Press Release
December 19, 2013

Transcript of Interview of Senate President Franklin M. Drilon

SP DRILON: It has been a very challenging and fulfilling year. During my first six months as the Senate President, the challenge is how to restore the people's confidence in the Senate as an institution. I think we have succeeded, maybe not fully, because it is a work in progress to completely bring back the confidence of our people. But unprecedented, we gave up our PDAF even before the SC ruled it as unconstitutional. We have given up the PDAF and realigned the budget to calamity funds in order to help our people in Visayas and Mindanao.

We have passed the budget on time highlighted by the fact that there is over P140 billion for calamity. We will face 2014 with confidence that we will be able to enact various legislations that we need. The FOI is in the advanced stage of debate; the interpellation has been going on. We imposed a deadline on first quarter of next year within which to pass the FOI bill. We will also work on the reforms to maritime industry so that our seafarers who contribute about $5 billion in our economy will not be blacklisted by the EU as a consequence of our failure to comply on our commitments to the 2010 Manila Amendments to the "1978 International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers.

We will work on the strengthening of our anti-corruption laws, particularly in hastening the prosecution of cases before the Sandiganbayan.

I will call for a review of the Epira law as a result of our hearing in the Senate and examine how we can prevent the repetition of what we saw in the last 30 days about the very stiff increase in our charges. Even without that review, our present laws punish monopolies and combinations in restraint of trade. This is punishable under our revised penal code, specifically monopolies and combinations which tend to restrict free commerce is punishable. While it is an old law, it is still applicable to present circumstances pending the recommendation of the COE as to possible amendments to Epira law that will prevent a similar occurrence in the future. I will call on the DOJ and NBI to conduct an in-depth investigation on the possibility of collusion among the power generators, so that the appropriate charges under the revised penal code can be filed.

Ano yung nakikitang kakulangan sa Epira?

SP DRILON: I will have to review the law, but given what we are seeing, I think there is a need to review Epira so that legislation and amendments may be introduced in order to address these specific problems that resulted in a series of power outages or removal of available power in the market would cause these increases. The Epira is supposed to promote free competition in order that the consumers can benefit from a lower but efficient power generation system. The opposite apparently happened and there appears and I underscore there are charges of collusion and therefore instead of a free competition, there is a monopoly. So, there was a collusion to increase artificially the prices in spot market. That must be looked into.

Considering the need, pwede raw i-amend and Epira law in one month?

SP DRILON: I do not know. In the first place, we still do not know whether or not there is a monopoly and collusion. We base it on the findings that we will have on the committee hearing.

The investigation in the Senate is for the purpose of gathering evidence in order to find out if there is a need to review the Epira. The investigation I am calling for is for the purposes of criminal prosecution.

SP DRILON: I will repeat that the DOE cannot participate in an investigation for a criminal prosecution. It is the work of law-enforcement agencies: the DOJ, NBI, PNP.

No need for a case to be filed, it can be done by the NBI. It is not necessary that there must be a complainant. The NBI can initiate an investigation even without a complainant.

The basic mandate of the NBI is to investigate crimes. The NBI and the DOJ have enough authorities under the existing laws to initiate an investigation.

Kailangan ba ng directive ng Palasyo?

SP DRILON: There is no need for a directive because they are sufficiently clothed with authority under the administrative code to initiate an investigation,. That is the charter of the NBI and that is the power of the DOJ as the prosecution arm of this government.

On the proposed charter change

SP DRILON: There has been no discussion of that for the past months. There were discussions during the first part of the year. We are open to it. We will see how these debates develop and we will take a position at the appropriate time. There must be consensus among the political leaders because this kind of political exercise must have the support of the unified political leadership.

On the House' plan to scrutinize Judiciary funds

SP DRILON: That is part of our oversight functions. As guardians of the people's money through our oversight functions, I would support that that is why we have an oversight committee on public expenditures. But we must be careful that in undertaking such power to investigate, we must maintain our respect for the judiciary and we must not allow such investigation to erode our people's confidence in our rule of law and our judicial system because in a democracy, in many instances, the judiciary is the last bulwark of democracy. We politicians come and go; and if we committed mistakes, we can be booted out of office in the next election. Insofar as the judiciary is concerned, we must be able to maintain our people's confidence in our judicial system. I repeat, it is the prerogative of the Congress to check on the expenditure of public funds that were budgeted under the laws that we've passed. But in doing so, we must take extra effort that we should not do so at the expense of people's confidence in our justice system being eroded.

Can it not be seen as a retaliation ...

SP DRILON: It depends really on the way inquiry is conducted. If the people see that this is really a sincere effort to see how our public funds are spent, I think you can overcome that perception.

Nagkausap na kayo ni Speaker Belmonte?

SP DRILON: Hindi pa. But the process they are suggesting is the process that I have initiated couple of years ago that when we propose amendments to the Constitution, it must be in the same manner as we pass laws; but the voting will be done separately and in the qualified majority as provided in the Constitution, meaning three fourths of each house voting separately and is submitted to ratification. I have proposed that several years back, in order to make sure that amendments would really be scrutinized. The reason the Senate rejected the proposal that we must convene as a constitutional assembly voting as one is because you might as well abolish the Senate - because the Senate is just 24 as against the House's 270 votes. That is why there is a resistance. But if we vote separately, as separate houses of Congress, then that possibility would not happen.

It's like hearing and passing a regular law ...

SP DRILON: Yes, follow the procedure in enacting laws, but it must be passed by a three fourths majority of each house voting separately and the amendments must be submitted for ratification before it becomes effective.

Do you agree na economic provisions lang muna?


Is it the proper time?

SP DRILON: Every time that question comes up, the question being raises: "is it the proper time?" At the end of the day, it would depend on the people where in the process of ratification, they themselves would decide whether it is proper at this point to amend the Constitution in the manner as presented by Congress acting as a Constitutional assembly.

Bakit yung economic provisions lang?

SP DRILON: Because the economic provisions set the policies on the economy and many are of the view that the very restrictive provisions of the Constitution on the economy are hampering our ability to compete with our neighbours. Of course, another set of proponents would say let us open the whole Constitution to review. I guess we are a representative democracy and Congress is given that authority as a Constituent assembly to propose amendments - that is at the end of the day, it would have to be ratified by the people. Let's leave it at that. This is our system. There will always be two sides of the coin. Maraming magsasabi na palitan na ang lahat. The Constitution is a basic document and it is supposed to provide stability. This is not an ordinary legislation which you can change often. In fact, the proposed amendment, if I recall correctly, is to add the phrase "unless otherwise provided by law." So the amendment is not yet there; it is just to authorize the Congress to propose amendments for the economic provision without necessarily touching every word and phrase in the Constitution.

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