocated. So, no stopping under any circumstances on major roads. I went… I was coming down to the palace here a few — a couple of weeks ago — and it took forever. And so, we followed Waze and went around all the side streets. Some of the side streets were down to one lane because there were parked cars on both sides.

So cars coming from each end ‘coz it was two-way roads wouldn’t be able to pass each other. Now I know its tough, if you own a car and you got no way to put it. But what are we talking about here? Right? Millions of people needing to move or few people having cars.

If you can’t put your car off the road, don’t have a car. And I am sure this could be opportunities for some people to put up some parking stations, for people like that. But we have to think very dramatically about the good of the 12 million people, not the benefit of the few.

So you’ll gonna give alternative routes. Things like that. I can’t give you whole of this but that sort of thing is what needs to be done.

Ms. Fernandez: So, in short we need discipline.


Ms. Fernandez: Yes, sir. President Duterte has realized — rightly realized that crisis needs a crisis solution. Do you agree? So we need to implement such thing as emergency powers. And then, and we have also the procurement process of bureaucracy. Now, what else can you give us as solution to act to this kind of problem.

MR. WALLACE: Well, I think the one that you’ve mentioned, procurement. Back in the 1992 when Ramos became President. You were probably not born then. We were suffering 8 to 12 hours. [laughter]

Ms. Fernandez: I agree, sir.

MR. WALLACE: We were suffering 8 to 12 blackouts everyday. Because Cory Aquino hadn’t built power plants. And Ramos came in and said, I will give you back electricity by Christmas of the following year. But I need emergency powers to do it. Why? Because under the normal bureaucratic systems you have to go out to public bidding. And you have to then choose the lowest bidder. And that all takes several years to do.

Under emergency powers that Congress granted Ramos, he was able to go out and negotiate for power plants. And so he went out to the world and he went out to some of the biggest plant manufacturers — power plant manufacturers of the world. And he negotiated deals. Now this is not the cheapest way to do it.

People today complained because of the cost of electricity and blame Ramos. Now, you blame Cory ‘coz she didn’t give us power. So he had to take emergency steps because he realized very rightly, that no power is far more expensive than whatever you pay.

And within about 15 months, he had enough power plants built to give us back electricity. Well, I see that being easily replicated in the same way with the traffic problem. Right? We need…

For example, we need a second bridge across the Pasig, right? Up near Guadalupe, the same way. We need it tomorrow. If we go through the normal processes it would be 3 to 5 or 6 years before we have it.

If we have emergency powers, we can put in what’s called the Bailey bridge within about 6 months, right? That’s the kind of thing that can be achieved.

Presidential Spokesperson Abella: Thank you Peter. I am sure you got a few insights there. And again, maybe it’s also important to just say that the opinions he has said are his own and do not necessarily reflect the management. Okay. [laughter]

All right, but thank you Peter. We just like to address two or three things, and then we are done. We’ll confine it to two or three questions.

Just a comment regarding the Australian Foreign Minister saying that the Philippines should stop extrajudicial killings. We just like to say this… Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop on Monday urged. And just like the foreign leaders who have concerns regarding the processes in the Philippines would best serve your purpose by addressing it through the proper channels, proper diplomatic channels instead of voicing it over media.

The other thing is about shabu crisis up in Northern Mindanao as war on drug intensifies. Just like to make a side comment regarding the matter that apparently the crackdown is making headway and that the supply is being lowered. And which tells us that the efforts against illegal drugs is succeeding.

Regarding the EDCA needing a President’s signature. I just like to say that the President’s legal team is currently addressing the matter. Thank you.

Mr. Tinaza: Sir, good afternoon. Sir, so can you confirm the White House statement just today that there are actually official moves or official channels being done to actually implement that new foreign policy of the Duterte administration’s against US or there are no actual statements yet being sent to the State Department?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I just like to pick up on what Mr. Wallace had said earlier that many of — a number of his statements are not really — are basically expressions of frustration and the desire to express the independence of the Philippines. But at this stage, there are no official statements or moves regarding these matters.

Mr. Tinaza: So clearly, categorically, it’s just all words or statements. No official?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: You know, there are no official moves regarding that matter. Thank you.

Mr. Tinaza: Thank you.

Maricel Halili (TV-5): Sir, may we just have your reaction about the statement of Senator Trillanes asking for the explanation of the Office of President about the P2-billion increase on intelligence funds?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I’m not privy to that particular case– issue at this moment, but we can get back to you.

Catherine Valente (Manila Times): Sir, regarding the First 100 days of President Duterte. Sir, regarding the 100 days sa Friday na po, may we know po kung ano ‘yung mga activities na nakahanda?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: That’s going to be coming from the PCO itself. Let’s wait for them to be able to unfold.

Ms. Valente: For you, sir, as Presidential Spokesman, how do you evaluate po the first 100 days of the Duterte administration in terms po of drug, crime and corruption? So how do you evaluate po?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: It’s not me who’s evaluating that but from where we are, from what we can see, he’s made dramatic progress.

For example, when they say that the first phase has been successful, basically I see it in terms of creating awareness. Who knew how deep it was? But from the efforts that has been done by the President, people are now so made aware of the depth and the width of the extent of drugs and the way it has infiltrated, for example, all the way down to apparently up to 97 percent of barangays.

And so the awareness, you know, I think the first part of any campaign or as it says war is to be able to identify the enemy. And the enemy here is the spread—is the illegal drug apparatus.

Ms. Valente: Sir, regarding the EDCA, may report po kasi na lumalabas na napirmahan daw po ito ni President Aquino last June 2015. Tapos may we know po, kasi sinabi ni President hindi daw po ito napirmahan, isa daw po ‘yun sa mga basis bakit–

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Like I said earlier, the legal team is looking into the matter.

Ms. Valente: Okay po, thank you. Who, sir?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I said the legal team. Okay, thank you.

Tricia Macas (GMA News Online): Sir, good afternoon. Edgar Matobato had an interview with Ms. Winnie Monsod sa “Bawal ang Pasaway” and he revealed that then Mayor Duterte watched the alleged, supposed DDS killed well-known people. Can we get the Palace reaction on this?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I think that those matters should be properly referred to the investigations and should be referred there. Thank you.

Alexis Romero (Philippine Star): Secretary, what do you say to the decision of the Senate Justice Committee to terminate the hearings on the extrajudicial killings?


Mr. Romero: You would have any comment about it?


Mr. Morong: Hi, sir. Yesterday…I think yesterday or two days ago, si Senator Koko Pimentel said that there’s no such thing as the De Lima’s sex video. He saw the video, but there’s no member of the Senate there so—

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: No member of the Senate in the video?

Mr. Morong: I mean referring to Secretary de Lima, ay Senator De Lima. So there’s no De Lima sex video as far as Senator Pimentel is concerned. But the President in his previous statements seemed to suggest that you know — a different thing. So, was the President misled by others?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: At this stage, opinions regarding the matter should be left alone and I mean after all… A number of concerns have been raised regarding the matter so let’s leave it as it is.

Mr. Morong: No, but was the President misled into thinking that it was Senator De Lima inside the– in the video?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I’m not aware. I cannot have any opinion on the matter whether he was misled or not.

Mr. Morong: Why? Sabi niya nakita niya ‘yun video? Right?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Okay, let’s leave it at that. Thank you.

Ms. Fernandez: Sir, good afternoon.


Ms. Fernandez: Sir, you’re laughing eh. Sir, did the President sign the law for the postponement of barangay election already?


Ms. Fernandez: Barangay election postponement.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: He simply said that he is discouraging the whole matter.

Ms. Fernandez: Short answer, sir?


Ms. Rocky Tobias (PTV 4): Sir, pero ise-send ito sa Congress, isa-submit ba ng Palace para magkaroon ng postponement of elections?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Waiting for his signature. There you go. Thank you. Thank you for filling in the gap.

Mr. Morong: Sir, yesterday ‘yun kay Mr. Obama na comment and some senators, I think Senator Lacson said na mukhang — and the President also said naman na hindi siya, parang hindi niya kayang makinig doon sa advise because … because mawawala ‘yung momentum, we get that. But some senators are saying that, you know, comment like the one he said about Mr. Obama is “unnecessary”. What do you think of it?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Okay. These are the opinions of the Senators. Thank you very much.

Ms. Andolong: Sir, quickly, just going back to Joseph’s question earlier. So the President is still standing by his statements that the video of Senator De Lima exists? Is that right?


Ms. Andolong: Okay. On another matter, sir. You mentioned earlier that there have been no moves regarding the President’s pronouncements on foreign policy, but is this maybe forthcoming because yesterday he said in his speech in Makati that, and I quote: “Eventually I might, in my time, I will break up with America.” What does he mean by that?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: That in the future he might make moves. So in the present there are no moves yet. But that in the future, he might.

Ms. Andolong: There’s no certainty because its “might breakup with our ties”. When you say “breakup our ties.” What do you mean by that? What did he mean by it?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Simply that, simply that he…Again, I would like to…The way… The way he expresses himself it is that he still wants an independent foreign policy, you know.

So in other words, the breaking up may not necessarily be a breaking up of alliances in that way. It may, but you know he is not saying that, basically just…As far as…Going back to the statement that he has made, it is basically expressing an independent foreign policy. That it is not exclusive, that it is inclusive, that we are not to be held down by any just one treaty, for example.

Ms. Andolong: Lastly from me. Can we just get a response, is the President open to legalizing marijuana as suggested by Mr. Wallace?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: As far as I know, not. As far as I know there had been no official statements. I may be wrong regarding the matter but that is, of course, a very radical opinion by Mr. Wallace. It’s a democratic society, he’s a Filipino, he’s free to express.

Ms. Fernandez: Senator Trillanes said he thinks the election won’t happen because a…


Ms. Fernandez: Please let me…Sir, can I repeat my question?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Kaya nga tinatanong ko which election?

Ms. Fernandez: The next election. It’s like this sir, ‘no. Senator Trillanes said he thinks the elections won’t happen because a transitory provision can be inserted in the event that Charter Change happens and President Duterte can stay on until 2008 or beyond. Do you think there is a basis for….


Ms. Fernandez: For this kind of — Senator Trillanes saying this kind of words.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I’ll have to check on the…I have to check on the legal matter regarding that, okay.

Ms. Fernandez: Okay, sir. How about the Cabinet meeting? Do you have any–

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: What about the Cabinet meeting?

Ms. Fernandez: Can you please share us ‘yung Cabinet meeting ‘yung the other day?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: We went through several reviews of matters. For example, one interesting thing I can share with you is that Senator, ah not Senator, Secretary Ubial’s visit to Cuba regarding healthcare. It was very, very impressive.

I mean, her report was that Cuba has an excellent-– is excellent healthcare that re-supports, supports the citizens.

Among other things, that was one. And that was very, very interesting. It took up a lot of time—some time. Thank you.

Mr. Romero: Just a follow-up on the US. He said that he might break ties with the US yesterday, if I’m not mistaken. So how do you reconcile that with his previous statement that we will not cut any ties or the umbilical cord with any of our allies?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: This is not policy but this is my opinion regarding the way he makes statements, okay. Like for example, I think very recently he said he wants—I think it was yesterday or this morning, he said, he wants Americans out of Mindanao.

So he calibrates his statements, so he carefully calibrates his statements. So along that line, we—if we follow his style, then let us carefully, let us not simply just put a period at the end of his statement and say that—let’s wait for his clarifications regarding the matter.

Mr. Romero: Do you think he should be more specific next time, so as to avoid misinterpretations or…

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: We can want, or we can wish. But this is his particular leadership style. So, it’s best I think to just allow him to complete his policies in time.

Mr. Wallace would like to make a comment regarding the matter.

Mr. Wallace: Yes, as I interpret what the President is doing, is that, and I think I more or less mentioned this, is that for the last 60 years since we broke away from America as a colony, there has always been this kind subservient thinking and he wants to break that.

He wants to establish that the Philippines is a truly independent country, independent of anyone, and on equal standing to any other country. Even though we are a small country, equal standing to others as all countries do want.

His way of doing it is rather radical okay, but that’s his style. He’s not…I don’t think he has any intention to breaking away from America.

I think he will recognize that the relationship with America is very important but it must now be on an equal independent basis not in the previous manner that it has been and that’s what he is trying to achieve.

Mr. Tinaza: Quick lang sa akin, sir. Sir, but the…What is clear now is we are now leaning more towards Russia and China as…

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I don’t think we are leaning. It’s not a question of leaning more towards Russia and China. It just that he has expanded his options.

Mr. Tinaza: Pero ang sabi niya, he–

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Yes, he made that… I understand, he made those statements. But it’s not a question of we—ano. It’s a question of broad — broadening, broadening his options.

It could be anybody else, actually. It could be actually with anybody else, but he simply is broadening his options.

Mr. Tinaza: Sir, sabi niya “break up”, so break up is break up, then you– pupunta na tayo doon sa Russia and China na meron daw respeto sa tao. Unlike US, who doesn’t respect.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Okay, precisely that—but it’s not, it could be anybody else, it could be anybody else. Except that at this stage, it’s Russia and China that he’s referring to, right? But basically if you notice, it says he’s being—that Russia and China giving us ano ‘yon? Respeto. Respect.

So you can tell that the tenor is not so much what economic benefits he can get from the country but that he is getting respect. And that’s exactly what the President apparently is wanting.

That he wants the Philippines to be on equal footing with others whether they’re big or not but he wants to be– he wants to respect them, and must to be accepted and he wants it on just an equal footing.

Mr. Tinaza: Thank you, sir.


Mr. Morong: Hi, sir. I think si Vice President Robredo had a press conference this morning, and then she said, well advice niya kay Presidente is to be a little more circumspect in his speech especially with– regarding mga international aid. We’re not an island, we’re not, you know, we exist in a global community.


Mr. Morong: What can you say about it?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I think in connection with what I just said, you know, I think we should… I can understand, but if notice the tone and this is no reference to the Vice President. But according to way the suggestion was framed that we should be careful because of the aid, that the aid might be cut.

But that, you know, from the President’s perspective, it’s not so much the aide that we’re after. It is that we want to be received with dignity and not subservient.

Mr. Morong: Sir, just to rephrase that a little bit. Is the President or is the Palace worried about the implications on, you know, our relationships with other countries when you hear our President speaks like that?


Mr. Morong: Yes sir, I mean, repercussions.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Repercussions, okay. Again let me go back then. If you notice he said ano—“dapat handa tayo.” You know, he says we should be ready. In other words from him, the great — the great issue is the dignity that we have as a Filipino nation.

Not so much na baka mahirapan tayo, ganoon. But…Hindi sinasabing walang kwenta ‘yun, ang sinasabi na dapat, tingnan natin. Actually, if you really notice, I mean, this is my opinion. He seems to be a one-man social revolution, ‘di ba. Parang ibinibigay niya sa atin ‘yung, parang — parang tinuturuan niya tayong igalang ‘yung ating pagka-bansa. Thank you.

Deo De Guzman (DZXL): Sir, you’re saying na ‘yung pag-lean ng Presidente sa China and Russia is just broadening his options, in terms of business?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Options, in relationship. Hindi ba kasi kumbaga ang pagkakatingin natin– ang perception niya is that, masyado tayong subservient, hindi ba sa Pili—sa US.

Kumbaga sinasabi niya na para bang ano, na we’ve matured, nagma-mature tayo. Kaya na…Itayo natin sarili natin…Tahakin natin ‘yung lakad natin, ‘yung sarili natin.

And one of the ways that we can — there’s China, there’s Russia na mukhang pwedeng tumulong sa atin na ilakad natin ang ating pagkasambayanan—pagka-Pilipino.

Mr. De Guzman: Yes, sir. I just don’t understand because if you’re broadening your options then why close another one?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: He is not closing. He’s broadening nga.

Mr. De Guzman: No, why close because he said that he wants to cut ties with the US?


Mr. De Guzman: That is not broadening.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Okay, siguro ang mahalaga diyan, is dapat intindihin natin ‘yung word na “cut ng ties.” Sabi niya it’s a possibility that he could, that he might. Hindi ba ‘yun pagkakasabi kanina, “might,” that he might, okay? So but let’s try to use our creative imagination, okay. Huwag tayo masyadong tayong literal.

Mr. De Guzman: It was his statement, sir?


Mr. De Guzman: Yes, sir.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Correct. I understand. But in other words we turn to—you’ve seen the way he speaks, right?

Mr. De Guzman: Yes, sir.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: You’ve seen the way speaks so in other words tingnan — intindihin natin ang konteksto ng pagkakasalita niya, okay.

So at this stage, kung gusto mong tanungin—kung tinatanong mo sa akin ‘yung opinyon ko? Ang opinyon ko ay, sinasabi niya na ito ‘yung US pero ngayon hindi lang tayo nakadikit sa US. Tinitingnan din natin baka pwede tayo makipag-usap sa Russia at saka sa China.

At sa palagay ko, kung sino pa man ang makakatulong sa atin. In fact, he’s creating relationships with the ASEAN hindi ba. Gumaganda ngayon ang relasyon natin sa kanila. So, kung tinatanong mo ‘yung opinyon ko, ‘yun po ang aking opinyon. Salamat po.

Ms. Fernandez: Okay sir, erratum, sir. Clarify ko lang ‘yung kaninang tinatanong niyo kung kelan ‘yung eleksyon, that is this coming 2022. Now my another question is, do you have an update on Joma Sison’s urging to release some political prisoners?


Ms. Fernandez: Sir, can you give us an update? Sinabi po ni Joma Sison to release political prisoners in compliance of comprehensive agreement of human rights and international humanitarian law?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Ang pagkakaalam ko po, ‘yung hinihiling niya ‘yung release ng lahat.

Ms. Fernandez: Yes, sir. All.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Sa pagkakaalam ko po at pagkasabi yata ni Presidente, hindi lahat. Merong mga ma-rerelease after the peace talks siguro.

Magandang tanghali po sa lahat at–

Ms. Andolong: I’m asking you this as a spokesperson of the President who should be able to clarify his pronouncements. We keep on focusing on understanding where the President is coming from. So did he mean what he said yesterday that the Philippines, that he may break ties with the US? Is that a yes or no? Are we?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: He said that, he said that, okay.

Ms. Andolong: Did he mean it? Or is it something that–?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Well, let’s put it—He said that. He said that he might, okay. Let’s base in on that. He might. It’s not a definite yes, it’s not a definite no. He said he might. Okay?

Q: Thank you.


Mr. Morong: Ganito na lang. How much of the President’s speech is policy?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: That’s impossible to quantify.

But, ganito na lang. It becomes policy when there is official action. Okay? So ganon. Malinaw. Tama?