Things Duterte said in his one-on-one interview with Panelo

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Things Duterte said in his one-on-one interview with Panelo
President Rodrigo Duterte discusses the pressing concerns of the country during a dialogue with Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo at the Malacañan Palace on Sept. 11, 2018.
Valerie Escalera / Presidential Photo

MANILA, Philippines — From the nullification of the amnesty granted to his nemesis, Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, to the spike in the prices of basic goods and services, President Rodrigo Duterte tackled a wide range of issues that his administration is facing.

Duterte had a one-on-one interview with Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo Tuesday afternoon before the scheduled Cabinet meeting.

The president discussed the amnesty granted to Trillanes by the previous administration, the supposed plot to oust him and the country’s rice crisis, among others.

The interview, which lasted for an hour and a half, offered nothing new but a reiteration of previous statements of the president to the public. Many times in the interview, Duterte criticized Trillanes even when talking about different topics.

Opposition figure Sen. Risa Hontiveros called the tête-à-tête a “complete disappointment” and “a total waste of time and precious government resources.”

She said that the president failed to present concrete measures to solve the rice crisis and soaring inflation.

Here’s a rundown of what the president said during his interview with Panelo:

Nullification of the amnesty granted to Trillanes

Duterte maintained his claim that former President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III did not properly grant the amnesty to Trillanes

He earlier claimed that former Defense chief Voltaire Gazmin committed “usurpation of authority” when he signed the certificate of amnesty issued to Trillanes.

According to Duterte, the granting of amnesty cannot be delegated to a subordinate or an alter ego.

“An act of pardon or amnesty is an act of state. It cannot be delegated to anybody but to the president himself,” he said.

Gazmin was acting upon the directive of Aquino’s Proclamation 75, which granted amnesty to active and former personnel of the police and the military who were involved in the 2003 Oakwood mutiny, 2006 Marines stand-off and 2007 Manila Peninsula siege.

This premise was not initially cited in Duterte’s Proclamation 572, which cited the opposition senator’s failure to comply with the application requirements for amnesty as the reason for the nullification.

‘Ouster plot’

The chief executive once again floated the alleged plan of Jose Maria Sison-led communist rebels, the Magdalo group and his critics to oust him.

“It might be loose conspiracy but they are into it, sabay sabay sila,” he alleged.

He even said that he has “evidence” that the three groups are in alliance to topple the current administration.

Duterte added that the “connection” of the three groups would be shown soon.

The Liberal Party and the Magdalo party-list denied their supposed involvement in the new ouster move against the president.

Sison earlier told ANC that Duterte’s claim of an alleged ouster plot is just meant to divert public attention from the issues hounding the government.

In the same interview, Duterte repeatedly said that the military men who are no longer satisfied with his leadership could go to Trillanes, his top critic.

“If Trillanes did something for you, go to them and stage a mutiny or revolution. You are free to do that. As a matter of fact, I’m encouraging you,” the president said.


Duterte said his economic managers are taking measures to curb the country’s inflation, which hit its highest level in nine years last month.

“The economic managers are working on it. We are having a Cabinet meeting right after this and I’ll also have the chance to ask some questions,” he said.

“The economic life of the country cannot be a bed of roses,” the president also said.

Inflation rose to 6.4 percent in August, the fastest pace since the 6.6 percent posted in March 2009.

Duterte earlier blamed the tariffs slapped by United States President Donald Trump has something to do with the rising commodity prices, which have been hitting the poor the hardest.

Malacañang also downplayed the August inflation print, calling it “high but not ridiculously high.”

“Take it easy, it’s still normal. Inflation is higher than usual but it’s nothing to worry about,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said.

Rice woes

The chief executive claimed that the country’s recent rice crisis is “artificial” and caused by “man-made manipulation.”

He said the only way to solve the surging price of the country’s staple food is more importation.

“When worst comes to worst, I will open Sabah. Everyone will be full. It will be free for all,” Duterte said. He repeatedly mentioned that rice from the Malaysian state is cheap.

Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol earlier proposed the establishment of a rice trading center in the Zamboanga, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi area.

Duterte also announced that National Food Authority Jason Aquino had requested to be relieved from his post amid the country’s rice woes.

“He said that he’s tired and he cannot cope up with the [dynamics] inside,” Duterte said, adding he is now looking for Aquino’s replacement.

Early in September, Duterte said he would not dismiss any official over the rice crisis in the country as he sees no “serious offense” committed amid the problems involving the country’s staple food.

He also recommended the abolition of the NFA Council, saying it has no purpose.

Third telco

Duterte also vowed that he would name the third telecommunications player that would compete with giants PLDT and Globe by Christmas.

“I will resolve it by late October to early November. By Christmas, the public would know who the third player is,” he said, adding that he would select a bidder with the best track record instead of the one offering the lowest price.

The president expressed frustration over the slow selection process. “You know, I’ve been waiting for that decision, critical decision, until now nothing.”

Department of Information and Communications Technology Secretary Eliseo Rio earlier said that the new player might be announced by December.

Duterte had said he wanted a new telco player to compete with incumbent players to provide more option and better services to the public.

Martial law in Mindanao

The chief executive also claimed that martial law in Mindanao has lessened criminality in the southern Philippines.

“We can thrive in a war zone. We can survive on a controlled condition,” he said.

Duterte originally declared martial law in the entire Mindanao on May 23, 2017 amid conflict between government troops and a Islamic State-inspired terror group which laid siege to Marawi City.

In December last year, lawmakers approved Duterte’s request to extend its implementation until the end of 2018.  

Human rights groups cited allegations of rights violations during the continued implementation of martial law in Mindanao. Other critics voiced concerns that the administration might be using the military rule to prepare the ground for its implementation nationwide.

Boracay re-opening

Duterte said he is leaving the decision to reopen Boracay to the Department of the Interior and Local Government, Department of Environment and Department of Tourism.

“I will wait for the recommendation. I leave it to the [three departments]. Sila na mag-usap dyan. Bahala na sila. They can vote on it,” he said.

Tourism chief Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said the popular tourist destination will reopen for business on October 26.

Boracay—previously called by Duterte as “cesspool”—was ordered closed for six months to allow the government to rehabilitate the island.

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As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: September 11, 2018 - 4:28pm

Malacañang has canceled the national address that President Rodrigo Duterte was scheduled to give this afternoon.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque yesterday said the address was not final, yet the announcement was issued, prompting media organizations, schools and other relevant institutions to dedicate resources to monitor and cover the supposed event.

The Palace is yet to explain what led to the cancelation.

Instead, the president's communications team invited only state-run broadcast network PTV4, Palace reporters and other close-in writers to cover a tête-à-tête—similar to a talk show—between Duterte and his chief legal counsel, Salvador Panelo.

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