Press briefing by Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda on 3 Filipinos Facing Death Penalty, Impeachment of Ombudsman, and other topics

Malacañang Palace, the residence of the Philip...Image via WikipediaPress Briefing by Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda:
On the three Filipinos facing the death penalty in China, the possible letter of Vice President Jejomar Binay to the Chinese Officials, Fraport’s law suit versus the Philippine government, and other topics
Briefing Room, 2/F New Executive Building, Malacañang, Manila
March 24, 2011; 13:00 hrs. EST
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON LACIERDA: [Start of recording] Oh, by the way, the President didn’t cough today in his speech. So, I guess the President is [alright].
Alright, let’s go to the questions.
Aurea Calica [Philippine Star]: Sir, the Chinese Ambassador said this morning that they are already asking the understanding from the Philippine government and the Filipino people as regards to the execution of the three drug traffickers. What can you say this, sir?
LACIERDA: I understand the Vice President [Jejomar Binay] is going to write a letter. As far as I was made to understand, we were made aware that it was—when the Vice President visited China, it was to secure a postponement of the execution. So as far as I know, I was made to understand that the Vice President is going to write a letter to China.
Calica: Are you still hoping for a commutation?
LACIERDA: What we were made understand, again, it was just a postponement of the execution, but certainly, we would prefer a more positive outcome… Be are aware that the agreement last time was really about the postponement of the execution, but then again, I was made to understand that the Vice President is going to write a letter to the Chinese government.
Calica: Write a letter of appeal or…
LACIERDA: My understanding is that it will be a letter of appeal.
Roices Sibal [TV5]: Pero, sir, wala na pong plano si Presidente na ipadala si VP Binay doon sa China just to accompany siguro iyong mga relatives [ng mga bibitayin]?
LACIERDA: My understanding is walang instructions si Pangulo ngayon in that regard.
Jen [ABS-CBN]: Sir, si Vice President used the words “bargain letter.” Ano po iyong puwede nating i-offer kaya sa China? Is there anything we’re considering…
LACIERDA: I am not sure if a letter has been drafted. I’m not sure what the Vice President has in mind. It would be best that the Vice President be consulted because he was the one who went to China and he would be more knowledgeable of the details—his ideas for the letter. Kasi po, he used the words “bargain letter,” so mas nakakaalam po siya. Hintayin na lang po natin iyong liham na ipapadala po niya.
Reymund Tinaza [Bombo Radyo]: But will you allow the Vice President to bargain something from us in exchange for the three Filipinos [on death row]?
LACIERDA: Hindi ko alam kung ano po ang ibig sabihin po ng “bargain letter“ na sinasabi, assuming that he really said na “bargain letter.” Well, number one, dapat po nating malaman kung ano pong ibig sabihin ni Vice President tungkol sa “bargain letter.” So hindi po kami maaring magkumento tungkol diyan. I cannot say anything more on that, Reymund. Pasensya na.
Tinaza: So the President will have to see first what’s in the letter before the Vice [President] will send to the Chinese officials?
LACIERDA: I don’t know the arrangement between the President and the Vice President regarding that, but my understanding is the Vice President will be signing the letter that would be sent to China.
Mia Gonzales [Business Mirror]: Sir, Fraport is again suing the Philippine government … will banks exceed over NAIA 3 and the Fraport officials also said that they have written concerned government officials, including the Executive Secretary, asking for a meeting so that they could possibly smoothen out this matter without going through costly litigation. Is the government open to an out of the court settlement?
LACIERDA: Mia, number one, the government believes what should be paid should be the reasonable compensation or just compensation. That is the understanding of this government. With respect to the decision in Washington, we understand it was a procedural decision. It only allowed Fraport to refile its case. Having said that, we believe that we have the necessary evidence to defend ourselves in that case. And while we also would wish to avoid a costly litigation, we respect the decision of Fraport to file the case against the Philippine government. But again, our position is that we are willing to pay what is reasonable, what is just to the parties concerned.
Gonzales: So, sir, we would rather course this through court instead of opting for an out of court settlement?
LACIERDA: We believe that we are open to a just compensation. We are willing to pay that. But it seems like the claim of Fraport is more than what we believe is just and reasonable. But certainly, if we can arrive at what is just and reasonable based on our understanding, based on the appraisal of the improvements made on NAIA 3, then certainly we are open to that.
Gonzales: So, sir if you can arrive at that without having to go through court, you will do it?
LACIERDA: There is already an expropriation case in Pasay, and I understand that there was already an appraisal made on the property itself. The various property appraisals were, more or less near each other, around $400 plus million. So, that’s the range that we’re looking at. So, again, we are open to a payment of a just compensation on the improvements, but certainly, we are willing and prepared to defend ourselves in any arbitration proceedings before any venue or form.
Sibal: Ms. Jane Punongbayan, a PHIVOLCS research specialist, said that even the President is not safe here in the Palace or even in Bahay Pangarap, kasi malapit daw sa Pasig River, and may tendency na lumambot iyong lupa. Can we get your comment on this, at kung mayroon po bang plano iyong Palasyo na pa-check din siguro?
LACIERDA: Well, this is the first time I personally have received that information from you. But kahapon, nagme-meeting kami ni Secretary Rogelio Singson ng DPWH [Department of Public Woks and Higways] and iyon na nga, nasabi rin namin even this building, pinapa-check namin itong building na ito dahil nga kung ito ba ay safe o hindi, because about a few days ago nagkaroon tayo ng lindol dito. So, we asked si Secretary Singson to also check our building. Siguro, I will mention it to Secretary Singson iyong sinabi po ni Ms. Punongbayan tungkol po sa Bahay Pangarap. And certainly, we will take a look into the safety or the sturdiness of the structures that she mentioned.
Sibal: Sir, how about ano—earthquake drill siguro dito? Nagkaroon na ba o plano bang magsagawa ng ganoon?
LACIERDA: Hindi kami nag-earthquake drill noong naglindol.
Sibal: Hindi, sir, do you plan?
LACIERDA: Yes, I think kailangan talaga, because of these continuous tectonic movements. Siguro ay dapat tayong magkaroon ng earthquake drill din. We will be asking the appropriate authorities to give us the earthquake drill.
I think lahat tayo ay dapat makisama doon sa earthquake drill. Kasama kayo ‘pag nagkaroon tayo ng earthquake drill dito sa New Executive Building. Sasama tayo at walang uubo ha? [Laughter]
Tinaza: Sir, just your reaction to the Hong Kong inquiry on the Manila hostage crisis last year. Sir, kung saan some Philippine authorities, well, may pananagutan daw.
LACIERDA: Reymund, I haven’t seen the report. So, can you be more specific kung ano ba talaga iyong sinabi, iyong findings ng inquest. So, I have not seen a full report of the findings. May sinasabi lang— ay sinabing ganito lang. So kung masasabi kung ano talaga ang sinabi ng report, then we can give a better answer. So, I’d ask for your apologies if I will not comment. We cannot comment on parts and parcel of the report.
Tinaza: Will you wait for the official report from Hong Kong government?
Francis Rivera [UNTV]: Sir, clarify lang po ako regarding doon sa China, iyong bibitayin po na tatlong Pinoy. Sir, hindi po directive ni Pangulong Aquino itong pagpapadala ng letter ni Vice President Binay, sir?
LACIERDA: I haven’t spoken to the President. You can take the statement of the Vice President because I have not spoken to the President. I was in a meeting this morning. So, hindi ko alam. Hindi ko pa nakakausap si Pangulong Aquino. So, hindi kita masasagot. Pero you take the word of the Vice President; sila ang nag-usap. Yesterday, they were together; si Vice President and si President were in Cagayan De Oro I think. So, hindi ko alam kung ano pinag-usapan nila. So, I cannot comment on that question.
Rivera: Sir, any last-ditch effort po from the President for the execution, sir?
LACIERDA: My understanding, it’s the Vice President is taking the action. So, siya ang susulat ng liham.
Rivera: Sir, on earthquakes lang po. Sir, do you plan on mandatory parang drills to safeguard the employees?
LACIERDA: There’s a building code by the way. So, number one, we’ve asked reputable persons, authorities on structures, and they were one in saying that our new building code is very good. It has engineering solutions to the problems.
So, number one, our building code is very good. It’s well-crafted. Pagdating po doon sa mga earthquake drills na kung mandatory, hindi. Pag-aaralan pa ho ‘yan. We will ask the competent authorities kung ano po talaga. Number one, we need to also assess the situation in Metro Manila or the entire Philippines. There are certain areas that have been told—last night in fact, that there were certain areas na mas prone to earthquake. So, those things, we have to map out. And in fact, there’s a geo hazard mapping na ginagawa ang ating pamahalaan ngayon together with DOST [Department of Science and Technology] and DENR [Department of Environment and Natural Reosurces]. So, pag-aaralan po lahat natin iyon; and as soon as we can get a better handle on the situation, certainly, we will have these exercises be done to train us; not only the civilian population but also, especially, the students—ang mga estudyante, mga bata na nasa mga paaralan.
Joanna Poblete [Business World]: Sir, matanong lang po: Supposedly, in the second week of April bibigyan na ng subsidy iyong transport sector. Gusto ko lang po malaman kung matutuloy talaga at kung napadala dito iyong contingency plan ng committee?
LACIERDA: Our understanding is open to subsidies, pero gagawin muna sa transport sector. So, iyon muna ang gagawin. As to when, let me confirm that with the DOF [Department of Finance]. But certainly, they have already discussed this matter, and we will let you know kung kailan i-implement iyong subsidy.
Poblete: Sir, P600 million talaga po from the President’s contingency fund, wala ng dagdag?
LACIERDA: We will confirm that. May ibang mga funds na puwedeng i-secure kung kinakailangan.
Calica: Sir, may reports na nakipag-meet si Pampanga Representative Gloria Arroyo kay Ombudsman [Merciditas] Gutierrez, I think, para lang maki-simpatiya sa kanya. Anong implication ng ganitong meeting, sir?
LACIERDA: Alam mo, Au, hindi na muna kami magco-comment diyan. In fact, napanood ko iyong isyu kagabi. So, para naman hindi sabihin nang-aapi kami, hindi muna kami magkukomento. Ginawa po ni former President Arroyo ‘yan, and I’m sure she knows about the implications of such a visit. So, hanggang diyan na lang muna kami. We don’t want to make a comment on that visit.
Gonzales: Sir, there’s a new Pulse Asia survey showing the Vice President as being the most appreciated and the most trusted public official, even higher than the President.
LACIERDA: We’re certainly happy with it, because he’s part of the administration— he’s part of the team of the President. So, we’re certainly happy for the Vice President, that his numbers are high, and we welcome those numbers for the Vice President.
Aytch dela Cruz [Daily Tribune]: Reaksiyon lang daw po ng Palace doon sa House Resolution urging the President to allow the burial of the late President Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani—218 congressmen daw po signed the resolution.
LACIERDA: Aytch, the President has already mentioned why he would like to—this is from making a decision on that. In fact, he has already commissioned and asked the Vice President to make a study and form a committee to study that proposal. We leave that with the Vice President to study the matter and with respect to that resolution na ginawa nila Congressman Escudero. Nasa kay Vice President Binay po at saka sa kanya ang komite—ang magiging decision doon sa pag-aaral noon at saka doon sa resolution na ginawa nila.
Dela Cruz: And sir, just a follow up lang po doon sa PIATCO-Fraport issue. There’s a report quoting one of the deputy executive secretaries po saying that Malacañang is willing to review all the proposals that PIATCO—the proposals of PIATCO and the offers made by iyong Fraport AG and the legal battle involving the NAIA 3. We’re just wondering po if that would include iyong previous proposal ng PIATCO na 90 to 10 percent revenue sharing between the government and their firm?
LACIERDA: There are several proposals that have been submitted to the Office of the President. And one of them is, iyon nga, sa PIATCO. As you know, there’s a case nga sa PIATCO with the government in Pasay. Kasama po iyan sa mga proposals, but again, ang position po ng gobyerno is what is just and what is reasonable po ang basis for the negotiated—if at all kung magkakaroon ng negotiated settlement. Iyan lang po ang ating basis diyan. We will not give more than what is just and what is reasonable. So, those proposals, if they are just and reasonable in the view of government, certainly we would be open to them.
Norman Bordadora [Inquirer]: Sir good afternoon. Sir, can I just confirm if there was indeed a security cluster meeting this morning, at kung mayroon, ano iyong agenda?
LACIERDA: I just came from that meeting actually. The meeting is still ongoing. It’s a security cluster meeting on Libya—the situation in Libya and also our Filipinos there.
Bordadora: Sir, kasama ba sa na-discuss iyong kung ano iyong plans for returning OFWs? Livelihood or…
LACIERDA: Iyong sa livelihood, nag-usap kami ni Secretary Linda Baldoz tungkol diyan. And yes, we have the capacity to absorb all the returning Libyan OCWs, ‘no? So mayroon tayong kakayahan doon, so hindi po magiging problema. Iyan ang assurance ni Secretary Linda Baldoz.
Bordadora: Sir, have you also decided on, kumbaga, the deadliest deadline for Filipinos to leave?
LACIERDA: We have asked them to leave, but our Filipino workers in Libya are comprised mostly from the medical field and from the oil industry… and some domestic help, ano? Our assessment is that both sides of the Libyans, right now from pro-Gadhafi and anti-Gadhafi force Libyans, mahal naman ho ang mga Pilipino. So, there is no resentment against Filipinos. In fact, they’re well doon sa Libya. Ang problema lang talaga, and in fact, we already encouraged the Filipinos to evacuate and to repatriate themselves. But iba sa kanila ay they would prefer to stay. Some of them are already married to Libyan nationals, no? So as much as we would like our nationals to repatriate—to be repatriated—ay some of them would prefer to stay on and we cannot do anything about it.
Bordadora: Sir so, would it be accurate to say that the government would just let them be there?
LACIERDA: No. In fact, we cannot compel them if they don’t want to leave. But certainly, our instructions to them is, come home, come where it is safe, and iyon po ang ating instructions sa mga Pilipino roon. Some of them have decided to stay for reasons on their own. Some of them, because of their love ones there. Some of them because there’s higher pay. So—but the instructions is, “Umuwi na kayo. Kung maaari, magsilikas na kayo doon.”  And we are ready to help them once they decided to say na we’d like to be repatriated, the Philippine Embassy is there to help them.
Bordadora: Sir, aside from the Libyan situation, is there nothing else on the agenda, in the security…
LACIERDA: Primarily, it was about the Libyan situation for now.
Cristine Avendaño [Philippine Star]: Sir doon sa speech ni Presidente yesterday sa Cagayan de Oro, why did the President parang have to ask iyong people to support iyong impeachment bid? Mayroon ba siyang apprehension sa Senate or …?
LACIERDA: No, no, certainly not. He strongly believes that a new Ombudsman would help along the path of reform. Again, we’ve already maintained that the incumbent Ombudsman has been a stumbling block in our reform efforts. Why we have not been filing cases against those we have found to be liable because we believed that it will not serve the best interest of the government when she is there. Our cases will be diminished in substance. Our cases will not be—will be reduced to either a plea bargain.
There is no significant motivation in the part of the incumbent Ombudsman to see things … to prosecute officials which may belong to the past administration. That is our fear. And we believed that once that particular segment is removed, then we can push through with our efforts on reform. And that is why the President’s strongly believed that—and asked the people to support the impeachment process. The only way—again, the impeachment will be witnessed by the entire Filipino people with the Senator-Judges sitting in judgment… . But the people should learn what’s the—should know what’s going on in the impeachment process. And that’s the reason why the President believes that and asked the support of the Filipino people to rally behind him in removing this obstacle.
Avendaño: So parang he’s still confident—iyong in the Senate will be able to conduct a fair hearing or…
LACIERDA: Certainly, the President believes in the fairness of the Senators. That’s not in doubt. The President also believes in the strength in the merits of the complaint that it will stand at the base on the complaint, it will—the President is confident that impeachment complaint is strong as it is, as it will be submitted to the Senate. It has been submitted to the Senate, sorry. And the President is very confident that the impeachment is a strong complaint. Articles of impeachment, sorry, has a strong basis to impeach the incumbent Ombudsman—Sorry, to remove the incumbent Ombudsman.
Terminology is the Ombudsman has already been impeached by the House. It’s now a question of removal from office in the Senate.
Michael Fajatin [GMA 7]: Sir, nabasa niyo po ba iyong Coroners Court decision?
LACIERDA: Wala pa. wala pa.
Fajatin: Kasi may research po ako dito ang sabi po ng sa Coroners Court decision is, “The Coroners Court is open, fair and professional,” sabi po ng government ng Hongkong. And hindi lang daw nila parang nagustuhan is the most of the key personnel po or witnesses po ay hindi nakapag-contribute as witnesses doon po sa court decision.
LACIERDA: Nasa sa kanila na po iyon eh. Nasa mga testigo na po iyon kung nais nilang kusang mag-testify po sa Hongkong. We, in the government, through the DFA and through the DOJ [Department of Justice] have sent the summons to the witnesses. They were—the subpoenas were coursed through our agencies, government agencies.  And we’ve done our part to inform. I understand, a 183 yata, I’m not very clear with the numbers, ano, witnesses na hinihiling nila, and these are numbers based on the IIRC report. So we have done our part. We’ve asked the witnesses if they prefer to be brought to Hongkong. And also another medium of testifying before the Coroners—before the inquest was to have them interviewed here in Manila eh. I understand some of them went through the process of being interviewed here. I’m not sure of the venue. I think it was the DOJ or the DFA who venued the interview.
So, we’ve believed that we’ve done our part in cooperating. It just so happened that the witnesses themselves have—some of them—have decided not to testify in that inquest proceedings.
Fajatin: Sir, on China naman po. Sabi kanina ni Chinese Ambassador na may invitation na po daw for the President to have a state visit. Mayroon po ba itong effect doon sa tatlo pong Pinoy ngayon na iyong letter din po iko-consider?
LACIERDA: Wala naman siguro. Ito pong—again, ang protocol kasi, DFA na po ang mag-a-announce niyan, ano? Iyon na lang, I will just leave it at that. The protocol is for the DFA and for the Chinese Foreign Ministry to announce the visit. Up till now, wala pa namang concrete plan eh; hindi pa pulido iyong plano. So hayaan na muna natin iyong dalawa—iyong Embassy at saka iyong DFA mag-usap.
Delon Porcalla: Sir, iyong anim na cabinet officials na na-bypass, will they be appointed na?
LACIERDA: Na-bypass na ba?
Porcalla: Iyong anim, De Lima, et. al.?
LACIERDA: Well the President has every confidence in the cabinet officials. He has not voiced any concern. So, in no likelihood, we believed that the President will reappoint the six.
Porcalla: Aside from six, pati yata si Brillantes. Pano si Brillantes? Will he also be reappointed?
LACIERDA: No, Brillantes was appointed—hindi pa yata nasa-submit iyong pangalan niya eh, because—ad interim ba? We’ll see. Let me check the status of Chairman Brillantes.
Evangeline Fernandez [Police Files]: Sir, can you comment on the—in favor of passing the RH, Reproductive Bill according to the UP and Ateneo?
Fernandez: Favor po sila doon sa Reproductive Bill—pass the Reproductive Bill?
LACIERDA: Sorry, what do you want me to say?
Fernandez: Meaning to say, are you in favor of this?Malacañang—mas masasayahan ba sila kung mas maraming magpa-pabor?
LACIERDA: Iyong posisyon po ni Pangulo sa Responsible Parenthood, nandoon na po—the five-point statement. Again, we have not yet weighed in on the Reproductive Health Bill, itong nasa—nagkaroon na po kami ng discussions with the pro-RH advocates and the Bishops po. And right now, we are studying the—may mga concerns po kami doon sa RH Bill, but certainly, our position is the same. The President has his five-point statement on the Responsible Parenthood.
Fernandez: Yes sir, according to Ethan Sun, Spokesperson of Chinese Embassy, regarding the… iyong sa drug trafficking. Sir, sinabi niya po the verdict is final—made in strict accordance with the Chinese law. So, what’s the use of having a letter, bargaining letter, to the China?
LACIERDA: The Vice President believes that while it has not yet been carried out, that there’s still hope. So, nais po niya i-exhaust ang all possible means.
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