Press Release
May 29, 2015

Transcript of Press Briefing by BusinessMirror, Pilipino Mirror, Philippine Graphic with Senate President Franklin M. Drilon

SPFMD: Thank you very much Ambassador for inviting me to this forum. I am sure I will have a happy weekend after exchanging views with your group. Today, relating with media is an important aspect of our work in government. Because not only must we work, but we must also inform the people of what we do. That is the essence of governance - you can not govern unless you also have been informed. On that part I recognize the media as an essential partner in our system and I am very thankful to have this opportunity to exchange views with your media group.

Only yesterday the first quarter report on the GDP was released, 5.2%. A little too frustrating, I must say. This is a wake up call for the executive branch because the principal reason of our failure to meet the target growth or expansion of our economy is the spending in public infrastructure. That is the single biggest factor why we did not meet the targeted GDP growth. We are hopeful that this will prompt the executive branch to not only to release funds on time, but also on the execution of the projects. Releasing the funds is one thing, executing the project is another. So we do look forward to an accelerated spending and the economic manifest has expressed confidence that we should be able to recover.

On the part of the Senate we are continuing to work on priority legislation. On the next two weeks are remaining in the Second Regular Session and before the June 11 we hope to be able to pass into law up to the bicameral conference committee two important measures - the Fair Competition Act, which is an anti-trust law. The second is the amendments to the Cabotage Law, insofar as the transport of the goods holistically is concerned.

The question is, what happens to the BBL? Now I will be forthright with you, I am not very optimistic that the law can be in place by June 11. The committee of Senator Bongbong Marcos will conduct two more hearings on June 2 and June 3. I do not know if Senator Bongbong will submit a committee report on the ninth of June. I do not know and I am not optimistic.

Even if we pass our own version, we still have to go to bicam. That is where we are. At that point when it is very clear that we can not pass the BBL, we have to go back to the drawing board and see what we can do and see how we can have this measure in place maybe before October of this year. Why October? Because in October, the certificates of candidacy will have to be filed for the 2016 elections. If we do not have a law passed by that time, then the ARMM will be governed by the existing charter, which obviously we will have to change. That is the second deadline we will have to contend with. That is why we have to go back and see what we can do given these constraints.

Q: Related to the draft report by the Blue Ribbon subcommittee, are you willing to sign a report recommending the filing of graft cases against the Binays?

SPFMD: Unang - una po hindi ako miyembro o kasama sa komite. Bilang pangulo ng Senado, sinusumite sa akin ang report at yan po ay ipina-pacalendar sa plenaryo. In fact, hindi po ako pumipirma ng committee report. In this particular case, the report of the subcommittee will be submitted not even to me, but to the mother committee of the subcommittee. I haven't seen the report. I haven't seen it yet. I will see the report once it is filed.

Q: There is a message from the Binay camp that the AMLC is being used by the LP for the 2016 elections.

SPFMD: The insinuation is that the Liberal Party influences the AMLC or the Anti-Money Laundering Council, which is totally, totally unfounded. Who composes the AMLC? First is the Central Bank Chairman. Is there any indication that they can influence the Central Bank Chairman? He enjoys a security of tenure. The second is the chair of the SEC. Again, she enjoys a security of tenure. The third one is the Insurance Commissioner. Again, he enjoys a security of tenure.

Second, these are all professionals. Do you think these people will tarnish their reputations by being tainted with politicians and political parties? I don't think anybody in their right mind will ever say that.

We consider these as par for the cause, lalo na malapit na ang 2016. Medyo masalimuot ang mga lumalabas sa AMLC at natural lamang ng mga tinatamaan na ginagamit ito sa politika. Mas mabuti siguro kung sagutin na lang, kung hindi man totoo ang mga nakasulat doon ay edi sagutin. Rather than you know, these allegations na, "Pulitika lang lahat."

Q: On meeting with PNoy on BBL

SPFMD: We are not waiting for Congress, we are already conducting hearings on the BBL. The President made a statement that he is available to the senators and we appreciate the gesture. As the political leader of this country, he is trying to move the peace process to the best of his ability. It is a principal reform agenda that this administration is pushing and therefore, it is natural for him to pitch this bill to be passed.

However, we in the Senate think it is still too early because we have not yet seen the committee report. We do not know how the senators will - and you know the senators are individual republics - we would not know how they will look at the BBL that will be submitted by the Committee on Local Government. It is at that point that we will know how far the positions of the senators are on the various positions.

That's where we are today. So I say, I have not yet received the committee report by Senator Bongbong, and nagusap po kami, sabi niya may 2 pa siyang committee hearings, sa June 2 and June 3, with June 3 being the last hearing, which will be both on the Committee on Local Government.

Q: Yung timing daw po ng third batch ng PDAF case, medyo napasama raw o napasabay sa demand na mafast-track itong BBL.

SPFMD: Masyadong fertile ang imahinasyon ng ating sambayanan. Wala pong kinalaman ang 3rd batch ng PDAF at ang pagtalakay sa BBL. Magkalayo naman po ito at again, it has absolutely nothing to do. I am amazed at the fertility of the minds of our people at how they connect one with the other.

Q: Reaction po sa possible UNA-LAKAS CMD partnership in 2016?

SPFMD: I would leave that to them, to ally with each other.

Q: What about the 2016 elections, is it certain that Mar Roxas will be the LP bet for 2016?

SPFMD: I think I have said enough about that. In a matter of weeks, there should be definite developments, let us just wait for those developments. Malapit na.

Q: I understand that there are 4 contentious issues in the BBL, regarding the creation of constitutional bodies in the Bangsamoro, and the control of their armed forces. How should we resolve these?

SPFMD: I will be very definite. I will not allow a situation where our constitutional bodies will lose control over the agencies in the ARMM.

For example, the NAPOLCOM has supervision and control over the national police. We should maintain this command and control order of the Philippine National Police. We must maintain the jurisdiction of the COA insofar the audit functions are concerned. The COMELEC must maintain its supervisory control over the manner which elections are being conducted.

In short, we will not agree that the powers of these constitutional bodies will be diluted by the basic law. In cannot be in fact, both in point of policy and in Constitution.

Q: Will the decommissioning process of the MILF start with the start of the Bangsamoro or even before?

SPFMD: From what I understand, the decommissioning will start once there is a clear indication that we can have the BBL enacted. For example - I am just talking from the information that I have - once the House will pass its version, the decommissioning can start. It is important then that the BBL will progress for there are "position points" as we go along the way.

Q: Naipasa na po sa House yung Economic CHa-CHa, and the business sector is closely monitoring this. How it is doing in the Senate?

SPFMD: My agreement with Speaker Belmonte is that mauuna sila, they will have to pass it first, then we will handle it in the Senate. I am personally in favor of the amendments because that can provide more flexibility to the very iron-clad wish of the Constitution, it can provide us with the flexibility, given the fast-changing world that we have.

Now do we have time? We will push it. It's not even passed yet in third reading in the House, but many senators have supported this proposed law.

Q: What is your assessment? Will be the same, will it breeze through in the Senate?

SPFMD: It will be difficult to say that it will breeze through since this is a constitutional amendment. But we will support it, we will try to, without muzzling our colleagues or depriving them the ability to debate on this very important issue, we will push it.

Q: Charges of treason have been filed against former peace panel negotiator Marvic Leonen and others. How will this affect the passage of the BBL?

SPFMD: I will not waste my time with these obvious publicity stunts.

Q: According to Senator Osmena, the economic amendments to the Constitution can get more support in the Senate than the BBL.

SPFMD: Well in the first place, it really requires more support since 2/3rds vote is necessary. So we have to get more support for it. Well, as I have said I am in support of it.

Q: But sir there is an urgent necessity na po to amend some of the economic provisions in the Constitution.

SPFMD: The more precise amendment is that you insert the phrase, "As maybe provided by law, or unless otherwise provided by law." There is no substantive amendments being proposed. It is in the manner in which policy can be revised using ordinary legislation.

Just to demonstrate - and I am not saying that we should apply it - mas media. It's 100 % Filipino equity today. If you insert the phrase, "as maybe provided by law, or unless otherwise provided by law," then by legislation you can change the equity requirement. But we are not saying that media should be already open to foreign equity. What we are just saying is that, Congress should be allowed to debate whether or not if foreign ownership should be allowed in mass media.

It is not true that we are already amending the economic provisions. What we are amending is the lack of flexibility in many of the policies of the Constitution which we must assert, luma na eh. This Constitution was immediately crafted after Martial Law. I am one of those who keep on saying that this Constitution, or many of the provisions, were a reaction to what we experienced during Martial Law, which is good - but that was when, 1986?

So tingnan po natin, marami na pong nangyari sa buong mundo. Baka kailangan na po rebisitahin ang iba't-ibang probisyon. But we are not coming from any conclusion. People are jumping up and down, "Why are you opening land ownership to foreigners?" Hindi pa naman eh. What we are just saying is, allow us to debate as to whether or not we should allow this policy. In the United States, ang daming pwede kang bumili, foreigners are buying properties in New York, hindi naman nila uuwi eh.

We are not saying that foreign ownership should be allowed. What we are saying is that allow us to debate, allow Congress to take a look into these policies.

Q: Are you thinking of putting on the block where government basic services can be also opened for foreign equity?

SPFMD: I am not even saying that foreign equity should be in basic services. What we are saying that the proposed amendments pending in Congress at this point is that, to open the debate on issues which are right now, foreclosed on the Constitution. I don't recall public services, but it doesn't mean that with these amendments, you are opening basic public services to foreign equity. What we are just saying is that pag-debatehan natin. Kasi pwede ang batas ang magsasabi kung ano ang dapat gawin, hindi lang ang Saligang Batas.

Q: On National ID System

SPFMD: The House had passed a bill that will institutionalize and will provide the legal basis and support for the National ID system. Right now there is an administratively, a common number or a common card for SSS and GSIS. I think driver's license too. That is what was passed in this measure. I am in support of the proposition that we should have an ID system.

Ang hirap eh. For example, sa Sabah sinasabi nila may 3 tao: yung may Malaysian na may ID, yung Indonesian na may ID at yung mga walang ID, mga Pilipino yun. So it will come to us, and I am in support of that proposition that we should have one number for SSS, for GSIS, for driver's license, for voter's ID, for Philhealth card, all government IDs. All government transactions should use only one ID system. So yes, I support the measure.

Q: May concern po sa information on the ID, how secure will those information will be when logged?

SPFMD: In the same manner for our voter's ID, our social security ID, and GSIS ID. Walang lalagpas doon, kung ano lang ang nanduon ay yun lang. Sa passport, yun lang din.

Q: Some government agencies have been attacked by hackers. Online hackers are selling pilfered identities for a price. How can the government protect these information?

SPFMD: I am not a techie. What I am saying is that simply of because of those incidents, should not prevent us from adopting a policy that we should have a national ID system. The implementation is completely different from the policy, and we are policy makers. As a matter of policy, in my mind we should have an ID system.

The matter of hacking is a matter of implementation, making sure that the system will not be hacked, which is completely different. I will repeat, we should not be afraid to enact a policy just because we are afraid of how it will be implemented.

Q: Will you include that in the law then?

SPFMD: We can include a policy statement. In the first place, hacking is illegal. Even without a statement to that effect, hacking is illegal and therefore as a matter of implementation, the executive branch who will be implementing this law should prevent hacking.

Q: Will you be inviting IT experts, since these data will be hosted on digital servers?

SPFMD: Certainly. We will solicit all forms of advice.

Q: The Rationalization of Fiscal Incentives has been left behind in the Senate.

SPFMD: First the TIMTA- the Tax Management information and Transparency Act. Yes, we are pushing that, it is already in advanced stages of legislation. We hope that it is one of the measures that we will be able to have the President signed into law by June 10. We're working hard on it, it is in the final stages of amendments in the Senate.

It is a very good measure. It is basically a transparency act, basically the thrust is to make transparent the incentives of business entities, and we rate these to the desired results of the incentives granted.

For example, we grant incentives to the (unclear). The investment promotion agency will grant incentives in the hopes that it will drive employment. So what we or the TIMTA is going to do is make that transparent the incentives being granted by investment promotion agencies, what are the benefits the country would get in effect. So that is the TIMTA, and as I have said, we support it and it is a reform measure on top of our agenda.

The lobby on that, you know I can show you the letters from people who would talk about transparency, pero pagdating dito sa TIMTA ay medyo, "Dahan dahan muna." You will find certain sectors suggesting amendments which will obviously frustrate the objectives of TIMTA. But we will pass it.

Q: Where is the lobby coming from?

SPFMD: To me the objective is to pass the law. In the same manner, there is a lot of lobby to pass the FOI. Well pagdating dito sa TIMTA, "Huwag muna" But we will pass it.

Insofar the rationalization of tax incentives are concerned again tama si Senator Angara, napagiiwanan tayo ng maraming data. Natural po iyan. The objective of the rationalization is to (unclear) so only those who we want to provide incentives for will be here. We would make it worth our while to provide them with the incentives. Again, it is extremely difficult.

Apart from the lobby of those affected, I can tell you the lobby from the investment promotion agencies of government itself, maybe because they feel that the mandate or the objectives of these agencies in these are will be enhanced by maintaining these incentives. They think that they should maintain these incentives. Other sectors from the government think that the incentives are being abused. So if there all kinds of lobbies that we get, our duty then is to see what is the best policy that we can put across.

Now we are also working on the creation of the Department of Information and Communications Technology or DICT. Again, this will pass in Congress, I do not know what the view of the executive as far as this is concerned but yesterday, we finished the amendments and it should be passed by the Senate.

Q: Will rationalization of fiscal incentive pass in Congress?

SPFMD: I am not giving up. Let's see what will happen in September or October.

Q: With all the problems with the PCOS machines, what is the chance that we might be forced to go back to manual voting?

SPFMD: I am totally against manual voting. The law requires automated elections. They have to repeal the law I will oppose any move to go back to manual voting.

Q: How about if courts stop the automated elections?

SPFMD: I hope that the courts will adhere to the principle that they are not supposed to legislate. It is a cardinal rule that legislation belongs to Congress and that the Judiciary must avoid or must not go into judicial legislation.

Q: The Binay camp is questioning the expenses of the Senate in the investigation of the corruption allegations against the Binays. Is it about time to terminate the probe?

SPFMD: Alam mo if there was cooperation from the witnesses hindi yan aabot ng 20 hearings eh. Kung sila ay haharap sa Senado at magpapaliwanag siguro ay sa 5 hearing ay tapos na ito. Pero sa dahilan na hindi sila sumisipot ay napipilitan ang subcommittee na magpatawag, mag subpoena, mag-contempt at nag-contempt na nag, hindi pa rin sumisispot. Kung ititigil mo naman yan and we will just let them ignore the Senate processes, we can not do our work anymore because we will be ignored, even if we subpoena.

I don't think that I can follow na we will just say, "Ay, salamat." Remember, the subpoena is a process of compulsion to enable the Senate or Congress to get the necessary information which we need for legislation. If we are ignored, then we can not work on the laws or policies.

Now in this particular case, if they just cooperated with the Senate and appear, and made their statements, they we will not prolonging this investigation. We all have a lot of things to do, it occupies our time. Indeed, the refusal to confront these information that came before the Senate, we have no choice but to keep on and dig in.

Q: On the Independence Day celebration in Iloilo

SPFMD: It is the policy of President Aquino to go out of Manila in order to highlight the historical importance of some places. In Iloilo's case, it is Gen. Martin Delgado, who was one of the really stood and fought for independence during the Spanish times. This is to highlight that there are heroes outside of Manila who contributed to the freedoms which we enjoy today. That is why in the 117th Independence Day, they have decided to raise the flag in Sta. Barbara, in honor of General Martin Delgado; and the vin de d'honneur or the traditional wine of honour after the flag-raising will be done for the first time in Iloilo.

Q: Where is that?

SPFMD: The venue will be at the old capital building which was constructed in the early 1900's.

Q: You are being compared to Lee Kuan Yew of Sinagpore dahil doon sa clean up of the Iloilo River.

SPFMD: Mas magandang lalaki naman si Lee Kuan Yew. I am thankful for that comparison. But mainly, the reason for that is in Iloilo, we exercise political will for the welfare of the people there. We cleaned up the river, and we used the environment as a peg for implementing projects.

For example, the fish pens that were there for decades, we removed all of them, because they polluted the river. They resulted in fishkills, because of the pollution. We removed a slaughterhouse, because of the pollution. We asked for a new slaughterhouse to be built outside of the riverbank or beyond the river. We constructed 1,000 housing units for the squatters in the river who were being exposed to dangers of flooding. We cleaned the river, and we built an Esplanade along the riverbanks, around 2 and a half kilometers. So it resulted in real estate around the riverbanks, increasing hundred times their former worth. Q: Sen. Gordon said that every home should be prepared for the earthquakes.

SPFMD: Yeah, I will endorse that too.

Q: May back door channel talks ba with Sen. Poe ang LP for 2016?

SPFMD: Wala akong alam sa mga back-channel talks, if there are such things. I wouldn't be surprised, I would expect discussions to be done behind closed doors, but I am not a participant in such things.

Q: As LP Vice Chairman, open ka ba na outside of LP ang maging candidate for VP ng LP for 2016?

SPFMD: My preference is that first, we have a very deep bench in the LP. My preference of course is that a LP card-carrying member should be the candidate. But the President is our head, being the LP Chairman, is now making consultations.

Q: What about the Presidency?

SPFMD: Same answer.

Q: Knowing your experience as a politician, do number matter at the end of the day, especially with the ratings battle going on?

SPFMD: You know what is important in my experience is not one survey. When you look at the survey, you look at the three surveys before, and see if you see any trend The trend is important, because, you "do not see the summer in a single sparrow.'

What I am saying is that you do not only look at the survey today but also at the three surveys ago and see how it behaves. If you see a downward trend, then you better watch out. One survey is misleading - it is a reflection of the sentiment on that particular survey period - the snapshot. That is why you look at how it goes from three surveys before, because that is no longer a snapshot.

Q: Does Secretary Mar have a fighting chance?

SPFMD: One week is too long for politics.

Q: Is it feasible to conduct a referendum on the economic Cha-Cha of Speaker Belmonte and the BBL? A plebiscite for these two, pwede bang pag sabayin?

SPFMD: The BBL must be ratified by the areas affected. Not the entire country, not nationwide. Well, it's mechanical, you can not (unclear) for the BBL in those areas affected and for the Constitution for the entire country, there is no constitutional issue there. Is a question of the COMELEC being able to conduct the referendum or ratification separately for the areas.

Maghiwalay naman yan eh. "Are you in favor of amending the Constitution? One, two, three, four, five." Buong bansa yun. "Are you in favor of BBL?" Duon lang yun sa affected areas. So posible, there is no legal prohibition, because we can always separate the two. Pero hindi mo naman pwedeng pagsamahin iyan, because the areas covered are different.

Q: Posible po ba na maisabay sa election?

SPFMD: Imposibleng sa eleksyon.

Q: Are you inclined to endorse the referendum?

SPFMD: The ratification is a legal requirement. You'll do it, whether you like it or not, it will be effective.

Q: Can we get your view in the conflict in the West Philippine Sea/ South China Sea, now between the US and China, and where do we stand?

SPFMD: I support the proposition that we should have this dispute resolved before the international tribunal. As a matter of policy, that is the best option for us. I support the proposition that the code of conduct that will govern the behavior of countries around the South China Sea should be pushed and approved. Otherwise, your foreign policy will be based on military might. The resolution of this dispute will be based then solely on military might and nothing else. So I fully endorse and support the position of the Philippine government that the rule of law must dictate the conduct or behavior of the parties in this dispute.

Q: By end of this year ba my decision na ang tribunal?

SPFMD: My understanding is that there being prior a issue that must be resolved first, that is, the question of jurisdiction - the question of jurisdiction must be resolved first before we resolve the question on the merits of our case. Because as you recall, China has refused to submit to the tribunal so this issue of jurisdiction must be resolved first.

The jurisdiction issue I believe must be resolved first early next year in January. The merits will follow.

Q: On the Fair Competition Act, may sectors are saying may exemption clauses daw in the House version that are defeating the purpose of fair competition.

SPFMD: We will have to discuss these in bicam. There are differences between the Senate and House versions and the purpose of the bicam is in order to reconcile these differing provisions. I could not yet comment on that.

Q: Sa SONA na ba yung endorsement ni PNoy kay Secretary Roxas?

SPFMD: Hindi ko alam. He has already indicated, but I would leave that to them.

Q: Do you have a personal choice to run for President?

SPFMD: Let's just say that on the last year of this administration, I am focused on pushing for reform measures that are still pending. I would like to see infrastructure spending of this government to accelerate, and I am pushing for certain projects that re in my view, can help the country. We are working on the Jalaur Dam in Iloilo, with which we will increase our rice production and provide employment to those areas, and help provide rice security. I want to focus on that.

Q: What about the Millennium Development Goals?

SPFMD: The MDG or the Millennium Development Goals that are set in the UN resolution, we are working on that, including the programs and policies that are geared towards saving the Millennium Development Goals, including the Conditional Cash Transfer Program, including the Life Expectancy and Universal Healthcare Program; and that is why I personally pushed the Sin Tax Law, because we cannot have the Universal Healthcare Program and we cannot address the health issues in our Millennium Development Goals, if we do not have the resources to do it.

That is why we implemented excise taxes that we collected for cigarette and liquor, all of those went to the Universal Healthcare Program because that is part of our MDG objectives.

Q: Marami daw pong leakages of the CCT.

SPFMD: I do not know how you call "maraming leakages." Because in a P64 billion program, if you will look at it in its totality, I do not know where the "maraming leakages" are there. It's always relative to the (unclear) program. But you can not deny that this program really helps the poorest of the poor, and this is why it's called, "Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino." It poses an opportunity for the very poor in our country to have access to the educational programs of our government.

Otherwise it is a vicious cycle - walang edukasyon ang kabataan, mangmang pag tumanda, hindi magiging useful citizens of our country. Pero ang Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino, then you really have an opportunity by requiring their attendance in school, 80 percent attendance.

Now "maraming leakages" - alam mo P64 billion, a leakage of P100 million is not something that will jump up and down. When you look at the entire extent of the program, ay hindi mo maiwasan, talagang may mga manloloko sa ating paligid, but we should see the entire program in its entirety, developing our country.

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