Press Release
December 8, 2006

Transcript of Sen. Franklin M. Drilon's interview
on ANC's The Big Picture (Dec. 7)

Q: Not hard to imagine anymore, not after last night

SFMD: Bizarre is the word to describe what happened last night.

Q: In the Senate, you met yesterday?

SFMD: Right.

Q: And what transpired?

SFMD: The advice, basically, of the lawyers in the Senate, is that we should wait until the House would bring the matter to the Comelec and ask the Comelec to set the date for the plebiscite. We expect the Comelec to ride the Cha-cha train. At that point when they bring it to the Comelec, we go to the Supreme Court and ask the Supreme Court to prevent the Comelec from setting the date of the plebiscite because what the House did last night and what they will do afterwards would be patently illegal, not allowed under our Constitution. It is totally unconstitutional. Therefore, any proposed amendment coming from an illegally assembled Constituent Assembly without any basis, would be illegal. We have a maxim in law; we say that the proposed amendments would be the fruits of a poisoned tree. Meaning, since the assembly that they called is something that is not allowed under our Constitution, then it is a poisoned tree. You cannot benefit from such an illegal act. The constitution of the assembly does not justify any act that will be done pursuant to that resolution.

Q: The House convened itself into a Con-Ass, have they sent you a notice?

SFMD: They sent individual invitations to us. I have here the invitation sent by Roberto Nazareno, inviting us that on Tuesday, they will meet at 10 in the morning, on December 12 to consider amendments to the Constitution. Let me emphasize once more, there are two steps involved. First, convening Congress into a Constituent assembly and second, proposing amendments to the Constitution as a Constituent Assembly. In at least three previous instances in the past, the House, including the present House, sent to the Senate the resolutions requesting concurrence in a resolution convening Congress into a Constituent Assembly.

Q: Requesting concurrence?

SFMD: That is correct. For example, way back in 1957, Concurrent Resolution No. 66 was sent by the House to the Senate, asking the Senate to concur in the resolution convening Congress into a Constituent Assembly. The Senate did. In 1966, another concurrent resolution was sent to the Senate wherein again, convening Congress into a Constituent Assembly. The Senate did. In the present Congress, last year, House Concurrent Resolution No. 26, dated December 5, 2005, was sent by the House to the Senate, asking us to concur in a resolution convening Congress to propose amendments to or revisions of the 1987 Constitution. This House, this same House, that did what they did last night, a year ago, December 5, almost to the date, requested the concurrence of the Senate to a resolution convening us into a Constituent Assembly. Suddenly they forgot all of that.

Q: How is it worded now?

SFMD: The way it is worded now, it avoids the word Constituent Assembly. It simply says resolution calling all members of Congress to propose amendments to or revision of the Constitution pursuant to Section 1, Article 17 of the Constitution and for other purposes. They say, a rose by any name smells as sweet. Except that this is not a rose. It is the same. They avoided using Constituent Assembly knowing fully well that a year ago, on December 5, 2005, they sent to us Concurrent Resolution No. 26, asking for our concurrence on a resolution converting Congress into a Constituent Assembly.

Q: This time though, they are not asking for your concurrence. The presumption is, they are going to go ahead with it anyway.

SFMD: Yesterday, among the things we did, was to pass around a resolution, which would again reiterate the resolution, which the Senate as an institution approved on March 21, 2006; expressing the sense of the Senate that we must vote separately. Not only was it signed by 23 senators but it was also adopted by the Senate, it is Resolution No. 75, wherein the Senate expressed its sense that we should vote separately. Yesterday, we reiterated that resolution. We have signatures now of about 21 of 23 senators.

Q: Curious, last year 23 signatures, this year 21. Who are the two?

SFMD: My understanding is that Miriam Defensor Santiago and Bong Revilla have not signed. Lito Lapid signed. But in the previous resolution of March 2006, all the 23 signed.

Q: What is the significance of Santiago and Revilla not signing? Were they simply not there or are they saying they are not in agreement?

SFMD: They were not there. I do not know what happened.

Q: On Monday, the Senate has something planned as well?

SFMD: On Monday, we will continue to hear House Concurrent Resolution No. 26, which was referred to the Committee on Constitutional Amendments chaired by Sen. Dick Gordon. That is the 2005 concurrent resolution, which they sent to us asking for our concurrence. We have had two hearings on that. On Monday there will be another hearing.

Q: Does that mean that the Senate is actually considering?

SFMD: It only shows that we are acting on the concurrent resolution they sent to us for our concurrence. Senator Gordon has conducted two hearings, together with the other resolutions calling for a Constitutional Convention. Experts and resource persons have been asked to testify in the past two hearings. On Monday again, experts and resource persons will be asked to testify.

Q: You are responding to the 2005 resolution, not to the one you are sent today?

SFMD: That's right.

Q: You are in fact, holding hearings?

SFMD: That's correct, as we have held hearings in the past on that resolution.

Q: Does that mean on Monday, when you hold those hearings, you are in effect, suggesting to the House that you may join the Constituent Assembly?

SFMD: There is no such implication. The fact is, we are hearing this concurrent resolution proposed by the House and which resolution, they are asking us to agree to. We have not come up with any decision as to what we will do with this resolution.

Q: In other words, the hearings are being held to determine whether or not the Senate as a body, will indeed join the House?

SFMD: Whether or not the Senate as a body, will concur with the resolution, which will convene us into a Constituent Assembly to propose amendments to the Constitution. For all you know, the senators may say, instead of a Constituent Assembly lets' have a Constitutional Convention. This is a matter that the Senate as a whole will decide. But certainly, the Senate has decided already that we should vote separately on this issue and the House, by sending this Concurrent resolution No. 26 has recognized that they needed our concurrence in a Constituent Assembly.

Q: Are you suggesting though that by having the hearing on Monday, the Senate is not totally opposed to the idea of changing the charter but you are not exactly decided if it should be done now and how it should be done?

SFMD: That's correct.

Q: You are telling the public that you are open to it but you want to know what the process is and when it will be done?

SFMD: That has always been the position of a number of senators, including me, that we are open to an amendment to the Constitution but let us do it in the manner prescribed by our Constitution, whether through a Constituent Assembly or through a Constitutional Convention.

Q: What do you expect to happen in the coming weeks?

SFMD: Nothing will happen on Monday, except that the Senate will continue to conduct the hearings on House Concurrent Resolution No. 26.

Q: On Tuesday, the House will begin debating possible amendments.

SFMD: That is correct, on Tuesday morning at 10:00, by their lonesome selves, they will now say they have passed the resolution convening ourselves into a Constituent Assembly, we shall now propose amendments to the Constitution. They have a set of proposed amendments already, which they will now put on the table for debates. Their timetable, to our understanding, would be that for the rest of the week next week, possibly from Tuesday to Friday, they would go through the motions of meeting as a Constituent Assembly by themselves. They will propose amendments to the Constitution by themselves. Presumably, by about December 18, after they have finished it, they will go to the Comelec, ask the Comelec now to set the date of the plebiscite. The date of the plebiscite, under our Constitution, cannot be earlier than 60 days or later than 90 days.

Q: This will be done whether or not the Senate decides or wants to participate?

SFMD: Yes. They have set their minds that 'we will proceed with this.' Regardless of the decision of the Senate, they will proceed.

Q: What happens if Senators Santiago and Revilla go to the House and participate in the debates?

SFMD: Nothing.

Q: Why not? Isn't that tantamount to senators participating?

SFMD: No. Firstly, we have adopted a resolution, Resolution No. 75. This is binding on the Senate as an institution. Unless repealed by a resolution adopted by the Senate by at least 12 senators, this is binding on the Senate as an institution. Not even the attendance of Senate President Manuel Villar can change this.

Q: If a senator attends these House-held hearings, they are attending in their own personal capacity?

SFMD: That is correct.

Q: They are not legally allowed to represent the Senate?

SFMD: No. They will go there in their own personal capacity.

Q: When they bring it to the Comelec, the Comelec can say, yes we agree with you, go ahead or they can say, wait a minute, the Senate did not participate, we will not do this?

SFMD: Theoretically, that is correct. But knowing the Comelec, they will join the Cha-cha train. That is one. Number two, in a previous case, involving PIRMA, the petitioner, Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, did not wait for the Comelec to decide. She just went ahead to the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court recognized her petition.

Q: Is it possible for the Comelec to say, hey we are not comfortable, let's get a ruling from the SC. Because in the people's initiative, the expectation also was that the Comelec would simply go ahead with it but they said no.

SFMD: That's a different situation. Because in the Sigaw ng Bayan case, the Comelec was bound by the decision of the Supreme Court, which said that there is no enabling law.

Q: In this case, there is no such thing? The Comelec can probably go ahead?

SFMD: Certainly, they will.

Q: Fr. Bernas said, it at that point when the Comelec goes ahead and schedules the plebiscite, when the House of Representatives will have been in violation of the law.

SFMD: Yes, that it the point when we can go to the Supreme Court or even before that. In my mind, the mere fact that they go to the Comelec and ask the Comelec to set the plebiscite would already justify our going to the Supreme Court on the basis of the decision of the Supreme Court in the Sigaw ng bayan case. At that point, we can ask for a temporary restraining order to prevent the Comelec from even setting the plebiscite because the acts upon which the petition would be based, would be patently unconstitutional, patently illegal. Therefore, the Comelec cannot set the plebiscite much less appropriate or spend public funds for a totally unlawful act.

Q: Why would the Senate not be able to go to the SC on Tuesday when the House has convened its Con-Ass?

SFMD: Because it can be asserted that there is no justiciable cause to go to the Supreme Court yet because

Q: The House is still within its rights?

SFMD: Well, yes, rights in quotations. But they are still debating and as a courtesy that the Supreme Court will grant to a co-equal branch, they may refrain from issuing any TRO. But when the House will go to the Comelec, the agency that will be restrained from conducting any plebiscite or spending public funds, will be the Comelec, not the House.

Q: And it is at the point when the Senate's rights will be regarded

SFMD: It was disregarded last night.

Q: If you wait until they go to the Comelec, some people might say, that might be too late

SFMD: Some people say it might be too late because by the time the Supreme Court might already be in vacation. I don't believe in that. Firstly, even if the Supreme Court is on break, they have a process by which on critical questions, they can issue a TRO. Just very recently, we questioned the unlawful act of Mayor Lito Atienza in convening a Liberal Party Convention in Manila Hotel. The Supreme Court was on break, but a TRO was issued. More so in this particular case, where this is an issue, which will affect the future of our national politically. The Supreme Court will never leave it down if they say we will allow this because we are on vacation. I don't think that court will do that. I have confidence that the court will take it up.

Q: But technically, if they are on break, they don't necessarily have to hear it

SFMD: They have to act on the petition. As I cited to you the case of the Liberal Party

Q: Who made the call at that time? Is that the Chief Justice's call?

SFMD: What I understand, I'm not from the Supreme Court, I have never experienced the proceedings there internally, once the case is assigned, remember the Comelec was also the respondent in the case I filed, once the case is assigned, then the Justice will make a recommendation to the Chief Justice. And then either they conduct a consultation or the Chief Justice would act in behalf of the entire court and concur with the ponente or disagree with the ponente. That's what they do. But in this particular case, it is of outmost importance, I would like to think that at this stage, the court would already be preparing for that eventuality. Even if a justice is abroad, as they have done in the past, they can have teleconferences and have an en banc session.

Q: Legally speaking, they are not necessarily bound to do that, are they?

SFMD: They are not bound by anything. The Supreme Court need not do anything. They can just sit there and have the Comelec set the date of the plebiscite but I don't think that will happen. I am confident that it will not happen. The court will take it up and make a decision, at least even a TRO, either grant the TRO or they say, no we will not grant the TRO we will set this for hearings. There will be an action on their part.

Q: When it does get to the SC, will it be a matter of one or two justices saying, look we have to act on this, let's get together

SFMD: The Chief Justice will have to do that.

Q: It is the judgment of Chief Justice Reynato Puno whether or not they want to come back from the break and heed this matter?

SFMD: Yes. But I am confident that they will convene either personally, physically, all of them present or through teleconferences.

Q: The Comelec schedules the plebiscite, plebiscite happens, let's say, the vote comes out and it's yes. Let's say for the sake of argument that many people who voted no have gathered some amount of evidence, that there was cheating going on and they take that to the SC, is that the proper action to be taken?

SFMD: First, if the Supreme Court will allow without issuing a restraining order, let's say, the plebiscite to take place on February 15, at that point, the argument that the court should no longer interfere because the people have spoken becomes a very strong argument. In other words, it can be strongly argued that it is now a political question, the people have spoken, Mr. Supreme Court, don't interfere anymore. On the second part of your question which says there are quarters who say there was cheating, they have to go to the Comelec.

Q: The Comelec will rule now that there was no cheating

SFMD: You can bring it up to the Supreme Court.

Q: There are three possible areas in this process where the SC can be brought in. If the SC decides not to act, what happens?

SFMD: Tuloy ang ligaya. That's it. That is why I came out in the media last week saying it can happen if no TRO is issued. Last week I predicted that the House will do what they did yesterday and the other night. I said the Comelec will ride the Cha-cha train. Because they are saying there is a presumption of validity on what the House did, set the amendments for plebiscite. We go to the Supreme Court for some reason or another, no TRO is issued. Theoretically, the plebiscite takes place and yes vote wins, then at that point, in my view, the Supreme Court will no longer touch the issue because they can assert that this is already a political question. The people have spoken, let it stay that way. Insofar as allegations of cheating, there is now a matter of evidence, which the Comelec will now have to process. Any decision of the Comelec will have to be brought up to the Supreme Court.

Q: In the scenario where the SC chooses not to act and this thing goes through, they will have accomplished canceling the May election?

SFMD: Yes.

Q: Abolish the Senate and put in place an interim parliament?

SFMD: That is among the proposals in the simplified proposed amendments. If you recall, early this morning, Cong. Ronnie Zamora was trying to lead Cong. Villafuerte into admitting that there were already a set of amendments and he was saying, will you touch the provision on national territory, no. And then he led Cong. Villafuerte to the point where will you cancel the May election and Cong. VIllafuerte said, that is a possibility. Because in fact, in a simplified proposals for amendments, which I have a copy here, 1) they will establish a unicameral parliament, which will mean abolition of the Senate; 2) the members of parliament will come from the present congressional districts plus two members of parliament from each of the 16 regions of our country and the party list. The election of May 2007 will be cancelled. Instead the election will be in November of 2007. So that the present congressmen and senators who are elected will continue to hold office until December 30, 2007. That is the first interim parliament. In November 2007, they will have an election and those who will be elected in that second interim parliament would hold office until June 30, 2010. So that after June 30, 2010, it will now be a regular parliament. The election of this will be held in the second Monday of May 2010 and every five years thereafter.

The proposed amendments would lift the term limits so that Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in May 2010 can run as a member of parliament in Pampanga or wherever she is registered and seek the Prime Minister post in the regular parliament in June 2010.

Q: There was a point last night where Cong. Villafuerte said that there will be no term limits

SFMD: Yes, that is part of the proposed amendments. It's on Section 3, it says, there shall be no term limits for all elective officials. And by the way, the extension of the term would include the officials in the provincial governors, mayors and all the local officials.

Q: There is something in it for everybody?

SFMD: Of course. Not only that. Insofar as the internal revenue allotment of the local government units, it says that there shall be no diminution of the sharing basis and the releases of the IRA shall be made regularly. There is something for everyone. What is however important is that surprisingly, there is a provision for impeachment. That is under Section 6. Two-thirds can impeach the president. In a parliamentary system, the Prime Minister can be removed by a vote of no confidence. Here, they provide for an impeachment. I think it was done by Cong. Jaraula, they reserved the right of the parliament to impeach President Arroyo in this particular case.

Q: Is there a provision for no confidence vote?

SFMD: I haven't seen any here.

Q: How does the PM get the ..

SFMD: I assume by a vote of no confidence. The interim PM, by the way, will be elected by the interim parliament but only the one nominated by the President can become Prime Minister. It says, the interim parliament shall elect from among its members the interim prime minister upon the nomination of the incumbent president. Also, under this proposal, ten members of the Cabinet will become members of the parliament. But what is important is that there will be no election in May 2007.

Q: But some people may say, so what if there is no election in May, we can have an election in November.

SFMD: Your mandate is only up to June 30, 2007, which means that you hold office beyond that you are legislating something for your benefit. They are the ones proposing this.

Q: That will be illegal?

SFMD: What they are doing in the first place is unconstitutional. It is an unconstitutional Constituent Assembly because they are doing it on their own.

Q: You are a second-termer. If this happens, you are still in

SFMD: Yes, it's an embarrassment. You sit there beyond June 30, when your term is only up to June 30, that's not exactly

Q: You have a choice, you can keep quiet

SFMD: My only choice right now is to see to it that our Constitution is followed.

Q: This can happen if the SC does not act.

SFMD: That's correct.

Q: Is this the same draft that Ronnie Zamora had last night?

SFMD: I suspect. Because in the way he phrased his questions, the answers were found in these sections.

Q: Where did you get this? Is this in fact an actual draft?

SFMD: I was watching a program in ANC this afternoon and a lawyer said this is in the website of Newsbreak.

Q: This is an acknowledged draft of proposed amendments?

SFMD: No. Nobody would acknowledge it. But let's see on Tuesday and watch what they will do. Many of what are mentioned here was talked about last night.

Q: What kind of SC will you have once you have this in place?

SFMD: None in this three-page simplified proposals for amendments but remember that there is nothing here that would prevent the interim assembly from proposing another set of amendments. There is absolutely no prohibition. Presumably, the powers of this interim assembly would be plenary. Meaning, they possess all the powers of a regular legislature.

Q: Speaker De Venecia said this parliament will be largely based on the Westminster model, except that there will be no House of Lords and Queen of England

SFMD: Yes, this is basically because after the regular parliament comes into place in June 30, 2010, then there is no more president. It's only the Prime Minister.

Q: So who am I voting for?

SFMD: You will vote for your congressman or now your Member of Parliament and your mayor, your vice mayor. If you are in the province, your governor.

Q: Who chooses the PM? Do I have any say?

SFMD: No. The PM will be chosen by Members of Parliament.

Q: Can the SC have independence?

SFMD: I would like to think that they will maintain the same independence if the pertinent portions of the Constitution, pertaining to the judiciary would not be amended. They would have the authority and the power to review acts of the parliament in terms of whether or not it adheres to the Constitution. There is nothing in these simplified proposals for amendments, which would indicate that the powers of the Supreme Court were being revisited. But as I would make as a caveat, assuming that this set of proposals would be in place, there is nothing to prevent the interim parliament from again postponing the November 2007 election. There is nothing to prevent the interim parliament from again reviewing powers of the Supreme Court and diminishing the powers of the Supreme Court. In other words, the interim, parliament would have all the plenary power.

Q: You are making it appear like a very powerful body

SFMD: Certainly. You remove the system of checks and balance in this particular case. The check and balance between two departments in the way we have it now, there is a check and balance between the Executive and the Legislative and within the legislature, there is check and balance between the Senate and the House. All of that will disappear because you only have the PM and the parliament as one. Because in fact, members of the Cabinet will now come from members of parliament.

Q: What if you want to get a banker as minister of finance?

SFMD: Under the proposed amendment, it says after the election of November 2007, and until June 30, 2010, majority of the members of Cabinet portfolio shall be chosen from the members of parliament.

Q: You can have a politician as minister of finance or defense?

SFMD: It is possible although in fairness, it depends on the majority, if that is what will be followed. If you want to play politics, you can appoint members of parliament to the most sensitive and politically powerful positions.

Q: Businessmen said there is too much obstruction in the present system

SFMD: My theory is that the system of government may have something to do with it but more people running the system. You have success stories of presidential systems of government. You have success stories of parliamentary system of government. just sitting here, contrast the United States and Great Britain . Different systems, both economic powers of the world. You have South Korea and Japan ; presidential and parliamentary; both economically successful. I cannot say that the system has absolutely nothing to do with it but certainly, it's the people running it, which, in the final analysis, would determine whether the system will work or not.

Q: What to you is dangerous in a parliamentary form of government?

SFMD: In this way, you remove the check and balance. That is so essential in our society today. Without that, absolute power corrupts absolutely. (end)

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