Press Briefing by Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella with Secretary Carlos Dominguez III Department of Finance
Kalayaan Hall, Malacañan Palace
06 July 2017


PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Good morning. Today, we continue sharing snapshots of the Duterte administration’s one year accomplishments leading to the SONA.

We are fortunate today to have Department of Finance Secretary Carlos “Sonny” Dominguez. Secretary Dominguez will highlight the Finance Department’s first year accomplishments and its efforts in pushing for the passage of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Act.

All these undertakings aim to bring about a comfortable life for all Filipinos.

Ladies and gentlemen of the Malacañang Press Corps, let’s all give a warm welcome to Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez. 

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: Good morning. Thank you very much for having me here. I am happy to report to you today that the nation is fiscally secured.

Recently, Moody’s investment rating agency has just reaffirmed our investment grade rating.

As expected, the inflation rate has receded; the outstanding debt burden compared to GDP has improved.

We are ready to fund the Build, Build, Build infrastructure program that will ensure robust growth for the economy and more inclusive growth pattern and dramatic reduction in poverty incidence by 2022.

We are on track to meet all targets. We are on our way towards achieving the growth breakout our strategy aspires for.

From July 2016, when we took over, to May 2017, government collected about P2.09 trillion in revenues. That is seven percent higher than the same period the previous year.

For this, credit should go to the administrative reforms in our main revenue agencies that substantially improved our revenue effort.

At the BIR, we have expanded the Large Taxpayers Service for closer monitoring of large businesses. At the Bureau of Customs, we have strengthened anti-smuggling capabilities, reflecting in dramatically improved collections.

The broader economic strategy is bearing fruit. GDP grew by 6.68 percent during the first three quarters, faster than all other administrations.

We expect to grow close to the targeted seven percent throughout the year.

Growth in investments is spurred by low and stable interest rates. During the first nine months of the Duterte administration, T-bill rates averaged two percent, the lowest of all previous administrations despite the start of rate normalization in the US.

Reflecting this, the average inflation rates for the first 11 months of the administration stood at 2.64 percent, again this is the lowest registered of all previous administrations.

The national government debt to GDP declined from 43 percent as of the end of June 2016 to 41.9 percent by the end of March 2017.

The reduced debt load allows us enough flexibility to pump prime our economy.

With the passage of the Comprehensive Tax Reform Program, we can guarantee a breakout growth of above seven percent and sustain this into the medium term.

In turn, this faster pace of growth will enable us to bring down the poverty rate from 21.6 percent today to 14 percent in 2022.

We are bringing all the powers, the modern information technology to make electronic governance real and ensure a sustainable fiscal position.

We are continuously fighting red tape and improve our economy’s competitiveness.

We are also very happy that the House of Representatives passed the Tax Reform Package last May 31, with a majority of 246 congressmen who voted for it. This represents 90 percent of the Filipino population.

The overwhelming support from the House shows how seriously they consider tax reform because of its benefits — because it benefits the far majority of Filipinos and everyone who wants to see the economy grow and benefit them in the coming years.

This is an important milestone signaling a strong possibility that this package may be enacted into law shortly after Congress resumes in July.

The highlight of the version passed by the House is the reduction of personal income tax rates. By our computation, 83 percent of Filipinos will be spared payment of personal income tax that will greatly enhance their disposable income. It will help drive the growth of the domestic market.

This, together with complementary measures, is expected to create significant fiscal space amounting to about P134 billion in 2018.

These incremental revenues will be used only for enhancing infrastructure, housing, education, health, and social protection.

Moving forward, the administration and its partners in civil society and the private sector, will work hard to ensure that the Senate will pass a package consistent with the administration’s proposal, especially since the President has certified this already as urgent and a priority measure.

We take heart in the fact the passage of the tax reform measure was welcomed by nearly all stakeholders, businesses, international development partners, credit rating agencies, and most of all, wage earners.

The package accomplishes the dual goals of increasing disposable income for our workers and increasing spending for the poor. It is a win-win package for our people.

Even at this early stage in our reform effort, you can distinctly hear the tiger roar. We are on the path towards modern — a modern, investment-led and trade-driven economy. Thank you.


Pia Gutierrez (ABS-CBN): Good morning, sir. Sir, could you tell us more about the steps that the Duterte administration have implemented in combating corruption activities, specifically in the Bureau of Customs and the BIR, sir?

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: Yes. In the… First of all, you have to note that the collections have gone up. That means to say that a lot of effort has gone into collection and that the collections are not going into private pockets.

So we have several indicators that the BIR and BOC have moved ahead in reducing corruption.

The BIR has already [let me just take a look at my notes] has already removed quite a number of individuals who were caught — accused and caught in doing illicit activities.

In anti-smuggling, the BOC has collected from August 2016 to June 2017, they confiscated goods valued at P8.4 billion, which is seven and a half times more than the 1.2 billion seized in smuggled goods registered in 2015.

With the command center, they have been able to auction out two shipments of abandoned goods and collected additional taxes and duties and surcharges totaling almost 90 million pesos.

Under Commissioner Faeldon, the Bureau of Customs abolished, created, and transferred offices to promote transparency and curb corruption.

I’m not saying all the corruption is finished in the Bureau, but they have definitely moved very far ahead in improving their collections.

Ms. Gutierrez: Sir, you mentioned that the BIR has removed a number of its corrupt employees.


Ms. Gutierrez: How many ‘yan, sir? And does it include top officials din or matataas na mga opisyal from the BIR, sir?

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: Well, I personally dismissed two regional directors who were caught — who were involved in harassing individual taxpayers.

So they are — they have been moved out of their — of their offices and are now awaiting to be charged.

The BIR strengthened its Run After Tax Evaders program and have filed 40 cases involving tax liabilities of 40 billion pesos.

The BIR has also cleaned up its ranks by relieving or transferring personnel with unsavory records or collection performance.

They have strengthened their internal affairs services, upgraded salaries, and a number of people have been dropped from their roles.

Ms. Gutierrez: Figure, sir, meron, sir? Kung ilan ang natanggal, sir? May figures tayo, sir, more or less?

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: I don’t have the exact figures but we will provide them to you.

Dharel Placido (ABS-CBN Online): Hi, sir. Good morning. Just two questions on my part. Sir, I understand you had a meeting with Japanese officials on infrastructure spending. May we know, sir, which projects Japan has offered and is this loan or upfront aid po, sir?

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: Actually, the meeting will be starting tonight and tomorrow, yes. And basically, we meet with our Japanese counterparts who are funding the Build, Build, Build program, part of the Build, Build, Build program and we have met with them already in Tokyo.

Now, the meeting will be here in Manila. So, we will just review the projects that they have offered to fund.

And those projects, I don’t have all the complete list. I will have them tomorrow. But the major projects that they are funding are the Manila to Clark Commuter Railway System that will also extend down to Los Baños or Calamba. So that will be a total of 127 kilometers.

They are also… They also expressed interest in funding the subway project, which will run from the NAIA through FTI and all the way up to the North Triangle.

So those are the two large projects that they are funding and its status will be deliberated upon these next few days.

They have also just announced that the harvest program which we signed with them a few months ago is now ongoing.

And this is a program together with the Land Bank of the Philippines where they help farmers particularly in Southern Philippines in the ARMM area to improve the farming techniques. This I believe is US$40 million.

Mr. Placido: Sir, ‘yung ano na ‘to, is this gonna be upfront aid or may loan din po ito?

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: Basically, it’s… You know, these are very — these are almost… [How would you say?] They are almost aid because the actual terms are very, very liberal.

The interest rates are extremely low so you can almost say they are, you know, semi-grants.

Mr. Placido: Sir, last question on my part. Sir, on the tax reform package, some senators have expressed concern over the impact to inflation of fuel and soft drink taxes. How much of a reduction in projected revenues can we afford in package 1? And how will this affect, sir, the package 2?

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: The fears of inflation I think are overemphasized, okay. I’ll give you an example ha: The price of fuel between January of 2015 to January of 2016 went up by 75 percent. The inflation went up by two percent.

So the inflationary effects are relatively mild and besides our inflation is really quite benign. It’s been in the low… Actually, inflation last year was 1.9 percent. The latest inflation figure I believe is somewhere around 3.2 or 3.3 percent.
So they’re relatively benign. And besides we have anticipated that. Our program includes assistance to the lowest 10 million families by providing cash transfers directly to them for a year to help them, if there is any serious inflationary effects of the tax program which we doubt very much.

Andreo Calonzo (Bloomberg): Sir, ulitin ko lang po ‘yung question na hindi nasagot. Sir, kasi the original package that you have is 162 billion in revenues and then the House package is 133.


Mr. Calonzo: So how much loss can we afford sa revenue? Or how low can we go? Meron po ba kayong floor ‘nung acceptable revenue from the tax plan?

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: Of course, we want the 162 billion as much as possible and we will still fight for it. But you know we respect the legislature in their wisdom and we think that the package of 130 is about okay.

Mr. Calonzo: Lower than that, sir, is it still okay? Lower than 130, is it still okay?


Mr. Calonzo: No more? Sir, there’s this proposal also…

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: You know, I’ll tell you, I just want to clarify this tax reform, okay? In the past, okay, all tax reforms were passed when we had problems, okay.

When we had the big deficits, they passed a tax reform. When we had big debts, they passed a tax reform.

This is the first time we are passing a tax reform for the future. We need the infrastructure and we need to build the infrastructure and hopefully we are able to build the infrastructure before the infrastructure is needed, so that we don’t get congestion.

Congestion cost a lot of money. It wastes a lot of time. It makes the quality of life of people deteriorate, okay.

So we want to invest in the infrastructure program. Now, to do that, we cannot just invest by borrowing, we have to raise our own money. And this is the reason why we are doing this tax reform.

I was watching TV this morning and somebody was criticizing and saying the poor will not benefit. Of course, the poor will benefit.

First of all, there is a cash transfer program element in the tax reform program. Number two, with better roads, with better bridges, with better Wi-Fi infrastructure, more investments will come in and more jobs will open up for the poor people, right?

So they will benefit. It’s not saying that, “Oh, they don’t pay tax therefore they will not benefit.” Of course, they will benefit.

This program is not to pay past debts. This program is not to address a crisis. This program is an investment for the future.

Besides, this program is also here to make things fairer, fairer to the Filipino people. That’s why the big part of the program which nobody talks about is the fact that if you are earning less than — if you are earning 20,000 pesos a month or less, you will pay no tax.

Your first 250,000 pesos will not be taxed. Even if you’re earning half a million pesos a year or 700,000 or a million, your first 250,000 will not be taxed.

That will help you in improving your life in… Okay, maybe the price of fuel will go up a bit, right? Maybe the price of cars will go up a bit, but you will have the tax break from the first 250,000, which will certainly be more than the amount you will have to pay for any price increases.

And it is an investment in the future. We need better schools, we need better infrastructure, we need better health care. I think everybody agrees to that, right?

And we have to pay for it. We cannot just borrow for these things. It is important that we pay for it. We are not 100 percent paying for it. We are still going to increase our borrowings. But still we need that capital to move forward.

Ian Cigaral (BusinessWorld): Good morning po, Secretary. Sir, yesterday po Moody’s and FMIC tempered slightly their growth projection in the Philippines this year, citing persistently slow government disbursement. Sir, doon po sa slow government disbursement, napagusapan na po ba ‘to ng economic managers?


Mr. Cigaral: And ano po ‘yung… What seems to be the problem po? And ano po ‘yung solution na tinitingnan po natin?

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: You know, the government is like a train, okay? Before the train gets up to speed, you have to go a little bit of a way first, okay.

And, this administration has tried to keep up the momentum of the past administration. You know, in the past administration, they stopped all the projects for the first two years, you remember? In 2010 to 2011.

Here, we did not. We approved everything. So we are continuing moving ahead. However, for the new projects, for the new large projects, okay, you have to make the new feasibility studies. You have to negotiate with the funders.

So it’s getting a little bit, you know, the momentum hasn’t developed but definitely the projects are already in place.

So we did not inherit a large backlog of projects. We have to build up our own projects. So the momentum is there. We had not stopped the other projects.

And we are in the process of building up the new ones.

You will see the start of the first two projects already soon. And those will be the bridges across the Pasig.

They you will see within the next two or three months, the start of the projects in — of improving the Clark Air Base — the Clark Airport. So that’s starting up. Then we’re moving up with the Commuter Railway.

So these projects take time to get ahead, they are very large. You need project studies and all of that by they are going to be done.

The Kaliwa Dam is already in the final stages of negotiating the financing, as well as the irrigation project in Cagayan Valley. That’s already coming up.

Mr. Cigaral: Pero, sir, sa tingin niyo po, kailan po kaya magpi-pick up ‘yung government spending?

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: Oh, it will pick up in the second half.

Mr. Cigaral: Second half, sir? 


Mr. Cigaral: Sir, next question po sana, doon po sa meeting po tomorrow po with Japanese, ‘yung joint meeting po. Doon po ba sa list ng mga infrastructures na idi-discuss, may mga bago po ba doon na ipi-pitch?

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: No, we want to finish the ones that are in the pipeline already first so that we don’t get distracted.

Mr. Cigaral: Thank you, sir.

Mr. Placido: Hi, sir. Another question lang po ulit on the tax reform. Sir, may concerns din po kasi doon sa taxes — taxes on salty foods na baka mag-impact daw po ito sa mga mahihirap, sila daw po ‘yung magke-carry ng burden. So sir, how do we allay po ‘yung fears?

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: Tax on what?

Mr. Placido: Salty foods, sir. Mga canned goods…

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: Is there a tax on salty foods? I don’t think so. It’s not in the package.

Mr. Placido: Ah, canned goods, sugar, sir, mga ganyan. Mga foods po na kino-consume ng mga mahihirap po usually. May fears po kasi ‘yung senators na baka sa kanila ‘yung mapunta ‘yung burden, sir.

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: Again, you’re talking… Walang tax sa salty foods ha?

Mr. Placido: Okay, sir.

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: I haven’t seen any package on salty foods tax. Sorry.

Mr. Placido: Kasi, sir, nag-express po ng concerns si Senator Escudero na…


Mr. Placido: On an ANC interview, sir, kahapon?


Mr. Placido: Sabi po niya, salty foods and sugary — sugar-sweetened drinks daw po will…

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: Ah, on the sugar-sweetened. Okay. That’s sugar-sweetened tax, is a health measure.

You know, too much sugar is bad for you, ‘di ba? You know, when you drink a bottle of soft drinks, you know how many teaspoonful of sugar is in there? Have you checked? And that’s bad for you.

So, if the consumption — excessive consumption of sugar goes down, your health will be better. So, it’s really a health measure. You’re trying to discourage the consumption of unhealthy products, just like cigarettes, alcohol.

That’s — that’s really the… The reason behind that, it’s not to make people starve, it’s to tell and make it a cheaper for them — make it more expensive to consume foods that are not good for your health so that you will change your — change your diet to healthy foods.

Mr. Placido: Thank you, sir. 

Elijah Rosales (Business Mirror): Good morning, Secretary.

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: Yes, good morning. 

Mr. Rosales: Good morning. As a former Agriculture Secretary, sir, tatanong ko lang, what tariff rate do you suggest the Philippines should impose on rice imports now that the QR of the Philippines has expired in the WPO?

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: I think what’s being discussed is something like 35 percent or 50 percent, around that range.

Mr. Rosales: Sir, personal po ba itong opinion ninyo o…

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: I beg your pardon?

Mr. Rosales: Is this your personal suggestion or is it the suggestion of the…

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: No, it’s what’s being discussed in the government. And really, we have to protect the local farmers from dumping of foods.

On the other hand, we also have to protect the consumers and hope that the prices will moderate. Do you know that the prices here are much higher in ri — the local prices of rice are much higher than they are in other ASEAN countries.

Mr. Rosales: When is the next CTRM meeting, by the way, sir?


Mr. Rosales: When is the next meeting of the CTRM?

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: I’m not sure. I’m not really sure. But it should be in the next couple of weeks.

Mr. Rosales: Last question, sir. You were very vocal on the policies of Gina Lopez during her stint as Environment chief. What are your thoughts so far on Roy Cimatu as head of the DENR?

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: I was very vocal not on the policy, okay? I was very vocal on the fact that it seemed that due process was not followed. Okay.

That — you know, in the law, in the law — the mining law — if there is a violation, okay, the mine has to be informed of the violation. And then the mine is given a chance to remediate the problem. Okay?

And if the problem is remediated, they are allowed to go on. If the problem is not remediated, then they are closed. That is the due process.

If you close a mine without giving the due process, these guys will go to court and claim that, you know, you did something illegal. And therefore, they will ask that the — that the mine be reopened, which the court will most likely agree to. And they may even sue the government for damages.

That was what I was concerned about. I’m not concerned about the policy. I’m concerned about the process, that due process must be followed in all cases.

Mr. Rosales: Okay, sir. On your opinion, sir, is Mr. Cimatu following the due process so far on reviewing mines, sir? I believe the DENR is scheduled to release in July its decision on the mine closure order, sir.

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: I believe that they are going through a due process… They are going through a due process exercise to decide whether or not which mines have to be penalized, have to be given a chance to fix, or which need to be closed. That is the way it’s supposed to be done.

Mr. Rosales: Last question, sir. With that said, sir, the mine closure or — the decision on the mine closure orders is scheduled to be released in July, according to a DENR Undersecretary, sir. The decision, of course, sabi po nung DENR Undersecretary, would include the MICC review as parallel. As co-chair of the MICC, are — meron po bang mali-lift na mga mine closure orders? 

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: I don’t know. That is up to the — you know, the MICC reviews the — is mandated to review the mine operations. We are not mandated to open or close the mines. That is solely the responsibility of the DENR.

The findings will be shared with them and the DENR, of course, will be given the — the right to decide on what to do. It’s not the MICC.

Mr. Rosales: Thank you, Secretary.

Ace Romero (Philippine Star): Secretary, can you just explain how the “Build, Build, Build” program can be funded considering that the government will not rely too much anymore on the PPP?

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: Okay. There are several ways to fund projects, okay? PPP is one way to fund it. People have been saying that, you know, they are questioning the decision on not starting the project with the PPP.

Our experience with the PPP when we reviewed it is that it takes three years from the time you have the idea of a PPP to the time you start the project. It’s three years.

That’s why the last administration was only able to do four projects, right? Because the — the PPP process is very long. So, we have decided that we are going to start the project, okay, using our own funds, okay?

So, we hope… We know that we don’t have to go through the long negotiations for the PPP, okay. Now, we have a large capacity to borrow. And our interest rates that we pay is lower than the interest rate that the private sector pays.

So, therefore, our project cost will already have an advantage because the financing cost will be lower, number one. It will be faster to get done. Number three, that does not stop us from turning it over into PPP. Once the project started, or once, or — even in the middle of the project, we can turn it over and make it PPP. We can sell the project, and we can use the funds to repay our loan, okay?

So that is one way we are planning to do it. We’ll start the project, and most likely, we will use private — private partnerships, Public Private Partnerships for the O&M portion, because the government is not good at O&M. We realized that.

We don’t want to hang on to those projects. We want to turn it over to the private sector after we start the project. But we want to get the projects ongoing. Because we need — the public needs it. The public needs the — better airport.

We cannot wait to negotiate for three years, then after three years, “Okay, this is only when we start.” We can’t do that. We have to start now.

So, of course, there are pluses and minuses to it. But if you look at the current situation, particularly in logistics, you will see that is the — what is needed is needed now. Not three years from now.

And that is a decision we have made and I think that is the decision that will benefit the public.  

Mr. Romero: Secretary, considering nabanggit niyo ‘yung — ‘yung revenues very crucial ‘yun for the — for infrastructure, ‘di ba? Pero ‘yung senators natin mukhang maraming reservations about the tax reform package that you’re offering, but since nasabi niyo you will fight for the original proposal. How do you intend to convince these senators to adopt your original proposal?

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: By showing them the facts and figures. Because the senators are very reasonable men, okay? They have the good of the country at heart.

We have to explain to them and show them in detail what the program really means. And I believe that they will be enlightened and as good Filipinos, they will vote for this tax reform.

Of course, in everything you do to change, there’s always fear. There’s always fear of change, what might happen, what might not happen.

But, you know, if you stay where you are now without — without improving your revenues, you might not be able to get the infrastructure program done right.

Mr. Romero: So you’re still upbeat that they will…

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: Of course, because all the senators are reasonable and intelligent people. When they see the real facts and figures, they will, I think, be firmly convinced that it’s — it’s moving forward.

You know, I’m telling you, this program has gotten support from everybody. The businessmen, the — the economists, the foreign — the foreign funding agencies, the rating agencies, even — even the school teachers have supported it.

Mr. Cigaral: Hi, sir. Follow up lang po doon sa sinabi niyo po na you expect government spending to pick up on the second quarter of 2017. Sir, ano po ‘yung mga drivers doon sa pag-pick up po?

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: Well, to start with, the projects in Clark will start picking up. The Clark Airport Project will start picking up.

The railway projects will start moving. And there will be a lot more construction in place.

Mr. Cigaral: Thank you po, Secretary.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Thank you for clear and precise explanations.

I’d like to begin with the Joint Task Force Marawi updates, as of 6 p.m. on the 5th of July 2017.

Most of the facts and figures are — remain the same except for terrorists killed. We have today, by today, by this morning 351 or plus eight from 343. And recovered high-powered firearms from terrorists 425 or plus five from 420. All other figures remain the same.

We’d like to address the claims of Agakhan Sharief. Up to this point, we have no verified reports that there were efforts to initiate such actions as Agakhan Sharief claims.

Let me be clear that the position of the Palace and the President is not to negotiate with terrorists, including these local terrorist groups, which had intended to establish a state within the Philippine state and to remove allegiance to the government of the Philippines and the Chief Executive of the City of Marawi and its residents.

Because this constitutes rebellion, because they submit to a foreign leader, and hold to a dangerous ideology that is inimical to the well- being of all Filipinos, including Muslim Filipinos. And because most Muslim Filipinos disagree with the extreme interpretation and application of the Muslim belief system.

Having said that, the President is serious about regressing the social injustice committed against Muslim Mindanao. He is committed to having the Bangsamoro Basic Law passed. The President intends this to be a template for his vision of a federal form of government in the Philippines.

We also thank the MILF for the issuance of fatwa against extremism and radicalism happening now in Marawi.

Again we sum up, the President is committed to what is just, fair, and equitable; and he stands against what is criminal, corrupt, and dangerous to the people, and to the direct — and to the next generation.

Regarding the resurgence of drugs and involvement of the SAF in the drug trade at the national penitentiary:

Philippine National Police Chief Ronald Dela Rosa has already talked to the President on the deployment of Marines to replace the SAF personnel in the Bilibid, which was put on hold and it was overtaken by events because of the Marawi rebellion.

Again, we just like to say that the… The discovery and neutralization of drug syndicates operating in the national penitentiary is one of the highlight accomplishments of the government’s war against illegal drugs.

And the reported resumption of the drug trade and the involvement of SAF in the Bilibid Prison underscored the enormity of the drug problem and the need to destroy the entire drug apparatus to fully succeed in our campaign.

As the President has stated, we will be relentless. Investigation is now underway to probe drug-related activities and collusions, if any, of authorities.

We are open to a few questions.

Maricel Halili (TV-5): Sir, just a follow up on Reuters report. Sir, what do you think is the motive of Imam Bin Laden for stating that the President was preparing a deal with the Maute and later on aborted it. What do you think, sir—?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: We don’t have any opinions on his intentions or what he intended to do. What we do stand on is that, as far as verifiable reports, there are none that we can state.

Ms. Halili: Okay. I understand, sir, that you’re not open for any negotiation, but at least on backchannel talks to make sure that the civilians will be safe, will you consider that, sir?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: This is up to the assessments of the Armed Forces.

Ms. Halili: Thank you, sir.

Joseph Morong (GMA): Hi, sir, how are you? Good morning.


Mr. Morong: Just on the SAF. You said that General dela Rosa has already talked to the President. Pinayagan ba na i-transfer sila at tanggalin sa Bilibid?


Mr. Morong: Paglilipat po. Aalisin na sila sa Bilibid, sir?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Well, that depends on his ano — that is his call. 

Mr. Morong: Wala pa, so far, decision, sir?


Mr. Morong: Whose call? Dela Rosa?


Mr. Morong: Okay. Sir, just on the Supreme Court ruling. I just… Two points that I wanna highlight. The ponencia said that probable cause is enough standard for the President to decide whether he needs martial law, number one. Number two, it is impossible to limit the scope of martial law declaration to just one place. These two things, sir, when we come to July 22, when the martial law expires and the President needs to think whether he will extend or not, how will these two points by the ponencia factor in the decision of the President?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: As far as the extension of martial law, the President has said in numerous occasions, it would first and foremost depend on the assessment and recommendation of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the PNP and other stakeholders.

So, in other words, it will have to be a — a whole government approach, a whole system approach and that would demand… His assessment will not be based on one or two facts, it will be based on the recommendation of these stakeholders.

Mr. Morong: So we’re not really closing our doors yet to another re-declaration or a new declaration or an extension?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: As far as we know, we cannot make any opinions prior to the time.

Ms. Gutierrez: Hi, sir, good morning.


Ms. Gutierrez: Sir, Teneo’s Bob Herrera-Lim—


Ms. Gutierrez: Si Bob Herrera-Lim of Teneo recently released a report warning that the President may be planning to extend martial rule in Mindanao under the guise of a worsening drug problem that needs to be resolved like a war on terror? How is the Palace responding to these fears, sir.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I just did. I just said depending— the extension will be dependent on the recommendation of the AFP, PNP and other vital stakeholders.

Ms. Gutierrez: But recently, sir, President Duterte has been raising concerns doon sa relations ng terror groups and the drug problem, and ito pong report na ‘to is a warning that the President may use the drug problem to extend martial rule in Mindanao?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA:  As far as we can see, they’re trying to argue piecemeal by thinking silo. Terrorists, then this…

It needs a whole system approach and besides a whole of system approach. In other words, it’s related not just to a local terrorist group but actually the rebellion factor and which is what the Constitution states. Martial law can be extended only based on rebellion and/or invasion.

Tina Mendez (Philippine Star): Sir, follow up lang sa martial law muna. Sir, kahapon sinabi ni Atty. Panelo na it might need — the President might declare a new. It might need a new proclamation rather than extend ‘yung proclamation. Ano po bang —? 

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Well, we defer to his opinion but that is his opinion. Thank you.

Ms. Mendez: But the process is, will the President call on the Congress for an extension?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: The President will follow due process.

Ms. Mendez: Sir, on another note, is there, are there plans for the President to call for a JELACC to thresh out issues?


Rosalie Coz (UNTV): Hi sir. Good afternoon. Sir, tanong lang po namin ‘yung stand po ng Palace dahil po recently ipinadala sa Marawi ‘yun pong mga abusive cops at may mga officials po ng Marawi na they feel offended dahil po insensitive daw po itong move na ito na ipadala ang mga abusive cops doon po sa Marawi City?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Well, you know. We defer to the PNP Chief decision and opinion. However, I’m sure that it’s not meant to cast aspersions upon any ethnic group or any place. It’s just a strategic move.

Ms. Coz: Pero, sir, guidance po ba ng Pangulo na ipadala pa rin po ‘yung mga abusive cops sa mga ganong klase ng sitwasyon, sir?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Well, he’s just following… He’s doing — he’s acting based on policy. Thank you.

Benjie Liwanag (DZBB): Good morning, sir. Have you coordinated with the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process on Bin Laden? I think Bin Laden coordinated with the OPAPP for the… I mean, coordinated with some of the Muslim leaders including Imam Bin Laden for the humanitarian ceasefire in Marawi.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: So your question is did he coordinate?

Mr. Liwanag: Yeah, did they coordinate and did the Palace know that —

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: We do not have any official report regarding that coordination.

Mr. Liwanag: Thank you very much, sir.


Mr. Morong: Sorry, sir. Medyo just to belabor the point. You said kanina doon regarding the claim of the Muslim cleric that there were backchannel talks but the President apparently backed out. You said that there was no verifiable information.


Mr. Morong: Referring to… Did you ask what? OPAPP or the DND or did you even ask — ? Can I just be direct…

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Well, we do talk to our sources and we… Like I said, there is nothing verifiable.

Mr. Morong: Did you talk to the President also if it’s true?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: He’s not my source. He’s my principal.

Mr. Morong: So therefore, sir, we wouldn’t know from the President’s side na there were no in fact negotiations.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: That’s speculation. Thank you very much. Next question.

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