Abella contradicts Andanar: P2B aid for Surigao quake victims

Pia Ranada
Abella contradicts Andanar: P2B aid for Surigao quake victims
President Rodrigo Duterte's two spokesmen give contradicting interpretations of the Chief Executive's promise of aid for residents of Surigao City

MANILA, Philippines – The P2 billion worth of aid mentioned by President Rodrigo Duterte is intended for Surigao earthquake victims, not mine workers, said Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella, contradicting earlier statements of his fellow spokesman, Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar.

Abella, in a Palace news briefing on Tuesday, February 14, recalled the President’s exact quote during his speech in Surigao last Sunday, February 12, that mentioned the P2-billion aid.

He concluded, based solely on the quote, that the President was speaking of the amount in a “light-hearted manner” and that it is intended for quake victims.

“The essence of the statement is not the P2 billion but that the essence of the statement is that he will release the monies and the funds to supply the needs of those affected by the earthquake victims,” said Abella.

His English interpretation of Duterte’s Bisaya statement is as follows: “I will release a little money, so please use it carefully, especially for those who lost their lives or to those who lost their properties or lives. Is P2 billion enough? I don’t think you can use all of that.”

But Andanar, in a radio interview on Monday, February 13, said the aid mentioned by Duterte is for workers who will lose their jobs when the government’s mining closure orders take effect in the region.

Andanar had said: “The P2 billion he mentioned, ‘This P2 billion, is this enough?’ This was mentioned by the President when he was talking in the context of [the] mining problem, that when the operations are closed, people will need livelihood.”

Duterte mentioned the specific “P2 billion” figure only once in his speech. It is clear from the quotes used by Abella and Andanar that they were referring to the same Duterte quote.

When asked about the apparent contradiction between his interpretation and that of Andanar, Abella was careful not to say his colleague was wrong.

“I’m not saying he relayed wrong info… I’m not saying that’s not true. I’m saying that if you need further clarification on that part of the communication, you may refer to him,” said Abella.

Andanar has not replied to Rappler’s request for comment on the issue.

Contradiction or not, Abella said what is clear is that the President is determined to provide quake victims with all the assistance they need.

“The primary source is PRRD (President Rodrigo Roa Duterte) and PRRD made a commitment to meet their needs… The collective intent is to provide for all their needs, the survivors of the earthquake,” he said.

Despite Duterte’s mention of a specific figure for the aid, Abella said the joking manner in which the President mentioned the sum means there is no specific amount yet.

“The crucial part is that he, the President, would release financial aid for those in need. There was no specific number for that,” said Abella.

Thousands in Surigao del Norte are in need of assistance after the earthquake and its aftershocks caused P666 million worth of damage.

The quake left at least 8 people dead and more than 200 others injured. 

Some 550 families or 2,750 individuals in the province were affected by the tremor. – Rappler.com

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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.