Press Release
July 31, 2006

Transcript of Kapihan sa Manila
with Liberal Party President Sen. Franklin M. Drilon

Q: With the assumption of Sen. Villar to the Senate presidency, do you foresee any drastic changes in the legislative agenda, committees in the Senate?

SFMD: Based on the pronouncements of Senator Villar, I don't expect that many changes. For one, we have barely six months. Remember that by mid-February, the certificates of candidacy will be filed for the senatorial slate. Any major change in the committees will further delay whatever work we intend to finish before the campaign period starts. On that premise, I don't see any major shift in the legislative agenda. This legislative agenda was set on the start of this Congress, two years ago. Therefore, we will be winding up whatever remains in the calendar. From the records of the Senate, I would expect the following bills to be given priority: the Anti-terrorism bill, which is in the last stages of interpellation; the Biofuels Act, which provides an alternative source of energy. It's a long-term policy but I think we should push it at this point. We have a number of fiscal measures, including the rationalization of the fiscal incentives to the companies that came in here through Clark and Subic economic areas, whose grant of incentives was voided by the Supreme Court. The UP charter is another bill that is long pending and should be given a push in the next six months. These are some of the items that I see. Of course, the other priority is the bill, which would allow and authorized automation of our 2007 elections. This is urgent considering that we need a certain timeframe within which to computerize our election. I don't see any major shift in the policy of the Senate.

Q: On the supplemental budget

SFMD: First, I'm not yet the chairman of the finance committee. Traditionally, during the time of the late Neptali Gonzales, the Senate president, once he relinquishes the position, is given the courtesy of heading the finance committee but until that is done, I don't want to be presumptuous. But regardless of whether or not I become the chair of the Committee on Finance, I would repeat my previous position: I am in favor of a supplemental budget. Because there are certain mandatory allotments. For example, the allotment for the internal revenue allotment (IRA) of the local government units; the automation of the election; the salary increase of our government personnel, including the retirement fund. These are mandatories, which we should provide for in a supplemental budget. I know that Malacañang , at least on what we read in the papers, is proposing about P46 billion in supplemental budget. This means that the total budget for 2006, reenacted 2005 budget plus P46 billion, is approximately P64 billion less than the 2006 proposed budget. Therefore, if the President did not take the position that it's all or nothing, we could have passed the 2006 budget. If you add P46 billion to the 2005 reenacted budget, and compare that to the proposed 2006 budget, which we were not able to approve in the bicam, it would show that Malacañang , all this time, is willing to reduce the 2006 budget by about P64 billion. It will show that Malacañang was all the time amenable to a cut of about P64 billion in the 2006 budget. If this is so, then there was no sense in the President saying, 'you approve the entire 2006 proposal or I will veto the budget.'

Q: What about the appropriation for finished projects? Is that going to be refunded?

SFMD: Theoretically, when the project is finished, that authority is no longer available. But given the fact that we do not follow a line-item budget, but a lump sum appropriation, indeed, we estimate that there should be about P10 to P15 billion in infrastructure projects, which were completed in 2005 but because of the reenacted budget, is carried to 2006. That is available for realignment. In the supplemental budget, we will look into that and see how much we can realign for the mandatories.

Q: Is there really lack of funds in the repatriation of Filipinos from Lebanon ? There is information that there is no record of remittance by OWWA to the DFA.

SFMD: Ang sabi nga ng mga kabataan ngayon, may _expression na 'been there, done that.' I have been there and I have done that before. What is happening is that these officials of government are bickering over who has control of the funds. Do not forget the golden rule; 'he who has the gold, rules.' It is between OWWA and the DFA. OWWA has the funds. DFA has limited funds. What Ambassador Bichara is complaining about is that he has only petty cash, and he is only supposed to pay for the food and snacks of the stranded OFWs. The bulk of the money, now $4 million allegedly, $2 million was earlier released, another $2 million, which I understand, was approved last week, is in the hands of the OWWA welfare officer. The DFA wants control of these funds rather than the OWWA welfare officer because whoever has the gold, rules. Therefore, they are bickering over the control of the funds and sacrificing the needs of our OFWs. I would strongly suggest that Ambassador Bichara and OWWA to put their acts together, and stop fighting over who has control of the funds. Because that is the situation. This has happened before. When I was executive secretary, Iraq invaded Kuwait. We had to evacuate thousands of Filipino maids out of Kuwait. And again, OWWA funds were tapped. The Philippine ambassador then in Kuwait was complaining because he wanted control of the funds. This is again being repeated. And it is human nature. Kung sino ang may hawak ng pera, siya ang may kapangyarihan. Dahil hawak ng OWWA officer, nagrereklamo si Ambassador Bichara.

Q: Sinasabi daw sa mga evacuees, makisiksik na lang sa mga bus

SFMD: Having the UN assistance is okay, but to plead with some other countries na isingit naman itong ating mga kababayan ay nakakahiya. Where is our national pride? We have the funds. The OWWA has P7.6 billion in cash reserves that is available for incidents such as these. Let us put our money where our mouth is. We keep on saying that they are our modern day heroes. Now they are in distress, stop fighting over who has control of the funds.

Q: Sabi ni Speaker de Venecia, magpapadala daw tayo ng UN peacekeeping force sa Lebanon..

SFMD: That might be another occasion that we will have a black eye. Remember, we had a Philippine contingent in Iraq. Suddenly we pulled it out. It was a source of embarrassment. It was a decision dictated by domestic considerations. To have another contingent will expose once more, our police and military personnel to risks out there. But the more telling risk is the black eye on our international standing should we suddenly pull out again of Lebanon at the slightest provocation. I hope we don't repeat that experience anymore.

Q: On the division of the Liberal party

SFMD: Pending po iyan sa Comelec. We are in the process of rebuilding the party. Last Thursday, we had a new member from the House of Representatives, Cong. Benjie Agarao of Laguna, joining the LP. We have other local officials, potential candidates in 2007 already joining the party. We are confident that we will be able to rebuild the party.

Q: Why did the Cavite governor suddenly backed out from your faction?

SFMD: I would leave that to Governor Maliksi. What are the reasons, that are personal to him. Just a statement of fact, he is facing administrative charges before the Ombudsman. Whether or not that was used as a pressure point, I am not in the position to say. That could be best answered by him. Given the local politics in Cavite between the Remullas and Governor Maliksi, the two crucial votes of the Remulla brothers in the House on the impeachment, that is a matter for the public to conclude.

Q: That charges mean suspension?

SFMD: That's correct. And the vice governor of Cavite is a Remulla.

Q: Pinag-uusapan na ang senatorial ticket, the opposition will put up a powerhouse ticket?

SFMD: For one, Loi Estrada is running for reelection. Ping Lacson is running for reelection. The administration finds itself in a very awkward position for the 2007 senatorial election. Anyone running for the administration will be asked, 'what is your position vis a vis the abolition of the Senate, as part of the Constitutional amendments.' If you are running in the administration ticket, what will you say? Are you in favor of an amendment to the Constitution, converting our system into a parliamentary unicameral system as proposed by the administration?' If you say yes, I am in favor of that, what are you doing running in the administration ticket? If you say no, I am not in favor, why are you running under the administration ticket? This only indicates that the administration will be hard put in making any of their candidates win in the 2007 senatorial slate. Apart from the dearth of possible winnable candidates, as a matter of platform, where do they stand? Where would the prospective administration senatorial candidates stand vis a vis charter change?

Q: On the SONA

SFMD: The SONA should be what it is; the state of the nation. What was suggested is the state of the nation after three years. That remains to be seen. It sounded more like the annual reports of the DPWH and the DOTC secretaries.

Q: Mukhang systematic daw ang pagpatay sa mga militante?

SFMD: We can condemn till we turn blue in our faces but as long as there is no complete action on the part of government on this matter, really this is something we should all be concerned about. The Philippines is a member of the UN Commission on Human Rights. The first item in the agenda is the review of the human rights record of all the initial members of the Council. I am afraid that the record of the country cannot stand scrutiny. We may not be deserving of the membership in the human rights commission given our record, especially in the recent past when those identified with the left were being assassinated. You cannot kill ideology by shooting the messenger. You must address the reasons why people embrace another ideology. And that is where the failure of government policy is. They believe that they can kill ideology by killing the ideologue. I am sorry, that cannot be done. History will show that that system is totally wrong. And that policy is totally condemnable.

Q: Can we call this constructive killing?

SFMD: Everybody looks at government. Maybe there is no proof directly that government is involved in these killings. But certainly, the lack of resolve in the investigation conducted, strengthens the view that these must be state-sponsored. The lack of any progress in the investigation of over a hundred killings, strengthen the belief that this is state-sponsored. In governance, perception is critical. We cannot keep on saying, 'witnesses come out.' You cannot blame these people from not coming out. Until the government can show its sincerity in resolving these extra-judicial killings, then you can never expect witnesses to cooperate.

Q: Bishop Tobias on the SONA said we cannot have growth without development. What can you say on this?

SFMD: I cannot blame Bishop Tobias for taking that position because as bishop, he is exposed to the hardship of his flock on a daily basis. As the head of the church in Novaliches, I can imagine the number of poor people that would flock the church and see the poverty Bishop Tobias could see. All those glowing statistics dished out on a daily basis cannot stand in the face of poverty that Bishop Tobias would say on a daily basis. Even assuming that there is an improvement, it does not trickle down to the masses and unemployment, underemployment continues. And as the people continue suffering the fangs of poverty, you will never be able to address the problem of insurgency in the manner that it is being addressed now, shooting down the insurgents.

Q: Can you charge the Arroyo government of inaction on the Bolante case?

SFMD: I am not surprised. The President provided P1 billion for the anti-corruption drive. My suggestion is that part of the P1 billion be used to repatriate Jocjoc Bolante. Then the anti-graft drive of this administration will acquire some credibility.

Q: On Garcillano

SFMD: My information is that Commissioner Garcillano is going to run for Congress in Bukidnon. The seat to be vacated by Cong. Neric Acosta. Third-termer na si Acosta. So you now have Garcillano, who undoubtedly will win the election, and now will be called the honorable gentleman from the province of Bukidnon.

Q: I understand Bolante is selling his luxury cars, hindi ba puwedeng habulin ng gobyerno ang proceeds ng sale of his luxury cars?

SFMD: Mahahabol iyan kapag mayroon nang kaso. At least, puwede mong i-attach. In case of conviction, it can be garnished. But before that process, wala kang magagawa. You can attach the moment a criminal case is filed in court. (end)

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