Press Release
September 16, 2013

Transcript of Interview of Senate President Franklin M. Drilon
ANC's Headstart with Karen Davila
Monday, September 16, 2013

Q: There were death threats to Benhur's life when he was in the Senate?

SP DRILON: Yes. Just before the hearing started, Secretary De Lima saw me and relayed to me the intelligence report that they are going to be hit in the Senate. Then, just when we are already in the session hall, they told me that there was a validation of information. That is why if you notice during the hearing, I had three or four NBI agents forming a body shield behind Secretary De Lima, Atty. Baligod and Benhur because we could not take it lightly. We could not take the threats lightly and they were very certain that these are validated intelligence report so it we have to scramble to make sure that the witness is protected. In fact, Benhur was already in the premises but we did not want to bring him in until the actual start of the investigation and that the signal was when the session will be suspended, he will already be escorted into the Senate session hall but indeed we could not take this threat lightly. We had full security for the witness and the Secretary of Justice and Atty. Baligod during the entire the course of the entire five-hour hearing.

Q: Take us through the process of events. The NBI is set to file a plunder charges today. The question would be: ' If plunder is filed, what happens to the senators?' So far you have three that are mentioned. I have not seen the actual charges but it might be Enrile, Revilla and Estrada. Will they be suspended immediately or expelled?

SP DRILON: Before we answer that question, it is best that we inform our people as to the process as you have earlier raised. The process is assuming that the NBI files the complaint with the Ombudsman. The first step that the Ombudsman will do is to evaluate the evidence gathered by the NBI which was a fact-finding investigation. Now, on the basis of the evaluation of the Ombudsman, assuming that the Ombudsman finds that there is sufficient evidence gathered by the NBI, the Ombudsman will now require the respondent to file their counter-affidavit.

Q: Really? Hindi pala automatic ito?

SP DRILON: Hindi. This is the process dahil the Ombudsman is like a fiscal wherein anyone who is charged will be given the opportunity to respond. Usually, under the rules, they are given 10 days. The first step is for the Ombudsman to evaluate whether there is enough evidence to require the respondent to respond. If the Ombudsman determines, let's say theoretically, the Ombudsman says 'The evidence is not yet sufficient', then the Ombudsman will order a further investigation or fact-finding. So that's her discretion but if she finds that the evidence gathered is already sufficient, then she orders the respondents to file a counter-affidavit.

Q: Let's put it after the counter-affidavit. What happens next?

SP DRILON: After the counter-affidavit, then the Ombudsman will now evaluate whether there is a prima facie case to charge the respondents before the Sandiganbayan and what kind of charge will be supported by the evidence that is gathered and submitted by the NBI. Assuming that there is indeed a prima facie case or probable cause, then the Sandiganbayan will now issue the warrant of arrest upon their own evaluation that indeed there is a probable cause established. That is the process. At that point, the warrant of arrest is issued by the Sandiganbayan.

Q: When the Sandiganbayan issues a warrant of arrest, will it include private citizens or only for lawmakers?

SP DRILON: No. For all if there is a prima facie case or conspiracy because assuming its plunder or whatever charge involving public funds, then the inclusion of the private sector will be on the basis of conspiracy.

Q: Can the Sandiganbayan then order after a warrant of arrest has been issued, is that an automatic suspension of the lawmaker?

SP DRILON: In effect there is suspension because if it's a non-bailable offense, the lawmaker is automatically prevented from reporting for work. Classic example: Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has been charged with electoral sabotage, a non-bailable offense. For all practical purposes, she is suspended because then she is under physical detention. She cannot report for work. That is the effect of a warrant of arrest in a non-bailable offense.

Q: Correct me if I'm wrong sir but you were quoted in an interview saying that only Congress can suspend their own following a complaint in the Ethics committee?

SP DRILON: There are two schools of thought. Under the Constitution, it provides that Congress can discipline its members. Now, the law also says that the Sandiganbayan can suspend any public official. This has never happened in the Senate so we have to study that.

Q: Let's say a warrant of arrest is issued, so automatically, the lawmaker is suspended, when is a senator expelled? Who can do that?

SP DRILON: Expulsion is the function of the House of Congress to which the legislator belongs. Even without that action, once they are convicted, there is a serious criminal offense like plunder, there is a penalty of perpetual disqualification from holding public office. If they are convicted, even if we don't take any action in the Senate, they are automatically expelled in effect because the penalty carries the perpetual disqualification from holding public office.

Q: Related to that, why is Erap able to run? I know he was pardoned but I know a conviction entitles perpetual disqualification, how can a pardon overrule what is stated in the law?

SP DRILON: Because a pardon would extinguish all criminal liability including the accessory penalty of perpetual disqualification from holding public office. A pardon erases everything that is the effect. It reinstates you to a situation as if there was no conviction. As we talk today, we are well aware that there is a case in the Supreme Court pending on the question whether or not it was an absolute pardon on Erap. That is the issue because if the court rules that there is no absolute pardon then he is disqualified.

Q: Then who will sit as Mayor?

SP DRILON: I am not prepared to answer.

Q: Moving on to the Supreme Court, I know that you did ask the Supreme Court justices to decide on the TRO with the pork barrel. What will it mean if the Supreme Court does not make a decision on whether the pork barrel is unconstitutional or not before December 31?

SP DRILON: Well, if they do not decide on that, then in effect the whole 2013 pork barrel is declared unconstitutional.

Q: But you can't return it once it has been used?

SP DRILON: Yes. That is correct. In fact, the TRO does not cover which that has already been disbursed. That is the ruling that they made.

Q: If it's declared unconstitutional, hypothetically, what would happen in the 2014 budget?

SP DRILON: Good question, because it's a very noble legal issue because as they emphasize this only covers 2013. Now, does it mean that the 2014 budget will contain PDAF as the House version, from what I read in the newspaper, may contain, does that automatically also become unconstitutional? Do you have again to go to court, or is that valid. There are open questions because the appropriations is only an authority.

Q: Can the President realign PDAF?

SP DRILON: Yes, the President can realign PDAF but if PDAF is restrained in 2013, there will be an argument against the ability of the President to realign and release because they all said PDAF, in any form, is restrained.

Q: What do you do with the money?

SP DRILON: Actually the money is not there, because we are on a deficit budget. In other words, not every single centavo or peso that we spend is available. If you remember year in and year out, we talk about deficit and it is not a monopoly of the Philippine government, wherever you go, there is a deficit in public spending. Now, because our taxes are not sufficient to cover all the expenses, we have a deficit. If PDAF is removed, the effect is you remove the deficit. You will not borrow anymore to fund that portion of the budget.

By the way, you don't have to borrow money in order to fund the PDAF because your deficit is reduced to the extent that you abolish PDAF.

Q: You are for the abolishing of the pork barrel?

SP DRILON: That is correct.

Q: On what will happen to the Iloilo Convention Center

SP DRILON: Firstly, P500 million is already available, nandoon na po yun. Part of it is my PDAF, I placed P200 million, another P200 million is placed by TIEZA, and I think there was some assistance from public works or another government agency, another P100 million. In total, that is P500 million. That is already released but that is not enough, because the total cost of the project is about P700 million. So, I hope that it is not covered anymore by this issue but next year, if we need another P200 million, hopefully, that can be covered either by TIEZA, or by DPWH. As we talk, yes, there is that difficulty that we are facing because we have been trying to host the APEC. In fact, not only the convention center, but a lot of projects there are geared toward that so I hope that we can source from the regular items of the budget in order that we can complete these projects.

Q: On the photographs of Senate President Drilon with Napoles

SP DRILON: I have said that already. Mrs. Drilon, being an active church worker, was invited in a dinner where there were Chinese seminarians who were in a study tour in Manila and there were children who were beneficiaries of the church project for feeding. Were we invited? Yes, we do not deny that, but what I want to emphasize is not a single peso of my PDAF ever went to Napoles or nay of her NGOs. That is clear from the COA report and from the DBM website.

I was at Discovery Suites, I did not know that it was her office. She didn't ask for my PDAF, in fairness. That she tried is a matter that she did, but she never asked for it.

Q: On Senator Estrada's lament that only his, Enrile's and Revilla's were PDAF were reported by COA.

SP DRILON: The DBM website would contain the report of the pork barrel availments up to 2012. Second, why was it only up to 2010? Because, the COA investigation was started in May 2010 when Gloria Arroyo was still in office and directed and ordered by the former Chair, Rey Villar. When the special audit was ordered in 2010, clearly, the COA reach was up to December 2009, because the order was issued in May of 2010. Hindi naman pwedeng you audit 2011, and you gave the order in 2010. The fact that it was ordered by Rey Villar in 2010, resulted in the audit being done in 2009, 2008 and 2007. Hindi po handpicked yan dahilan sa ito ay inutos ng dating chairman ng COA, si Rey Villar nuong May 2010, kaya ang coverage necessarily will be 2009, because that is when all the receipts were submitted. Rey Villar could not have ordered it to be audited 2011 up to 2012 because it was 2010. That is the real story on that.

Q: The DMB issued a memo in 2011 transferring the sole approving power of the Senate President to approve pork requests to the Finance chairman.

SP DRILON: I was the finance chairman. Firstly, we do not approve, as Senate President or chairman of the Committee on Finance. What we do is when a senator would submit his request for releases under the PDAF, our staff would review whether or not this is in accordance with the menu. When it is tested against the menu, if it is consistent, then we submit it to the DBM. I repeat, authority to disapprove is only on the basis of whether it is consistent with the menu or its accordance with the menu found in the budget.

Q: Why does not the good Senator allot his funds to build hospitals?

SP DRILON: Just a slight qualification, I placed a good portion of my PDAF for school building through the Federation of Filipino Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry. I have built 1,600 classrooms. What I do is place my soft PDAF and it is in the government hospitals (NKTI, PGH) where I have 1,000 dialysis patients weekly.

Q: Is it true that Napoles donated P500 million to finance LP election?

SP DRILON: That's not true. The LP submitted the list of donors, wala doon sa Napoles.

Q: Are banks accountable? Napoles had been withdrawing insane amount of money?

SP DRILON: The AMLC is now undertaking an investigation of all these accounts. I do not know but the rule is that if the transaction is over P500,000, the banks will report it. There's no red flag, simply because it's P500,000. You report it, but you won't say something is wrong here. The banks will no tell that because the standard is it's in the judgment of the bank that is a regular transaction of the depositors; including the ABS-SCBN, payments are made, deposits are done beyond P500,000-, but no red flag is raised because it is in the ordinary course of the client. So, it is 'know you customer rule' that is being imposed.

I have a lot of projects in Iloilo who's a newsman today and formerly Provincial Administrator of Iloilo, who after the term of former governor Tupas ended, became jobless. I gave him a job. He became my consultant. He wanted to become TESDA director in Region VI and wanted to be undersecretary of the press. That's in writing. But when I couldn't give what he asked for, he started using my Twitter account without any authority. Now, he's filing cases against me.

Q: How will you fund your projects in Iloilo?

SP DRILON: How, for example, we can successfully bid for APEC meeting. I just have to appeal to DPWH, to TIEZA, to the President.

Q: Are you in favor of a line item budgeting for PDAF?

SP DRILON: I had already stated my position. Given the public sentiment, let's just abolish it and not place it there in the budget. As you are describing, I have a lot of projects for Iloilo which is a preparation for APEC summit in 2015, therefore, I have to plead for funds from line agencies if they have extra funds.

Q: Can you categorically state the position of the Upper House on the senators mentioned?

SP DRILON: We will follow the law, respect the process. We will not stand in the way. I know at this there is anger on the hearts of the people not only on those mentioned, but on the entire institutions itself. We see this as part of the cleansing process. We are confident and we will exert every effort so that we can restore the confidence of our people in this institution of democracy called Congress. It is a difficult process, but we have to go through this. It is our obligation to our people to strengthen the democracy. We will continue to do our jobs, to pass laws which are critical to our nation-building. The SK. Next week, we will start the debates on FOI bill, a measure which will really help in this campaign against graft and corruption. Let me emphasize that if we see these things happening today, it is because of the President's platform of transparency and accountability which is in contrast to the past. That is why we will go through this cleansing process, but we have responsibilities as legislators. As leader of the Senate, we will exert effort to restore our people's confidence in the institution of democracy and we will follow and respect the processes that are unfolding.

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