Cabinet told: No VIPs, stop online gambling

FIRST CABINET MEETING President Rodrigo Duterte gives marching orders to his Cabinet officials.

MANILA — Forget special treatment and put an end to online gambling.

These are two of Rodrigo Duterte’s first marching orders to the members of his Cabinet as he spelled out his plan of government to them hours after he took his oath as the 16th President of the Republic.
“Not because of anything, I don’t want to be treated as important. We should treat ourselves just like any other Filipino traveler,” Mr. Duterte told his Cabinet secretaries at their first meeting in Malacañang.

“I don’t want special treatment. There’s no stopping of activities just because of somebody,” he said in English and Filipino.

As if mimicking his predecessor’s “no wangwang” (no siren) policy, Mr. Duterte ordered Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade to instruct the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines to scrap the “no-fly zone” protocol at the airports to accommodate presidential flights.

A 30-minute delay in the flights to give way to an inbound or outbound VIP flight may lead to the cancellation of other flights, particularly in airports that don’t have nighttime runway operations, he said.

“I want this stopped,” he said. “We should not be treated differently from the other suffering Filipino passengers. It’s not good.”

“If anyone of us is given priority to takeoff, then we should thank them. But we should also share everyone’s travail. We should fall in line,” he added.

The President said he planned to take commercial flights in going around the country. He said he was not keen on buying a private plane despite offers from some supporters.

Mr. Duterte told Tugade to study the possibility of building a new road network to make travel from Metro Manila to Clark Field, in Pampanga province, faster.

He said some domestic flights may be diverted to Clark International Airport “so that flights will not flood” Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia), the country’s premier air gateway.

Said the President: “In the meantime, we have to remedy the overcrowding at Naia. We really have only one airport. It’s Naia. Period. And it services the entire country and all of the airplanes going to Manila.”

Like his previous late-night press briefings, Mr. Duterte’s meeting with his Cabinet, the first few minutes of which was aired live by the state-owned People’s Television Network, was a freewheeling discussion on a hodgepodge of topics.

From talking about the sorry plight of the country’s airports, Mr. Duterte shifted to his experiences in bringing assistance to Leyte province after the province was flattened by Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (international name: Haiyan) in November 2013.

He said he was dismayed at the government’s response to the disaster, noting that not one of the Navy’s vessels was deployed when he arrived in Tacloban City a few days after the powerful typhoon struck.

“What really surprised me, bewildered me, was when I met a soldier who asked me, ‘Mayor, do you have water?’ I knew then that it was the problem,” Mr. Duterte said.

“I am not trying to condemn anybody but…,” he said. “So the resources must be on deck, positioned nearby. If you can draw the path of the typhoon and deploy the assets of the government, what’s important is that there’s clean water and (ready-to-eat) food.”

Mr. Duterte then went on to discuss his plan to curb online gambling and the activities of “fixers” in government agencies, particularly the Land Transportation Office (LTO).

The President said he would order the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) to rescind the permits that the previous administration had awarded to companies operating online gambling.

“Online gambling must stop… I don’t want the proliferation of gambling in the country,” he said.
“There’s no way for the government to collect taxes from online gambling anyway. How do you collect tax [from online gambling]?” he asked.

The President also reiterated his disgust at the sight of people lining up at government offices to submit documents or ask for state assistance.

Instead of wasting their time lining up, he said, stubs should be given to people who are submitting documents or applying for permits.

“I don’t want to see Filipinos queueing, lining up,” he said. “They should be given a shopping list if they’re ignorant or don’t know anything. Then after completion, they will go there for their application or clearance.”

The President disclosed his plan to set up emergency hotline 8888, which would be manned by 10 telephone operators tasked to assist people during emergencies.

Among the Cabinet officials who attended the meeting were Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol, Public Works Secretary Mark Villar, Education Secretary Leonor Briones, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Health Secretary Paulyn Jean Russel-Ubial, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez, Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo, Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano, Environment Secretary Regina Paz Lopez, Interior Secretary Ismael Sueño, Tourism Secretary Wanda Corazon Teo, Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade, Science and Technology Secretary Fortunato de la Peña, Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno, Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi, National Economic and Development Authority Director General Ernesto Pernia, Information and Communications Technology Secretary Ramon Salalima, presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr., presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo Jr., Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza, Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco Jr., special assistant to the President Christopher Lawrence Go, and Presidential Communications Office chief Martin Andanar.