Press Release
January 12, 2011


On DOE Sec. Almendras' confirmation

Q: Hinaharang nga ba talaga si Sec. Almendras?

SERGE: Hindi. Iniipit si Sec. Almendras because of things that did not happen during his time. Ang isa, nagkaroon ng investigation ang NEA board tungkol sa isang bribery dun sa Iloilo. Ngunit the one who was found guilty was the one who accepted the bribe and no mention was made of the one who gave the bribe. Unfortunately the one who gave the bribe was supposedly a pillar of the Liberal Party and an incumbent official. So iniipit ngayon si Rene, bakit ganon, sapagkat the alleged bribe giver is the political enemy of Cong. Ferj Biron.

Q: How much was involved?

SERGE: P50,000, P100,000. Maliit lang. The board found the bribe taker guilty, but made no mention of the bribe giver. But we feel, the members of the committee feel, that Sec. Almendras cannot be blamed for this and that a motion for reconsideration of the decision made by the NEA board is in order and should be allowed to continue. Sec. Almendras promised that the truth will come out.

Q: The bribe was meant to?

SERGE: I forgot the reason for the bribe but my hazy memory, based on the issues taken up by Cong. Biron, na ganun nga, bakit yung bribe taker was found guilty and subject to penalty but the bribe giver was never mentioned when they know who the bribe giver is.

Q: The bribe taker is from the Energy department?

SERGE: I think he is with the cooperatives.

Q: Pero kayo yung mine-mention dito sa report na among the oppositors.

SERGE: That's not true. I'm the oppositor? I'm the sponsor of Sec. Almendras. Kaya nakakainis yang istorya na yan because they were blaming me and Senate President Enrile when in truth and in fact, Senate President and I have been the strongest backers of Sec. Almendras because we find him to be the most capable secretary we've had yet in the Energy department.

Q: So mako-confirm na rin siya?

SERGE: We are hoping. Merong second issue si Cong. Danny Suarez. Iba naman po ito. This is in the Pagbilao case na yung real estate tax of Pagbilao--which was assumed by the Napocor when they signed the energy conversion agreement--was not paid by Napocor. To this day I think it already amounts to something like P6 billion. So iniipit si Sec. Almendras dun ngunit hindi naman niya kasalanan. The fact is, yes the Supreme Court decided in favor of the Pagbilao power plant, so therefore yes they have to pay the local government, the town of Pagbilao and probably the province of Quezon P6 billion and yes it is a liability of the Napocor. Now whether Napocor has the money is a different matter. Ang dapat gawin ng mga congressmen diyan is to put the funds in the budget of the Napocor for the coming year so that the Napocor will have the wherewithal to pay what it owes to all the local governments where there were purchase power agreements signed in 1992, '93, '95 and so on. Talagang utang ng Napocor yun. Nasa kontrata, binasa ko, in-assume nila yung real estate tax liability ng PPA.

Q: So ang pera nasa Napocor?

SERGE: Ang pera dapat manggagaling sa Napocor. Walang pera ang Napocor, puro lugi ang Napocor ngayon. That has to be paid and I'm hopeful that we can make arrangements on how Napocor can pay that debt because Napocor is owned by the national government. The Secretary of Energy is not even the chairman of Napocor. The Secretary of Finance is the chairman of Napocor.

Q: So mababayaran din?

SERGE: Kailangang bayaran yan. I hope they can come to a compromise and hopefully everybody will be happy when the compromise is threshed out.

Q: And Almendras gets confirmed?

SERGE: I don't think Almendras can be blamed for this. Here, you've got a secretary who's imminently qualified and they're saying 'Well we will block your confirmation unless you pay this'. Eh wala naman kay Almendras yung pera eh. Nasa national government yan. As a matter of fact, the congressmen, the senators and the DBM that has to propose, put in that money in the budget of Napocor for the coming year para mabayaran na lahat ng real estate taxes na dapat bayaran ng Napocor.

Q: Yung sa Pagbilao realty tax din yon?

SERGE: Realty tax lang yon.

Q: Ang laki naman?

SERGE: Malaki kasi ilang years na yon, mga 10 years na yon, tapos may penalty may interest so lumaki nang lumaki. I'm sure a compromise can be arrived at so only a fraction of that will be paid to the town. However, the continuing liability will also have to be threshed out kasi napakalaki ng liability na yon. The problem is that the town has and it's within its power to put the plant up for auction, to foreclose the plant for non-payment of real property taxes and to put it up for auction. Eh di magkakagulo tayo.

Q: So the local government will run it?

SERGE: Well whoever wins the bidding. Syempre there will be a winning bidder.

Q: Ano ang remedy dun kasi kung nangyari yon, in-auction, magkukulang siguro ng supply ng kuryente kung sakali?

SERGE: Well magkakagulo ang management. Whoever takes it over will not be given an easy task sapag kat yung may-ari nun na bumayad na ng siguro $1 billion is not gonna take it sitting down. So really it is incumbent upon the leadership to find a way to settle it amicably. Masyadong magulo yon. Biro mo ite-takeover isang planta. That's 700 megawatts.

Q: So mali na ang sinisingil ng municipality ay yung nagpapatakbo ng planta?

SERGE: Hindi naman ganon sapagkat Pagbilao just wants to get paid. Under the law it takes over then it puts it up for bidding. Just pay Pagbilao P6 billion and the rest can go to the owner of the plant. Ngayon yung winner ayun ang magpapatakbo ng plant so kawawa naman yung existing owner. We want to make sure that those things don't happen because there are many more power plants that have to be set up in this country. We cannot have this problem occur and re-occur time and again. Walang papasok kung ganon. Napocor should have paid out the real estate taxes kaso ang sabi ng Napocor, 'we're tax-free'. Kaso ang sabi ng Supreme Court, 'yes you are tax-free, but it's not you that owes the tax, it's the owner of the plant that owes the tax and they are not tax-free'. Unfortunately in your contract you said 'I will assume the real estate taxes'.

Q: Sino nga yung owner?

SERGE: That was set up by Hopewell in the beginning. The same group that constructed the Sual power plant. Very big. Sual is 1,200-MW and pagbilao is 700-MW. So between the 2 they builty 1,900-MW. Those are 2 of the plants that were first set up in this country. Then Hopewell sold it to Mirant and then Mirant sold it to Team Energy. And I'm not too sure who owns Pagbilao now but it was also sold, probably Team Energy also. So kawawa ang Team Energy.

Q: Ayaw nila magbayad?

SERGE: Hindi naman liability ng Team Energy ang real estate tax because it's Napocor that signed in the contract 'Ako ang bahala sa tax mo'. Akala ng Napocor because they are tax-exempt, hindi kailangang bayaran ang tax. Sabi ng Supreme Court 'sorry'. This is not a liability of Napocor as to real estate tax, that's the liability of the owner of the plant and they are not exempt. So that is owed to the town of Pagbilao. Maraming example yan, may problema sa Casecnaan, Bauang, kung san mayroong planta where they signed PPAs with Napocor or energy conversion agreements.

Q: So what's the word from Napocor? Are they willing to assume the tax liability?

SERGE: Well that's the order of the Supreme Court, wala na silang magagawa. The problem is, Napocor does not have the money. They sold all their plants or 90% of their plants and they don't have the money. They really need to ask Congress to appropriate.

Q: So Congress should make a pledge to Suarez that there will be money?

SERGE: Oo. Si Danny Suarez naman is a very influential member of the House of Representatives. Dapat wag naman niya ipitin si Sec. Almendras. Dapat they can come to an agreement with the DBM na papasok ang amount owed in the next budget of Napocor because Congress approves the budget of Napocor.

On lawyers Macalintal and Brillantes as Comelec chief

Q: Sir kinonfirm na ng Malacanang na isa sa pinagpipilian nila si Atty. Macalintal na papalit kay Chairman Melo. Ano ang reaksyon niyo?

SERGE: Well that's a Liberal Party problem. Alam mo magagaling ang dalawa na yun and both were my lawyers at one point or another and everybody admits that they are both qualified. The problem is I think Boy Brillantes supported Noy-Bi and therefore I think the Liberal Party doesn't want a Noy-Bi lawyer to head the Comelec, looking ahead to 2016 or probably even 2013.

Q: So binlock ng LP camp si Brillantes?

SERGE: Hindi naman. The word I got outside Malacanang was that President PNoy interviewed both of them the others day--he met with Boy Brillantes for 45 minutes and met with Romy Macalintal also. So both are the leading candidates to become chair of Comelec. Put it this way, the LP camp is the one sponsoring Romy Macalintal.

Q: Never mind Macalintal's association with Gloria?

SERGE: It looks that way.

Q: Anong advantage kung si Macalintal ang magiging Comelec chief?

SERGE: I don't know. I'd like to think the Comelec chief should always be fair. So I would not say that if you put Romy there, he would tend to favor the Liberal Party.

Q: Bottomline here is this is part of the power play of the Liberal Party?

SERGE: I don't know. I have never been to Malacañang for six months. It looks like this is one of the moves that the Liberal Party wish to make in order to, shall we say, make sure that they are not disadvantaged in the coming elections.

Q: Sinong backers ni Brillantes?

SERGE: When I was campaign manager, Atty. Brillantes was the one who came to see me, offered to help Noynoy and I put him in touch with the legal team of President Noynoy Aquino. Yes, he worked with us, there was no doubt about that. But whether he worked also for Jojo Binay, remains to be proven.

Q: He worked at Samar? Where did he work?

SERGE: I do not know where he worked from, out of what office. He seems to me he worked with Noynoy's legal team, and that would be Jojo Ochoa. But that would also be Nonong Cruz. But Nonong Cruz worked at Balay. Ochoa is in Samar, but Nonong Cruz was with Balay.

Q: Ano po ung hold ni Macalintal sa LP? Bakit siya ang tinutulak nila?

SERGE: Well, I think he also became a lawyer of Mar.

Q: May connection ba sa 2013?

SERGE: If you are thinking about party, yes, there is a connection to 2013. Because the party would want to win more congressional seats, more senatorial seats, more governors, more mayors, etc. So this is a party-building time for the Liberal Party. You can't blame them, it's a natural thing in politics, that's not against the law. As a matter of fact, I would be very surprised if they did not make the proper moves at this time.

Q: Abogado ni PNOY, LP si PNOY, ganun din naman kung si Brillantes ang nasa Comelec sa 2013?

SERGE: I think he is suspected of having been for PNOY but for Binay.

Q: Agree ka na si Mar could be PNOY's chief troubleshooter? Puwede siyang maging Executive Secretary?

SERGE: I think Mar would be a very good addition to the team of President Noynoy. He certainly has the experience, the capabilility, the expertise. And yes, I think it should be a welcome addition to the administration. Now in what capacity, I don't know. President Noynoy said troubleshooter, yes, Mar is a problem solver...Mar would be a big help to Noynoy. He's got a long background in banking and finance. So, essentially that is our biggest problem. He's got a background in economics, and you know job creation is the number one aim of the Aquino administration. He is definitely a big plus.

Q: Kung gagawa ng position for him, dadaan ba iyon sa CA?

SERGE: No. He will only be subjected to the confirmation of the Commission on Appointments if he takes over a line department. As the Constitution mandates, if he takes over Defense, Trade and Industry, or Energy, yes, he will be subjected to confirmation. However, there are many appointments of Cabinet-level

Rank that do not have to go through the CA.

On Globe Asiatique-PagIBIG

Q: Nag-release daw ang Pag-IBIG ng P187 million to Globe Asiatique, kahit may kaso na daw sila?

SERGE: Hindi ko na nadinig iyon. We have to confirm that first before I make a comment on it. There were a release of that sort about six months ago after the brouhaha tipped the Fund but then, everything stopped. As far as I know, Vice President Jojo Binay has ordered that all loans to Globe Asiatique be frozen. And I think they are holding true to that order.

On Cha-Cha

SERGE: There are many defects in our Constitution, and yes, we have to correct them. But there is a way to correct them without having to have a constitutional convention.

By way of background, the United States passed their Constitution back in 1789, about three years after the declaration of independence in 1786, and I think they finalized it pa 10 or 15 years later. They have, I think, about 26 Amendments to the Constitution. So ina-amend lang. Piece-meal, hindi hinahalungkat ang buong Constitution nila. There's no need to do that.

And I think we can amend the Constitution piece-meal thru the congressional legislative process. Fr. Joaquin Bernas has already borne this out. He said you can make amendments to the Constitution with a ¾ votes of either house. So isa-isahin natin.

Q: But not necessarily as a constituent assembly?

SERGE: We can consider ourselves a constituent assembly, voting separately. So ipapasa muna nila sa House, tulad ng isang panukalang batas. Tapos ipapadala sa Senate, we try to pass it here with a ¾ votes, then subject it to a plebiscite.

Q: Basta ¾ vote? Parang ordinary legislation?

SERGE: Yes. But you know we can amend the economic provisions, just as everybody is complaining about, and other such things as anybody would wish to propose. But you don't have to hold a convention, create an upheaval, review everything under the sun. Very dangerous din iyan eh. Hindi ginagawa ng mga Kano iyan.

Q: Dangerous iyon, it opens the door to...?

SERGE: Yes, it's very dangerous. Open sa parliamentary, tatanggalin ang mga term limits, they would vote themselves into power forever....whoever controls. Like if I am a local official or a legislator, gusto kong tanggalin iyong term limits. Eh puro bata nila ang mae-elect diyan. I think it's too risky. And I believe we can properly address the more important issues that many sectors have been concerned about, just like the economic issues, the prohibition, foreign investments, ownership of land by addressing the issues piece-meal and going through the legislative process for the House and the Senate agrees with a ¾ vote.

Q: Sinabi ng Malacanang na hindi naman priority?

SERGE: Ang reading ko po, Malacanang is also concerned with certain provisions in the Constitution that needs to be modernized, harmonized with our present policy. But it also would not like to open it up to constitutional convention, which could make it very unwieldy. So I think they should listen to a piece-meal amendment of the Constitution, like the Americans do, and as supported by Fr. Joaquin Bernas.

Q: Iyong suggestion ni Sen. Chiz na it should be done in the next 2 years?

SERGE: I think Sen. Chiz said, and correct me if I am wrong, if we are going to do this, we have to do this in the first 2 years. Because after that, politics again will play a heavy role in the process. And he is correct. If we have to go through the con-con route, it should be done now, or as soon as possible. But again, there is also a proposal to do it piece-meal because it's the same thing. If you have a constituent assembly, ganun din eh. Ang members mo mga congressmen, mga senators, voting separately. So the only thing is, we will be having joint debates on the floor. We can have separate debates. Theycan debate in the House, and we can debate in the Senate. We will end up with the same thing.

On the sale of the Camp Crame and Camp Aguinaldo

Q: Proposal of Sen. Recto on the options on the sale of the 2 camps...

SERGE: Let's look at the big picture. You have a P300 billion deficit this year, probably P250 billion next year. We have to pay for that. And we have a deficit because we have to continue with our capital outlays, the building of roads, airports, ports, highways, etc. that do not fall under the PPP program. San tayo kukuha ng pera? We already sold Fort Bonifacio, we are selling Clark. We have leased out John Hay, etc. So, definitely we have to put Aguinaldo and Camp Crame into play also.

Now, of course people will say, ari-arian iyan ng military. But with the money you get from that, you can build better and bigger camps on the outskirts of Metro Manila. For example, when the Pentagon in the United States was constructed about 70 years ago, it was far-away from Washington DC, it was about 30 minutes away. Now, of course, everything has become urbanized. Pero ang layo noon ng Pentagon....

So it is not necessary for the camp of the military to be sited in the heart of the country, in the heart of the capital of the country. Kung makakakuha tayo ng 1,000 hectares dun sa Cavite, o sa Batangas, o sa Laguna, o sa Rizal, or Central Luzon, even in Clark, we have the land in Clark. All we have to do is build the facility...bigger, better, and then they'll have the Clark International Airport to use. Ang laki-laki ng Clark, that's 44,000 hectares if I am not mistaken. So, yes, we have a piece of prime property, and in this particular case 2 pieces of prime property, where the money can be put into better use than a military camp, and we can also build a better military camp in another site, bigger, newer, then let's do it. Maybe what Sen. Recto is proposing is, let's talk, let's make sure that this is well-thought out, intelligently planned, with the proper time table for implementing the various steps involved, so I think yes, Sen. Recto needs to be listened to.

Q: By design daw kaya nandito sa Metro Manila?

SERGE: No...we have several packets of military camp here in Manila. We have Fort Bonifacio, ang laki laki, Villamor...ang dami pa.

Q: Can we sell something that is not ours? In the recollection of several senators, these lands were donated only?

SERGE: The conditional donation is very small. Out of 178 hectares in Camp Aguinaldo and 41 hectares in Camp Crame, 26 hectares were subject to a condition when the donation was made by Ortigas and company about 60 or 70 years ago. Only 26 hectares out of the 200 plus hectares involved. Crame and Aguinaldo, they're just across the road. Dati, one contiguous area lang iyan.

Q: Ortigas ang nag-donate niyan?

SERGE: That's all I hear, Ortigas and company. Secondly, if Ortigas donated the entire thing, they would always be willing to share the proceeds. Eh kung sabihin ko sa kanya, eh di huwag na, sige we will remain a military camp. Eh di wala din siyang kita. Normally, there is a 50-50 split. Sige, you privatize, and we split the money, otherwise, they will not see any money. Those type of deals have been done.

There are many conditional donations in this world, and normally, the original donor and the grantee, make a deal, na mag-hati na lang tayo sa proceeds. So everybody happy. Hindi problema iyan.

Q: Ang problema, iyong kay Sen. Arroyo, that the same thing can happen to this thing as what happened to Fort Bonifacio?

SERGE: The money would disappear? Oh yes, of course, the money always disappears. What we should do is that we should ask Sen. Arroyo what happened to all the monies that disappeared during the time of President Arroyo. He never questioned that....

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