Press Release
January 25, 2010

Transcript of the Majority Leader's interview with ANC

SJMZ: We will be recognizing the Senate President to make the sponsorship speech of the C-5 Road controversy or the committee report of the Committee Whole of the C-5 Road Controversy, after which we will expect interpellations from other members. And after the interpellation, as per agreement last week, I will also put on the floor basically the resolution of Sen. Villar's allies on the dismissal of the report. If there will be lengthy debates then we may have to adjourn, then probably do votation tomorrow but, if we have time today then we can go on which report will be given weight.

Q: Either to uphold it or to reject it?

SJMZ: Yes.

Q: What time is the session going to start today sir?

SJMZ: Session will start at 3'. We usually start at 3 to 3:20 p.m., depending on what time our colleagues come in to be able to constitute a quorum.

Q: But do you stop at 4p.m., sir for your regular session?

SJMZ: Senate sessions start at 3'o clock.

Q: I could be a lengthy debate. I mean, I could imagine the allies of Sen. Villar bringing forth questions on the legality and the, I guess many of them will say that from the very beginning, I'm sure this is what you're going to expect that the exercise was flawed from the beginning?

SJMZ: Yes. Definitely we expect fireworks from both sides, either to uphold the report and those who are against the report. Definitely we're going to expect statements to be made by Sen. Pimentel, and Sen. Alan Cayetano, and other members probably Sen. Joker, as well. And I believe, if I'm not mistaken I was told that Sen. Villar would like to also make a statement. Whether he makes a statement before Sen. Enrile defends or sponsors the committee report i do not know. But I know he also has a statement to make and that it will add to the fireworks today. I think it would a quite an interesting day, but I'm hoping that civility will still rule our actions on the floor and that we'll be able to observe proper decorum. Definitely at the end of the day we're going to make a decision on that committee report.

Q: Is this going to be the first time that Sen. Villar will, i don't know if acknowledge is the right term, but at least be part of this Committee of the Whole report?

SJMZ: Yes, that will probably the first time. Well he did I recall, if I'm not mistaken I was not majority leader and he used to be the Senate President when the C-5 Road scandal blew up. I can recall that he came down from the podium and he delivered a statement of sort, or manifestation of his innocence and that was the only time that he took part of the discussion of this particular issue. But i believe today or tomorrow, I think he is also ready to give a privilege speech explaining his side. Probably before the votation of the said measure.

Q: If for example today, after all the arguments, sir it comes down to a vote for example, you need to have votes right?

SJMZ: First there are arguments for and against that, but under the rules, well under the constitution is quite clear when it comes to suspension or removal of Office of a senator, it takes two-thirds vote which is about 16 votes under our count now because we only have 23 senators in the Senate. 2/3 votes is 16 and when it comes to the issue of censure or reprimand there are group of senators, and precedent say that all we need is a majority of the Committee of the Whole, which is basically 12 votes.

Q: May I clarify senator, do you need 12 votes to tackle the committee report? Or do you 12 votes? I mean what is the first step, 12 votes to tackle the report, or 12 votes to censure Sen. Villar.

SJMZ: No. We need 12 signatures. Let me clarify, those who signed the particular committee report does not necessarily mean that they are all in favor of the results of the committee report. That is purely ministerial. I've heard one of our colleagues, saying that it's not ministerial, that if you sign it that means you're in favor. No. I've seen many of many colleagues and this happens all the time. Wherein we sign committee report but after deliberations on the floor they change their mind and they vote against the committee report. So, it's ministerial in a way that our rules require a majority of the members to sign the report before it's tackled in the floor which is flawed. The Senate President was able to get 12 signatures, and we filed it last week. And to be able to approve the committee report, I personally feel also that it is necessary to have 12 votes as majority of the Committee of the Whole, and the majority of the 23 members.

Q: Am I correct Sen. Trillanes won't be able to vote that's why you're 23?

SJMZ: Yes that's correct. The constitutional provision states that he has to be present to provide quorum.

Q: You already have the 12 votes to tackle it on the floor. The problem why it was tackled because there was a boycott on the part of the allies of Sen. Villar. Let me give you an example sir, what if you're tackling it already and there of course pros and cons to this committee report. What it suddenly comes down to a vote already to censure Villar and to ask him to return P6 billion. Let say prior to your voting the allies of Sen. Villar start to walkout, you can still continue on, carry on and put it down to a vote?

SJMZ: Well if we do not have a quorum, these are parliamentary maneuvers. I was in the opposition once during the Estrada administration and this was part of parliamentary maneuvers to block discussion on particular issue. And it could happen, that if they see that there's only eight members of the majority around and there's four members of the minority, if you add them all together we're 12 in the session hall. If the four walkout, yes definitely we'll have a problem on quorum and we go home. And we don't finish the discussion of the said issue. That is a possibility.

Q: Hindi ba puwede na pagpasok niyo naman meron na kayong roll call na 12, therefore even if some of them leave you already have a quorum in place?

SJMZ: Yes we could establish a quorum in the beginning, but under the rules it does not stop any member from questioning the quorum at any given time. So that is the problem. There are days that we conduct business that it's only me, the presiding officer - Sen. Jinggoy Estrada or Senate President Enrile, and the minority floor leader - Sen. Pimentel just the three of us or the four of us there on the floor, but there's no questions on the quorum because were discussing important legislative matters. But when it comes to this very explosive, controversial, highly politicize issue yes, quorum is important. Even on the votation, because we maintain the 12 votes is needed to be able to get an approval of the censure. And if that is the case, there has to be 12 warm bodies voting in favor of the resolution. So, if there are only eight, and the eight warm bodies voted in favor of the resolution, the resolution is not carried or adopted.

Q: Plain and simple, you need 12 to carry the committee report.

SJMZ: To approve the committee report, that's correct.

Q: Otherwise it doesn't materialize.

SJMZ: I'm just talking here of rules. I'm just talking about the bare facts of the rules. I'm not talking about who is voting in favor, who is voting against. I'm just saying right now to be able to carry or approve the committee report it will need 12 affirmative votes.

Q: Mr. Senator, do you think there's a chance that the minority maybe able to muster the number and unseat Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile today?

SJMZ: No. There's no chance. I don't think the minority will be able to move for any change of position at this particular time. They do not have the magic number of 13. I think the minority right now is more or less ... ready on the answers on the debates of the Committee of the Whole report. I don't think there would be move to change the leadership at this point in time.

Q: Isn't the magic number 12 even to unseat Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile?

SJMZ: No. It's 13. It's always half plus one. It's 12 plus one.

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