Press Release
February 8, 2013

Cayetano: (1)Address poverty and drug abuse to stop crimes; (2) Resurrect FOI through an EO;
(3) SC decision shows no legal impediment to a people's audit; (4) Protect whistleblowers;
(5) On senatorial Surveys

ASC: *opening statement* Years of legislative work so I just want to say thank you. You know how I've always viewed how Filipino media is essential to good governance. You cannot clap for yourself but let me do the clapping for you.

With your permission, I'd like to talk about 5 quick topics and as usual, I'll try to answer questions from you.

(1)Address poverty and drug abuse to stop crimes

"Address high prices, no jobs, and low income to mitigate crimes"

First of all, the PNP said that there is 60% less crime in Metro Manila. I don't think that's accurate. Maybe people are not reporting crimes anymore. Hindi na naire-report ang mga ito because a lot of people feel na helpless, lalo ang mga night shift na umuuwi at naho-holdup. In fact, many parents do not want their children na magpagabi or to go to night school because of the peace and order situation, especially also the prevalence of teenagers getting involved in gang wars, and all that.

Having said that, I don't' think the PNP is to blame. I think we're missing the point. I think there are two causes of crimes. The first one is poverty. Most of the crimes being committed are because walang makain, walang trabaho, maliit ang kita, at mataas ang presyo ng mga bilihin. If you go to our jails and visit, these are mostly people who stole to buy medicine, to buy food, because their out of jobs for several months or for a year.

"The rising tiger should take care of its cubs as gov't should take care of its people"

An official of the World Bank has said that from being the "sick man of Asia", we're transforming into a "rising tiger." But the rising tiger has to take care of its cubs. Kailangan ang bawat mamamayan natin ay makatikim din ng ginhawa sa economic prosperity. If not, hindi ito magpapatuloy.

While I agree with the president that a continued high economic growth will benefit the country, we cannot rely on a classic trickle down capitalist theory or paradigm. The government has to do some intervention that they will be more job generation and that there will be intervention because many Filipinos are good in business, o magaling na entrepreneurs. But they don't have the capital. Ang common na sinasabi ng Pilipino ay "Panay seminar na po kami. Sana may capital na o may pwesto kung saan kami pwede magbenta."

That's why the one big problem in Metro Manila which is the vendors along the street is because we have not fixed the places where they can sell their goods. For example, in Singapore, they did not just remove the coffers. They made it a tourist site. They provided sanitation, they provided water, electricity.

So if you want to get rid of this crime, it's not enough that we help our PNP, that we lean on them, that we fire chiefs where crimes do not go down, it's not enough that we arm the security guards. Kung titingnan ninyo, mas nagiging bold ang crimes ngayon. Even in malls where people know that there security, there are CCTVs, the crimes are happening. Why? Because they're getting more desperate.

"Prevalence of drug abuse should be addressed"

The second reason, and this can be very tied to statistics, 1/3 of all those in jail are in jail for drug-related cases. And they are moving from addiction because of the depression, or frustration because of hard life. We're moving to recreational drug use.

There are many in the different barangays who are using drugs on weekends, when they are pressured, when they are in parties, and also brought about because we do not have juvenile detention centers. In fact, some young people they even bring their birth certificate so that when the police come, sasabihin nila walang detention center kaya hindi sila pwedeng hulihin.

Unless the DepEd, CHED, and other government agencies, church, and parents step in and started checking on their children, starts seeing the symptoms of drug abuse, the crime rates will go up. That's one of the guideline to point out to the government.

You cannot ignore the drug abuse and we cannot that path that while the country is getting richer, many of the poor are also getting poorer. The middle class of the Philippines is really the OFW families. Unfortunately, the pressure is now being felt because now the peso is strengthening and the dollar is weakening. Can you imagine, just a few years ago, P50:$1, now it's less than P41. They lost 20% of their income already. The government should start helping. If the last 20 years, the Philippines kept afloat, we survived because of the OFWs. Now they need our help, because of the pressure on the income.

Remember, not all OFWs are making a thousand or two thousand dollars. For example, in Hong Kong, there are 200,000 OFWs and they're making anywhere between P15-P20 thousand. If they lose 20% of that, that's a big loss.

(2) Resurrect FOI through an EO

Resurrect the FOI bill through an Executive Order

Second issue is the FOI. Of course, nagluluksa tayong lahat, and we all feel the sadness because the death of this bill is all upon us. Because, I think, the House to still pass it and the president to still issue a certify it urgent, then we have three more days when we get back in June.

Having said that, there is another opportunity to resurrect it by the president issuing an executive order. I said this when it was the time of Pres. Arroyo. So although the president is an ally of our party, I think it's incumbent upon me to be fair that transparency and accountability is paramount. Although his government is doing good, although they're by leading by example, we need structural and institutional reforms and make it an executive order ordering all government agencies to exercise utmost transparency.

Having said that, that EO can be issued, the only limitation is that it cannot have penal process involved. You cannot put someone in jail for not following it. But it can include administrative penalties. Meaning, the president can fire or file administrative cases against government officials who do not follow the EO.

REPORTER: What's the process in creating an EO as an FOI policy given that Palace did not certify it as urgent?

ASC: The President himself came up with the Malacanang version of the FOI. I believe that they came up with it in good faith. Again, I will repeat what they've been saying: good governance is good economics. They said its working. Good governance should be institutional. We need a law or directive or a regulation or an executive order that directs all government agencies to be transparent and fair in handling documents, money, privileges, etc.

This can be done. An executive order telling them to put these documents on the website will suffice with corresponding administrative penalties should they fail to do so. In fact, the executive order should be more welcome to the President than the law. Because the law will be subject to the modifications of the House and the Senate. But the executive order can be fully drafted by the President himself.

If there are any concerns like national security, operation of peace and order or fighting insurgency, they can put that in the EO. In fact, the EO is more under his control, he should welcome it. In fact, the DBM is already doing that. They're already exercising the FOI in their website. It's just a matter of getting other agencies to follow.

REPORTER: So Palace can dictate FOI EO's limitations?

ASC: It's a start. I agree with you that the EO could limit what they can reveal. But there are some revolutions or changes that when you start so much momentum that you can't stop it. What I'd like to see is this government propelling the momentum of good governance leading to good economics. I'd like to see that momentum snowball. I'd like to see more institutional changes.

Good governance cannot depend on one man - the President. It should depend on institutions, proper laws and policies, on the citizens and even the netizens demanding this good governance.

An executive order will simply state the policy and what documents should be on the websites and how people can get a hold of these. The important part is administrative sanctions to those who will not give these documents.

It can also contain the exceptions and a remedy, whether judicial or administrative, for those who will not release said documents. The Senate will also benefit from this.

(3) SC decision shows no legal impediment to a people's audit

On Senate Funds: Why do some senators suddenly have the same chorus?

Having said that, the senate should lead by example. Remember, we agreed to have a ceasefire on the issue on the issue of senate funds so that we can pass the important bills, which we have. But remember, ang usapan din noon, is that there will be a no-nonsense investigation.

And although I believe that the COA is doing their job, my question is why do some senators suddenly have the same chorus? Senator Enrile, Escudero, the COA have been saying that there are legal impediments towards a private audit. There are no legal impediments. And I have done my legal research, and I'm writing COA a letter with the legal support to show them that regarding private audit, the SC has already said that a private audit is not in conflict with a COA audit. Can the COA now say the people cannot audit their own funds?

I think there's a misunderstanding of what we're demanding. But to simply fight this, we're just asking for two things, (1) how was the P250,000 liquidated; and (2) how much of the senate funds were liquidated by certification. The importance of this is that these are public funds. These are funds that belong to the people. And until now, people are writing the newspapers saying if we're going to spend millions, why not spend them building classrooms, bridges, relief operations, why were they spent on senators.

We will not create our credibility as an institution, as an individual senator, if we do not address this issue.

(4) Protect whistleblowers

On Jun Lozada case: "Sad day for whistleblowers; government sending the wrong message"

Yesterday, we heard the voice of a very brave soul. Someone who was a whistleblower, Jun Lozada. He was one of those who was persecuted during the Arroyo administration. He was a key witness in bringing about the ZTE deal to light. Now he's the one facing prosecution. From the information I received, a warrant of arrest have been issued by the Sandiganbayan.

This is a very sad day for the tuwid na daan because first of all, he should have been given immunity from the start. If you saw Chavit Singson, for example, when he was a witness against Pres. Estrada, he said that he is guilty. But since the person he is accusing is also guilty, we'll put them in jail at the same time. So the prosecution went on but he was given immunity. Whether it's a formal immunity or the prosecutor simply did not file the cases, in effect, it was an immunity. How come in the case of Jun Lozada, we have not heard any hype in going against the ZTE officials? Although that case is ongoing, there was no further investigation.

"Those responsible for anomalies in the past are still holding positions while whistleblowers are being prosecuted"

I've always said that the people in the DOTC, the people in the agriculture department, in the fertilizer scam, are still there. Yet, they are not being prosecuted. But the whistleblower is. I call upon this government, even without the witness protection law, even without strengthening the witness protection law, even without the whistleblower act, we can protect Mr. Lozada because this is a new government that is for transparency and accountability by simply giving him immunity, and giving him a status of being a witness of the government.

"Comelec should use airtime to promote voter education and equal opportunity among candidates"

Having said that, as a last issue, there's a lot of things being said tungkol sa pagkakaroon ng equal opportunity of candidates in this election. And I'm one of those who have always been espousing decentralization of power and of equal opportunity for all Filipinos, or a version of the American dream, which is the Filipino dream that anyone who does good and has talent, and wants to serve the country, can.

There are two things that I'm proposing to Comelec. One is to talk to Smart and Globe to tell these giant telco companies and get them to agree to be able to instead of pass-a-load, to be able to transfer funds through your cellphone to candidates that you want to support. You want to get rid of bad politicians, then get rid of those who are funded by smugglers, drug lords, those who are funded by illegal gambling, those who are being funded by the bureaucracy by those who try to put people to the regulatory offices and help them cut corners in business. We all know whether it's the DENR, or NPC, the DPWH, people who does business in HLRB, they try to affect the regulations by putting their own people.

I do believe that businessmen want a level-playing field. UI do believe that businessmen want to do good. But to do that, we need good politicians. We need good public servants. And we have to have a way of funding them through the people.

Secondly, for those who cannot raise funds by themselves, they should have an equal access to media. But how do we do that? The Comelec has P224 million budget for their information campaign. And in their own circular, they said that they can buy airtime. So my suggestion to the Comelec is that instead of whining and complaining about some politicians having more money for commercials, I will have no objections if they buy air time and put the lesser known candidates and give them time on primetime. But they have to buy the time. Because you cannot take air time and not pay because this is private property. But the Comelec does have P224 million.

If they use this efficiently, they can buy radio time, they can buy newspaper space, they can buy TV spots for the lesser known national and local candidates to be able to espouse their advocacies, platforms and programs.

REPORTER: Yung kay Jun Lozada, pwede pa ba siyang maging witness kahit may warrant na for his arrest? ASC: The Ombudsman can always withdraw the case. They can always give him immunity or use him as a state witness simply by reviewing the case filed against him. I don't know whether he's guilty or innocent. But I believe in him. I believe that many of those who were taken in as star witnesses may have committed crimes in the past but were given immunity.

That's precisely because they were insiders. Remember, Jun Lozada was an insider. He was the right hand man of Secretary Romulo Neri who spilled the beans that he was being offered P200 million to approve the project.

Clearly, Jun Lozada is not only instrumental, not only a whistleblower but was vital in exposing a government that was ripe with corruption. Now, why aren't we running after the other and instead focusing on him?

You can give immunity for past crimes.

REPORTER: Why cant government go after the bigger fishes?

ASC: Well, the people who are engaged in graft and corruption are smart. For example, if I expose illegal gambling or drugs, they will not file a case against me regarding drugs or jueteng. They will find something else that will seem totally unrelated to destroy my credibility or to shut me out. So this is a classic lean on him strategy. It's a classic, "you hit us, we'll hit you back."

We shouldn't be fooled by the tactics of the past administration to run after Jun Lozada because he was a witness. Before he exposed the NBN-ZTE scandal, two cases were filed against him for that position.

REPORTER: What can the ombudsman do?

ASC: The prosecutors and the Ombudsman have their own guidelines and authority. So the decision on whether or not to file a case is always on the prosecutors' shoulders. Now, if there's grave abuse of discretion, the Supreme Court can reverse the filing of the case.

But the point is you know that he's a whistleblower, you know that he's instrumental, you know that the guy who filed the case is being used by the past administration then why go through with the case?

REPORTER: What is the effect on other whistleblowers? On country in general?

ASC: If you were someone like Jun Lozada, you will have lost so many years of your life, your children will be scared, you will have lost your livelihood and you won't have privacy anymore. If you knew about a corruption case in government, would you be like Jun Lozada and risk everything?

We know what happens when there's graft and corruption. We lose economic growth. We lose jobs. Prices go up and people's incomes go down.

So that's what I said that this is a sad day for this administration. Because it's a day for those persecuting whistleblowers and we are sending a message to these whistleblowers that we'll go after you instead of the people you're exposing.

REPORTER: Pwede bang i-withdraw ng Ombudsman ang case against Jun Lozada in the future?

ASC: Yes. It will need the permission of the Sandiganbayan. Once the Sandiganbayan files the case, you can still withdraw it. But my point is that it's not only legal. This guy who filed the case is still holding a position in government. Was he asked to explain why he filed the case and who instructed him to file the case?

What if Jun Lozada says, "Okay I will face this. You arrest me, I will face the case. But I will shut up about the NBN-ZTE scandal."?

REPORTER: Kasi yung nagfile, separate entity...

ASC: That's correct. In the sense that there's an independence between the Senate, the COA and the Ombudsman, that's correct. But in the sense that all these constitutional bodies are aligned with the tuwid na daan and its one objective of going after the grafters and the corrupt and protect the whisteblowers, the Ombudsman must also toe the line.

REPORTER: The Ombudsman by itself?

ASC: As an intstitution, yes. You are correct that they should not be subject to the whims of the executive. But that's also the question: "Why did the administration wait three years before there was even talk of immunity for Jun Lozada?"

REPORTER: The executive could have...?

ASC: The executive could have given him some sort of immunity or help him with the case at least. I don't even think that he is being given legal assistance now.

The problem is if you let this happen, you will have fewer witnesses.

REPORTER: Is there a violation to the rights of Jun Lozada?

ASC: What I'm saying is that it's a government policy. Remember when the former Ombudsman refused to file cases against the former administration? An Ombudsman who was ironically named Merci. She was too merciful to the former administration. This government threatened the Ombudsman with an impeachment case. There were always talks about the balance of independence versus the balance of interdependency and check and balance.

So I agree that no one should threaten the Ombudsman. I agree that there should not be bathroom talks. But don't tell me that a government cluster, including the DOJ cannot figure out legally how to help their key witness.

Can you imagine during GMA's time if Chavit Singson was prosecuted by the Arroyo government? I cannot see the logic of a government encouraging witnesses to go against the former administration and to expose anomalies then say, "Bahala ka na kapag kinasuhan ka."

Now, legally, how they will do it, they should respect the Ombudsman, the Constitution, follow the laws. But we know that is more complicated than that. However, we know that it starts with your policy.

So what is the policy of the government now? Are we telling the other whistleblowers that we'll protect them as long as the Ombudsman doesn't file cases against you? Can the Sol-Gen who is under the President file a case with the Supreme Court and say that the Ombudsman and the Sandiganbayan are wrong? They can do that. They can respect the boundaries and independence of the Ombudsman without abandoning their policy of good governance is good economics.

REPORTER: Di ba mas maganda na harapin nalang ni Jun Lozada yung kaso?

ASC: Yes but it is easy for us to say just face the case. But when you're facing a criminal prosecution, there's a different toll on you. A week ago, a key witness in another case committed suicide or was killed in jail. We don't know for sure yet.

But can you imagine Jun Lozada facing this case and these circumstance and he has young children? Can you imagine him being in jail and wondering everyday if he will be made to appear to have committed suicide and what will happen to his family?

This person went through so much already for the past two years. Again, why am I taking it up? Not only because of my involvement in investigating this issue but because good governance equals good economics. So this means, jobs, lowered prices, the President has been saying that they were results of good governance.

Now if we're going to dissuade whistleblowers due to these disincentives, the corrupt officials will take their revenge. You will see an avalanche of cases against whistleblowers.

(5) On senatorial Surveys

"Do not merely base vote on surveys. Look at the platform, character, and what these candidates can do for the country" ASC: Apparently, the Pulse Asia and SWS who use to always have the same readings, are now always different. What I would advise voters is to look at surveys, just as an FYI. But not to look at the candidate whether he is a winner or a loser, based on the surveys. Look at their platforms, look at their characters, look at what they want to do for you in the country and vote them for that. We cannot stop surveys being done because that's part of the freedom of expression, it's part of the candidates being able to strategize, where to go, what to do, what issues to talk about.

Of course, I'm very happy, and to God's grace, I've landed, so far, in the top three. But having said that, I have also been in the bottom before. I have faced a lot of challenges like having a namesake. And I know how hard it is to run a campaign. Kaya ang message ko sa ating mga mamamayan ay huwag tingnan ang surveys. Look at the candidates and look at what he stands for and what he can do for you.

Having said that, in the US what they did was track all the surveys and divided it and came out with an average. This is just to be more fair to everyone and to have a better reading. We look at a couple of credible surveys like the Laylo Report, the IBON survey and a number of other surveys. Let's look at all of them and use them as a guide to what's happening rather than who to vote for.

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