Press Release
August 12, 2013

Transcript of Interview of Senate President Franklin M. Drilon

On the letter of the DND and DFA on the rotational presence of US troops

SP: I haven't seen the letter yet but this is my position: we have a Constitutional requirement. Any basing agreement must be by virtue of a treaty duly ratified by the Senate therefore we must look into the facts of this presence. If it constitutes basing, then it cannot be done except under a treaty. It's a question of fact. Is it a basing agreement? Will these Americans be based here? For that matter, any foreign troop that will be based in the country, if that is so, then we need a treaty. It is a question of fact at this point.

Is there a need to consult with the Lower House?

SP: Treaty making is one of the exclusive prerogatives of the Senate. That is our participation in foreign policy, to ratify treaties in the same manner that the General Appropriations Act originates from the House. Of course, there is nothing wrong with consulting with the House, but at the end of the day it is the responsibility of the Senate.

Given the circumstances, do you think there is a need for increased US involvement?

SP: I would not know. Those are security matters which I am not in a position to comment on but what I am saying is the Constitutional provision requires that no foreign troops should be based in our country except under a treaty.

Will you ask the DFA and the DND to hold a briefing in the Senate?

SP: I am not discounting that but I would not want to bypass the committee system in the Senate. This is principally within the purview of the Committee on Foreign Relations, and indeed this is a matter that must be discussed first in the committee level. I dread to see the day when everything goes up to the Senate President for decision. That is not how it works here.

The American troops' presence in the country is based on the Visiting Forces Agreement, therefore their presence here must be tested and will be governed by the terms of the VFA, which we ratified.

Committee Vice Chairman Senator Bongbong Marcos said he will write a letter to the DND and DFA

SP: The Senate runs by committees and by tradition, it is the chairman of the committee which would have a say on what committee hearings to conduct. That is the tradition.

Even the procedure?

SP: They can negotiate, we will not stand in the way but if it is a basing agreement, we will call them to task. We will not pre-audit them. They know the boundaries of the Constitution, and therefore when they craft the agreement, they must consider the Constitutional boundaries. This is the principle of check and balance. They do their work and we check, in the exercise of our oversight functions, whether or not the Constitution is breached.

Does it mean na may blessing yun ng Palace?

SP: I don't know. That is a question of fact, but these are members of the Cabinet doing this.

On whether the DND and DFA need approval from the Palace SP: I assume that they discussed this among themselves, but that is an assumption. I do not know it for a fact, but I assume that this is within the framework of the conduct of foreign relations which the President enunciates.

On how the presence of the foreign troops will impact the country's economic relations with China

SP: That is purely speculative. I do not know what the security arrangements are at this point.

On how the Committee on Foreign Relations function without its chairman

SP: As I said, later I will discuss with you the situation of Senator Santiago.

On whether the presence of the US troops is really needed with the issue of the West Philippine Sea

SP: That is a conclusion better arrived at by our security forces in so far as the Senate is concerned. It is a question or not it is a basing agreement which would be consistent with the Constitution.

On the expansion of the coverage of the VFA

SP: The only standard is does it involve basing troops in the country? Is there a basing agreement? That is the one and only standard. If it is a basing agreement, they need a treaty. Let me look at what they have in mind. It is hard to be theoretical about this.

On the 2014 budget

SP: The budget hearing will start on Monday. As usual it will start one week after the House has started. The Budget Development Committee will give the Senate the status, and principally the Committee on Finance an overview of the economy, the first six months of 2013, and what it would look like in the next six months. How would be the thrust of the budget in 2014? All these briefings will start on Monday and Tuesday next week.

On the PDAF

As the President said, we will follow where the evidence leads us. If there is any member of the Senate where the evidence would indicate there is some involvement, that is regardless of any affiliation, the President said he will follow where the evidence leads him.

The fact that those being mentioned are not necessarily majority...

SP: I would like to think that media mentions them because of the information that you have access to, not necessarily because they belong to this or that. Sen. Revilla and Sen. Bongbong belong to the majority coalition in the Senate. I don't see ht political affiliation as a factor here. You in the media should be in the better position to answer that than we.

On PIATCO, how should the government deal with it?

SP: The question is what just compensation is and the Court of Appeals ruled that the government is to pay PIATCO with it determined is just compensations. I am sure the government is bringing it up to Supreme Court. On the issue on what it is all about, it is an issue of how much should the government compensate PIATCO and that is a matter that is within the competence of the Judiciary to determine. If the government is not satisfied with the judgment, then the government can go to the Supreme Court to determine what a just compensation is. In fact, the government has partially paid billions of pesos. This recognizes the principle that you cannot take away private property without compensation; a principle enshrined in the Constitution.

On Sen. Santiago's request for leave of absence

SP: Sen. Santiago, being an elected official, is not covered by Civil Service rule. We belong to the exempt service and being in the exempt service, our compensation does not depend upon actual and physical presence in the place of work. The Senate and senators are governed by the Constitution, by the law, by our rule, and by precedent, by practices in our history. We always look at what had happened in the past; how was a particular issue ruled on by the Senate. For example, just to be clear, a referral of a bill: where does it go to? We look at how a similar bill was treated in the past. We always look at precedents in our legislative history because it is either the Constitution, the law, our rules as interpreted by the debates in the Senate.

In the case of Sen. Santiago, there was a similar request for leave of absence in 2005. We will look at how this was treated in 2005. There is also the case of Sen. Trillanes, who, notwithstanding his absence in the Senate in 2007, he continued to work by filing bills. The same with Sen. Santiago as she continues to file bills in the Senate. I would have to look at, for example, how Sen. Lacson's case was treated. It happened in the 15th Congress. All of these, we would be examining and we will make decisions at the appropriate point.

We will look at history; we will look at the 15th Congress and previous Congresses on how absences of senators were treated. I would repeat physical presence is not essential in the case of exempt service. Salary can continue, especially in the case of Sen. Miriam, she continues to work, she files bills which are referred to the appropriate committees.

Paano yung committee chairmanship niya?

SP: Pagdating ng mga hearing sa committees, then, in the same manner, that Sen. Trillanes also had committee chairmanships and he function. As I said, we will look at legislative precedence.

Bakit sumulat si Sen. Santiago if you're not covered by CSC?

SP: We are not covered by the CSC rules; we are excluded from the coverage of the CSC rules. We are part of the exempt service - there is such as thing as exempt service - meaning we are not bound by physical presence and by time-in, time-out.

Can a committee function without a chairman?

SP: That's why it is called a committee. In many instances, the committee runs here with the vice chairman as a chair. Last year, Sen. Recto resigned as committee on ways and means chairman, I was not elected, I took over. Then I passed the Sin Tax Law, a very difficult law. I was not elected as chairman. So the fact that there is no chairman did not make any difference in our being able to collect P50 billion a year in Sin taxes.

What prompted this examination?

SP: Because media keeps on asking (laugh). No, no. As I said, the physical presence of elective officials is not a condition precedent to entitlement to salary and this has happened already in the Senate.

By the way, the case that was decided by the Supreme Court, the case of Macatangay vs. COA decided in 1982 where it said, I quote: "as a general proposition, elective officials' entitlement to salaries is not dependent upon actual attendance in office. In fact, they are not even required to keep a record of daily attendance such as accomplishing Civil Service Form No. 48 or the Daily Time Record or punching a Bundy clock." That is what the SC said in the case of Macatangay vs COA decided in 1982.

Sir, dapat valid ang reason?

SP: In the first place, she continues to work by filing bills. So, that should be made clear. She has filed bills. And her bills are not out in the air, she has to draft it. Senator Trillanes filed bills. The import of the SC decision is that your physical presence is not necessary if you are part of the exempt service. You can work at home and she (Sen. Miriam) has done.

Sir, dapay may valid reason?

SP: Valid reason is she is sick.

Kahit wala, Sir?

SP: That's what the SC said. You can do your work elsewhere.

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