Press Release
November 8, 2006

Transcript of interview with Sen. Franklin M. Drilon

On the Comelec budget

SFMD: We want to examine closely the Comelec budget. We have not made any final decision. We want to have an extensive review. Because under their proposal, they want to establish 94,000 more precincts compared to 2004. And yet, there is no substantial increase in the number of voters registered for 2007. As of the end of 2006, second quarter, there was approximately 41.7 million registered voters, which is almost the same as the 2004 number of voters. And yet, in the budget for 2007, there is a proposal to increase the number of precincts by 94,000 on a presumed number of registered voters of P49 million. It is certainly questionable to project that between June 30 or July 1 2006, and December 31, 2006, another 7.5 million to 8 million voters will register to justify the increase of 94,000 precincts. This is very suspicious. We will closely scrutinize the budget at this point. The additional 94,000 precincts being established is suspicious.

Our initial impression is that the budget of Comelec is bloated by about P1.8 billion. If you compare the proposed budget of 2007 national, local and barangay election, the 2007 budget is P1.8 billion higher than similar exercises done in the past. Moreover, the estimate of registered voters is overstated by at this point about nearly P8 million. The assumption when the Comelec submitted the budget to the Committee on Finance is that we will have 49 million voters for the 2007 election. As of June 30, 2006, only 41.7 million voters have registered. The registration end on December 31, 2006. It is not reasonable to accept the assumption that between July 1 and December 31, 2006, another eight million voters will register. Therefore, the assumption is erroneous on the basis of what actually transpired.

The Comelec also has proposed on the basis of this erroneous assumption that there will be 94,000 more precincts compared to 2004. 94,000 more precincts is being proposed from 216,000 in 2004 to 310,000 in 2007. The committee is disappointed at the lack of preparation of the Comelec when they presented at the hearing their budget today. Therefore we have warned them that unless this huge increase of P1.8 billion can be justified, then we are inclined to prune it to more reasonable levels.

The barangay election in 2002 had the budget of P1.4 billion. The barangay election next year has a budget P2.4 billion. This increase of P1 billion in the barangay election expense and almost P800 million for the local and national election shows that the budget is being increased by P1.8 billion. I don't think it is reasonable. We will not permit this. Unless it can be justified, we are prepared to prune it down to more reasonable levels.

Bakit biglang dumami ang botante?

SFMD: They said this is their assumption based on population. But obviously, their assumption is totally erroneous. If you base it on the number of registered voters as of June 30. 2006, only 41.7 million registered and only six months remain for the registration period. It is not reasonable to assume that another eight million will vote unless you get Lambino to bring signatories to the Comelec.

Deliberate kaya iyon para madagdagan ang budget?

SFMD: You cannot avoid the suspicion that the budget is being bloated to this extent. The budget is being increased for national and local elections to P792 million compared to 2004. But more alarming is the proposed increase in the Sanggunian ang Barangay elections. In 2002, the budget for the barangay election was P1.4 billion. For a similar exercise, five years later, the budget will be increased to P2.4 billion or an increase of P1 billion. So that the total increase for the electoral exercise by the Comelec for the national, local and barangay election, if you compare it with the years when a similar political exercise was done, the total increase is P1.7 billion. This cannot be justified. Therefore we will scrutinize the budget it carefully. We have asked them to submit the basic data by tomorrow. We will closely examine this. We shall be submitting our committee report accordingly to the Senate plenary session.

Hindi nila maju-justify?

SFMD: No, you cannot justify that. The total budget in 2004 of the Comelc is P5.4 billion for local and national election. For 2007, the total proposed budget is P6.2 billion or an increase of nearly P800 million. In the SK and barangay election, as I said, the budget in 2002 was P1.4 billion; the proposed budget for 2007 is P2.4 billion.

Iyan ang budget na inapprove ng House?

SFMD: As is.

Feasible ba iyong eight million voters by the end of the year?

SFMD: That is not feasible. By June 30, as I said, the number of registered voters per their own report is 41.7 million, by mid-year. The registration ends on December 31, 2006. And their projection is that a total of 49 million will register so that is an additional of nearly eight million voters.

Hindi nila ma-justify?

SFMD: Unless they justify it, we will reduce the budget substantially.

On the PCGG budget

SFMD: The present set of PCGG commissioners is the most expensive in the history of PCGG. In this Arroyo administration, per reports of PCGG themselves, the total cash recoveries, excluding the P35 billion Marcos wealth, is only P673 million. The expenses directly attributable to this P673 million that was recovered is P140 million or 21 percent of the total cash recovery during the Arroyo administration went to expenses on top of the budget that they have spent. This 21 percent is very high compared to the previous administrations. The Estrada years, the cost of recovery was only one-half of 1 percent. During the Ramos years, the cost of recovery is 3.5 percent. During the Aquino years, the cost of recovery of PCGG was 4 percent. During this set of PCGG commissioners, the cost of recovery is 21 percent, excluding the extraordinary Marcos wealth. That is the reason why they now would want to regularize this unreasonable high cost of recovery by placing in the budget a special provision, which would allow them to recover and compensate themselves up to 10 percent of every peso recovered by this government. In other words, they want additional compensation for the work that the taxpayers are already paying for through the budget. This is an extra 10 percent of the recovered funds that they want for their own benefit.

Itong commissioners ng PCGG sa kasalukuyan, ang pinakamahal, ang pinakamagastos sa historia ng PCGG. Dahil sa bawat piso na nakukuha ng gobyerno sa mga ill-gotten wealth 21 porsyento ang napupunta sa gastusin ng pag-recover. Dati po ang PCGG ay gumagastos lamang ng hindi lalagpas sa 4 porsyento. Ngayon ang ginagastos nila ay mahigit sa 20 porsyento sa bawat piso na nakukuha sa ill-gotten wealth. The performance of PCGG has prompted Senator Enrile to require the submission of all documents related to the financial condition of the PCGG sequestered assets. Because we would be able to do a performance audit of the PCGG once we have this complete documentation. We have also required PCGG to submit of course, their justification for their budget including the P5 million intelligence funds. Similar intelligence funds were appropriated in the previous budget, they spent the entire P5 million. We want to know how this was spent.

Iyong new provision, they want to peg it at 10 percent?

SFMD: They want to peg it at 10 percent. The present cost of recovery is pegged at only P10 million. Now we want to remove that ceiling and place it at 10 percent.

Reasonable ba ito?

SFMD: No, that's not reasonable. Because they are already being paid for the work that they are doing under the General Appropriations Act. This will be the source of additional compensation.

Will it be additional compensation for themselves?

SFMD: They admitted that this will not exclude additional emoluments for the commissioners.

Ano po ang puwedeng gawin ng Senado dtto?

SFMD: We will make a decision once we receive all the documents that we have required from them, including where the P140 million cost of cash recoveries went.

If the ceiling is already P10 million, the 21 percent P140 million. They have already exceeded the ceiling?

SFMD: Yes. That is why they want to now regularize it by removing the P10 million ceiling and placing it at 10 percent for a job that they are already paid.

What are included in this cost of recovery?

SFMD: Siguro kasama na ang lahat doon; charges from the banks, charges from the sale of the properties, commission of the sellers

Among the five commissioners, it was only Commissioner Abcede who is not around

SFMD: Commisioner Abcede had personal reasons for not being able to attend.

How do you compare the actuation now of Chairman Sabio with his actuation when he was arrested? Cooperative na ba siya?

SFMD: I notice a great difference in the body language of Commissioner Sabio. He is no longer as arrogant as he was before when he thought that nobody could question him on the expenses of PCGG and the way PCGG has been performing its task.

Will you endorse the budget because he is more humble now?

SFMD: We will recommend the budget in accordance with the data that they will submit and have submitted and our analysis of their performance.

Is the idea of abolishing PCGG still amenable?

SFMD: The matter of whether or not they should be abolished is a matter that has nothing to do with whether or not they have changed their attitude. It will be based on our assessment of their continued usefulness as an agency.

Your resolution on Con-Ass, is its still binding?

SFMD: That still stands, yes. That is a resolution passed by the Senate, not only a resolution signed by the majority. It was signed by 22 senators, excluding Senator Magsaysay who was sick at that time. Apart from the fact that it was signed by 22 senators, it was formally adopted.

On five senators supporting Con-Ass

SFMD: Let me make it clear that while the five senators may support Con-Ass, it doesn't mean that they are supporting a joint voting. Because Senator Enrile in the LEDAC meeting yesterday, I was informed, has made his position clear. It must be voting separately. So the fact that he filed a resolution supporting a Constituent Assembly is an issue completely separate and distinct from the issue of voting in the Constituent Assembly. Because you cannot even proceed with the issue of resolving the issue of voting separately or jointly without constituting Congress with the concurrence of both houses, to constitute ourselves into a Constituent Assembly. Admittedly, the Constituent Assembly resolution will require only a majority. But that is only the first step. The House cannot even go beyond the first step of constituting ourselves into a Constituent Assembly.

Malacañang gave a deadline for Con-Ass before the Christmas break, do you think that is feasible?

SFMD: Insofar as the Senate is concerned, I don't think that is feasible. Maybe that is a deadline which Malacañang has set for itself, not a deadline for Congress because the amendment of the Constitution is exclusively a prerogative of the legislature. The Executive has nothing to do with the process of amending the charter under our system.

We can only convene as a Constituent Assembly once that resolution is passed. And after convening as a Constituent assembly, then the issue of voting separately or jointly is now ripe for resolution.

By yourselves?

SFMD: Of course by ourselves, and ultimately by the Supreme Court. (end)

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