Press Release
September 27, 2006

Transcript of Sen. Franklin M. Drilon's press conference

Q: On the TESDA budget

SFMD: More than one-half of the DOLE budget pertains to TESDA. From the way we look at the budget, TESDA funds have become part and a source of pork barrel. The 2007 budget of TESDA carries an appropriation of P400 million for scholarships all over the country of about 34,000 scholars. This is under the Private Education Student Financial Assistance and the PGMA Training for Work Scholarship Project. From the testimony of Director General Augusto Syjuco, it would appear that these scholarships are allocated per congressional district. Although purportedly based on the economic indicators showing an employment in a particular region, the nominees are nominees of the congressman of a particular district. There is no rhyme or reason for this system, except that it is part of political patronage. We intend to examine this very closely as apparently it is part of the pork barrel funds that is inserted in the budget.

Q: TESDA has P2.6 billion as against DOLE-Proper , which is only P1.3 billion

SFMD: The DOLE-Proper, Office of the Secretary would be P1.39 billion as against TESDA of P2.682 billion. There is an increase of P260 million, half of which, will go to scholarship programs, which appears to me to be a pork barrel fund.

Q: This is new for this budget?

SFMD: The previous budgets carried also P200 million but this is now being doubled.

Q: Similar to the GMA scholarship?

SFMD: This is in fact the PGMA Training for Work Scholarship Project. That is how it is called. Likewise, we discovered that contrary to the general thrust of government to decentralized its functions, the Director General has now taken back to his office about 40 percent of the total budget and now has redistributed at his own will and caprice this 40 percent to the various regional offices. In other words, instead of decentralizing, he is now centralizing the resources, which is contrary to the thrust of government and which is confirmed by the Department Secretary Brion, himself, when he said that in the DOLE Proper, they are decentralizing. On the other hand, Director General Syjuco is centralizing the resources.

Q: Lahat ng congressional districts?

SFMD: All congressional districts are given. The nominations are done by politicians.

Q: There is no testing?

SFMD: Wala. Slots lang. The only standard is how many slots will be assigned to a particular congressional district on the basis of the economic indicators in the province vis a vis unemployment rate.

Q: Including opposition congressional districts?

SFMD: We didn't ask that but the scholars are nominated by the politicians.

Q: Can the committee compel Syjuco to set things right?

SFMD: Certainly, we have control over the proposed budget. We will look into this realignment of funds to the central office, which is contrary to government policy.

Q: Ano ang reaction ninyo sa EO yesterday putting the PRC under DOLE?

SFMD: The first time we knew it is when Secretary Brion mentioned it this morning. The DOLE bureaucracy, itself, was surprised by this. They are concerned that a huge bureaucracy, unwieldy as it is, the PRC is being brought under their supervision. From the way they discussed it with me, they are not so confident that they are equipped to handle such a huge bureaucracy suddenly being made part of the DOLE family.

Q: What is the risk of such unstable take by the DOLE?

SFMD: They are not certain that they can handle and supervise the bureaucracy of the PRC. That is their concern, principally. Given the autonomy enjoyed by the PRC and its boards, the DOLE will have the responsibility without the appropriate authority. Certainly, that is a cause of concern. So that you will be made responsible for the performance of the PRC but your authority to supervise would be very limited as this commission and the various boards are independent entities.

Q: Are you satisfied with the outcome of the Supreme Court proceedings on people's initiative yesterday?

SFMD: I was pleased with the result of the arguments. It was quite obvious that Sigaw ng Bayan, notwithstanding all the noise that they have created and the cloud the ULAP has caused, very clearly, from the questions of the justices, the people's initiative will not succeed because it is not consistent and not authorized under the Constitution. Even if the question of the sufficiency of the law is sustained, the fact that it is obviously a revision rather than an amendment is so obvious that if only on this basis, the petition will fail. Apart from the fact, of course, that you cannot charge the Comelec with abuse of discretion when the Comelec simply followed this previous decision of the Supreme Court. I am satisfied with the way the questions were raised and the general result of the argument yesterday.

Q: Panganiban said he wants to review the Santiago vs Comelec case

SFMD: The Chief Justice indeed said that. The ruling in Santiago is indeed under review. There is nothing that would prevent the Supreme Court from reviewing the Santiago case. They can affirm it or reverse it. There is no question that the doctrine can be revisited. But having said that, the Sigaw and the ULAP people will find it extremely difficult to convince the justices that what they are doing is allowed under the Constitution. Because what they are doing is clearly a revision of the Constitution and a people's initiative would be limited to simple amendments of the Constitution.

Q: Do you expect the administration to shift to Plan B?

SFMD: I expect them to do that. But again, the issue of whether or not the House of Representatives can do it alone is a hurdle that will ultimately have to be overcome. This would have to be decided by the Supreme Court.

Q: On Con-Ass

SFMD: To me, the chances of Con-Ass is as cloudy as the ULAP petition.

Q: Congress will start discussing Con-Ass

SFMD: That is part of their Plan B. As I said, ultimately this will end up ion the Supreme Court, on that legal issue as to whether they can do it alone even without convening Congress into a Constituent Assembly. By way of background, let me emphasize that there are two steps involved in the amendment of the Constitution through a Constituent Assembly. The first step is to convert Congress into a Constituent Assembly. Meaning, that you now convert Congress into an assembly not to make laws but to propose amendments to the Constitution. The second step is for Congress as a Constituent Assembly to now propose amendments to the Constitution. On the first step alone, there is no resolution constituting Congress into a Constituent Assembly. Therefore, the House of Representatives alone cannot assume the functions of a Constituent Assembly without the concurrence of the Senate. In fact, the House of Representatives sent to us late last year the resolution asking the Senate to sit as a body in a Constituent Assembly in order that that body can propose amendments to the Constitution. To me, the legal hurdle is extremely difficult. Also, on a daily basis we receive from the House bills changing the name of a barangay, changing the name of a street, changing the name of a school. If in these instances the concurrence of the Senate is necessary, how much more in the process of amending the Constitution.

Q: Who is going to take this up to the Supreme Court?

SFMD: Depending on how the Comelec will decide on this. Because the process is that after the House by their lonesome selves would propose amendments to the Constitution, it goes to the Comelec for the Comelec to set the date of the plebiscite. Of course, the Comelec will initially decide whether or not it is a valid amendment to the Constitution. That is the first issue that the Comelec must decide. If the Comelec says, there is no valid proposal to amend the Constitution, then the House will go to the Supreme Court. Just like what happened today, it is the Sigaw and the ULAP who went to the Comelec. The Comelec decided there is no sufficient law. So it is Sigaw and ULAP who are the petitioners before the court.

Q: Is there time for Plan B?

SFMD: I don't think so. Plan B is gahol sa panahon.

Q: On the Washington labor post

SFMD: We just expressed our views on the usefulness of the Washington post, where we spend nearly P4 million a year. We thought that it is a prime vacation post and therefore urged the Secretary of Labor to review their operations and usefulness of that post because to our mind, the cost benefit ratio is not in favor of the taxpapers insofar as the Washington post is concerned. (end)

News Latest News Feed