Press Briefing by Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella with Secretary Jesus Dureza Office of Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process
Kalayaan Hall, Malacañan Palace
11 July 2017


PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Good morning. This morning we are blessed to have Secretary Jess Dureza to be with us as we… Yes blessed.

As we continue sharing snapshots of the Duterte administration’s one year accomplishments leading to the State of the Nation Address, we are fortunate to have Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process.

He will highlight OPAPP’s first year accomplishments, just a brief outline; results of the peace talks with several groups; and other efforts of the government to achieve just and lasting peace. 

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

Ladies and gentlemen, Secretary Dureza.

SEC. DUREZA: Good morning everyone. Thank you Spox Ernie Abella and the members of the press. Glad to be back here in very familiar grounds which I occupied for sometime in the past.

But we have a very, I have a very able successor in the person of Ernie, whom we knew not only in our work here in the Palace with the President. We’ve gone back a long time in our college days at the Ateneo de Davao.

I don’t know who’s older now but we share the same kind of childhood upbringing. So I’m glad to be here and just a briefer on — a briefer on our work in the peace process.

And I’m sure you don’t need updating because you have closely tracked what we are doing in OPAPP.

In the work with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, we have already worked on getting the Bangsamoro Transition Commission craft replacement bill to the failed BBL that will implement the Bangsamoro agreement — the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro or the CAB of the MILF.

And I’d like to let you know that the turnover of the output of the BTC will happen at 5:30 in the afternoon of July 17 here in the Palace.

The BTC will turnover to the President the copy of their work that had been done over the past few months.

In our work with the MNLF of Chairman Nur Misuari, as you know, you know already that he has not converged with us in the work on the BBL, except one sector of the MNLF headed by Yusoph Jikiri.

We have also opened up a separate track with Chairman Misuari. Hopefully, they will be able to come up with their own recommendations on what could be their amendment to the present Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao or under Republic Act 9054.

The convergence with the MNLF track and the MILF track hopefully will happen in Congress.

In the case of the Communist Party of the Philippines-National Democratic Front (NDF), the talks, as you know, had been suspended on the fifth round.

And the reason for that, as you know, was because according to the President, we need the so-called “enabling environment conducive to peace negotiations”. At that time, the assessment was that the environment was not yet conducive to continuing the fifth round.

So right now, efforts are ongoing on a backchannel in order to possibly come up with that enabling environment that would make it for us, in the Philippine side, ready to meet again on the fifth round of talks.

On the matter of engaging the public because, as you know, you know very well our thrust at OPAPP is that while we engage the smaller table composed of the rebel groups, the bigger table is the public. And even if I sign a hundred peace agreements, if the public doesn’t support it, it will all be for nothing.

That’s the reason why in our work engaging the rebel groups or those who would like to work, engage us in a peaceful engagement, we are also engaging the public. That’s why we have peace tables, we have a peace panel, a panel that would engage the indigenous peoples or the Lumads because for a while they thought that they are not being included in our engagement. So inputs will be coming from that IP table that we have also organized.

So that is where we are today and I’d rather probably see any clarificatory questions coming from the media.

Thank you very much.


JP Bencito (Manila Standard): Hi, sir. Good morning.

SEC. DUREZA: Hi, you’re still here.

Mr. Bencito: Yes po.

SEC. DUREZA: You’ve been here before. Many of you—

Mr. Bencito: Sir, after the BBL will be submitted to the President and then later on it will be converged later in Congress, how do we assure that the failures from the past of the BBL will not be repeated as we work on with Congress after Congress resumes this 24th?

SEC. DUREZA: Well, let’s not preempt Congress. The final arbiter on what could be the configuration of the new law, if at all it will be passed to replace the BBL in the past, will all depend on what Congress will do with.

But we are confident that the BTC that crafted the new one must have taken into account the failures of the past, learning from the past lessons.

But I don’t know because up to now I’d like to confess to you, I have not seen at all a copy of the new BBL that will be submitted to Congress. It will… Probably after it is submitted to the President that we’ll get the chance to take a look at it.

Mr. Bencito: Sir, doon naman po tayo sa MNLF. Sir, how are we exactly working with the faction of Chairman Nur Misuari? Then, sir, how are we looking forward to a timeline as to when the both proposals will be tackled in Congress?

SEC. DUREZA: For you to know, I think we’ve announced it. We have created a panel to engage the MILF. We have also created a separate panel to engage with Chairman Nur Misuari.

Remember, there is a 1996 Peace Agreement, already signed in 1996, but there are still issues on implementation. So we have engaged them. Hopefully, they will be able to come up with their own recommendations.

Their recommendation I think will deal more on how to amend or revise Republic Act 9054 or the ARMM Law.

This will all be submitted to Congress. Again, Congress cannot pass a law only for the MILF and another separate law for the MNLF. There’s only one Bangsamoro territory and nation they call it.

So Congress will have to look at both and then find out how they can harmonize, how they can converge both proposals.

Mr. Bencito: Pero, sir, wala ba tayong tinitingnan na timeline talaga as to when kailangan makarating ‘yung both proposals na ‘yun?

SEC. DUREZA: Eh sana naman magka… ‘Yung sa MNLF, kasi ang ating roadmap magko-converge sana. Eh baka maya mahuli at nauna ‘yung BBL at na-approve ang BBL eh baka huli na ‘yun. Kaya nga we’re hoping that magkaabutan doon sa Kongreso.

We don’t have timelines. If you ask us, it’s as soon as possible. ASAP ‘yun eh. Pero Congress is left to its full discretion on how to deal with the new bill that will be submitted.

Mr. Bencito: Thank you, sir.

Maricel Halili (TV-5): Hi, sir. Good morning. Sir, just a quick question. Will you encourage the President to certify the BBL as urgent?

SEC. DUREZA: It can be a way forward but we leave that entirely, of course, to the President to make that determination.

As far as OPAPP is concerned, we will recommend that it will be certified as an urgent bill. But as you know very well, the President makes the final call.

Ms. Halili: Sir, may we know what are your inputs on the State of the Nation Address of the President? What do you expect him to discuss during the SONA?

SEC. DUREZA: We cannot preempt what the President is going to say on his SONA. But as you know very well, here monitoring Malacañang, all members of the Cabinet are requested to give their inputs.

But the speechwriter of the President will be the one or his team will be the one that will consolidate all this. And I think he will choose… Because he cannot mention everything I think of all that we will be proposing individually as members of the Cabinet. But we expect that the President will highlight those that he feels should take precedence or should be important matters to mention.

Ms. Halili: Sir, for you, what do you think are the significant issues that should be highlighted?

SEC. DUREZA: Secret na ‘yun muna dahil nagsa-submit pa kami ng input, eh baka mamaya masabi ko ‘yung highlights namin at hindi ‘yun ang highlight ng Presidente ‘di ba? So antayin na lang natin ‘yung final outcome ng kanyang SONA.

Ms. Halili: Thank you, sir.

SEC. DUREZA: Tama ba ‘yun Ernie? Baka mamaya maunahan ko pa si Spox Ernie eh.

Rosalie Coz (UNTV): Hi, sir, good morning.

SEC. DUREZA: Hi ma’am. You have new glasses ba or —? No?

Ms. Coz: Dati na po ‘yan.

SEC. DUREZA: Okay. The camera dapat naka-focus sa’yo para makita ‘yung kagandahan mo.

Ms. Coz: Okay. Sir, would you know kung ire-review pa po ng Pangulo ‘yung draft BBL o diretso na po niyang i-endorse sa Congress?

SEC. DUREZA: Ang recommendation namin hindi natin alam din kung anong gagawin ng Pangulo ‘di ba? Finally. Pero ang recommendation is unlike ‘yung ginawa sa previous administration na ‘yung proposed BBL eh tininker (tinker) muna, inayos-ayos muna ng Palasyo bago ipinadala sa Kongreso.

Our recommendation is that as soon as the President receives it, he will turn it over to the Speaker of the House and both the Senate President. Pero recommendation namin ‘yan ha. The President can do whatever he pleases.

Nestor Coralles ( Good morning, sir.

SEC. DUREZA: Good morning.

Mr. Coralles: The President mentioned in an earlier speech that he won’t allow the resumption of peace negotiations with communist rebels unless they stop their extortion activities. Did you get any directions or instructions from the President regarding this or what will be the fate of the fifth round of talks scheduled this August?

SEC. DUREZA: Whatever the President says, we take guidance. Kung ‘yun ang sinabi niya, we take guidance from that. That is the reason why probably, I’m not going to preempt the backchannel, that would be one item that our backchannelers will take up with them.

I’d like to tell you in advance that under the CARHRIHL, the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law signed in 1998, the CPP-NPA and the Government of the Philippines committed and among the provisions there is not to subject civilians and their properties to attack. Very clear. Both sides have committed to that in an old agreement signed as early as 1998.

So these are matters that we’ll take up with them hopefully in the backchannel that may happen very soon.

Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star): Sec, may date na ba ‘yung formal resumption nung talks at tsaka ‘yung backchannel talks?

SEC. DUREZA: Wala pa po dahil nga ‘yung backchannel that will happen very soon at an undetermined date and undetermined venue as yet up to today. We’ll prepare if there will be a resumption of the fifth round that we suspended last time ‘di ba?

So wala pa po but please know that there is really an ongoing effort. Because ang trabaho namin sa OPAPP kasi may mga issues and challenges that we have to meet.

Eh for example, the military has its own mandate, “confront the enemy.” Sa OPAPP naman ang trabaho namin, continue the peace at all cost.

So this is the orchestra that the President is playing as a conductor ‘di ba? Kami lahat, may kanya-kanya kaming instrument. Dapat naman harmonized ‘yan at the end of the day.

Mr. Romero: Sec, can you tell us the wisdom behind your recommendation to just forward the BBL draft immediately to the House Speaker and the Senate President instead of the draft being sent to the Office of the President for further review like what the previous administration did?

SEC. DUREZA: Ang ano kasi, pinapangunahan mo ‘yung department of government that has the full mandate and authority to deal on a bill.

Magpo-propose lang ang mga proponents pero ang Kongreso assembled — House of Representatives muna or both at the same time and then ipapasa sa kabila. Eh hindi ‘yun trabaho ng Executive department.

The President’s decision will come only when both would pass a bill into law and he will be asked either to approve it or veto it. That is the point of touch for the President.

But may I say again ha, recommendation lang namin ‘yan. Baka the President may have his own wisdom of doing what he thinks is best under the circumstances.

Thank you. You bloom every time I see you ha, Rocky. Okay. Don’t wilt, just continue blooming. Salamat ha, thank you very much, Ernie.


3.2-kilometer Laguna Lake Highway is now open:

The DPWH has officially opened on July 7 the two additional east bound lanes of the Laguna Lake Highway.

The 3.2-kilometer road, amounting to P512 million, is part of the Phase 1 and Phase 2 of the Laguna Lake Highway Project, shortening the one hour travel time from Taytay, Rizal to Bicutan, Taguig by 30 minutes.

Also, April Foreign Direct Investment net flow hits [71.7] percent increase:

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) has reported a 71.7 percent growth in the Philippines’ FDI — Foreign Direct Investment net inflow reaching an amount of US$874 million for the month of April, higher than the March FDI [net] inflow of US$509 million and also the highest so far for this year.

This reflects the administration’s efforts in enhancing economic growth supported by our strong macroeconomic fundamentals resulting in sustained FDI inflows and increasing investor confidence.

A few questions, we’ll be open for that.

Pia Gutierrez (ABS-CBN): Good morning, sir.


Ms. Gutierrez: Sir, there are 25 bills that have been passed by Congress but the President has not — has yet to sign it into law. So may I ask, sir, why is the President taking his time? Does he have issues with those bills?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: It’s his prerogative to do so. We will await until he does. Thank you. Next question?

Ms. Gutierrez: Sir, ‘yung LEDAC. Ano po ‘yung mga status ng mga LEDAC-approved na priority bills and may I also ask why after ‘yung first meeting ‘nong January hindi na siya nag-convene when the law expressly states na dapat every quarter nagko-convene ‘yung LEDAC, sir?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I cannot answer expect that we have been also overtaken by events. This is not meant to disrupt the law simply events have been — such that we have to attend to them.

Ms. Gutierrez: Sir, last na lang po. Where does that President or the Palace stand on the feuds of his allies in Congress, particularly Marcos-Fariñas and Alvarez–Floirendo? Is the President concerned that it will — will it affect itong mga feuds na ito doon sa legislative work?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: These are things that they have to settle and I’m sure that they will in time. Thank you.

Ian Cigaral (Business World): Good morning po, Usec. Sir, bukas po is the first year anniversary of The Hague ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration on our dispute with China. Sir, can I get the Palace’s reaction po or Palace’s statement po?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: A year after the ruling of the PCA at The Hague, the Philippines and China are now in dialogue.

Last May 2017, both countries conducted the first meeting of the Philippines-China Bilateral Consultation Mechanism on the South China Sea, both sides reiterating their commitment to cooperate and to find ways to strengthen the trust and confidence on issues related to WPS.

The Philippines and China have reviewed their experience on the West Philippine Sea issue, exchanged views on the current issues of concern to either side, and they have agreed that they will further discuss mutually acceptable approaches to deal with them.

And they have agreed that the next meeting should be in the half — second half of 2017.

Mr. Cigaral: Thank you, Usec.

Tina Panganiban Perez (GMA): Sir, Tina from GMA.


Ms. Perez: Sir, how are your preparations for the State of the Nation Address and can you expound on the plan to get interpreters for the President?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Regarding the interpreters, I think that’s a preroga — that’s a project of the PCO. It’s best referred to them. Thank you.

Ms. Perez: Sir, do you see a need to get interpreters?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Well, if they perceive that it is so, then they will get.

Ms. Perez: Sir, ‘yung mga details po have they been worked out like what will the President wear, et cetera?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Those are fine details that would, you know, best left to the opening day itself.

Ms. Perez: Sir, on another issue. Senator Trillanes says the Ombudsman must hasten its investigation into his complaint against the President after the President admitted that he had stolen before?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I think the Senator seems to lack a sense of humor regarding that. It was said in jest, obviously.

Ms. Coz: Sir, may mga reports na po na makikipag-meeting si Pangulong Duterte sa majority block senators, can you confirm po? And ang meeting po is about BBL and martial law?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I suppose, regarding the BBL,  the good secretary has already answered that. There may be a meet up regarding that. There may be.

Ms. Coz: Senators and President Duterte will be meeting about the BBL?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: There is no information, okay? There is no information regarding that.

Let me repeat that for the benefit of others. They may meet after the submission.

Philip Tubeza (Philippine Daily Inquirer): Good morning, sir. There are proposals for Filipino Muslims to have their own IDs. Ano pong position ng Palasyo dito? Will this help in resolving —?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: The Palace’s position is really for a national ID. So I think we should leave it at that— for a national ID.

Mr. Tubeza: For a national ID. So we’re not supporting it?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: We are not saying that we are not supporting it, but what we really are emphasizing is a national ID.

I think the — that particular ethnic-centered ID was really a local initiative and I think it’s best that we have a… I mean not I think, the Palace’s position is that there should be a national ID.

Mr. Tubeza: Won’t this just aggravate the situation in Marawi?


Mr. Tubeza: Among Fili — or among Filipino Muslims?


Mr. Tubeza: The situation in Marawi, I mean the—

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Look, nobody’s pushing for that, okay? As the good director of PNP has already said, this is not a mandate coming from the— from the higher authorities.

Mr. Tubeza: Thank you, sir.

Dexter Ganibe (DZMM): Hi, Sec, good morning.


Mr. Ganibe: Sir, represented full Cabinet members kahapon sa Ormoc.


Mr. Ganibe: May mga karagdagang detalye po ba kayong pwedeng i-share?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: ‘Yun na po ‘yun. I think we came up with a statement regarding that matter and there’s nothing to add at this stage.

Mr. Ganibe: Sir, magsa-submit po ng report ang—


Mr. Ganibe: Full report?


Mr. Ganibe: Sir, anu-ano po ‘yung mga pinaka-salient points na nakita po ninyo mismong ang mga Cabinet members po ang nagpunta doon sa city na talagang tinamaan?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Among, I think, the most prominent was the need for the restoration of energy and also the one voiced by Mayor Richard Gomez was the need for water.

Pia Ranada (Rappler): Sir, the period of martial law will lapse soon, and there are calls from the Davao Business Community for martial law to be lifted in Davao City because of its impact on investments and tourism and for security protocols to just be heightened without martial law. Sir, will the President also consider these concerns aside from the concerns of security officials?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: You’re referring to the request?

Ms. Ranada: Sir, there’s a call from the Davao Chamber of Commerce if martial law can be lifted in Davao City, maintained in areas that have threats and then for security protocols to just be heightened in Davao city without martial law.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: It will be his prerogative to respond to that. Thank you.

Ms. Ranada: So, sir, will the President listen to concerns outside of the security sector?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: He’s a person who listens, okay? Thank you.

Ms. Gutierrez: Sir, regarding ‘yung meeting ng Cabinet members with several LGUs sa Leyte kahapon. Sir, what were the commitments of our Cabinet secretaries to the LGUs?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I think this… It will… It will be coming out from the full report — in the full report.

But there was a, if I remember right, Secretary Cusi was still holding on to his commitment that within 10 days the energy should be restored and that it will be up and moving within the next— within the next few days.

Mr. Ganibe: Sir, ano ‘yung marching order ng Pangulo na ipinaabot ng Cabinet members doon sa LGU and other members ng Cabinet para doon sa pagbangon din ng Ormoc and other areas sa Leyte?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: In the same way that the President has made a commitment, for example for Marawi, it’s the same also his intention for disaster-stricken areas like Ormoc.

And that is, of course, the restoration as soon as possible of goods and services so that the normalcy can be restored.

Again, we… Again, this is part of the President’s mandate that — President’s commitment that all Filipinos should be able to experience a comfortable life for all.

And he’s pursuing that and it was a… I think it was an excellent representation yesterday considering the fact that a full complement of secretaries were there representing and there was a face-to-face meet with the local government units, and there was a healthy dialogue regarding that.

Mr. Ganibe: Last point, sir. Nagre-request — tulad nung binanggit ninyo nagre-request sila ng clean and potable water, ano po ang… Sapat po ba ‘yung kagamitan para doon sa paglilinis ng tubig na maaaring mainom?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: ‘Yun pong ano, I forget which department promised that, but first there was a… Their initial quick response is to send a Navy boat with about 10,000 gallons of potable water.

But aside from that, the request of the good mayor was — would take — would be considered like a medium and long-term program.

Mr. Ganibe: Sir, ‘di ba may mga ano tayo before, may mga— anong tawag doon, ‘yung water filtration facilities sa AFP?


Mr. Ganibe: Nagagamit po bo o sapat po ba ito para doon sa pagbibigay ng malinis na inumin?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I’m sure kasama po ‘yan sa kanilang mga — kasama sa package na inihahanda nila para sa lugar na ‘yan. ‘Yung filtration units and stuff like that.

It wasn’t… There was just a general mention of the things available but I’m sure that’s part of the package.

AC Nicholls (CNN Philippines): Hi, sir, going back to the arbitral ruling, anniversary na, sir, tomorrow—


Ms. Nicholls: A year after we got that ruling na favoring the Philippines, some fishermen in certain areas like Zambales are saying na hindi pa din daw po nagbabago ‘yung situation nila dahil nahihirapan pa rin sila doon sa pangingisda nila because they are also afraid na ma-harass. So what are we doing to help these fishermen, sir?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I hear what you’re saying, but basically we have the coming up — the second meeting coming up within the bilateral, the bilateral meets and I’m sure items like that will be considered.

However, it’s excellent that we are now in dialogue with the other country.

Thank you very much.