Press Release
September 10, 2012

Transcript of Kapihan sa Diamond Hotel
with Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile

On the RH Bill and Sin Taxes

Q Ano po ang pinaka-importanteng bill ngayon sa Senate, Sin Tax or RH Bill?

SP Marami, yung RH Bill at yung Sin Taxes, yung Anti-Trust Law, and then we have the budget. The RH Bill is still pending. Over-riding all of these will be the budget. There are other measures important for the country but some of them are up for debate.

Q Everybody is watching what will happen to the RH Bill. Will it pass the Senate?

SP For me, of course, I respect the opinion of the proponents of the Bill. If there is a single Bill or proposed legislation that appeared before a Congress at any time in the life of this country that would have a telling effect on the future of this country and her people, it is the RH Bill. This RH Bill, although counts as a health Bill, has a side effect, or considered as a side effect, and it is my opinion that is the main core of the Bill, and that is to reduce poverty and debt by reducing population in order to enlarge the pie that is distributed among the existing population. This is a measure of what we call per capita income related to gross domestic product. Now, how can you have a country--that is capable of taking care of it (population) if you do not have a population comparative on or related to the population of your neighboring countries? How can you have an economy for a country without population? How can you have a viable government without population that would consume your goods and their services, earn income and pay taxes? They are the source of your taxation, and revenue. Now, they say, why are there so many young people from age 1 to age 15 who are dependent? Of course, but these people will be your productive assets in the years ahead. That is the normal process of nature. Even a plant, you plant it today, you have to water it, nurture it, weed it, and fertilize it in order for it to bear fruit. How can you go against that as the law of nature?

Q I understand there are proposed amendments to the bill? What are these amendments?

SP Many. I think the committee amendments that were proposed by the proponent, Sen. Pia Cayetano, has gone through the course of legislative work. We are in the period for the committee who sponsored the measure to propose what it considers essential amendments. After we close that period of committee amendment, you cannot stop the members of a legislative assembly whether it is under the Philippine setting, the American setting, English setting, Russian setting or whatever setting, to propose amendments that they consider important in order to refine the Bill or protect the interest of the country. When we come to that point when the period of amendments is to be introduced, who knows? There are 23 senators, including the co-sponsors of the measure, and the people who are probably inclined to support the Bill, have their own amendments. For instance, where does life begin? That is the basic question. There is a debate, even in this. According to some, it should be at fertilization, when the spermatozoa of the male fertilize the ova of the female, so life begins. That life has the time to implant itself, and you start already the aging process from then on. There it plants itself; it starts the gestation period until birth of about nine months. Some, seven months, some eight months, some nine months. There is also a part of the gestation period when under the law, when the fetus is born, our law speaks of personality, where it must be considered a person under the law. What this issue contemplates is where life begins, because it says it is the duty of the state under the Constitution, to protect both the mother and the child. Life, not the body of the mother or the body of the child, but the life of the mother, and the life of the unborn. It is always the notion that life begins at conception? Even I said, the ova have a life of its own and it dies if there is no fertilization. Even the spermatozoa have a life of its own. It dissipates within a certain time if it does not fertilize an ovum. Even in the womb, the sperm of a man compete already to fertilize an egg. How can there be competition if these things are not living?

Q Regarding fertilization, they say that if a man wears a condom or a woman has a diaphragm, the sperm and the ovum has no chance of meeting. So there is no fertilization, life does not begin? Then it must be acceptable to the Church.

SP They are talking of human right. We are human beings. We do not know really what is inside of God. I don't pretend to know, I am not God, and normally I am a realist. I deal with reality as it appears to me or think about it, but I can ask anybody here, when a sperm is talked about, can it fertilize the ovum of an elephant? Or only the ovum of an opposite human being called woman. The ovum of a woman, can it be fertilized by the sperm of a fish? Or an ipis? Or a lizard, or a monkey for that matter? It can only be fertilized by the sperm of a man, isn't it? It is a mystery of nature, I don't know, I don't know the answer. What is certain so far, from science, medical science at that is that human life begins at fertilization. That is when there is contact between the sperm with the egg of a woman. According to some proponents of the Bill, it begins at implantation. When the fertilized egg implants itself to the wall of the uterus of the woman. Even that process from fertilization to implantation has a period, a life of its own. A human being already exists, because how can one turn itself into something if it has no life?

Q Contraception is different from abortion. It is abortion that the Church objects to, so abortion prevents fertilization, it prevents the sperm and the ovum from even meeting.

SP Of course, that is the popular notion, borne out of our perception of law. Abortion is a characterization of people who impose criminal sanctions against killing unborn children, unborn life, but then again, how do we know? How do we know that that is a dangerous sign? I am not saying that we should go that far, but I think we have to study this Bill in such a way that we can serve the interest of the country. I respect the religious beliefs of others, whether they are believers or non-believers. I respect their concept of morality; I am not talking about morality here. What I am talking about is the totality of the interest of the nation. That totality of interest is projected by my mind beyond just a year, a decade, two decades, but for as long as this nation exists. We must draw a lesson from other countries that have experienced this already, that have experimented on this. There are other countries. That is the purpose why, after the speech of Senator Sotto, I told him that I would like to ask just two questions about the experiences of other countries that went ahead of us to adopt this kind of policy and find out what is the good side of this process, and what is the bad side. It cannot always be good side. There must be some bad side of this process and if I have this correct, it is being felt by countries that have undergone this policy. Singapore, Japan, Korea, China, Thailand, France, Spain, Russia, the European countries and many others. What is the impact of this? What is the impact of this policy on countries that did not adopt it? How have they fared? Was the fertility rate of the Filipino women really because of poverty in this country? Or the weakness and inutility of government to provide the wherewithal for education and for the creation of jobs. These are the two essential things that must be addressed by the government. I say this because this is the one that I encountered in life. To break through the barrier of ignorance and poverty. I am not talking from theory, I am talking from experience.

Q I think you have a point there. It is the lack of recreation in the poor communities that is the cause of the high birthrate. Instead of recreation, they engage in creation.

SP I was talking to a young man, an educated person, and an executive of a very big company. He said, you know, you have to study this case very well, because in our case in Germany, our birthrate went down not because we adopted population control bill. The birthrate went down because the people became affluent and they wanted to enjoy life than to produce children. What is the meaning of that? There is an antidote to it, create jobs. Do not tinker with God's natural course on earth. Create jobs, educate the people in order to address the problem of the so-called reproductive health.

Q That is true. In some countries like Germany and Singapore, the couples are not bearing enough children so there is no replacement for the old people who died. They lacked the manpower to do what should be done. What they are doing is they are encouraging couples to have children, like in Singapore, they give you a bonus if you have children.

SP That can be done only by countries that are affluent. Can we do that? Unless we become also an affluent, or have a growth rate of 7% or 8%, we cannot attain that. The highest I think we can attain is a little over 6%. If we can attain a growth rate of 10% annually over a period of two decades, maybe we can reduce our population, we can later on pay our womanhood to reproduce. Unfortunately for us, we have been trying very hard to improve our economy and our experience was dismal. Now, having said that, I am not against protecting the rights of our women. I am all for it. It is not only women, but even men; all human beings in this country must be protected as far as their health is concerned. Not just the women, not just the men, not just the children but all of us. Then again, we must study the impact of this legislation on the long term strategic interest of this country as a viable nation with comparative strength with the other countries of the world. We are not alone, this planet. There are others. We do not live in an ideal world where nobody is going to harm us. We have experienced already being harmed. We have been colonized several times. We have been invaded by our neighbors here in Asia. We have to maintain a degree of strength in population and hopefully in economic condition and hopefully provide our people with a secure life. Otherwise, we will be slaves of other countries.

Q There is another school of thought that a big population is good for the economy and they point to China.

SP How can you have people that will produce your food if you have no population or to provide labor to manufacture anything? We will experience it in time. When our population is 10 million where did we fail? When we were at 20 million did we have the skyscraper? When we were at 30 million, we did not. At 40 million, we did not. Later on, we started seeing these buildings when we were growing in population. I am not God. I cannot anticipate anything but one thing I can anticipate is that this country has a future that must be addressed.

Q In the case of China, because the population and market are big, a lot of people buy the products of the factories and that is what improved the economy. Do you agree with that?

SP Well, in China, population alone is not enough. There must be an injection of that amount of investment in order to make that population productive. If you cannot use the population, it is also bad. China never controlled its population until later. Until now, they have not succeeded. And even in India the same thing, they still have not succeeded. Poorness is a relative term.

Q India is the second highest in terms of population but it is not able to feed its entire people.

SP Even in America, they have beggars. You go to Wall Street or Downtown New York. There are people sleeping in the streets. And you find these mainly in the congested slum areas of every city of the world. I do not see any beggars in my province. They can work. They are farmers. Some of them are unlearned but they have enough to eat. I came from there and I know what I speak of.

Q Have you made a headcount of the Senators? How many would vote for or against?

SP I would like to answer that question. The other day I made a calculation and it was distorted. Based on my analysis of the members of the Senate, there are nine committed against. Eight are committed to support it and six are undecided.

Q So it will depend on the undecided six where the vote will go?

SP Yes. On the Sin Tax bill

Q The sin tax bill on alcohol and cigarettes will double the price of cigarettes and some alcoholic beverages. When you raise the prices too high, then the smugglers would bring in the smuggled goods so that instead of the government earning more taxes, they are lesser. On the contrary, if the cigarettes are cheap, more people will buy it.

SP First of all, I will state for the record, I am in favor of increasing the so-called sin taxes up to a reasonable level. What that reasonable level will be determined by us. I am not against it. What I am against is the distorted nature of the proposal coming from the House of Representatives and coming from the Finance sector of the government. When you design a system of taxation, the tax must be equitable. There must be an equitable distribution of tax burden. You cannot tax the poor similar to the rich because their capacity to pay the tax is different. That is why we will study this and we will come up with a reasonable measure that will not shock the market and the economy. People will not stop smoking. They will find a way to get the product like smuggling and we have experienced it in this country. The trouble with us is that we did not learn from the past. Can the government guarantee that they can handle this? How much will be the cost to the government? So that the supposed high revenue coming from the source could be assured. I doubt whether you are going to deal with arresting smuggling with the high regime of cigarette products will come by, the cost of enforcing the law will not eat up the incremental revenue that we think we will get from the government to provide other government services.

Q The Philippines is very vulnerable to smuggling because we have so many islands and islets and secluded beaches.

SP Our Navy cannot catch up with high-powered engines. Four engines propelling, two on each side and you running at 50 knots, what Naval assets do you have to arrest it? Planes or helicopters? Yes, they can kill them but can you destroy if you have a hundred of them passing by.

Q They do it mostly at night.

SP Not only that, there are so many islands as you said and the Sulu Sea is one but you cannot pass it to the police there across the Sulu sea from Borneo all the way to Cebu or Panay. They go all the way to Mindoro to Batangas and will land somewhere in the Pacific area. We have the biggest coastline.

Q Other countries have experienced this when they increased taxes on cigarettes and instead of collecting more, these countries collected less like Malaysia and Singapore.

SP You know, I can speak on this because I handled them. Almost 50 years in this government, there is no problem that I cannot pass through- smuggling, tax evasion, kidnapping, carnapping, gambling. I met all of this in my time.

Q You have a point that it is okay to increase taxes but not too much. Even cigarette manufacturers agree that taxes should be paid but not too much.

SP Senator Recto and I discussed this. To be fair to Senator Recto, he's a reasonable man, he said he will design a tax regime that will be fair to this government and to the people so that we will not destroy the source of income for the government.

On the Freedom of Information bill

Q Does it have a chance to be passed?

SP Personally, I support it. If I am not foolish enough to do something wrong or hide a secret, then let it be exposed.

Q The truth shall set you free?

SP Yes, because they do not talk about personal things.

Q Is Malacañang in favor?

SP I don't know. I don't talk to them. I have not discussed this with the President.

On the 2013 Budget

SP Well, we have to look at the budget and decide on it depending on the motion of the other members of the Senate.

Q How much higher is the proposed budget compared to the present one?

SP I am not sure of the number but moderate increase.

Q I think it's three trillion.

SP No, it's not three trillion. I do not know whether it is more than two trillion.

Q How much is the budget now?

SP The budget today is a little over one trillion.

Q Kung one trillion lang ngayon and yung proposal is two trillion, so that doubles the budget?

SP No, the projection of the money of the government today is graduated. First of all, it depends on the capacity of the economy to spend. Second, it depends on the capacity of the government to utilize that money.

Q Do we have enough funds to support such budget?

SP Yes, we have enough. Still, no government in this world has enough self-collected revenue to support the needs of the people that is why they borrow either domestically or even in foreign lenders.

On the Conditional Cash Transfer Program

Q One of the big expenditures is the Conditional Cash Transfer.

SP Tumaas ata ng 43 billion yun. A little over 20 billion.

Q The notion is the money is given to the people and the beneficiaries do not have to do anything and yet there are so many things to be done and nobody to do it. For instance, cleaning the water waste and cleaning the garbage. These beneficiaries can be told to do it in exchange for their dole outs.

SP: Yun ang mahirap eh. Ako, I am not against spending money on poor people. I know how it is to be poor. I came from them but it is better not to train them to not become mendicants. It's better to train them to earn a living. Work for pay. If you don't work, no pay. Alam mo, when this stops is a problem again of other countries. They can no longer stop it. Once it's in place, politics will come in. Pressure groups will come in. Lobbyists will come in because we are talking of people who are being involved ever so often in our political life.

Q: Sabi nila, you train people to become mendicants. They receive money without doing anything. So, there's no urgency in their part to look for jobs.

SP: That's the same thing with the problem in RH Bill. If you're going to have to restrict our womenhood to dislike bearing children, it's very difficult to reverse it. That's the experience of other countries. That's the same thing with the Conditional Cash Transfer. If you're going to make people mendicants, dependent on Conditional Cash Transfer, I am sorry to say this but people tend to be lazy, they'd rather drink or sleep than work in the fields or go fishing than do something to earn a living. It's very difficult to reverse it once they are habituated to do that.

Q: The latest finding is that the beneficiaries sell their cards to get the money in advance.

SP: Yes. That's true but then ang aking answer siguro to the poverty in our country is investment to create jobs. I don't care where the investment will come from for as long as they come to do business and they're fair to the people. That's the function of governance --- to see to it that anybody doing business in the country can be controlled, must obey the law, follow the law of the country. If a government cannot do that then it's not worth the name government.

Q: 'Yung P40 billion that goes to the Conditional Cash Transfer, how many factories can it fund, how many businesses...

SP: How many school buildings, how many hospitals, how many scholarships. Plenty.

On the confirmation of Mar Roxas as DILG Secretary

Q: Sir, in your part as Senate President, the President is submitting the papers of Mar Roxas, if Roxas will be confirmed, Bartolome will be forced to retire as PNP Chief and replace Puno. So, ano sir ang nakikita niyo rito?

SP: I don't know the connection of the confirmation of Mar with the fate of an Undersecretary because that's a different position in any department.

Q: The marching orders of President Aquino is mapabilis ang confirmation ni Roxas...

SP: Alam mo, 'yung confirmation ni Roxas will go to a process. Kailangan masubmit sa amin ang kaniyang pangalan. I've already referred it to the Committee. So, he must now submit the documentary requirements, statements of assets and liabilities, income tax returns, and so forth and clearances from the agencies concerned. Then, that will be published. We will have a hearing. The Committee assigned to hear his case will now conduct a public hearing so that anybody who has any gripe, I doubt if there is anybody, anyway that's the process, they can come. If not, we will submit it immediately to plenary. There will be no problem. We cannot just confirm a nominee of Malacañang without complying with the requirements of the Commission.

Q: Well, I think Mar Roxas has completed the requirements needed by the CA. Do you think the CA can confirm him before the recess scheduled by the Congress in November?

SP: We scheduled him for confirmation on the 19th of this month.

Q: How about Abaya?

SP: Only Mar Roxas, so far, was mentioned. I haven't received the papers of Congressman Abaya.

On the Freedom of Information Bill

Q: Sir, FOI is still sleeping sa House of Representatives. Sabi niyo sir sa Senate walang problema pero sa House may problema.

SP: Inaprubahan na namin sa Senado 'yun. Sa Kongreso nag-lapse dahil hindi inaprubahan ng Kongreso. Bumalik ulit.

Q: Is there a possibility na maipasa pa 'yung FOI since we are approaching election year?

SP: I will not make a guess because of our experience.

Q: What do you mean?

SP: We passed it in the Senate but when it comes to the House, I do not know. I cannot speak for the House.

Q: You cannot speculate the possibility of FOI?

SP: You know, in this life, I do not deal with speculation. I try to assess the situation very well.

Q: The congressmen are more afraid of the truth than the senators. Mas marami silang tinatago. Is it correct that an appointee cannot assume his office while he's not yet confirmed by the Commission on Appointments?

SP: There are two kinds of appointments by the President. One is an appointment done when Congress is not in session. That is what we called ad interim appointment. In which case it becomes effective immediately and the appointee can assume. There's also an appointment when the Congress is in session. In that case, that appointment cannot assume because he is simply a nominated person in the position until he is confirmed. When he is confirmed, then he can assume.

On Undersecretary Puno

Q: Sir, gusto ko lang malaman ang opinyon ninyo sa tangkang pagpasok ni Undersecretary Puno sa condominium ni Secretary Robredo a day after the crash. Some people are questioning the motive lalo na at lumalabas na iniimbestigahan pala siya ni Secretary Robredo.

SP: Hindi ko alam ang detalye non. Siguro naman hindi pumunta doon si Undersecretary Puno unless he was authorized to do that. He has a valid, legitimate, legal reason to go there. You know, when you are a member of the Cabinet of a President, you are not on your own. You're an alter-ego of the President and especially if you're handling sensitive department like Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of Interior and Local Government and Department of Defense or Department of Justice, it's possible the President knows that he might have some records of pending matters assigned to you by him or the President knows what you're handling is quite sensitive. The President has a right to see to it that those state papers must be safeguarded. We do not know whether Undersecretary Puno was ordered by the President or authorized by the President to go to the residence of the former Secretary of Interior and Local Government to secure certain state papers in his possession because those papers do not belong to the Secretary. They belong to the department he holds and they're state property.

Q: Pero sir sabi ni Pangulo, 'yung order daw po pumunta sa office lang, hindi sa condominium. You see something irregular with that, sir, na pati 'yung condominium...

SP: As I see it, there's nothing irregular. I don't think Undersecretary Puno went there to rob the house or rob the condominium. He must have gone there to retrieve some records that he knew belonged to the department. He's an Undersecretary. He's the number two man in the department. That's his duty, to see to it that the records of the department are retrieved from whoever is in possession. The head of the department is dead. In my case, when I resigned from the Cabinet, I returned all the documents that are in my possession except my personal files.

Q: Sir, sabi po ni Senator Miriam magfa-file po siya ng resolution seeking a probe kung bakit nag-attempt si Undersecretary Puno...

SP: I congratulate her for that. I hope she will do it so we will know the truth.

Q: Okay lang ba na imbestigahan natin?

SP: Okay lang sa akin na mag-imbestiga ang mga senador sa mga gusto nilang imbestigahin.

Q: One suspicion is that Puno is involved in jueteng, illegal logging and that Robredo was investigating this and I think Secretary Paje confirmed this in so far as the logging problem. So, do you think this is justified?

SP: I don't think an Undersecretary will be afraid of those things. I don't know the facts but it supposes that he's committing an illegal act. I don't think it's fair for me to discuss that by simply dealing with suppositions.

Q: The President has confirmed that he has ordered Puno to lockdown the offices. If he did that, why did he replace Puno? Why did he dismiss Puno from DILG?

SP: I don't know. First of all, I do not know whether he dismissed Puno. Second, if he dismissed him, I don't know whether it was because he went to the condo of the former Secretary of the DILG. Third, that is addressed to the President.

Q: Mayroon po akong reports na natabunan na 'yung mga hostages sa Sulu, 'yon pong Jordanian journalist. Nagbigay po ng malaking pera pero hanggang ngayon ay hindi pa nare-release.

SP: Nasa mga bandidong humahawak sa kanya. Hindi naman mga tauhan ng gobyerno 'yon. Nasa kanila 'yon kung ire-release nila sa mga nagbigay ng ransom na 'yon kung ano ang usapan nila sa mga bandido.

Q: Under daw po iyon sa pakikipag-usap ni Secretary Robredo. Ngayon po ay hinahanap na 'yung pera na naibigay na doon sa pag-release ng Jordanian...

SP: Alam mo, hindi ko alam kung ang mga bali-balita na 'yan ay confirmed. Ano bang source ng balita na 'yan? Unang-una, 'yung Jordanian ay nagbayad ng pera at may kinalaman si Secretary Robredo. Kaninong balita 'yun at kompirmado ba 'yun?

Q: Sen. Miriam Santiago has proposed an investigation of the jueteng because of the suspected involvement of Undersecretary Puno. When will that investigation start?

SP: I don't know. Normally, what we do when a senator wants a matter investigated, I assume she will be filing a resolution.

Q: 'Yung undersecretary in charge of police matters, is it regular that you deprive the Secretary of Interior from supervising the police...

SP: I don't know the arrangement but the President can reorganize the Cabinet anytime. He can reorganize the government. He has a standing power delegated by Congress to reorganize the Executive department according to his notion to bring about efficiency. I do not know the specific assignments of Undersecretary Puno if indeed he was specifically assigned to that job, to supervise the police.

On laws any laws on harvesting stem cells

Q: Mayroon bang batas na naglilimita, nagbabawal o nagpe-penalize na magkaroon ng harvesting ng stem cell sa buhay na fetus, patay na fetus o sa isang adult?

SP: Walang batas at wala akong alam na merong ganyan sa bansa natin.

Q: Ginawa ito ng isang government hospital...

SP: Wala akong balita.

On the Reproductive Health Bill

Q: Sir, there are brewing reports that for the first time, the Catholic Church will make a unified stand against the controversial RH Bill. Will it result to more divisiveness among religious groups in the country?

SP: I do not know. It's well-known that the Catholic Church is against that version of the Reproductive Health Bill. There's no question about it. I can also probably surmise that being an affected sector, they will try to use their contacts, their connections, their means to defeat the bill if they could defeat it. All of us can speculate.

Q: So, there's no such move from the Catholic Church? Making a united stand against...

SP: I think, probably, because if I were in their place, with the size of the Catholic Church, they can make themselves as a group especially in our political exercises.

Q: The Senate was successful in impeaching Chief Justice Corona, now that there is a new Chief Justice Sereno, she's much junior than the other Justices, do you think it will affect her decisions as a Chief Justice?

SP: I don't know what's going on in the Judicial Department of the government. They're co-equal to us. I could not comment on that.

Q: What percentage do you think the RH Bill will be approved on the Senate floor?

SP: Percentage? I do not know. It can go either way. It can be approved or it can be disapproved.

Q: When the talks didn't transpire during the APEC summit between the two countries (Philippines and China), what's your reading with that?

SP: I don't know what went on with the APEC conference. You see, I suppose that the meeting was only a speculation. In a case like this, you have to make the arrangement prior to the event. If there was a firm meeting, that meeting should have gone through. Evidently, the meeting was not cleared out before the APEC meeting concluded so maybe the President of China, being what it is --- a big country and a big economy, there must have been so many intervening events that prevented the President of China to deal with the problem of the Philippines. I don't know.

Q: Do you think since you mentioned earlier that there are nine votes or eight votes in favor...

SP: My calculation is nine votes are definitely not voting in favor. Eight votes are in favor. So, that's 17 senators. So you have six whose positions are not yet certain.

Q: What will you vote? For or against?

SP: Ako, definite. I will vote against the bill not because of any steadfast religious position but because of the strategic impact.

Q: Mr. Senate President, if these six senators will vote in favor of the RH Bill, do you think the Catholic Church will campaign against these six senators?

SP: I don't know.

On the UNA Coalition

Q: Is there already a decision by UNA on the last two senatorial seats? Sen. Jinggoy Estrada said last week it would likely be Senator Chiz and Grace Poe. Is that final, sir?

SP: Senator Chiz and Grace Poe, I think, will be in the ticket of UNA although I think they will also be in the ticket of the Liberal Party. With that, I think we have completed the line-up of the UNA.

Q: Now that people are looking at coalitions, as a member of the PMP, what do you think your party contributes to the UNA coalition?

SP: I don't know but Erap's there. We have governors, mayors, town councilors, board members all over the country. We have national le

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