February 23, 2017 – Press Briefing by Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella with Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) Commissioner Caesar Dulay
|Press Briefing by Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella with Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) Commissioner Caesar Dulay|
|Press Briefing Room, New Executive Building, Malacañang|
|23 February 2017|
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Good morning, Malacañang Press Corps.
We are pleased to have today Bureau of Internal Revenue Commissioner Atty. Caesar Dulay.
Prior to his appointment, he was the Commissioner of the Commission on Bar Discipline of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines from ’97 to 2007.
He practiced litigation during his time in Puno and Puno Law Offices and Tanjuatco & Partners.
He was also Corporate Secretary of Alcantra Group of Companies; Senior Assistant Vice President of Philippine Airlines; and Internal Legal Counsel of Agusan Wood Industries.
He obtained his law degree from the Ateneo and he was admitted to the bar in ’71.
Ladies and gentlemen of the Malacañang Press Corps, let us all give a warm welcome to our distinguished guests, Commissioner Caesar Dulay.
COMMISSIONER DULAY: Thank you, Secretary Ernie.
Good morning. Off the record I’m more—[Ms. Rocky Ignacio: Sir, we’re live] Oh. Yeah, but I’m more nervous facing this group than the big crowds I’ve been facing going to the BIR regions.
I thank you and the BIR agency is happy to be able to share with you what is happening in the BIR.
We’d like to start by informing you that in 2016, we had a collection of about 1.575 trillion. And this is about 95 percent of the goal — attainment of the goal that was given to the agency.
This is about 9.5 percent growth rate against the 2015 collections. In terms of income tax collections, we were able to collect 924 billion and the rest came from excise, VAT, and percentage taxes.
Voluntary payments in the BIR is about 97 percent and the rest of the collections we derive from law enforcement.
Our goal for 2017 is 1.829 trillion. And to achieve the collection, we have to grow by 16 percent from our last year’s collection performance.
BIR itself must be able to increase collection by 15.5 percent and non-BIR collections must also grow by at least 37 percent.
What did we do in 2016? There were three priorities. First, we had to attain our collection targets, which was at 1.620 trillion. Then, we had to go through some priorities on tax collection efforts.
In 2016, to attain our collection target we had to go back to the Run After Tax Evaders program. Law… Tax administration cannot do without law enforcement. Otherwise, there would be no voluntary compliance on the part of taxpayers.
So we had to continue this program of running after tax evaders even if they contribute only about three percent of our total collections.
We had to strengthen the Oplan Kandado program when we investigate some of the taxpayers. The commissioner, under the Revenue Code, has the authority to close these businesses not paying and not complying with their tax obligations.
We also went in 2016, continued in profiling the taxpayers so that we can focus more on this what we call taxpayers segmentation, that is classifying the taxpayers.
As you know, we presently have the large taxpayers service, which contribute about 60 to 63 percent of the collections of the agency.
What do we plan to… Oh, incidentally, during our first days in office, that is in July, we implemented the certain measures that would immediately impact on our fight against graft and corruption and on one of our programs of making it easy for taxpayers to comply. We call it the Ease of Doing Business project.
On the first day, we recalled all audit. We stopped the audit program. We recalled all letters of authority and reviewed the status of these letters.
As a result of this, we found out that there were a lot of LAs, you call them, pending in the hands of the revenue examiners for more than a year, two years even.
And so we started issuing out letters, I started issuing out letters for them to explain why these letters of authority have been pending for so long.
With the explanations coming in, we issued out — explain why letters to them involving about 250 examiners and most of them are now under investigation.
We believe that was — that move was effective in terms of delivering the message of the President that graft and corruption must go in the Bureau.
Addressing the needs of the taxpayers, we started reviewing some revenue regulations, for example, the requirements on the issuance of certificates authorizing registration.
We are able to cut down on the processing time for as long as the documents are complete from — to about two days, minimum and five days maximum. And this was received, I believe, favorably by the taxpayers and the tax practitioners.
To be able to collect 1.829 trillion, we need people, we need personnel. So part of our program for 2017 is to go into a massive recruitment mode.
The agency is at present — has at present a compliment of about a less than, a little more than 9,000 personnel.
Our approved plantilla is about 21,000 so you can see that we are operating only at 50 percent of the approved plantilla.
We need examiners, CPAs, lawyers to do the work and collection effort of the agency. So we asked Congress to exempt us from the implementation, from the coverage of the Salary Standardization Law.
Just to give you an example, we cannot compete with the other agencies of the government. For example, our hiring rate for CPAs, professionals, is about 19 to 20 percent — ah, 20,000 pesos. You compare this to the hiring rate of the Securities and Exchange Commission, they have — they were able to get out of the Salary Standardization Law. The salaries of those in the Insurance Commission, their CPAs are hired at about 35 to 40,000 entry-level.
We need lawyers. The work of BIR is highly technical and you need competent personnel. We need to hire lawyers but our hiring rate for lawyers is only at about 30 to 40,000 compared to the hiring rate of the other agencies, which ranges from about 55 to 60,000.
So we have put in place a proposal and a bill was sponsored by, I believe, the Speaker of the House, and it’s now being tabled for consideration by the House. Senator Sonny Angara has also sponsored a bill that will get us out of the Salary Standardization Law.
For this year we have been… At the start of the year, we have been conducting what we call a kickoff tax campaign program. I have been to about five regions. We… I’ve talked to the — to the BIR personnel. We invited our taxpayers in the region and I made this appeal and informed them about the targets of the region, of the Bureau for this year 1.829 trillion.
And I made an appeal for them to cooperate and help this administration, the government, to reach its goal so that the various programs of this administration, of the President, in terms of infrastructure, education can be supported at least by our revenue generation.
I also made an appeal to our personnel, my fellow revenuers to exert their best effort in trying to achieve the collection targets and to remember that graft and corruption should be out in the Bureau.
If we cannot eradicate it completely, we will minimize and we will continue reiterating this program of the President on his fight against graft and corruption.
QUESTIONS & ANSWERS:
Alexis Romero (Philippine Star): Commissioner, so you missed the 2016 target. Bakit po?
COMMISSIONER DULAY: Well, the 2016 target is 1.620. That was… Our collection was about 1.55, 1.565, that was 97 percent.
I don’t know if in the past, the targets of the BIR had been achieved. But we’d like to say that in the six months that the new administration came in, we were able to sustain the growth rate of about a little more than 10 percent compared to the previous year and we were able to sustain that.
The figures or the information I received is that traditionally after a collect — after an election year, the growth rate goes down.
In our case, while we have not achieved the goal, we were able to at least maintain that growth rate in our collection efforts.
Mr. Romero: So ano po ‘yung weak areas na kailangan i-improve para ma-meet ninyo na ‘yung target this year?
COMMISSIONER DULAY: We have to hire more people to do the collection. That’s why we’re asking Congress to get us out of the Salary Standardization Law.
Mr. Romero: Iyong leakages kaya, ‘yung corruption sa collection may factor doon sa missed target?
COMMISSIONER DULAY: It has to be — there has to be a factor but as I mentioned, our collection 97 percent is voluntary compliance.
Only three percent contributes to our law enforcement efforts. I do not belittle the contribution of our law enforcement.
But as I mentioned earlier, law enforcement has to go hand in hand with tax administration. Otherwise, voluntary compliance would be — would not come on the part of taxpayers.
Mr. Romero: Last na lang po para sa akin. There is an existing Lateral Attrition Law for BIR and since hindi natin na-attain ‘yung target although at a narrow margin naman yata eh meron bang masisibak sa pwesto na mga revenue officials? Will heads roll?
COMMISSIONER DULAY: The Lateral Attrition Law, the last time… I think it was passed in 2008 and the last time it was implemented was that year.
For what reason, I do not know. But we have instructions from the Secretary of Finance to implement the Attrition Law because it’s a law, we have to comply with it. And we’re setting reasonable goals for our employees, we’re in the process of working it out.
Mr. Romero: So heads will roll po?
COMMISSIONER DULAY: Well it depends if —
Mr. Romero: It depends on the —
COMMISSIONER DULAY: — in their performance and the reasons for not hitting their goals.
Mr. Romero: Salamat po, Commissioner.
Benjie Liwanag (DZBB): Sir, good morning.
COMMISSIONER DULAY: Good morning.
Mr. Liwanag: Sir, ngayong hindi pa naipapasa ‘yung comprehensive tax reform package ng administrasyon, do you think achievable ‘yung 1.829 trillion for your target this year.
COMMISSIONER DULAY: I’ve been talking with our revenuers, our personnel, and they are confident that we can hit or we’ll try to hit it.
Remember, we hit 1.5 plus trillion for 2016 with a 50 percent plantilla.
Mr. Liwanag: 50 percent?
COMMISSIONER DULAY: Yes, so if we can go into a massive hiring, then we’ll most probably hit that.
Mr. Liwanag: With your assessment, 250 examiners are now being investigated. Papaano po ‘yung mga directors ‘nung mga nasa ilalim — ay nasa taas nitong mga examiners? Will… Iyong kagaya po ‘nung sinabi ni Alexis, magkakaroon din po ba ng rigodon, Commissioner?
COMMISSIONER DULAY: We already had one, the regional directors. Usually at the start of the year we reshuffle the regional directors so that has already been implemented.
Mr. Liwanag: Ano pong pinakamahirap na region na, that you’re facing right now? What is the — ‘yung challenge ng region na kailangan linisin, Commissioner?
COMMISSIONER DULAY: We have small regions like CAR, the[excuse me] — the Cordillera Administrative Region.
You cover — that covers Kalinga, Bontoc, Ifugao, Apayao, Benguet, and Abra. You need collectors because of the lack of personnel.
One collector… The ideal is one collector for one municipality. In CAR, you have one collector covering four, or three or four municipalities. If you know the area in CAR, those municipalities are not very close to each other and even the travel time.
So my dialogue with the personnel of CAR, they raised this point. Even in terms of their allowance, I have to discuss this with the Department of Budget and COA. Those are the challenges that we are facing.
Mr. Liwanag: Thank you very much, sir.
Chona Yu (Radyo Inquirer): Sir, I just like to know from June to December 2016, how many tax evasion cases were filed and how many were convicted kung meron?
COMMISSIONER DULAY: June to December?
Ms. Yu: Duterte administration.
COMMISSIONER DULAY: We started I think in late December only because we were reviewing the RATE, the tax cases.
For this month, for 2017, if I’m not mistaken we have about 10 RATE cases filed already. We have about 400 plus pending RATE cases with the Department of Justice.
So I have to sit down with Secretary Aguirre although I have been talking with Usec. Ritchie Kho, the group that is now in place in the prosecution service and we have to come out with the working arrangement on how to resolve these many RATE cases filed.
Ms. Yu: Sir, sabi ninyo kanina ang BIR is in need of CPAs and lawyers. How can you attract lawyers and CPAs if you’re offering lower salary compared to other government agencies?
COMMISSIONER DULAY: That’s why we are asking Congress to get us out of the Salary Standardization Law.
So that if the bill is passed, we would like seek authority to create our own salary levels and standards and positions and probably get the President to approve by way of an executive order our proposals.
Ms. Yu: Thank you, sir.
Ina Andolong (CNN Philippines): Good noon, sir. Sometime in January, Secretary Dominguez shared that two RDOs were fired after he said he caught them red-handed, harassing people for money. Can you give us maybe, sir, a brief update on your efforts to go after your corrupt officials, how many have actually been fired or dismissed from their posts? Dalawa lang po ba ‘yon ‘yung nabanggit ni — ?
COMMISSIONER DULAY: The two RDOs were transferred actually from their positions. As of now, I don’t recall any RDO being dismissed or fired. But I do get, because of 8888, a lot of information about them and some complaints.
What I do is I call them personally and talk to them and confront them with this complaint — complaints. If the explanation is satisfactory and sometimes I can say that they have good explanation, then I don’t take any formal action.
But my message to the RDOs and to all the employees and officers, even the revenue examiners, is that If I get a complaint from 8888 or even anonymous complaint, then sure to be — I will surely confront them and I’ll listen to them and see how they explain it.
It’s not something that should just go away. They have to know that we are on top of these complaints and we are acting on these complaints.
Ms. Andolong: Sir, Secretary Dominguez never mentioned saang RDO ‘yung nabanggit niya, saan po ba sila?
COMMISSIONER DULAY: Maybe it’s safer that if we keep it at that level muna.
Ms. Andolong: Thank you, sir.
COMMISSIONER DULAY: It’s not fair to them.
Maricel Halili (TV-5): Sir, just a clarification because recently there was a report that about 300 employees of BIR already resigned or retired because of the efforts of BIR against corruption. Can you enlighten us about this, sir?
COMMISSIONER DULAY: This is what actually happened. During my first day of office, flag ceremony, I was able to talk to the employees of the BIR. And I delivered the message that my mandate, coming from the President, is to clean up the Bureau and to fight graft and corruption.
My message to them was this: I know that there are professionals and competent personnel in the BIR but just like in a basket, you have the good tomatoes and the bad tomatoes.
So I said for the bad tomatoes that infect the whole agency, I suggested that they either resign or retire if there’s an optional retirement available to them or compulsory retire.
Now, I don’t know if they got the message, but the numbers are there. We have about a little less than 300 who have resigned — either resigned, optionally retired and compulsory retired.
For reasons of their own, maybe some are just too tired, maybe others got the message and so they resigned and they opt to retire.
Ms. Halili: So, sir, not necessarily mean that they are involved in corruption?
COMMISSIONER DULAY: Does not necessarily mean.
Ms. Halili: Okay. But do you see or meron pa pong ibang mga employees that you are eyeing right now or investigating with regards pa rin doon sa mga cases?
COMMISSIONER DULAY: Oh yes, it’s a continuing effort.
Ms. Halili: Do you have a rough estimate, sir, as to how many?
COMMISSIONER DULAY: I don’t have it now but there is a continuing effort to look into these cases — into these complaints especially.
I am swamped with 8888 complaints and we’re acting on it. It’s a little difficult if you spend your time just addressing this but we have our communications group addressing the complaints.
Pia Ranada (Rappler): Sir, just to clarify on the 8888 complaints. Sir, you mentioned that when you get a complaint, you confront the person and then you give an explanation and if it’s satisfactory, you don’t do anything anymore. So, sir, what’s your basis for saying that their explanation is satisfactory? Doesn’t it make it easy for people who are actually guilty to maybe talk their way out of, you know, the complaint like isn’t there any investigation launched if, you know — because if they’re asked to explain siyempre they might be able to talk their way out of —
COMMISSIONER DULAY: Most of the complaints are anonymous and my message to the employees is: You better watch out, if I see that the explanation is justifiable.
But I just told them that you better careful with your job from here on because even anonymous complaints can be forwarded to the Ombudsman because they act on anonymous complaints.
So they should be more careful in their dealings with taxpayers. Some are just plain complaints. They fail to comply with some documentary requirements and they complained that there are too many requirements being asked by the revenue district officers. But upon checking, these are really reasonable requirements of the agency.
Mr. Ranada: And, sir, what kinds of complaints alarmed you the most?
COMMISSIONER DULAY: Complaints mostly in delay in the processing of their papers. That’s why we’re glad to inform, as you have seen during our first day in office, one of the biggest complaints was the delay in the issuance of the certificates of authorizing registration on ONETT transactions.
We were able to address that at least two days minimum, five days maximum issuance. It’s not 100 percent effective but for those complaints that I received, we call the attention of the district concerned, and they address it and they try to work out what the complaint is all about.
Ms. Ranada: Sir, would you remember how many of the 8888 complaints and then the person who was the subject of the complaint explained to you the reason, and how many of these of explanations did you decide were not satisfactory and prompted to you to launch an investigation?
COMMISSIONER DULAY: The numbers I cannot remember. We’re swamped not on — we’re swamped with these complaints coming from the Civil Service also. And we are being monitored on how we dispose of these complains — how we address.
And we give reports to the Civil Service Commission also on how we have been disposing these complaints.
Some are answered by way of letters, so we forward these letters to the Civil Service Commission.
Mr. Liwanag: Sir, talking about the taxpayer, on the part of the taxpayer. There are always familiarity between the collector and also some business establishments. Are we also having a problem with some of the taxpayers because they don’t pay the right taxes? Are you evaluating, right now, or assessing on this matter?
COMMISSIONER DULAY: Yes, that’s why we have the RATE and the Oplan Kandado program.
Only…I think this afternoon, we will be filing a RATE case involving the establishment at Glorietta 5. They have not been responding to the request of the examiners.
And we cannot stop. We have to continue law enforcement activities. Before I got in, of course, there are stories that there is connivance between the taxpayer, the tax practitioner, and some people in the BIR.
In fact, I got a complaint and I called the attention of the revenue district officer and the revenue examiner, I told them — I got them to the office, and they explained.
It was satisfactory. That was what I was saying that the message has to go down to our agency, our federal revenuer, that we will not let the past practices go by without calling their attention.
Mr. Liwanag: Do we have the numbers right now the taxpayers that you’re going to file cases?
COMMISSIONER DULAY: We have…Well, we have about… The Regional Investigation Division, RIDs we call them, and the National investigation Division, I just met with them two days ago, and they are readying about seven or eight new cases to be filed.
My mandate is… I do not believe that there are no violations in your region. So I told them you exert extra effort. I’d like to see at least one RATE case being filed by the region a month as long it’s a defensible and justifiable.
Mr. Liwanag: Thank you very much, sir.
Reymond Tinaza (Bombo Radyo): Hi, sir naimbag na adlaw.
COMMISSIONER DULAY: Good morning.
Mr. Tinaza: Sir, itanong ko lang kung meron ba kayong listahan ng mga top 10 siguro lalo na sa corporate na mga tax evaders? Iyong mga multibillionaires I understand marami ‘yung mga may mga pending cases pa sa korte ngayon. So ngayon so for now as your administration meron ba kayong listahan ng mga parang pinaka-notorious na tax evaders na mga korporasyon?
COMMISSIONER DULAY: I have a list of about 400 cases filed with the DOJ, mga tax evaders ‘yan.
And that’s available… I don’t know which ones are notorious, but if you look at ‘yung amount — the assessment involved, it could be hundreds of millions also. So that’s what we want to address right now with the Department of Justice — to move ‘yung cases.
Mr. Tinaza: Sir, so far, sa ngayon dahil sa dinamidami ng kaso na ‘yun. Meron na bang tumawag sa inyo nagparamdam na ‘kumpare ako ni Digong’, ‘kumpare ako ni ES’, ‘kumpare ako ni Secretary’. May tumawag na ba, may nagparinig na ba sa inyo ng mga ganoon na mga may kinakaharap ng tax evasion?
COMMISSIONER DULAY: I don’t recall pero maraming tumatawag sa akin, marami hindi lang ilan.
And I’m proud to say this, this is what the President told me, ‘yung one of those times —few times that I’m beside him, sabi niya: You continue doing your work. Ang lamang natin is wala tayong pinag-uutangan — wala tayong pinagkaka-utangan.
So I leave it at that. I get a lot of calls but sure I don’t want to be bastos naman to them, so I just listen to them.
Mr. Tinaza: Ano ang mga sinasabi usually, sir?
COMMISSIONER DULAY: Ha?
Mr. Tinaza: Anong mga sinasabi?
COMMISSIONER DULAY: Nila?
Mr. Tinaza: Oo.
COMMISSIONER DULAY: Well, some on positions, some if we can— they have existing case. Some just come without any name-dropping. That’s why we also have an expanded compromise settlement program. I don’t know if you heard about that.
We are encouraging…We have a lot of cases, for example, 2012 and below, that have not been resolved because offers of compromise have to go to a National Evaluation Board. And we are working on that because it will also affect the accounts receivable folio of the BIR if we don’t dispose of it.
There are a lot of considerations — primary consideration is that I can compromise based on financial incapacity at 10 percent, doubtful validity at 40 percent. Those are all authorized by the code — by the Internal Revenue Code.
If I have that discretion given to me then I encourage the taxpayers to compromise and clean up their cases so that they can start fresh with the Bureau.
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Good morning. We have a number of items we’d like to share. The BBC just rated the Philippines among the world’s top five most welcoming countries.
The Philippines is among the five world’s most welcoming countries, according to the British Broadcasting Corporation. It cited the Philippines’ going-out culture, which give expats plenty of opportunities to make friends.
The Department of Tourism reported that almost six million tourists arrived last year compared to 5.3 million in 2015. We hope to boost visitor arrivals to 12 million by the end of the President’s term in 2022 through the private sector investments.
Based on our National Tourism Development Plan of 2016-2022, the Duterte administration aims to create to 6.5 million jobs in the tourism sector in the next 5 years or the equivalent of 14.4 percent share of tourism jobs.
Also Hitachi: Hitachi to keep up Philippine operations.
We welcome the announcement made by one of the top 10 Japanese companies Hitachi saying that the company will continue to incessantly operate its businesses in the Philippines— it’s business in the Philippines.
Mitsuhiko Shimizu, Hitachi Asia-Philippines branch general manager, stated that the Philippines’ young population is one of the most appealing factors for the investors to do business in the country.
To attract more foreign investments and to create more jobs for Filipinos, the Duterte administration continuously ramps up infrastructure spending and eases the cost of doing business in the Philippines.
Also, the SSS to release P1,000 additional benefit on March:
Good news to the 2.2 million SSS retirees, survivors and permanently disabled pensioners. They will start receiving the additional P1,000 benefit on March 3, including the retroactive increase in January and February.
We are open to a few questions.
Leila Salaverria (Philippine Daily Inquirer): Good afternoon. Sir, can we just get a confirmation. Did the… Kasi Senator Sotto confirmed the President met with several senators the other night. What was the topic of the meeting and who called the meeting in the first place?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: What I can share with you is that there is no truth to the allegation of Senator De Lima that the senators were pressured by Malacañang with regard to the reopening of the investigation of the DDS.
As Senator Sotto said, a group of senators met the President but they did not talk about the case of retired police officer Lascañas.
Ms. Salaverria: But what was the agenda of the meeting? And did the President call the senators to meet with him?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: That I cannot answer. It’s simply that they had a meeting. I… Usually these things are requested.
Ms. Salaverria: Requested usually by the senators?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Usually, you know, they… People ask to meet with the President. That usually is the trend, yeah.
Ms. Salaverria: Sir, why would they not discuss the issue of Lascañas? I mean, was it just a coincidence that the meeting took place after he came out?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: There are other things to talk about. Thank you.
Ms. Salaverria: Sir, last na. Who else was in the meeting if you know…?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I’m not sure except… I think there was a photo op, right?
Ms. Salaverria: Wala kaming… We didn’t see any.
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Okay. But as far as I know, these were just the named senators… They were named. They were not named? Anyway, I said…
Ms. Salaverria: Last na, sir.
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Yes, ma’am?
Ms. Salaverria: What was the Palace’s position on the impending Senate investigation into Lascañas’ revelations?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: They can proceed. Thank you.
Ms. Salaverria: Thank you.
Ms. Ranada: Sir, I asked you this last week. Just want to get a Palace reaction on the US citizenship issue faced by Foreign Secretary Yasay. And he was again subjected to a CA hearing yesterday and the hearing was again deferred for another time because of these issues. So would the Palace already have a statement?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: It’s not a formal statement except that it’s — in effect it’s a non-issue simply because Senator Yasay — Secretary Yasay has already explained the intricacies of what actually happened.
So it’s valid but… So in a sense, in effect, it’s really a non-issue. There was no… He was never ever a US citizen.
Ms. Ranada: Sir, how can it be a non-issue when his appointment was deferred precisely because of this issue of — ?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Wasn’t it because there was a recess?
Ms. Ranada: Yes, sir.
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: There was a recess or something like that?
Ms. Ranada: No, sir, because nga they wanted to see about this claim that he used to be a US citizen but he denied it before and yet, the US released a list, a document listing him as a former citizen.
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Okay. Would you like me to go through the process?
Ms. Ranada: We can do it po siguro later, after… if it’s a very long…I can go back.
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: No basically it was…He said that during… As far as I know and this is anecdotal, okay, this is basically anecdotal.
When…During the Martial Law years, he and — seeing that it seemed that there was no possibility for him to progress and prosper here, he, I think he was [what do you call it?] by his wife, he was [come again?] petitioned, yeah.
And I think he went through the process. And, however, when things changed in the Philippines, he decided to drop it — he dropped it by coming back to the Philippines, which was essentially breaking the laws for applying for green cards.
So technically he was already disqualified. So there was never — but the process continued and that is why he was declared by the US to be a citizen.
However, because he… Because the process had already proceeded, however, he had already broken it and so there was no call for him to become a citizen.
Ms. Ranada: Sir, you said he was declared by the US as a citizen? So you’re saying he was a citizen?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: No, technically but that had to be confirmed. Remember that you know, you’re [how do you put it?] having gone through the process, it just goes on and says you’re… I don’t have the right terms for that. He was qualified or something like that but it had to be confirmed. It was never confirmed because he had already broken the process.
Ms. Ranada: Sir, just last. So you’re saying this was the explanation from Secretary Yasay
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: This was an anecdote…
Ms. Ranada: To you?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Come again?
Ms. Ranada: To you? Tama ba?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: This was an anecdotal. This was an anecdote relayed to me through a secondary, yeah. It is not hearsay. It came from the office.
Cedric Castillo (GMA-7): Sir, good afternoon, sir. Kuha lang po ako ng reaction ninyo, sir, on Senator De Lima saying that it is in fact the President who is committing acts of sedition by having people kill each other daw po allegedly.
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: She is really entitled to her own opinions.
Mr. Castillo: Sir, SOJ Aguirre po said that there allegedly was an attempt to bribe 100 million pesos I think ‘yung amount po ‘yung high ranking na ano — high-profile inmates po sa AFP custodial center not to recant ‘yung testimony nila parang recently lang by a congressman and a former senator daw po. I would like to get your reaction, sir.
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: It has to be verified but since it came from the SOJ, Secretary of Justice, then apparently it has some credibility.
Ms. Andolong: Sir, I just want to go back to the meeting with the Senators. So what other issues could they have talked about?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: We are not privy to that. It was a closed meeting.
Ms. Andolong: And just for the record, sir, are you aware of who initiated that meeting? Did the President call for it or did the senators actually — ?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: No. I am not aware of who… But like I said usually in the process somebody asks to meet with him.
Ms. Salaverria: Sir, the program for the EDSA commemoration released to us does not include the President. Is this official confirmation he won’t be showing up tomorrow at Camp Aguinaldo?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Yeah, I think the release said that it would be the ES? It would be ES would be representing him, yes.
Ms. Salaverria: But what will the President be doing tomorrow? Will he be attending any EDSA commemoration event at all?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: You know, I think he has some surprise for that… But if you are asking what he will be doing tomorrow, there’s going to be the Bangsamoro Transition thing in Davao, yes.
Ms. Salaverria: Any mass action in Davao related to the EDSA commemoration?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: As far as I know, none, none.
Ms. Halili: Sir, may we know what the President did yesterday? Kasi parang we were actually surprised when he went back to Davao as soon as last Tuesday night. Kasi ‘di ba usually mga weekend siya bumabalik. So we are just wondering what did he do yesterday?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I don’t have a copy with me of his schedules. But we can give it to you.
Ms. Halili: Mga private meetings?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Probably so.
Ms. Halili: Sir, how come that ‘yung mga recent speeches ni President is somehow parang medyo careful ngayon because we observed that since the PMA Alumni Homecoming and then doon sa kanyang speech sa ADB, he stick to the written speech and there was no adlib.
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Wasn’t that admirable?[laughter] Thank you.
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Wasn’t it? [laughs] Let me just answer Ms. Ranada’s little question the last time if she will give me full attention.
You asked for a breakdown of the, yes, I give it to you now:
All right, 5-9 September 2016, Brunei Darussalam, Laos People’s Democratic Republic and Indonesia, purpose ASEAN Summit Working Visit: the amount is 29,876,000.
28-29 September 2016 visit to Vietnam, official working visit: 14.082 million.
16-21 October 2016, Brunei Darussalam, People’s Republic of China, state visit: 45,266,000
25- 27 October 2016, Japan, official visit: 28,305,000
9-10, November 2016, Thailand and Malaysia, official visit: 23,721,000.
17-23 November 2016, Peru, New Zealand. APEC: that’s 86,558,000.
And, 13-16 December 2016, Cambodia, Singapore, state visit: 49,578,000.
That is the breakdown of the trips. I’m good. Thank you.
Trisha Macas (GMA News Online): Good morning. Sir, House Speaker Alvarez moved to decriminalize fake Facebook and other social media accounts. So he wants to criminalize the fake social media accounts, he filed a House bill. So I just want to ask what does the Palace think of this and do you agree with the Speaker’s bill?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Well, it has sound basis for the action. However, the final results need to be clarified.
Ms. Macas: Sir, later you will have a social media policy town hall in UP.
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: There is going to be one at Bahay Alumni.
Ms. Macas: Yes, sir. So may we know who will be your resource speakers? I think, it’s part of the program. Do you have a list, sir?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Aside from me? [laughs] No. no. I’m not sure about exactly who the other people are.
Mr. Castillo: Sir, pahabol lang po. On the supposed downgrading of EDSA celebration, sir, former Senator Saguisag calls PRRD the new, I think the new “Macoy”. And, sir, can I get the Palace’s reaction on this?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I don’t know if you call it downgrading. It simply is a different style. You know, different strokes, different folks.
Mr. Castillo: Tinawag po kasi si President Duterte na siya daw po ay ‘yung bago. I’m not sure about the term bago. Pero “Macoy” ‘yung ginamit po eh. Macoy for Marcos.
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Well, you know, Senator Saguisag has emotional ties to these things and, you know, we’re not downgrading that.
I’m just saying that he also feels very strongly and perhaps he wants it to be celebrated in a more grandiose way.
But going back to whether he’s the new Macoy, the President is the new Macoy, you know, I think, the comparison is too broad and uncalled for.
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