Press Release
November 23, 2011

Transcript of Interview of Sen. Franklin Drilon

On the approval of the 2012 budget

Senator Franklin M. Drilon: Yes. When all of these drama was going on, we were working in the Senate, working hard to have the budget finished. And this afternoon, we were able to pass it on 3rd and final reading. The P1.816 trillion budget for 2012. We go on bicameral conference to thresh out the conflicting provisions. We hope to finish the bicameral conference committee discussion maybe by the 1st week of December and hopefully, by about December 14 or 13, we should be able to send the National Budget to the President for his signature. For the 2nd time, and the 2nd year of the Aquino administration, we will have a budget on January 1, 2012.

Q: You see, something sir actually, much easily resolved than Gloria Arroyo is now facing.

FMD: That's correct Tony. We need this for our economy, we need this for our people, we need this for the people who depend on the conditional cash transfer. The P 5.3 million poorest of the poor, who will be receiving grant are the people who will be availing of the health services of the Department of Health through the PhilHealth program. All of these we had to fulfil in the budget so that we can deliver the benefits of the people on January 1.

On Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's arrest

FMD: First yes, we need this. Because the President ran under the platform of "Daang matuwid" . It's about time that we leaders should take a stand for this. Now in so far as the actions taken by Secretary De Lima, every administration should push the envelope and see to what extent the administration can exercise its powers under the law. This is not the first time this has happened. During the time of Gloria in her 9 years, she pushes the envelope constantly to the edge. You know, E0464 which barred Congress from investigating the anomalies. And then unfortunately, the Supreme Court upheld her right. She also had this calibrated response or something we don't know what that was- which was used to, prevent rallies from taking peace. There's even an executive order which tried to prevent television stations such as yours from broadcasting the events.

On the electoral sabotage case filed against CGMA

FMD: Here, we have the situation where yes, the Secretary of Justice tested the image of authority. I have taken a position that she needs to file a case in court and subsequently, she did. T hat made the issue moot and academic in the Supreme Court. First, I am supportive of the rules of law. And at least the Supreme Court sent a strong signal that yes, with the filing of the case in court, the decision of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to question the prevention of her leaving the country has become moot and academic. Now, what we want to watch out for is the argument that the Comelec-DOJ joint panel is unconstitutional and has no basis. Because the Supreme Court itself has ruled that the Comelec Jurisdiction is not exclusive and certainly, the Supreme Court in 2009 ruled that the coordination between the DOJ and the Comelec is absolutely necessary. So, to me, questioning the authority of the panel to review and to conduct an investigation is an act of desperation. In fact, the prosecution of cases is a constitutional authority of the Comelec and the Supreme Court. As I said in the 2009 case the President ruled that this is not an exclusive investigation, it is not an exclusive authority of the Comelec so far as the investigation is concerned, but the filing of the actual case is done by the Comelec. So the preliminary investigation can be delegated to other bodies.

Q: Senator, you mentioned a while ago about the rule of law being enforced, it's just her style of enforcement, in enforcing the law still exists in this country of course we're talking about Justice Secretary Leila De Lima. But some are saying senator, rule of law at the expense of civil liberties?

FMD: Oh you know, liberty always has its limitations. The right to travel has its limitations. It's not absolute and the government exercise, its police power and the power to protect the general welfare of the people, as the right to reinforce restrictions on the right to travel as long as it is, so that where a case is filed, specially a non-offense, the court has the right to bar your leaving the country. Otherwise, how can you prosecute if suddenly, they would disappear?

Q: But then they are saying, it's very specific what the law says that those who can be prevented from leaving the country and know where in there that it state said that national interest should also be looked into.

FMD: That's the second part. The first part is when the case is filed in court. The determination of the right to travel is left to the discretion of the court. And once a case is filed, the court can issue a warrant of arrest and once a warrant of arrest is issued, then the accused must appear before the court. And must be wouldn't be the jurisdiction of the court, physically. So that the accused could be brought to the court.

Q: Dean Valdez was saying, the more important procedural step now in this case for President Arroyo would be to have her arraigned. And once she's arraigned, even if she's allowed to fly out of the country, she could then be charged with a crime in absentia and meaning to say it may make the prosecutor's job even easier if she were out of the country because then they wouldn't be there to present argument in absentia do you share the same idea?

FMD: As a matter of law that is correct. Once you are arraigned, you can be tried in absentia. It doesn't mean though that the prosecution is having an easier job. It doesn't mean that because she can continuously be represented by the counsel also there's trial in absentia, and the same rules of evidence applies. But I agree with Dean Valdez, that is the rule. So the moment she is arraigned, of course, the step today or the step taken by Mrs. Arroyo's lawyers of questioning the constitutionality of the DOJ Comelec panel is a step to question the validity of the criminal information filed ,and therefore prevent arraignment. So, if the arraignment is prevented, you can never have a trial in absentia.

Q:But sir, you are confident that, because previously, there have been joint panels that were created in as you said 2004 and 2007 that the Supreme Court will rule in favor of the government that it is constitutional and valid to have the joint panel.

FMD: That's correct, not only under those panels formed in the past also under the Constitution and the Omnibus Election Code. The COMELEC is fully authorized. First, to deputize the Department of Justice and to coordinate in the prosecution of election cases. Second, they are authorized under the Constitution to file these cases. These two conditions were met. Now, I could see how the constitutionality of the DOJ- COMELEC panel would succeed.

On the truth commission

FMD: Well, they have to answer to their conscience. They have to answer to the people. Unfortunately, under our system, what the Supreme Court says is the law. It's up to them. The jurisprudence is very clear.

Q: Isn't that unheard of, for the Supreme Court to overlook some of its rulings before?

FMD: Of course. If they suddenly say no, that would withstand their rulings. They have to answer to the people.

Q: Is it not so much about Secretary Leila de Lima but more about the Supreme Court?

FMD: I will not answer. I think it's too early to say that but let's wait how the Supreme Court reacts to this petition questioning the validity of the DOJ-COMELEC panel. I will reserve my comment until that comes. As I said, I have cited the Constitution, Omnibus Election Code and the rules of the COMELEC. The actions of the COMELEC on the same issue were never questioned and never set aside.

On the Aquino Administration becoming the same as the Arroyo Administration

FMD: That is the beauty of democracy. We take this part in our debate. We can't convince everyone to see that way. As long as we do it with a clear conscience that this is for the national interest, I can leave with that.

Q: Do you think the Supreme Court in this instance necessarily reflect the public sentiment?

FMD: I would be more comfortable in the statement that the Supreme Court should adhere strictly to basic precepts of our Constitution and the law rather than being influenced by public opinion.

Q: In your recollection, have they ever been swayed by public opinion?

FMD: I couldn't say. I haven't been there. I could only read their decisions. I have my own judgment. I have criticized them and I will not stop criticizing them if I feel that their decisions are contrary to the law and to the Constitution.

On the Supreme Court budget

FMD: Talking about the Supreme Court, today as part of the approval of the budget, we brought back the miscellaneous personnel benefits fund (MPBF) which were items for unfilled positions. We put it back in adherence to the Constitution which says that the budget of the Supreme Court should not be reduced in the following year from the previous year. Just to put it in proper context, 5500 vacancies in the judiciary resulting in the "savings" in about P 2 billion which under the principle of fiscal autonomy, the Supreme Court can use for any purpose. This budget even includes appropriations for unorganized courts. A court cannot be established without a law. First, the law must be passed establishing a regional trial court in Manila. After that, the positions are to be filled and the budget is allocated. So, you must have a judge, clerk of court, researcher, stenographer, etc. In at least a hundred of these laws, which authorize the creation of the court, the courts were created and funded but all the positions were unfilled. We fund this on an annual basis and because of the principle of fiscal autonomy that the courts insist on as against the position of the administration that there should be transparency in the use of these funds. I inserted a clause in the Constitution that the Supreme Court should report to the public through Congress on a quarterly basis on how they spend these funds. We will not interfere how they do it but for the principle of transparency, tell the public how you spend your funds which are for vacant positions. They have the absolute power to realign funds.

On the Bicameral Conference Committee: issues to be reconciled

FMD: One of them would be the MPBF because the version passed by the House includes a restriction that this budget can only be used to hire regular employees and the excess of the budget should be returned to the National Treasury.

Q: But is it against the Constitution?

FMD: Well, I argue that that is a restriction but the House will defend its position but there are a lot of areas of discussion but there are a lot of others but this would be a major one.

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