Press Release
August 5, 2010

Transcript of Kapihan sa Senado with Sen. Tito Sotto

On Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago getting the Constitutional Amendments, Revision of Codes and Laws Committee

As of last night, Senator Santiago is the chair of the Senate committee on Constitutional Amendments, Revision of Codes and Laws Committee. I personally moved for her election after a meeting that was held Tuesday evening somewhere in Makati between Sen. Miriam Santiago and the Senate President.

On Absentee Senators (Lacson & Trillanes) getting Committee Chairmanships

Senator Lacson used to handle the Committee on Accounts and there being no other senator who expressed interest in handling it, I believe that was the reason why it remained with him. Sa akin naman, a person is innocent until proven guilty. He is still a Senator of the Republic. He has expressed his desire to chair committees particularly the Committee on Accounts and the Committee on Defense although it was assigned by the Senate President to Senator Escudero. Okay naman 'yun sapagkat meron namang opisina at mga empleyado si Senator Lacson, the same thing with Senator Trillanes. It has been the practice in the 14th Congress and I see no reason why it couldn't be done in the 15th Congress unless a member of the Senate or majority of the members in the Senate will move to strip them of any committee chairmanships.

The vice chairman will be acting chairman and they will handle bills so that the committee will still work even in the absence of a chairman.

On a Rookie getting the Blue Ribbon Chairmanship

It has been done before. If I recall it right, even in the 8th Congress, there were rookie senators who became chairmen of big committees and particularly, the Blue Ribbon. If I am not mistaken, I think Sen. Teofisto Guingona II was a neophyte senator when he became the chairman. In the 15th Congress, mabigat ang Blue Ribbon Committee kung maraming trabaho. Maraming trabaho ang Blue Ribbon kung maraming problema ang administrasyon. In a non-corrupt administration, wala masyadong gagawin ang Blue Ribbon. So, at the moment, walang trabaho ang Blue Ribbon.

On Commission on Appointments' Representation

In the 15th Congress, we still have to find out and decide. Earlier on, I mentioned to the Senate President a Supreme Court opinion, if not a ruling, in the 12th Congress concerning this because there was an issue raised during that time. We have to look into that opinion. We'll bring it up on Monday during the caucus so that we can finally formalize how we are going to do the representation, either party-style or Minority-Majority style.

On Drug Bust in Samar

Suspetya namin (Drug Enforcement groups), more than one ton ang shipment na 'yon. In the last intelligence report I read, the shipment was originally intended for Guangzhou in China at ang daan ay sa east of the Philippines. I think they received a report that they will be apprehended kaya ibinagsak. It contradicts the earlier report that it was intentionally to be dropped off in the area of Samar to be picked up by their cohorts. Common sense with the drug enforcement groups would dictate that it was not so because we have not found a beamer in any of the packets and cargo recovered. Kung maglalaglag kasi sila in the open seas, ang sistema kasi lagi may beamer so they will be able to find it. Ang nakaka-worry doon at 'yung packaging profile nung klase ng cocaine na dala-dala doon, parehong-pareho o magkamag-anak ang pinanggalingan na area sa South America noong natagpuan sa Davao. Recently, these bolsters, a report that I received from a co-member in the International Narcotic Enforcement Association based in Albany, New York, there is a move by an international drug syndicate based in South America to make the Philippines a market also. My worry is that they are trying to shift the drug dependents in the Philippines from shabu to the real cocaine kasi introductory price ang pasok nila. Ang baba ng presyo so we have alarmed the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency and told General Santiago. They have received the report and I already asked an appointment with the Chief PNP, General Versoza and hopefully, we can call for a drug summit so that the entire country can be on its toes. I have already called for the re-activation of the Barangay Anti-Drug Abuse Councils (BADAC). The Philippines have a longer shore line than the United States at kahit pagsama-samahin ang Phil. Coast Guards at Navy ay hindi natin kayang bantayan 'yan but every island has a barangay. Kapag in-activate ng DILG ang BADAC, may magbabantay kahit papaano.

With or without any protector, the problem is as long as there is a drug dependent, there will be drug pushing. Ito namang mga nagbebenta at nagma-manufacture, nag-iiba ng sistema kaya't kapag nahuli ang isang sistema, gagawa ng ibang sistema kaya we have to remain vigilant the whole time and then we have to improve on our prevention and rehabilitation program. The day we stop buying is the day they stop selling.

On Cong. Ronald Singson's Drug Case

Ang suspetya ng PDEA nila sa nangyari ay pinabayaan sa airport dahil mahirap hulihin ang congressman pero itinimbre sa babagsakang airport. Ganoon ang pananaw nila.

On Identifying The Drug Syndicate

Kasi the rate or going price of methamphetamine hydrochloride now, processed, is P7,000 per gram. Bale P7 million per kilo. Ang cocaine is P3-P3,500 per gram, or P3million per kilo. Paano nangyari 'yun? Poor man's cocaine nga 'yung shabu, ibig sabihin nun, parang introductory, parang talagang hinu-hook. Because once you are hooked, you are hooked. Ang hirap umalis diyan, kaya 'yung rehabilitation program, kailangang palakasin natin, because of mga dating na-hook.

I think the guys in the international community know who this big international syndicate from South America is. Kaya lang, sila mismo hindi nila mai-sara, hindi nila mai-tumba yung drug syndicate na 'yun, lalo naman tayo. South American na grupo.

The biggest problem now in the US is Mexico. Kasi ang Mexico may combination ng marijuana at saka cocaine. It's being used as an entry point also from South America for cocaine because cocaine grows only through the coca bush in South America.

On what help drug mules can expect from the government

The previous administration, the administration of GMA, refused to help. It is a policy of government then not to help any Filipino involved in illegal drugs outside of the country, except probably for the consulate or the embassies, making sure that they have legal representation. Except for that, no other help. It was the policy. No help policy. Yun ang GMA administration. I don't know yet with the current administration on how they will handle the illegal drugs cases of OFWs abroad.

The no-help policy? Yes, it can be applied to Cong. Singson. Ganoon talaga 'yun. Unang-una, wala sa jurisdiction natin yun, but I think it is the duty of the consulate to offer him some legal assistance. It is the duty of the consulates to make sure the OFWs have legal representation kasi for all you know, baka naman yung OFW o 'yung Filipino, hindi naman talaga guilty, di ba? Baka naman nape-persecute lang or something to that effect?

On whether Sotto's bill on death penalty for drug pushers affected the bill's implementation

In the absence of any empirical data, I will be talking off my hat, so to speak, if I say that it did or it did not. I think there should be a study conducted but one thing I can assure you, the feeling of the drug enforcers is that in the absence of a death penalty, parang lumakas ang loob nung mga drug traffickers. I am still contemplating on filing a bill that will re-impose the death penalty for drug trafficking alone. Like the original bill that I filed in the 9th Congress. It was only for drug trafficking. Lumala lang dahil kung anu-anong mga heinous crimes ang isinama doon sa bill na 'yun nung originally fi-nile ko. So I am contemplating on that now. I have not filed it because I am looking at an alternative. Meron akong alternative na fina-file ko na. I started out with a resolution which is establishing a national penitentiary for drug crimes. This will appease the anti-death penalty people but will give teeth pa rin sa illegal drugs fight of the government, if we create a national penitentiary for drug crimes. Why do we need to do that? Kailangan mai-hiwalay natin sila. Subukan mo sa isang city jail na tahimik, pasukan mo ng isang drug pusher na naikulong. Malamang dumami ang drug addict doon sa city jail. Right now, if you will notice, there was a report yesterday by the NBI na this guy Boratong that we have incarcerated already and is in Muntinlupa, is still operating. Not only in Pasig, but in other areas. He is still calling the shots. It has happened to the guy I put behind bars when I was vice mayor of Quezon City. He was a drug lord from Taiwan. He was operating in Muntinlupa through a cellphone. Pagkaganoon, mahirap. Ganoon pa rin, pagpapatuloy niya, nakakulong na ipagpapatuloy. That's one of the reasons na sinasabi namin na talagang dapat may death penalty para sa mga drug traffickers, because of that. But if not, if we cannot push for it, then the best solution would be a national penitentiary for drug crimes. Hiwalay natin sila, place them in an island. Walang cell site.

I am saying pag hindi lulusot yan, I am contemplating on filing reimposing death penalty for drug trafficking. Alternative na lang 'yan, pero siguro ma-convince natin sila na hihiwalay sila because ngayon, it's happening again, it's been happening before, it is still happening now. I have received information that all over the country, the city jails, the provincial jails, more than 50%, illegal drugs ang mga kaso. Pagdating sa Muntinlupa, nakakapag-operate din. Mahirap talaga.

On whether government is giving attention to rehabilitation

Precisely that is the reason that I filed a bill last July 1, making drug rehabilitation free for every Filipino. How do we do that? By including it in the coverage of PhilHealth. Right now it is not included. The rehabilitation is not included. By including it in the PhilHealth coverage, it becomes free, or at least affordable for every Filipino. Kasi maraming rehabilitation centers sa atin. Right now, 96 ang rehabilitation centers nationwide. Out of the 96, 48 are accredited, 28 are government institutions. Yung 23, makakapasok ka ng libre, although masikip, most of the time. Doon sa private, which make about 70 plus, may bayad so hindi kaya. Lalo na yung medyo high-class na rehabilitation center, hindi kaya ng mga kababayan natin yun, but with making it free through the PhilHealth coverage, maa-afford na ito and we address that particular issue that you mentioned about rehabilitation. Government is concerned, kulang ng facilities, pero mayroong mga private. If maipapasa natin, magagawa natin ito. It's one of the solutions that I saw that I learned when I became DDB chairman.

That's the reason I filed that bill. I did not file that bill out of just learning about it and a whim, no. I already talked to PhilHealth. I already talked to the Department of Health. The solution, the government is capable of doing it.

On whether PhilHealth has funding

PhilHealth? They have enough to include that. Kausap ko sila, kausap ko ang Department of Health dito. Kayang-kaya nilang i-include ang drug rehabilitation in their coverage. We just have to amend the PhilHealth law and include it. As a matter of fact, in the absence of a law pwede na siguro muna yun, an executive order of the president.

On whether private rehab centers will lose money.

Hindi, makakasama nga sila. Hindi mawawalan ng trabaho 'yung mga private labs. Ang PhilHealth ang magbabayad sa kanila. Kaya pakikinabangan ng gobyerno, hindi lang yung government run, pati yung privately-owned institutions, magagamit na ngayon.

That is why my program is drug rehabilitation for free, for every Filipino. Para mabawasan na ang drug dependent sa atin, makakabawas tayo ng bibili, makakabawas tayo ng problema, makakabawas tayo ng problema sa kalsada.

On Senator Lapid's bill to translate the Rules of the Senate into Tagalog Yes, I will support it. Isasalin lang. But either English or Tagalog version can be used. As chairman of the Committee on Rules, I will take it up and will recommend its approval. When I was a vice mayor of Quezon City, one councilor also filed an ordinance declaring that once in a month the session would be conducted in Tagalog. I don't think there's a problem with that.

On the proposed shortening of vacations in the Legislative Calendar

Na- shortened lahat except the Holy Week break. 'Yun lang ang di ginalaw. From now up to October, tuloy-tuloy. Walang break even during halloween. The reason is that there are many things to take up. By that time, maa-approve na ng House ang Budget and we have to take it up. So, the break is only from October 16 to November 6. Maigsi na rin 'yung sa December break. It's December 18 to January 16. I agreed already with Majority Leader of the House and we will probably include it in the agenda on Monday. The Senate President gave me full authority to discuss it with the House of Representatives. I hope the House approves the Budget by October 16, at least on Second Reading. Hindi masyadong mahirap itong incoming proposed Budget because the skeletal form of the Budget would be from the previous GMA Budget. Aayusin lang nila 'yan. It cannot be easily overhauled until 2011.

On Senator Sotto's bill calling for the amendment of the Juvenile Justice Law

Drug dependence is a prevalent problem among minors today. That's why I filed a bill calling for the amendment of the Juvenile Act. I proposed to bring back to the age of 11and below 'yung minors na hindi pwede ikulong. The current law provides that hindi pwedeng ikulong 'yung 18 years old and below. That is the problem of the drug enforcers and the PDEA. 16 0r 15 years old ay hindi namin ma- interrogate. Darating na kaagad 'yung mga abogado ng mga sindikato.

Another issue here is kulungan. With due respect to the author and the Members of Congress during that time, sa tingin ko, medyo hindi naiisip 'yung problema sa illegal drugs.

* press release by Public Relations and Information Bureau (PRIB)

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