Press Briefing by Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella
Press Briefing Area, New Executive Bldg., Malacañang
04 July 2016

SEC. ABELLA: Good morning. I’d like to welcome you to the first press briefing that we are holding for Malacañang. Actually, I am just holding forth for Sec. Martin (Andanar). I am your temporary host for today.

Anyway, we began the day with an exciting time. It was a — the first flag-raising for the President’s office, for the people of the President’s office, and we are looking forward to a really great and engaged time.


Maricel Halili (TV5): Hi, sir, good morning. Sir, may we know what was the impression or what was President (Rodrigo) Duterte’s impression of Vice President Leni Robredo, I mean on the first time they met last Friday?
SEC. ABELLA: As per the media reports, it was a very pleasant meeting and it was something that held open opportunities for conversations. As he said, VP Leni can visit anytime.

Ms. Halili: Sir, ano po ang napag-usapan nila in that short span of time?

SEC. ABELLA: Hindi po kami privy doon sa conversation nila but their meeting, we all know.

Ms. Halili: But I understand VP Leni requested for a courtesy call, tama po ba?

SEC. ABELLA: She probably did, right.

Ms. Halili: Meron na po bang schedule kung kailan ‘yung kanilang courtesy call?

SEC. ABELLA: As far as I know, none. I mean — as far as I know, I am not aware of the exact time.

Ms. Halili: Pero if ever, sir, what particular topics ‘yung gustong i-open up ni President kay VP, kung meron man?

SEC. ABELLA: That would be between the two of them.

Ms. Halili: Is there a chance, sir, na mabago ‘yung isip ni President Duterte and appoint VP Robredo sa any Cabinet post?

SEC. ABELLA: Regarding the appointments, I am not aware of that. I am not also privy to his decision-making. But the fact is, he is open to conversation.

Ms. Halili: Thank you, sir.


Vic Somintac (DZEC): Good morning, Secretary. Sir, pwede po bang malaman namin kung magkano po ‘yung minana ng Duterte administration from Aquino administration na natitirang pondo out of P3.002 trillion?

SEC. ABELLA: Those facts are not yet available to us, but we will just wait for the proper moment. Thank you.

Ina Andolong (CNN Philippines): Good morning, sir. I understand the FOI (Freedom of Information) executive order will be out within the week. May I ask what process will be undertaken in the drafting of this EO? Who will be consulted?

SEC. ABELLA: As far as I know, they are open to consultation. As far as I know, they are open to consultation. I don’t know the exact process. I don’t know the exact process but it will be — it should be, as far as I know, it should be made clear within the week.

Ms. Andolong: But how does Malacañang or the President envision this FOI to be? Will it cover obviously government contracts, salaries, bonuses of government officials? And how soon does the President want requested documents released?

SEC. ABELLA: This is going to be part of the specifics that will be covered in the process. But, definitely, it’s being considered and being focused on right now. I believe also within the week.

Ms. Andolong: Sir, position naman po sa possible refiling of the FOI bill in Congress because the EO would just, of course, cover offices under the Executive. How about passage of the bill, will it be among the priority legislation of the President?

SEC. ABELLA: I think it’s part of the whole process. It’s already part of the whole process. Thank you.

Celerina Monte (Manila Shimbun): Good morning, sir. Celerina, from Manila Shimbun, Japanese newspaper. Sir, although, Secretary Andanar already mentioned yesterday that the President would be staying in Malacañang. Specifically, where in Malacañang? Could it be in Arlegui, Bahay Pangarap or guest house?

SEC. ABELLA: I am not really sure where exactly he will be staying but he will be within the grounds.

Ms. Monte: Will be it be a habit of the President to go back to Davao every weekend?

SEC. ABELLA: I think he enjoys the personal time and he needs it also. Yes.

Ms. Monte: Sir, what could be the first foreign trip of the President?

SEC. ABELLA: We are not sure about that, but he did say that he would like to spend more time first in the Philippines addressing domestic issues. So maybe foreign travel is really not a priority at this stage.

Ms. Monte: But would it be as a tradition that he will go first to ASEAN countries?

SEC. ABELLA: That I cannot say. But he did say that he will focus on domestic issues first.

Pia Ranada (Rappler): Good morning, sir. I just want to have a more official — is there any official news on declaring Ramadan as holiday on July 6?

SEC. ABELLA: There’s some talk about having that but it is not yet firm and final.

Ace Romero (The Philippine Star): Regarding FOI, Secretary. Will the release of documents — regarding the release of documents, kasama ba ‘yon sa 72-hour na ibinibigay na directive ni…

SEC. ABELLA: That’s really a specific part of the process, I cannot say so.

Mr. Romero: But will President Duterte push for an FOI in the next Congress?
SEC. ABELLA: I know that it’s being considered at this stage and it’s going to be part of the EOs, I think, as far as I know.

Mr. Romero: No, no. The law, FOI?

SEC. ABELLA: I understand, yeah. It will be part of…He gives it importance. So, however he goes about it, it will be up to the process that it will take.

Mr. Romero: So we can expect the Executive pushing for the FOI during the next Congress? We can see him lobbying for it perhaps?

SEC. ABELLA: I don’t know about the lobbying but it will be considered. Thank you.

It’s about Eid’l Fitr, the declaration has already been signed by PRRD and it will be released anytime today.

[Reporters ask: When, sir?]

SEC. ABELLA: July 6. Non-working holiday. Wednesday, July 6, has been declared a non-working holiday in deference to the conclusion of the Ramadan.

Deo de Guzman (RMN): Good morning, sir. Will the President hold or convene the LEDAC (Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council) and what will be the administration’s priority bill for the first year?

SEC. ABELLA: Let’s put it on hold because we don’t have the details on those things yet.

Tina Mendez (The Philippine Star): Good morning, sir. May we know the Palace plan regarding the proposal on emergency powers regarding traffic and transportation? I understand that the Senate — Senator (Franklin) Drilon already passed a resolution regarding this?

SEC. ABELLA: Regarding the specific plans, we don’t have that yet, but it will be pursued.

Ms. Mendez: Sir, do we see this given to the President within the year?

SEC. ABELLA: Well, as needed.

Ms. Mendez: Follow up, sir. There was supposed a proposal to have it certified urgent. Will the President look into it?

SEC. ABELLA: Come again?

Ms. Mendez: To have this certified urgent, will the President certify this bill as urgent, this emergency power?

SEC. ABELLA: I am sure they will facilitate everything in order to address the traffic condition.

Henry Uri (DZRH): Sir, good morning. Any words from the President if he will ask DOJ (Department of Justice) or PNP (Philippine National Police) to investigate killings of alleged drug users and pushers to prove that it is really a legitimate operation?

SEC. ABELLA: To prove that it’s really a?

Mr. Uri: Legitimate operations?

SEC. ABELLA: The President is very well aware that everything should be done within the parameters of legality. And so whatever needs to be done will be done. Thank you.

Joseph Morong (GMA-7): Sir, good morning po. Just staying on the topic of the FOI. Why does the President think that this is an important executive order?

SEC. ABELLA: Well, in his words, he abhors secrecy and he desires transparency. And that’s part of his working style, as part of his working style and part of his values that work ought to be done in a very transparent manner. Thank you.

Mr. Morong: Sir, just a follow up. How does you reconcile this with — well, you will opening up transactions in government, at least in the Executive, but how do you reconcile this with this seeming avoidance of the media?

SEC. ABELLA: It’s not secrecy. I mean, you know, it’s not really secrecy. Let’s put it this way, I am not speaking for him, but I am speaking let’s say as a person who is observing the whole situation, that he wants to devote his first 100 or so days to work and he doesn’t want it hampered by having to answer little noises, little noises.

Mr. Morong: But eventually do you think he will reconsider that position given that, you know, some clarifications and elaborations on policy are best explained by him.

SEC. ABELLA: You know, he has repeatedly said that he will not talk anymore, right? But the fact is, the conversation like I said in the beginning will continue. There will be a conversation and what you need to know you will be able to know.

Mr. Morong: Thank you, sir.


Rose Novenario (Hataw): Good morning, sir. Naglabas na po ng official statement ang Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) na tinatanggap po nila ‘yung imbitasyon ni President Duterte na lumahok sa anti-illegal drugs operation. Ano po ‘yung reaksyon ng Palasyo rito at paano po iimbestigahan halimbawa ng DOJ o halimbawa po ng Commission on Human Rights ‘yung pag-execute, halimbawa, ng NPA (New People’s Army) sa mga hinihinalang illegal drugs na sangkot po? E, samantalang kinikilala na po ba ng gobyernong Duterte ‘yung legalidad ng NPA as armed group?

SEC. ABELLA: Linawin lang po natin ‘no. ‘Yung pagkakasabi pong ganon, nakasabi po kasi that ang move po ni President Duterte is to enlist the support of NPA to support — to arrest or kill suspected drug lords.

So, kumbaga po, ‘yung sinasabi niya, kumbaga kinikilala niya na meron din silang karapatan in order to be able to combat the whole war on drugs, the whole war on drugs.

So, ang sinasabi ko po’y, kung ano man ang mangyari, it will still go to a process. Hindi naman po ito basta free for all. Ang sinasabi lang may proseso. In other words, ini-enlarge lang po ‘yung pamamaraan nang paghinto ng droga.

Ms. Novenario: E, since underground group pa rin po ‘yung NPA, papaano po ‘yun — lulutang na po ba sila? Magkakaroon po ba sila ng safe conduct pass? ‘Yung mga halimbawa pong mai-involve po roon sa investigation.

SEC. ABELLA: They will — susundan po ‘yung tamang proseso. Meron po silang proseso.

Ms. Ranada: Sir, last week President Duterte said he would be flying to Sulu to talk to Nur Misuari. May we know if there’s any final details on this?

SEC. ABELLA: Wala pa pong further development, as far as we know, regarding that.

Marlon Ramos (The Philippine Daily Inquirer): Sir, how do you intend to go about the creation ‘nong super body on killings of media members?

SEC. ABELLA: How do you go about the creation of?

Mr. Ramos: The creation— of a super body tasked to look into the killings of members of the media?

SEC. ABELLA: I’m not privy to the actual process ano, actual process of creating such a body. But I’m sure it will be done through some form of consultative process. ‘Yung those who can be involved and need to be involved, I’m sure, will be consulted.

Mr. Ramos: Sir, there’s already an existing task force. Are you aware of the—?

SEC. ABELLA: I’m not aware of the depth of that.

Mr. Ramos: Sir, is the government wary or alarmed about these recent developments doon sa police operations na maraming napapatay na suspected pa lang na drug personalities?

SEC. ABELLA: I don’t know if the term is… I don’t know if the term should be wary or alarmed, you know. But I’m sure it is a concern. It probably — because with that kind of activity, it may be showing out the depth of the drug menace in society.

Mr. Ramos: Sir, is President Duterte aware of the number of drug personalities who are voluntarily surrendering to authorities?

SEC. ABELLA: I’m sure his ears to ground, his ears [to] the ground and he’s listening.

Mr. Ramos: How do you deal with the number of drug addicts who are willing to undergo rehab, na wala tayong parang national rehab program for drug dependents?

SEC. ABELLA: I believe there are plans for setting up regional rehab centers.

Mr. Ramos: Is the President condoning the violence na right know?

SEC. ABELLA: I don’t know if the term should be condoning but definitely he has a position regarding drugs.

Mr. Ramos: Paki-clarify lang, sir. The position — ?

SEC. ABELLA: I mean to say he’s anti-drugs right? And he’s out to exert firm pressure, firm hand in order to deter the spread of drugs.

Willard Cheng (ABS-CBN): Hi, sir. More families claimed to have experienced involuntary hunger according to the first quarter SWS (Social Weather Stations) survey, what does the administration intend to do about this?

SEC. ABELLA: You sent me a question on that. Were you the one? Somebody asked me about that. It will be deferred— It’s being addressed to the proper departments. Okay. As far I know, [Agriculture] Secretary [Emmanuel] Piñol has a program of… I forgot the title of it but it’s some sort of a feeding program which begins to at least, at the very least, is a symbolic addressing of the fact that people are hungry, many people are hungry.

I don’t know, I mean I cannot give, you know, the specific details as to exactly, the exact programs that are addressing it. But definitely, the Agriculture [department] is addressing that and so is DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development), the clusters are addressing that.

Mr. Cheng: Sir, is the Palace keen on continuing the conditional cash transfer program?

SEC. ABELLA: That’s part of I believe…It’s all part of a process that’s being discussed.

Mr. Cheng: Thank you, sir.

SEC. ABELLA: Thank you.

Dexter Ganibe (DZMM): Secretary, good morning. Sir, pwede po bang malaman ‘yung magiging regular na biyahe ng Pangulo papuntang Maynila and Davao? Sino kayang nagshou-shoulder ‘nong gastusin and saan siya titira or magho-hotel ba siya palagi ‘pag nasa Maynila?

SEC. ABELLA: I’m sure hinahanda ‘yung ano niya, hinahanda ‘yung tirahan dito. So it will be shouldered by the government. Okay.

Regarding that, we cannot really give you more details regarding his travels for the plain and simple reason part of it is his own security, tama? You know, part of his security.

And also because, eventually, he will be here. Eventually, he’ll be spending a lot more time here. You know, he’ll be spending a lot more time here considering the fact that he is, in a sense, parang bicoastal siya e, ‘no. He’s both north and south. So — but he will be spending considerable amount of time in Manila.

Mr. Ganibe: ‘Yung gastos, sir, ‘nong kanyang mga flights?

SEC. ABELLA: It’s being covered. I don’t know from which pocket it’s coming from. But it is covered.

Mr. Ganibe: But not from the government?

SEC. ABELLA: Hindi ko po — I cannot say that for sure. I cannot say that for sure. I’ll get back to you when I find out.

Mr. Ganibe: Another question. Ano po ‘yung mga pinaghahandaan ngayon para doon sa three weeks from now ‘yung kanyang pinakaunang State of the Nation Address? Saan magfo-focus ‘yung kanyang magiging unang pahayag sa sambayanan?

SEC. ABELLA: Hindi pa po namin dini-discuss ‘yan. But I’m sure it will be dealing with that also largely with his 10-point program. Tama? It will be in connection with that.

Mr. Ganibe: Napag-usapan na po ba kung magkano ang hihilingin sa Kongreso na budget para sa susunod na taon? Gaano kalaki ang idadagdag?

SEC. ABELLA: Hindi pa po malinaw ‘yan. Bagong-bago pa po. Kasisimula pa lang po.

Benjie Liwanag (DZBB): Sir, good afternoon. Sir, I have two questions. Number one, napag-usapan na ho ba ‘yung emergency powers para doon sa lumalalang, malalang trapik? Not only in Metro Manila but in other cities in the Philippines.

SEC. ABELLA: Regarding po ‘yung other cities in the Philippines, hindi pa po malinaw ‘yun. But I think they’re addressing, they are really addressing the Manila issue.

Mr. Liwanag: So, ipu-push pa rin po itong emergency powers?

SEC. ABELLA: I don’t know exactly the nature of it but it will be addressed. It’s being addressed already.

Mr. Liwanag: Number two, sir. Pushing the Charter Change. Ano po ‘yung take ng Malacañang dito?

SEC. ABELLA: As far as we know, PRRD, President Duterte favors Con-Con (Constitutional Convention).

Mr. Liwanag: Constitutional?

Mr. Abella: Yeah, Convention.

Mr. Liwanag: Not Con-Ass (Constituent Assembly)?

SEC. ABELLA: Not Con-Ass. It’s more consultative right? More representation. But you know again, as far as I know, that has been his preference.

Faye Estopace (BusinessWorld): Follow up lang din po from the question of Sir Benjie. Ask ko lang po if the Palace will certify ‘yung for the, ‘yung Cha-Cha (Charter Change) as a priority bill po?

SEC. ABELLA: It’s definitely part of his priorities. I don’t know exactly in which priority, how high it is. But it’s part of the consideration considering that we do have several issues on hand. Right? Fed issue, stuff like that.

Ms. Andolong: Hi, sir. Sir, whatever happened to the three generals earlier mentioned by the President that should resign he said before he formally assumes his office? Will he be naming these generals soon as he said?

SEC. ABELLA: Let’s wait and see. Let’s wait and see.

Ms. Andolong: Okay. In Davao City, sir, when he was mayor, he would read out on TV names of drug pushers, criminals, would that be a practice dito sa administrasyong Duterte? I mean, if not coming from him, maybe would he expect the PNP chief or members of the Communications group to announce high-profile criminals maybe?

SEC. ABELLA: If it does happen and it may, it will not be without precedent.

Mr. Uri: Sir, tungkol po dun sa curfew at saka doon sa anti-smoking at doon sa mga iba pang ipinangako ng Presidente ‘yung 4Ps with one sack of rice. Ano ho ang latest niyo dito?

SEC. ABELLA: Wala pong specific na mga pagbabago. Walang specific na pagbabago, as far as I know. So let’s just — let it continue.

Q: Sir, reaction lang po dun sa panawagan ng Bayan kanina na i-review daw po ‘yung EDCA (Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement), sir, reaksyon po?

SEC. ABELLA: Wala po akong naririnig mula sa kanila. So I cannot give it to you right now. Actually, we haven’t heard from him since then, okay.

Mr. Morong: Sir, manood ba siya ng live ng FIBA (International Basketball Federation)?


Mr. Morong: Hindi, sir, is he [watching]?

SEC. ABELLA: I’m not sure. I am not sure about that. Obvious kasi, you know, there are issues to be considered, you know, security, stuff like that…

Mr. Morong: But he is the President, he can do anything.

SEC. ABELLA: He doesn’t want to impose himself. He usually — he is a very low-key guy. He doesn’t want to, you know…He doesn’t even want to disturb traffic.

Mr. Ramos: Sir, just a clarification lang po. Will the President certify FOI bill as urgent?

SEC. ABELLA: He will certify, I don’t know if it will be…But it is part of his priorities.

Mr. Ramos: Second, kanina wala po si President Duterte sa flag-raising ceremony. Will that be usual na kuwan niya, every Monday or every flag-raising hindi siya makakapunta dito?

SEC. ABELLA: I don’t know if it’s gonna be usual. The President is full of surprises. But siguro it’s part of his ano, it’s part of his — it’s part of his ‘nung kanyang pagka-low-key. You know this is a ceremonial process and, you know, the President is not a person who stands on ceremony. He is really an action person. But you can expect him to show up when action is really needed.

Mr. Ramos: Kasi ‘nung mayor siya ng Davao, parang hindi niya naging practice to attend those kind of ceremonies.

SEC. ABELLA: Although he was there on the last ha.

Mr. Ramos: Now as President of the Republic, do you think that should be an issue?

SEC. ABELLA: Well, knowing his values, I don’t think it needs to be an issue because we know his priorities and his priorities are really to act. To act in such a way that — the common good, the well-being of the people will be addressed. You know, just to give you an insight to him, personal, personal note, when I thanked him for saving me for being kidnapped, he said: “Wala ‘yon, trabaho lang ‘yon.” So he is that kind of a person. He doesn’t stand in ceremony. But when you need action, he will be there.

Q: Secretary, good noon, pahabol lang po. Binabanggit ni Senate President Drilon na hindi lang dapat o hindi lang dapat federalism ang tuon ng Con-Con or Con-Ass, ano ang stand ng government dito at mukhang binubuhay ‘yung divorce bill? Ano po ang stand po?

SEC. ABELLA: I suppose people will try to bring new issues but the centerpiece, I believe, will be federalism.

Q: On the divorce bill?

SEC. ABELLA: I don’t know about the divorce bill but definitely federalism.

Q: Stand po ng Duterte administration sa divorce bill?

SEC. ABELLA: There is no formal stand on divorce. But he does say that — and this is not a stand on divorce but we does say that people deserve to be happy. But that is not a stand on divorce, let me be very clear.

Ms. Halili: Sir, just a clarification. When President Duterte said last week that he will open Malacañang for the poor? What does he mean by that? Pwede na bang bumisita dito?

SEC. ABELLA: I suppose openness within certain parameters ‘no. Ibig sabihin — basically what he’s saying, if you really hear what he is saying, is that this place is not just for the elite. Kumbaga, bukas sa lahat. And I think, it’s so happen when the people from Mendiola were welcomed here ‘di ba? I mean — So it’s open… it’s a very inclusive invitation. Next please.

Mr. Morong: Sir, sa Abu Sayyaf lang. Si Secretary Yasay said. Ay no, not Yasay.

SEC. ABELLA: Dureza.

Mr. Morong: Dureza. He’s waiting for a call. Ano ang isip ni Presidente dito? Are we actually negotiating with the Abu Sayyaf now?

SEC. ABELLA: We are not — we are not negotiating.

Mr. Morong: But he is open to [talk]?

SEC. ABELLA: It’s part of a process. It’s part of a process.

Vanz Fernandez (Police Files): Hi, sir. Sir, tanong ko lang po kung meron na po kayong report regarding dito sa nangyaring bombing sa Baghdad? Kung merong mga Pilipino pong nadamay?

SEC. ABELLA: Wala po tayong balita tungkol doon. Wala pong — We haven’t received information regarding that.

Ms. Fernandez: Sir, on another issue. I sent this one to you yesterday. The question is: Tinawag po ng atensyon ng COA (Commission on Audit) ‘tong BJMP (Bureau of Jail Management and Penology) kasi regarding dito sa worsening situation dito sa Central Mindanao, sa kulungan. Ang sabi: This is against the United Nations minimum standard rules dahil more than 5,000 instead of 917. Ano pong magagawa ng ating kasalukyang administration?

SEC. ABELLA: Hayaan po nating silang humarap sa — the right department to face that particular issue.

Mr. Fernandez: Okay, thank you, sir.

Genalyn Kabiling (Manila Bulletin): Sir, tatanong ko lang. May we know where is the President right now? Is he holding a meeting inside the Palace?

SEC. ABELLA: I’m not — I don’t think… I don’t know if he is holding a meeting inside the Palace. But, I believe he’s in a meeting. Okay.

Ms. Kabiling: But, he’s inside the Palace right now?

SEC. ABELLA: Ano, ano?

Ms. Kabiling: He’s inside the Palace right now?


Ms. Kabiling: No, we’re asking if he’s inside.

SEC. ABELLA: I didn’t see him. I didn’t see him today. He will be here this afternoon.

Ms. Kabiling: Sir, tanong ko lang. Itutuloy po ba ni Presidente Duterte ‘yung policy ‘nong nakaraang Pangulo na ‘yung sa no wang-wang policy sa daan, na hindi siya, walang car sirens?

SEC. ABELLA: If we leave it to him, it will be like that. Left on his own devices, it will be very quiet. In fact, even on, you know… He did say, for example, that it’s about the no-fly zone before and after flights, he is asking that that be removed because he didn’t want peoples’ schedules being disturbed. So basing it on that, wang-wang should be a very small thing.

Ms. Kabiling: Sir, do you expect other Cabinet members and other government officials to follow the President as well and his no wang-wang policy?

SEC. ABELLA: In terms of expectation, we expect that.

Thank you very much ladies and gentlemen.

We’re still sitting down on how we’re going to be handling the press briefings. We’d like to be able to do things with you and for you in a very substantial way. We don’t want to just be spinning you. Okay. We want to have a conversation, substantial dialogue with you. So we might have less meetings. Instead of daily meetings, we may be having less meetings. But we will also give time for you to be able either e-mail in your questions or ideally e-mail e. ‘Wag na ‘yung text, you know, kung pwedeng e-mail niyo lang ‘yung mga tanong niya. So that we can respond adequately, okay?

And ganito siguro, you know if things are not being, if you feel that you are not being sufficiently answered, let’s assume that there’s a good reason for doing so, ‘di ba? And that doesn’t mean to say we’re not being transparent or anything like that. I’m just saying that we want to be as helpful to the people through you. And we want to be as transparent.

Mr. Morong: How frequent is less?

SEC. ABELLA: Maybe not daily, you know, maybe not daily.

Q: (inaudible)

SEC. ABELLA: We’ll work it out. We’ll really work it out.

Thank you very much. Have a great day!