Angie M. Rosales

Poll fever spurs killings — Palace

The string of killings of local executives heightened the fact that it is already political season in the runup to the midterm elections next year, Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said. Roque issued the statement after the recent killing of Sapa-Sapa, Tawi-Tawi Vice Mayor Alrashid Mohammad Alih despite the martial law in Mindanao. “It’s high profile, but if you look at the statistics, the number of homicide cases have actually declined. It just happened that prominent personalities were targets,” Roque said. “It’s unfortunate there are a lot of political-related killings but what the President has promised, was the discharge of state obligation to speedily investigate, prosecute and punish the perpetrators of these killings,” he added. Roque said statistics coming from the Philippine National Police (PNP) showed the crime index which includes homicide and murders went down by 25 percent. The Palace official also emphasized that the series of deaths of local officials are related to the war on drugs as initial investigations showed the motives in the killings vary from personal to political. Some personalities were linked to drug trade, though. He cited the case of the late Ozamiz City Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog, who along with six others were killed in a series of drug raids in July last year. There’s no doubt about the involvement of Parojinog in the drug trade and his inclusion in the government’s narco list, Roque said. Victory vs drugs Roque admitted that while the government is far from being triumphant in its campaign against drug trafficking in the country, Malacañang remains confident that the problem will be resolved by the end of President Rodrigo Duterte’s term. “As of now, the campaign against drugs will continue,” he said. In a related development, Malacanang claimed the Duterte administration has made significant gains to stamp out corruption and promote good governance. “Sibak, Sibak, Sibak (Fire, fire, fire)” has been the President’s consistent battlecry with officials, including those holding Cabinet rank, not spared from the administration’s anti-corruption drive,” Roque said. Seventeen local officials now face charges in court in connection with the Boracay mess, 186 local officials were withdrawn from police deputation and 57 complaints against local officials were investigated.

Draft EO eyes local peace deals with Reds

The government will pursue localized peace talks which will be a policy to be contained in an Executive Order to be signed by President Duterte. Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said at a briefing the EO will spell out the guidelines for the localized peace talks. A unique content of the EO is allowing local negotiators to hold a confidential dialogue with a combatant rebel who desires to lie low without documentation and who will not avail himself of the peace package, Roque said. The drafting of the EO was among the agreements reached at the Cabinet security cluster meeting that included Senate President Vicente Sotto III, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and some members of the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines (ULAP). Under the EO, local officials will be given the authority to negotiate peace in their areas, Roque said. The localized peace engagement will be nationally orchestrated, centrally directed and locally supervised and implemented, Roque said. In the event Communist Party of the Philippines’ (CCP) founder Joma Sison does not agree with the government’s condition to hold the peace talks in the Philippines, this guiding framework will aid local government officials in their engagement with communists, Roque said. “Constitutional integrity and sovereignty will not be compromised in the complete and genuine resolution of the local armed conflict,” Roque said. “If there is a ceasefire, the constitutional mandate of the state to protect public safety, civilian welfare, critical infrastructure and private properties and the guarantee of rule of law and order will also not be compromised,” Roque said. Amnesty to be offered He added a full amnesty package based on disarmament, demobilization, rehabilitation and reintegration to society will be provided under the terms of the EO. “The necessary enabling environment set by the President for formal local talks to proceed which are local venue, no demand for a coalition government or power-sharing, no revolutionary taxes, extortion, arson and violent activities and for the fighters to remain in pre-designated encampment areas will have to be in place,” he said. “The substantive agenda will be based on the Medium Term Philippine Development Plan and Philippine Development Program 2040,” Roque added. Similar to negotiations at the national level, there will still be a third party in the localized peace talks, Roque said.

DU30 to God: Sorry

Remark ‘taken out of context’ By Angie M. Rosales “Sorry God.” It could be unknown to many that President Duterte had apologized to God for his “stupid” remark, but it was not addressed to religious groups or individual when he made in silence. The President revealed having made his act of contrition to Jesus Is Lord founder Bro. Eddie Villanueva when they met at the Malago Clubhouse in Malacañang Park Tuesday night. Villanueva had urged the President to make an apology straight to God. Villanueva said he was “elated” by Duterte’s explanation. “The President said ‘I already did that.’ So, Bro. Eddie (Villanueva) was surprised to hear it from him and he asked, ‘when Mr. President?’ (and the President’s reply was) ‘immediately after I made those remarks,’” presidential legal counsel Secretary Salvador Panelo said, recalling the conversation that took place between the two. “He said I am very glad, the President gave a good explanation. He was misunderstood and taken out of context,” Villanueva said. Mr. Duterte, in a statement, said he had apologized to his “all-forgiving” God but stressed he was not saying sorry to any Church or religious leader. Present during the meeting between the President and Villanueva were Special Assistant to the President (SAP) Christopher “Bong” Go, Panelo and lawyer Angelino Villanueva. “Sorry, God. I said sorry, God. If God is taken in a generic term by everybody listening, then that’s well and good,” Duterte said in a video posted on the official Facebook page of the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO). “I only apologize to God and nobody else. If I wronged God, then He would be happy to listen to my apology. Why? Because my God is all-forgiving. He does not remember past hurts. Why? Because God created me to be good, not bad,” he added. Duterte, meanwhile, underlined the separation of Church and State, saying it is wrong to use God to attack him and his administration. “Remember that there is a division between Church and State. You can criticize us (about) anything at all, be it from the garbage collector to generals and even to Vice President and Senator,” Duterte said. Never use God’s name lightly “But never, never use the name of God as a front to attack government because that is not the proper way to do it. There is a separation of State and Church. Do not use God to attack me. That is not proper and I’m sure that is not what God wanted,” he added. The President further stressed that people created a concept of God on their own and that it was “human nature.” “If you feel that somebody is doing it wrong, you must be talking about the wrong God or it must be a God that is not my God,” Duterte said. Duterte earlier had formed a four-man panel with the Catholic Church and other religious leaders to push “healing” amid their spat. Members of the panel include presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Ernesto Abella, Edsa People Power Commission Commissioner Pastor “Boy” Saycon and Cabinet Secretary Jun Evasco. Rody after Fox “(And I) said to God, ‘Sorry God, you are not included here.’ I’m just saying this (God is stupid remark) because this (Australian nun Sister Patricia) Fox is ‘using (your name) in vain, she’s using religion to violate the law,’” Panelo also quoted the President as saying. During Monday’s interview with Palace reporters in Pampanga after a speech, the President was asked about the “moratorium” of sort he and Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) president Davao Archbishop Romulo Valles agreed on at a meeting. In his speech in the event, the President talked about God anew as he warned critics against using religion to attack him. Mr. Duterte explained he did not violate the moratorium as he was not attacking the Church. “What I said (was) that if you use religion as a format, and I was --- I was not referring to any religion. Makita mo wala akong binanggit na relihiyon (As you can see, I did not mention any particular religion. But if it’s a matter of me asking forgiveness, forget it. As a matter of principle, I will not. And I can burn in hell if it is true,” the President told reporters. “I said, as a matter of principle, I will not (apologize). I would rather lose the presidency, lose the honor or lose my life. That could not be much clearer,” he added Apology lauded Sen. Panfilo Lacson welcomed Mr. Duterte’s apology to God, saying the people can now move on while praying for the President’s “continued enlightenment.” “It takes courage and character for a man to openly accept his mistake and apologize. This was how I knew the President in the many times that I was dealing with him when he was still mayor of Davao City,” he said. “I am glad that at the end of the day, he is still how I’ve known him,” Lacson said. “I can only thank God for enlightening our President to make that humble apology. It shouldn’t matter much if it was my God or his God he is apologizing to, because there is only one God of the universe anyway,” Lacson said in a statement. He added Duterte’s apology to God also showed the President’s real character. Sen. Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito welcomed the President’s apology, saying many Filipinos were hurt by his remarks against God. “That is very much welcome. I myself, being a Christian, felt hurt by the President’s tirades against God. The President realized that millions of Filipinos felt the same way. So, this is very much welcome,” Ejercito said. Sen. Sonny Angara said although there is a separation between Church and State, Duterte’s apology would be welcomed by many people. “His apology will be welcomed by many no doubt,” he said. Jason Faustino, Michael Pingol and Mario J. Mallari

Rody tags Leni ‘incompetent‘

President Rodrigo Duterte is not resigning anytime soon just so “incompetent” Vice President Leni Robredo can take over in Malacañang. “Look I will not resign because it will make her president. My resignation is addressed to the people, for the people to choose their leader,” Duterte said. “I don’t think she can be ever ready to govern a country. Reason? Incompetence. She’s not capable of running a country like this, Philippines,” the President added. Duterte made the statement in response to Robredo’s announcement that she will lead the opposition movement against the Duterte administration. The Chief Executive was coming off delivering a speech at the ASEAN Convention Center at Clark Freeport Zone in Pampanga when he was interviewed by reporters. Duterte has expressed a desire to cut short his six-year term as he called for the election of a younger transition president. But he is not resigning to make Robredo the next president, that much Duterte made very clear in the ambush interview. In fact, Duterte said he had included in his proposed amendment to the provisions of the draft Federal Constitution to include the position of the vice president as subject for election of the transition leaders. “But that would be, I do not know when. I am suggesting an earlier date, at the start of the transition government. If it is already assembled and it’s not shaky, it’s working and the structure can be a platform for governance then there would be no problem. Then by that time I should go,” he said. “I will not agree to it (that I’d be replaced) by succession. Would you think that the other guy is better than (me)? (It could be anybody but through) election. There’s a lot of handsome men out there who you could choose from,” the President said. Since the new proposed Constitution would still be subject to a referendum, even if the President would wish to give in and pave the way for the transition president, it would still be the people who will decide on his fate. When asked if he’s willing to stay on if the people will vote against federalism, Duterte said he does not really care. “My suggestion is they elect a president who will now reign over government at the start of the transition. That could be early 2019,” he said. He said the same when sought for his reaction to his net satisfaction rating, based on the latest Social Weather Station (SWS), slipping from +50 to +45 for the second quarter of this year. Make it 15 “It went down? I do not care. Make it 15. I’m not there anymore. It does not interest me at all,” he said. “Since I’m not popular anymore, Congress might decide to find a popular one. You want a popular president? Fine. Good,” Duterte said. But even if he plans to retire early, the President said he still has unfinished business and he wants it accomplished before he steps down. In his speech, Duterte said he wants to put an end to the 5-6 lending scheme, a high interest loan that kills the entrepreneurial spirit of Filipinos. While he may have agreed to a ceasefire with the Catholic Church leader in exchanging tirades, the President emphasized in his speech that there’s no backing down on him on his previous statements. “As a matter of principle, even if I lose my honor and presidency, I will not apologize. Not a bit,” he said. In giving reporters a snippet of what he discussed with Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) president Davao Archbishop Romulo Valles during the closed-door one-on-one meeting at Malacañang last Monday afternoon, the President said the prelate was in disagreement with him in discussing his issues against the Church in public, the reason why they agreed to a moratorium. Modality “We were discussing some modality of behavior. But definitely that would not prevent me from just saying my truth. I’m not attacking the Church. What I said was if you use religion as a format, I was not referring to any religion. But if it is a matter of me asking forgiveness, forget it. As a matter of principle I will not and I can burn in hell if it is true,” he said. “I would rather lose the presidency, lose my honor or lose my life. That could not be more clear,” Duterte added. Meanwhile, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque downplayed the dip in the net satisfaction rating of the President, saying it remains to be the highest compared to his last three predecessors. Work double-time “During the end of their second year in office, Presidents Estrada, Arroyo and Aquino received net satisfaction ratings of +5 in March 2000, +6 in November 2002 and +42 in May 2012, respectively. “The survey evidently showed that -- despite several challenges surrounding his presidency at the time the survey was conducted -- PRRD still enjoyed the confidence of the majority of Filipinos with ‘good’ net satisfaction ratings in Metro Manila, Balanced Luzon and the Visayas and ‘excellent’ net satisfaction rating in Mindanao,” Roque said. “Regardless of numbers, we assure everyone that the President and the members of his Cabinet would continue to work double-time in bringing the fruits of a better and more inclusive economy, and in strengthening the government’s drive against illegal drugs, crime, and corruption,” he added.

Roque on 2019: Only God knows

“The majority of Filipinos feel safer nowadays.” Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque remained tight-lipped yesterday on whether he would seek an elective position in the 2019 mid-term elections. At a media briefing in Indang, Cavite, the Palace spokesman kept the issue hanging. “We leave that to God because only God will tell us what will happen in our lives,” Roque said. The Palace official’s standing in surveys of so-called preferred senatorial candidates, improved based on the latest Pulse Asia survey. Previously ranked between 27th and 36th during the March survey of Pulse Asia, Roque moved up as he is now ranked between 25th and 33rd in the latest survey. Presidential daughter and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief and now Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) Director Ronald “Bato” de la Rosa, Special Assistant to the President Christopher “Bong” Go and Roque are the leading administration personalities being seen as potential senatorial candidates next year. But for Roque it’s too early to talk about politics as his job is to communicate government’s policies and programs for or on behalf of the President. Speaking about disaster-ravaged Japan, Roque said the Philippine government will provide aid to its neighboring country. Roque said President Duterte has offered to send a team of soldiers, engineers and doctors to provide assistance to affected Japanese residents and survivors. “(We) will also send medicines to Japan,” Roque said quoting the President. The Palace official relayed the President’s thoughts while the Cabinet meeting was still ongoing late Monday night. “There’s no amount mentioned but it will be (Foreign Affairs) Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano who will relay the message to the ambassador of Japan,” Roque said. And despite the numerous charges of alleged rights abuses and extrajudicial killings and spate of killings of local executives, Roque said majority of Filipinos feel safer nowadays. Asked to give a rating on the Duterte administrations war on drugs campaign, with 10 as the highest, the Palace official gave an 8.5 rating. Roque came to the defense of the administration saying that the government has accomplished so much no matter what critics would say. “Even the surveys will indicate that majority of our people, 80 plus of our people feel safer, they feel more secure in their homes dahil nga po dito sa drive against criminality and the war against drugs. (It’s) 86% based on the data on the survey that I saw,” he said. When Daily Tribune asked Roque what polling agency he was referring to, he said the data came from a privately commissioned survey. Based on the facts and figures collated by the government in carrying out the war on drugs campaign, billions of pesos worth of illegal drugs have been confiscated, seized and destroyed by the authorities since the campaign against drug trafficking was launched following the assumption into office of President Duterte.

Asian experts to probe Dengvaxia mess

President Rodrigo Duterte is expected to name soon the members of the Asian panel of experts to look into the issue of whether Dengvaxia actually caused the death of some of those inoculated with the anti-dengue vaccine. At least four names have been submitted to the President by Department of Health (DoH) Secretary Francisco Duque III during Monday’s Cabinet meeting, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said. “So far that was what was agreed upon,” Roque said, adding that the President will choose who among those on the list submitted to him by Duque will form part of the panel of experts. “I do not have their names, I only know their nationalities. One is from Vietnam, another from Thailand, there’s also from Singapore and from Sri Lanka,” he said. From his understanding of the discussion the night before, the President will choose three out of the four. “So it’s up to the President to choose (who among them will be in the panel). We have more than enough budget to invite them here to the Philippines and conduct a study or carry out what needs to be studied for them to arrive at a conclusion of the actual effects of Dengvaxia,” Roque said. All of the members of the prospective panel are considered independent health experts as they have no ties whatsoever with the Philippine government and the vaccine manufacturer, Sanofi Pasteur. Conflicting findings of the University of the Philippines - Philippine General Hospital (UP-PGH) and the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) on the cause of deaths of some children administered with Dengvaxia had prompted the President to seek further advice through some foreign panel of experts. Although there are separate findings arrived at by PAO and UP-PGH experts, the President’s concern, as a lawyer and former prosecutor, is that he knows that expert witnesses can cancel out their testimonies, Roque said.

Saber rattling

Malacañang sounded neither threatened nor scared with Vice President Leni Robredo’s announcement she’d unite the political opposition against President Duterte. “After all, she is the highest elected member of the opposition,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque said in shrugging off Robredo’s painfully inept attempt at saber-rattling. For Roque, Robredo’s statement was clearly par for the course, something that should have been left unsaid. Nonetheless, the Palace believes that an active opposition has a vital role to play in a healthy, well-functioning democracy. Roque challenged the opposition to promote not only responsible and constructive debate but also to push the national conversation to a higher level of political maturity. “Also, (we expect them) to present to our people a viable alternative platform of government to address the longstanding problems of the nation. Our people deserve no less,” Roque said.

Rody to meet Mahathir

President Rodrigo Duterte is scheduled to meet with Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Bin Mohamad after watching the fight of Sen. Manny Pacquiao against Argentine boxer Lucas Matthysse in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday, July 15. Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said the insurgency problem and terror threats will be discussed during the meeting. Roque said the President had a phone conversation with the newly-elected Malaysian prime minister before Monday’s Cabinet meeting in Malacañang. “He wants to talk about insurgency and IS (Islamic State). We will be there (in Malaysia on) July 16. After the boxing bout, will talk with Mahathir,” Roque quoted the President as saying during the Cabinet meeting. The President’s visit will be a private trip and the President will probably stay three days at most although there are no final plans yet, Roque said.

Rody to give way to ‘younger’ leader

President Rodrigo Duterte no longer wants to serve as a transition leader, if and when the federal constitution is in place by next year, as he announced his intention to step down to pave way for the new and younger leader to be elected by the public as “transition president.” Duterte made the announcement which not only came as a surprise but also shocked his Cabinet members during a meeting in Malacanang yesterday, shortly after the Chief Executive met with the members of the 22-man consultative committee that drafted the proposed federal constitution. Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said this is a major turnaround from Duterte’s earlier statements as he had been consistent in the past in expressing his willingness to serve as a “transition leader” until his term ends on 2022. All these, however, will still depend on the public, whether they will approve of the new Constitution when it is presented in a plebiscite, possibly in 2019 of whether they already want Duterte to resign, the Palace official said. “So if the people don’t want to get rid of him, they will reject the federal constitution,” Roque said. “But I think he means it when he said that he will take all steps necessary to convince the people to change to a federal form of government and as a way of assuring them that he is not clinging on to power, he assured that he will step down immediately after the new constitution is approved. That’s what he said,” he said. “In fact, he specified that, well I guess he’s assuming that the new constitution will be approved by 2019 so he’s willing to step down in 2019,” Roque said. Term ends before 2022 “Now, ayaw na nya to go until 2022 (He doesn’t want to stay until 2022),” Roque said to reporters in an interview after the Cabinet meeting. Asked as to the reason behind the President’s change of heart, the Palace official said Duterte wants to put to an end the speculations on his supposed plan to remain in power beyond his term or beyond 2022, despite his repeated pronouncements that he’s willing to give way to the new leader even before the expiration of his term of office. “And secondly, it’s because he’s very, very tired already. He said he was very tired, he is old and maybe electing a transition leader would enable a younger leader to take over,” Roque said. “This is the first time that the President spoke about his plan not to remain in power beyond 2019. I myself was saddened by this as it came as a definite statement, that he wants to pave the way for a much younger leader,” he added. Last SoNA? Roque, thus, said Mr. Duterte’s State of the Nation Address (SoNA) set to be delivered on July 23, his third, and could be his “last” will not be as lengthy as his previous ones. “I will read my SoNA speech which should not be more than 35 minutes,” Roque, quoting the President, said in his Twitter account. This will be a major departure from his previous speeches. His SoNA last year took two hours while the first one lasted beyond an hour and 30 minutes, the longest delivered SoNA recorded after the 1986 EDSA Revolution in terms of word count with around 12,527 words. Roque, however, made no assurance if the President will stick to his plan to read his speech or deliver his usual jokes and impromptu remarks. Prior to this, the President, through his spokesperson announced that he has “instructed the consultative committee to elect a transitional president.” “I am willing to cut my term to be co-terminus with the start of transition period. (The) committee agreed. This is to remove all suspicions (that I’m saying longer in power) and (also because) I am tired. (I am) ready to give it to somebody else,” Roque said in his Twitter account.
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