Press Release
August 2, 2006

Transcript of interview with Liberal Party President Sen. Franklin M. Drilon

Q: Nire-raise ni Sen. Joker na unconstitutional daw and supplemental budget

SFMD: I am sure there are ways of making sure that we comply with the Constitutional requirement. The 2006 budget is no longer being discussed in the bicam. We have practically considered it as already scuttled. Even the President in her SONA, mentioned the need for a supplemental budget. The Secretary of budget has already sent to me as chair of the Committee on Finance the bill asking for a supplemental budget, about P46.4 billion. It only means that the position of Malacañang is no longer to push for 2006 and have a supplement to the 2005 reenacted budget. So we can consider the 2006 budget as effectively dead.

Q: You are open to the supplemental budget?

SFMD: Yes. Because many of the items there are mandatories. Meaning, that we have to appropriate for them. An example is the share of the local government units or the internal revenue allotment. In 2006, their share should be based on the 2003 collection of national taxes. The reenacted budget of 2005 is based on 2002 taxes collected. There is a difference of about P14.8 billion in the share of the LGUs. That must be appropriated.

Q: But your committee cannot act on that yet

SFMD: Officially, we cannot act on it until the House would pass their version.

Q: Tentatively, when do you see a supplemental budget being passed?

SFMD: I don't know. It's too early to say. The House has not even started its deliberations.

Q: On the evacuation of Filipinos in Lebanon.

SFMD: Now certain quarters have raised the question on whether or not the OWWA funds can be used for the benefit of non-members. Non-members, being those who are undocumented workers. Remember that the OWWA funds is sourced out of the contributions of employers. And you can only have an employer where you have an employment contract. Meaning, only documented workers are members of OWWA. Those who are not documented, those who are not properly recruited through the POEA are not members of OWWA. My position is that it can be used. But that opinion can be tested during the committee hearings. Remember, OWWA is a trust fund. Since the OWWA was established for the benefit of overseas Filipino workers, my position is that it can be used. Of course, some sectors are arguing that under Section 15 of the Migrant Workers' Act, these repatriation funds must come from the General Appropriations Act, not from OWWA. Only the first P100 million of the repatriation fund can come from OWWA. After that, it must be under the GAA. There is nothing in the GAA on this. That is precisely why there is need to examine the law. The President's contingent fund can be used here. Certainly, this is a contingent, which was not foreseen. Therefore, the contingent fund of the President can be used for the evacuation of these Filipino workers. These only indicates that the query of the Committee on Labor is a legitimate query in aid of legislation, in order to clarify this issue.

Q: May statement ang Malacañang na walang aattend sa hearing?

SFMD: It's unfortunate. The leadership of the Senate must be able to assert the prerogative of the Senate to inquire into this in aid of legislation. Otherwise, we do not work anymore.

Q: Ano po ba ang plano ninyo sa 2006 budget ngayong parating na ang 2007 budget?

SFMD: In the SONA, the President expressed her preference for a supplemental budget. I have received the proposed supplemental budget from Secretary Andaya. Secretary Andaya has expressed willingness to brief the senators on this proposed supplemental budget.

Q: Sen. Villar said baka magkasabay ang pag-review ng supplemental budget at 2007 budget, puwede ba iyon?

SFMD: I would try to hear first the supplemental budget. We will see how it will go.

Q: There is no need to draw the P500 million from the supplemental budget?

SFMD: My view, it can be justified under OWWA charter. In fact, this is not the first time that an event of this nature has happened. In the past, OWWA funds are also used for repatriation regardless of whether or not any worker was documented or not. There are precedents in the OWWA. The first $4 million came from OWWA funds. So to me, it can be justified.

Q: Do we have the money to evacuate every Filipino in Lebanon?

SFMD: The contingent fund of the President is there. This is a valid use of the contingent fund. OWWA has reserves of at least P7.5 million. The repatriation funds sought for is not included in the supplemental budget submitted to me. (end)

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