Press Release
July 18, 2013

Transcript of Kapihan sa Senado with Sen. Franklin Drilon

On Senate presidency

I know that the session will start on July 22 and we have presented ourselves to our colleagues for possible leadership of the Senate. We would prefer that we wait for July 22 out of our respect to our colleagues.

On whether there is a contender for the Senate presidency

I confirm that no one has expressed interest in the Senate Presidency post from among my colleagues. Nevertheless, I will wait until July 22 before making any formal announcement on the Senate Presidency.

On the possible Senate President Pro Tempore

We have only about three days more, may I request that we sleep for three nights more and on Monday you will have the news.

On reports that Senator Recto will be the next Pro Tempore

It came out in the media, let it remain that way. I would not want any news to be coming from myself because that will be pre-empting the elections. The Senate President Pro-Tempore, the Majority Floor Leader and the Senate President are all elected by the Chamber, including the Senate Secretary and the Sergeant-At-Arms. So, I would respectfully decline answering questions on the elections out of respect to my colleagues.

On the members of the next set of Senate officers

It ain't over before the fat lady sing, as they say in American baseball.

On Senate committee chairmanships

The tradition in the Senate is that the minority are offered committees. Whether they accept or not is a matter is under their discretion. You cannot force them to accept committees but, yes, the minority will be offered committees that are consistent with the tradition of the Senate.

On the distribution of the major committees

There are always expressed differences and there are always a number of senators bidding for the chairmanship of committees. What we are trying to do is try to see what fits a particular senator given his or her background and what we believe can be to the best interest for public service. This is natural in every start of a Congress, that there will be distribution of committee chairmanships because that is how the Senate works and Congress works. It works through committees and therefore you try to see the agenda or advocacy of a particular senator, his or her background and see how the chairmanship can best be distributed for the sake of public service.

On whether neophyte senators can be given major committee/s

Certainly. These are senators of their own mandate who have been elected by millions of Filipinos.

On whether the refusal of the minority to handle committees will affect the Senate performance

Firstly, one of them will be the minority leader therefore you are talking of five senators. That is a decision they will have to make and we will just have to face that challenge if they would not accept committees. Challenge meaning in terms of the majority leadership.

On the 18 members of the majority bloc and the numbers for Senate presidency

That is correct. The election of the Senate President is the mandate of the majority of the senators and the fact that nine Team PNoy candidates were elected into office would clearly deliver the message of the people that they want the policies of this administration to be sustained for the next three years.

On the opening of 16th Congress

On Monday, Acting President Jinggoy Estrada will open the session and then the results of the election will be officially entered into the records by reading the resolution of the Comelec proclaiming the 12 senatorial winners then they will formally take their oaths then election of the officers will follow. After they take their oaths, the roll call will establish the quorum then afterwards the election of the officers.

On whether privilege speech will be allowed during the opening of Congress

Traditionally, there has never been a privilege speech delivered on the opening day of the session and I would believe that we will follow that tradition.

On Estrada's committee preference

Sen. Estrada has expressed his preference for the labor committee as other senators expressed their preference for the other committees. The fact that you belong to the minority does not mean that you cannot express your preference. Anybody is free to express his or her preference.

On ongoing talks on committee chairmanship

We are continuing with the discussion on committee chairmanships. It is not a new one that some senators will be bidding for the same committee because they believe that they have the expertise and this is their advocacy so it's natural.

We will continue to talk with our colleagues regarding committee chairmanship.

On whether the NP bloc has expressed dissatisfaction on committee distribution Who expressed dissatisfaction?

On Committee Chairmanships

We will continue to talk to our colleagues regarding committee chairmanships.

On pork barrel abolition

Not only Congress has the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), the VP also has PDAF. I was among the first to advocate the cause of the perception of corruption on the use of PDAF, but I want to make it clear that there are valid uses of the PDAF and the allegations are only in the media, nothing has been proven.

PDAF is in the General Appropriations Act (GAA). We do not need a special law to abolish the PDAF. We just have to delete that from the GAA at mawawala na iyon. Hindi po kailangan ang isang panukalang batas para i-abolish ang PDAF, kung ipagbawal na ang PDAF, huwag isama sa budget.

But, even the approval of the GAA would require the concurrence of the two houses. The House of the Representatives through Speaker Belmonte stated their positions that their constituencies need their PDAF in their respective districts. Having confronted with this, I think the only way is to limit the use of PDAF so we can minimize the abuses and the misuse of it. In other words, be very strict in the menu to minimize what are perceived to be the abuses of the PDAF.

For example, first, all the so-called soft PDAF could be allocated to the government hospitals. So that, the disbursements will only be on the patients on the government hospitals. That way, it could prevent any leakage for the misuse of the public funds. And, I would also advocate the use of PDAF to the school buildings for the next three years. We all know that we lack school buildings. You will see where the PDAF has been spent.

We do not need a special law to do that.

On who will impose the guidelines to limit the use of PDAF to certain projects

Department of Budget should be the one to impose those guidelines.

On if he will be the one initiate the request to limit the use of PDAF to the DBM

Yes, but the menu is revised from year to year. Basically, the matter of the discussion in the menu usually takes place in the House of Representatives because they have more members. I am very willing to initiate it only if we cannot abolish the PDAF.

On Congressman Tinio proposing the abolition of pork barrel

You just have to delete the PDAF in GAA. GAA is a law and therefore both houses must agree. Tao- taon pinag uusapan ang budget at pinapasa ito. If you do not provide for PDAF in GAA, there will be no PDAF. As simple as that.

If you will have PDAF, then you can limit the usage in order to avoid the allegations of corruption. You can include again in GAA of what will be the uses of PDAF.

On the concern of congressional insertion if PDAF will be abolished

I-veto ng Pangulo. The president can exercise the line item veto to the budget.

The president's budget or the national expenditure program becomes general appropriations bill which is approved by the house and goes up to the senate and once it is signed, it becomes the general appropriations act.

On the PDAF

This is a decision of both Houses. If one House does not agree, then you cannot abolish because you cannot agree on the PDAF which is part of the General Appropriations Act (GAA) and therefore we must settle that issue in the bicameral conference committee in case there are two divergent positions by either House.

Remember that the version of the Senate is a version approved on the Senate floor. Individually, we have our own advocacies but at the end of the day, majority rules. I have personally advocated let us abolish but I do also realize that it is a proposition that would need the concurrence of the House of Representatives. That's the process that we follow. Even if the whole Senate will say, we abolish PDAF. Kung ayaw ng House, anong gagawin natin? Under pain of not having a budget, kung hindi kami magkasundo dahil diyan.

I hope that we can limit the use of the PDAF but that is a matter that is left to the judgment of each House.

Let me make it clear, this is not a monopoly of the Philippine legislature. This is of American origin. Has anyone of you wondered why it's called pork barrel? It comes from the practice in the past of American legislators who when they go to their home states, would bring to the slaves salted pork in a barrel. That is to address the needs of their constituents. In various jurisdictions, when a legislator represents a constituency, it is natural for the legislator to try to address the needs of the constituency. Be it clothes, be it whatever you have because that is the nature of a democracy. You have a constituency to serve. This goes back to the parliaments of England. I ask you another question, why is it called a lobby when you push for the passage of certain laws? It is because in the English parliament, the constituency of the English parliamentarians, would wait for them in the lobby and then they would go there and talk to their constituents. The constituents would talk to the parliamentarians about their needs. This indicates that in a parliamentarian democracy, you always talk to your constituents. It can be in a form of particular legislation, projects. This is not unusual. The House Speaker has said our congressmen have their own particular constituents' needs. Of course, there is so much criticism because of the perceived anomaly, the temptation that is presented. Maybe, if we limit it to areas where you minimize the possible anomalies, then you can deal with it.

On his assessment of the first three years of the Aquino administration

Well, I think the first three years of the Aquino administration, to a great extent, we have restored the pride of the Filipino in our country. Especially outside, we have made them proud of our country once more. This is due principally to the adherence of this administration to the principles of good governance. Second, due to the adherence of public administration of the President to sound economic policies. These sound economic policies resulted in unprecedented growth last year and this year. The first quarter showing 7.8% growth in the GDP. The first quarter showed the upgrading of our investment grade from two rating agencies. This is in recognition of the two sound economic policies of this administration. This adherence to their principle of good governance and good economic practice has resulted in record high approval and trust ratings on President Noynoy Aquino. In fact, I reviewed the trust ratings of the present administration midterm versus the midterm trust ratings and performance ratings in the past administrations. It showed really a marked difference. The first quarter of this year showed the trust rating of President Noynoy at 59 percent approval rating as of March 2013. President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in her midterm showed a negative 3 percent performance rating. President Estrada in December 2000 had a positive 9 percent. President Ramos in June 1995 positive 26 percent. The President's mother, President Cory Aquino, had a positive 37 percent in February 1989. If you compare the last performance ratings of the past 5 presidents after EDSA, the present administration has the highest performance rating. It indicates the approval by the people of the reforms done by the President for three years in the present administration. Likewise, the approval of the people is reflected in the results of the last elections. The last elections showed the Senatorial slate endorsed by the President 9-3 in favor of the administration slate versus the midterm result of the Arroyo administration which was 10-2 in favor of the opposition. This performance rating of SWS and result of the senatorial election would indicate the support and confidence of our people on President Noynoy. There is no better assessment than the assessment done by the people themselves.

Q: The President said that recently that the best is yet to come? What does it mean?

It means that he is conscious that not withstanding all that he has done for our country, there is still a need to do some more. The fact is we still have unemployment rate which we have to address. We have the non-inclusive growth because poverty is still there. We still have to continue these reforms. What is important is that we have begun and the President has shown his political will to institute the necessary reforms. The enactment of the Sin tax law was a reform that was 16 years late.

On the priority measures of the majority in the Senate of the Philippines

I will propose to the majority that we prioritize the following bills. These bills are prioritized in order to improve our investment climate so that we can achieve an inclusive growth. We have to improve our policy framework to attract more investment and achieve our inclusive growth target meaning lowered unemployment rate, lower the number of families who consider themselves poor. We would recommend to our colleagues as a Senate to prioritize the rationalization of the fiscal incentive act, passage of the amendments to the mining law and tax incentive, monitoring and transparency act. This would monitor the incentives being enjoyed by the pioneer industries so that abuses can be checked. We would also propose amendments to the build, operate and transfer law because again the criticisms is that there appears to be many hindrances to the full implementation of the public-private sector partnership in projects. Remember that a good part of our infrastructure program would be open to public-private sector partnership so we must strengthen the law. We would also look at and recommend the review on the removal of the restrictions on those areas where investment can be made by foreigners consistent with our Constitution. We would also propose amendments to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, BSP Act, in order to strengthen our banking sector. On the Judiciary, we realize that the constant plea of faster administration of justice can be addressed to certain legislations. We would propose amendments to the Sandiganbayan Law, amendments to the Judiciary Act to assist in the effort to speed up the disposition of cases. You must remember that the Judiciary is principally is within the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court. We can only do certain things that will not encroach on the power of the SC to supervise the judiciary. Finally, we will support amendments to the organic act that principally will be the result of the peace agreement that we expected to be signed hopefully shortly before the year is over, so that we can work on the ARMM Organic Act Amendments as this will affect the form of government in the ARMM, to be ratified by the ARMM.

Q: Do you see the need for this Congress to act more quickly because of the Presidential elections in 2016?

Maybe in the first two years. That is the reality. We hope to pass it by the end of the second regular session of the 16th Congress.

On the FOI Bill

FOI, we have already passed that in the Senate. Back to square one but the fact that we passed it, I would like to believe na mabilis na iyan.

On Cha-Cha

The political leadership, PNoy is not convinced that we need Cha-Cha; that is why I enumerated those economic laws which short of Cha-Cha can provide the environment of better investment climate that Cha-Cha seeks to achieve. I supported the procedure and I continue to support the procedure in the amendment.

Q: Do you think the budget can be passed on time?

It has been scrutinized for the past three years and there is merit in passing it because it is to the public interest that the budget is in place on January 1 so that infrastructure program for that particular year can be started during the summer; secondly, we do not want a re-enacted budget because of the abuses that we saw in the past. It is because of the re-enacted budget, so much discretion is allowed to the administration. I don't think that the opposition would not want to do that because a re-enacted budget is cart blanch to spend anything that is found in the budget because it is just a re-enacted budget. We will join the opposition in scrutinizing the budget, but it is to the public that the budget is passed on time.

On the suggestion to revise present system of liquidation of funds

We will follow COA rules. That is a matter that should not be debated upon because it is the COA that is mandated under the Constitution to pass in audit the liquidation of government expenses. Whatever is allowed or disallowed by COA, we will follow.

Q: Does that mean you will go back to certification only?

The present Commission has raised questions on certification. That is precisely why all these reviews are taking place, so whatever the rule the COA will promulgate, we will follow.

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