Press Release
November 23, 2011

Interview transcript

On this morning's Commission on Appointments hearing on the appointment of Mr. Domingo Lee as ambassador

This has been more or less a characteristic feature of the Commission on Appointments. If so much as just one senator or congressman has his curiosity unsatisfied, we have to keep on postponing the deliberations until all the questions have been answered, and the person involved--the congressman or senator from the Commission on Appointments--has already reached a conclusion on whether he should vote yes or no, meaning to say he will exercise his one-person veto. If we, for example, in this particular committee on foreign affairs, override Sen. Osmeña, who is interpellating, certainly he will exercise his veto in the plenary session. So it's useless to stop him at this point. If he has anymore questions, we just have to wait until he feels that the nominee has satisfactorily answered his questions or not. That is for him to decide. We cannot stop him because, otherwise, it will be counterproductive. He will just exercise his one-person veto in the plenary session.

As it is now, there is still a hope that he might still change his mind if the nominee perhaps does his homework, as he keeps on implying that the nominee has not sufficiently undertaken background analysis of the China issue in which we are involved. In addition to that, I understand that there are a few other senators who wish also to interpellate at length, but are unable to do so because they are attending the bicameral conference committee meetings on the budget. So at the next session, I can expect that there would be an even lengthier session. For as long as the nominee is physically fit, we have to continue these sessions. The administration will simply have to wait for the patience of the members of the committee.

What do you think of Mr. Lee's competence as an ambassador?

I am like everyone else holding my breath because we want to see the critics, led by Sen. Osmeña, to produce the results of their criticisms. Their main criticism is he has no background in diplomatic work, he is too old because he is 76 years old, and he does not fully grasp the issues that confront RP-China relations at this time. It is for the nominee to disprove them by answering the questions more responsively. I think today he was not very responsive. If he was asked a question, he cannot answer it frontally, but he would delve into some other issue related to it, and that was why I think the senator interpellating him was running out of patience. But eventually maybe he will get into his stride and will then be able to answer the questions more directly than he did today. There is hope for him.

I will grant the presumption (of competence) in his favor and say he has difficulty with English because at one point when he found that his English is insufficient, he switched to Tagalog instead. So I'm just hoping that this is merely a linguistic manner.

He has never been an ambassador. I saw the appointment papers signed by President Aquino which extends to him an honorary appointment as an ambassador-at-large not designated to any country, meaning to say he is not a regular ambassador. He is a non-career ambassador.

Does he have close ties with the Cojuangcos?

He has been very close with the Cojuangco family. He has always been a loyal supporter, maybe because he believes in their ideology. Since our relations with China is at its most problematic these days, perhaps President Aquino, if I may be allowed to make this explicit, trusts him to deliver the message accurately between the two heads of state, because today it is very important that the two heads of state must have their messages transmitted to each other without distortions. That could happen only if you completely trust the person, and obviously this person has the complete trust or President Aquino. That was the reason for his nomination.

On the calls for Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's resignation from office

Ang lagi kong sinasabi, kung sinumang opisyal ang involved, iyan ay para sa kanya, hindi siya pwedeng mapilit. Personal decision niya iyan, nasa kanya iyon. Halimbawa, kung masyadong matagal ang absence niya, for delicadeza dapat na lang siyang magresign. Ako noon, nag-leave for six months dahil may sakit nga ako, nagtanong muna ako sa human resources kung kailangan kong magresign kung ganoon katagal. Pinag-aralan nila ang civil service law, at wala naman palang minimum limit iyan, kaya hindi pwedeng sabihin na gayong six months akong absent pwede na akong magresign. So it is for the House of Representatives as a collegiate body to decide whether the number of absences has already exceeded what they consider reasonable. But remember, there was one member before from the Visayas region who was absent, I think, for years and he was not compelled to resign. So that will have to be a private decision from Rep. Arroyo because, after all, it will concern her health.

Do you approve of her assigning a caretaker in her stead?

Ngayon lang tayo nakakita ng ganyang recommendation. Kung hindi na niya makayanan ang distrito niya, e di dapat mag-resign na siya para someone else can take over. It's very difficult to have a caretaker because you don't know whether the population in her district wants this person to represent them or not--we are presuming too much. So again, this becomes her private decision

Can her son Mikey takeover her duties?

That would not set a good precedent. As a lawyer, I am always thinking of precedents, ganun ang training naming kasi. Nag-iisip kami palagi 'kung ginawa natin ito, magiging maganda ba sa kinabukasan, na gagawin ba ulit o magiging sagabal sa ating gobyerno.' Parang hindi maganda na anak niya ang gawing caretaker dahil we already have an anti-political dynasty provision in our Constitution. Ibig sabihin, hangga't sa maaari, ang pamilya ng isang public official hindi nakikialam sa kanyang trabaho bilang public official. So we don't want to give the impression that the job or task of representing a congressional district can be delegated to a family member as if it is one of the prerogatives of being a family member.

Who should replace her if she resigns?

In that case, first you have to have her removed or she has to resign first para maging bakante. But while she has not yet resigned, and the House itself has not called for a resignation�well, of course they can compel her to leave if they filed an ethics case against her�then it becomes her personal decision. She should be the best judge of whether she is physically or mentally fit, or whether she still has the same enthusiasm for public service.

What is your advice for CGMA?

She has to hire better lawyers, because as I told you a few days ago, I am certain that the Supreme Court will throw out the request for a TRO on the DOJ-Comelec panel because the reasoning was, in my view, not proper and very weak in legal terms. I think she should hire better lawyers, but the same should go also for the Palace. I think that both sides don't have the benefit of good, competent lawyers. A legal team ideally must consist of an academician who is up-to-date with all the latest developments in case law or jurisprudence, plus an actual trial practitioner, yung nag-practice talaga.

Would you ask for her resignation?

It will not be proper for me to do that. Suppose someone else asks me to resign the next time I get sick, I would resent it.

On the case filed against CGMA regarding the Maguindanao Massacre

I would say it is very tenuous because you have to prove that she is directly involved in the plotting and the execution of the massacre. That was very hard to prove unless you have eyewitnesses.

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