Press Release
June 8, 2015

Transcript of ANC Headstart Interview by Karen Davila with Senate President Franklin M. Drilon

Q: Let's start - 2016 - What is the plans of the Liberal Party? Today it seems that everything is hanging at the balance. Secretary Mar Roxas has not declared, the President has not endorsed him.

SPFMD: First - what are the plans of the party? First, we will field a complete slate from the president down to the councilor in every city and municipality of this country. We will have the strongest machinery in 2016, and therefore that says a lot about our ability to elect the next president.

Yes, Secretary Mar Roxas is our putative candidate and no one else has declared that they are interested in getting the nomination of the party. Insofar as the President is concerned, he has said that he will make his endorsement or anointment after the SONA, but before August I would assume, because of the pamahiin that August is not such a good month.

It will be in the last week of July that the President will make that announcement, and since he is the titular head of our party, we will defer to his announcement when that is made.

Q: Hypothetically, when the President endorses someone not from the Liberal Party - like Senator Grace Poe - what does the Liberal Party do in a situation like that?

SPFMD: To be candid, we will follow the President. Because firstly, the President is our chairman and our leader in our party. So we will follow as certainly, that would be a very heavy influence in our party, but we will follow him as a leader of the party.

Q: What about Secretary Mar? I mean, he is one of the officers of the party, what role does he play if he is not endorsed?

SPFMD: What role does he play? Well first, Mar right now is engaged in presenting himself without making the formal announcement. He is beginning to strengthen the party in the grassroots, and certainly, he has his eyes on the presidency, and we believe he is the most qualified.

You know, the problem and difficulty at this point is that Mar has not declared. The President has not made his announcement. Grace has been trying to decide. Of course, Binay has declared. Among the smartest is Duterte - he keeps on denying, but the denying of Digong is the subject of the news. And therefore, the more he denies, the more that people become aware that he could be a candidate. Very smart guy- magaling, whoever his adviser is. By denying, people become more aware of him.

So very smart, but again going back - that is the difficulty of this situation. They keep asking me questions on politics but the problem is that it is too early. Sometimes, you look like the spokesperson of the different political personages which is not exactly a very ideal situation. But I guess that is the result of politics being in the air a year before the elections.

Q: If Senator Poe wishes to run for presidency and the President endorses her, how does that play into the LP?

SPFMD: Let's discuss and deal with that when we get to that bridge, when we have to decide. But well, as I have said, the President's anointment will be very critical. Since he is the leader of the party, it becomes very natural that many members of the party will defer and be with it.

Q: There is so much about the news about Senator Chiz Escudero, about the LP not considering him, and he has said, "I have never been a part of the LP." What is your reaction on that?

SPFMD: I have always maintained the position that we have a deep bench in the party. My preference as Vice Chairman of the party is that the candidate should come from the party. Because when you sign your certificate of candidacy, you should have a nomination of the party to which you belong, and I would prefer that a member of the party will be our candidate. Having said that, the President being our titular head and our chairman, certainly has the right - you know, being the President - and the prerogative to endorse whoever he wants to endorse. That's where we are at this point.

Q: Let's talk about the BBL - first, the block grant. You wanted to comment?

SPFMD: You know the block grant, there is no automatic appropriation in the BBL, except in the Internal Revenue Allotment, which is shared by all local government units. Now as far as the grant to the Bangsamoro is concerned, when we get to the debates on the budget, that would be still subject to appropriations. There is no automatic appropriations in the Bangsamoro Basic Law.

Q: But ang block grant daw, hindi ini-itemize.

SPFMD: Hindi ini-itemize, but what will prevent us when we discuss the national budget, in itemizing each of the appropriations? There is none. All this talk about the BBL about block grants is subject to our debate and scrutiny and itemizations when we get to the debate on the national budget in August. So for me, that is raising issues which are not really issues at all.

Q: So why was it called block grant?

SPFMD: Because of the amount - just like the Internal Revenue Allotment, that is I think 45% of every income tax collected. So for every 1 peso of income taxes, 45% would go to what we call the internal revenue allotment of local government units. That is a block grant, but then you can scrutinize by law, because there is that appropriation, then they get that as a block grant. But then, that is split into personnel salaries, programs, etc.

Q: These are audited?

SPFMD: Of course. Even the block grant in the BBL- assuming this is a block grant, and assuming that it is retained in the National Appropriations Act, that is still subject to audit. What they are looking at is a block grant which could be appropriated and allocated by the lawmaking body of the Autonomous Region. Q: Senator Bongbong has said that he cannot support the BBL in its present form.

SPFMD: We have all said that, because there are certain doubtful provisions insofar the Constitution is concerned. Principally, we will be looking at the constitutional bodies like the COMELEC, having control over our elections - that could not be compromised. The COA having powers over audit - that could not be revised in the BBL. The power of the National Police Commission - that could not be compromised.

So all these things, and there are also certain doubts as to whether this provisions will compromise the present draft. That is why all of us stated that we will not permit the BBL to go out of the four corners of the Constitution. Because it is useless to make something out of the Constitution because somebody will go to the Supreme Court and it will be declared unconstitutional.

So to the best of our ability, and using the best our judgment, we will be find out if the provisions are in accordance to the Constitution because this will be brought to the Supreme Court. I was a petitioner in the old MOA-AD and I went to the Supreme Court on the question of constitutionality and we won, and the MOA-AD was subsequently voided. So we want to avoid the same mistake.

Q: What do you see in the BBL that needs to be changed offhand? SPFMD: For example, the offices being created under the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region, doubts are raised for example on the domestic COA, on the chain of command of the Philippine National Police to the Bangsamoro police. So all of these things miust be looked at.

Q: What about the earlier concerns about words in the BBL like "asymmetric," "coordination," - even former chief Justice Puno brought that up.

SPFMD: The "asymmetrical relationship" is between the national government and the autonomous government. It is not as "asymmetrical" as if they are not equal - it is "asymmetrical" in the sense that this regional government is on a higher plane than the local government units, but not certainly equal to the national government. It is lower than or subordinate or not equal to the national government or the state, but higher than the ordinary local government unit because it is a regional government.

Q: The House committee included even provinces in the 1976 Tripoli Agreement, as being able to vote if 10 percent of its population agreed to joining the Bangsamoro - and they added provinces like Palawan.

SPFMD: That is what you call the "opt-in provision" and also one of the more controversial provisions there. I am not in favor of that. I will see to it, and I will not agree that the opt-in provision should be there, because that fans the mistrust between our brother Muslims and Christians in the South. We have to overcome that, and in today's environment, it is certainly not conducive to having provisions like the opt-in provision which was in the Tripoli Agreement.

In any case, if there is really a clamor in the future, the Bangsamoro is just a law. We can always amend it. To place it there and have an opt-in provision at this stage where we are trying to get it across the higher and bigger concept of autonomous region, to place the opt-in provision at this point will just add fire to where it is not necessary.

Q: Senator Recto he prefers that the whole country will vote on the BBL.

SPFMD: There is no basis for that. The BBL is only for the Autonomous Region in Muslin Mindanao. Only those directly affected by the BBL should be the ones to vote.

Q: When do you think this BBL will pass in Congress?

SPFMD: We certainly can't pass it by the end of our session two days from now, because we are already closing the 2nd Regular Session of the 16th Congress by Wednesday, two days from now. Senator Bongbong Marcos is still drafting his committee report and maybe a substitute bill which will address all the shortcomings both legal, social, economic and political in this bill. We have to await that, and he has committed to me that he will submit the committee report when we come back in session on July 27.

He said, "Give me time to craft the committee report." And he is the chairman of the Committee on Local Government, and I would respect that timetable.

Q: After July, I'm sure that the President has asked: "At what point do you see a practical timetable for the BBL?"

SPFMD: To me I see a practical timetable for the BBL - again, our critics will say, "You are imposing a deadline, I'm just responding to the question - a realistic timetable by Bongbong is by the last week of July, which is his timetable, to submit his committee report.

In a months' time, I think it's reasonable - August or September. That is not a deadline.

Q: But certainly before the filing of candidacies?

SPFMD: Yes that is the other issue. The filing of certificates of candidacy is in October, but the deadline in October is because of the automation. This is a rule imposed as a deadline by the COMELEC, not by law, because they need enough time to prepare. So we have to consult the COMELEC as to when they can really move the time of the filing of certificates of candidacy.

Q: Why do you want to move the deadline?

SPFMD: Because we would want that as right now, the law is synchronized elections.

Q: So the plebiscite will be sabay sa 2016?

SPFMD: Even before that by 2016 I would repeat, the law as it stands today, calls for synchronized elections between the national elections and the elections in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao.

Q: So if the BBL is not passed, hypothetically what happens in ARMM in 2016?

SPFMD: If the BBL does not pass then the structure is the same as it is today. The elections will be synchronized in the May of 2016 as that is the law today.

Q: And if ever, they can only experience the Bangsamoro region three years after.

SPFMD: That is correct. That would be the logical conclusion.

Q: It looks tough.

SPFMD: That is why we appeal to the reasonableness of everyone, for national interests, to pass this bill as early as possible. If we agree that it is for our national interest, then we should work together on this.

Q: On Charter Change, we have the House already moving towards the amendments to the economic provisions.

SPFMD: Let me make a slight correction - it is not changing the economic provisions. It is changing the manner in which the economic provisions can be changed.

Example, media today is nationalized. No foreigner can come into media, or own 60 percent or majority shares, because that is what the Constitution provides. By adding the phrase, "unless otherwise provided by law," the matter of foreign control can be the subject of debate in Congress, because now we can revise that through ordinary legislation rather than amending the Constitution.

Let me repeat that, today we cannot allow foreigners to own or control media unless you amend the Constitution. But by placing, "unless otherwise provided by law," that policy can be changed by ordinary legislation passed by Congress.

It does not mean that we are immediately allowing foreign ownership. What we are saying is that we allow a debate on that. It's only that.

Q: So it's only that - even for other utilities like land?

SPFMD: It's only that. Even for land, and other utilities. It's only that, we are only opening the door for debates.

Q: It's not even that dramatic.

SPFMD: Of course not. I don't understand all this jumping up and down.

Q: Nobody has explained earlier like you did now - it's really about changing the manner with which --

SPFMD: -- a policy under the Constitution can be changed. Yes. The process in which a new policy can be enacted.

Q: You are for that?

SPFMD: I am for that. I am for the process adopted by the House of Representatives in which two Houses voting on that can propose an amendment, because before during the time of Gloria I have always been of the position that when we amend the Constitution with a Constitutional Assembly - which is Congress- we can vote separately.

Because we do not want to have a situation wherein the Senate will be overwhelmed by the greater numbers in the House if we vote jointly. We must vote separately.

Q: Former Chief Justice Puno said that, "Why not a Constitutional Convention?"

SPFMD: That is a mode of amending - a Constitutional Assembly is one of the modes of amending the Constitution. A Constitutional Convention is another of the modes, a People's Initiative is another, so have three modes. As a Congress, we will be availing of a Constitutional Assembly. There is nothing wrong, it is a question of policy, and we are policy makers.

Q: A Con-Con will be expensive.

SPFMD: A Con-Con will be expensive. It could last for years.

Q: Really, what about the 1987 Con-Con? May timetable ba yun?

SPFMD: Well I don't recall a timetable. And I don't know if you can impose a timetable.

Q: Isn't it time for the 1987 Constitution to be really revisited?

SPFMD: I am in favor of revisiting the Constitution. The danger of opening up to a Constitutional Convention is that given the different opinions - if there are a hundred Filipinos, there will be a hundred opinions - just imagine how lengthy it will be. I can assure you that probably, that you at beast a hearing of hundreds everyday, where people will be expressing their own views.

What is being proposed today in our place is just we limit our revision to the economic provisions - and not even on the substance of the economic provisions, but on only on the manner to which we can revise these policies set in the Constitution, with the phrase, "unless otherwise provided by law." In other words, you will allow Congress, and not the Constitutional Convention to change economic policies and only on economic policies, not on the political provisions.

We are not saying that, "You are barred from seeking a third term in Congress .. unless otherwise provided by law." No we are not adding that phrase to the term limits or any of the other political provisions of the Constitution, only on the economic provisions.

Q: With Senate going into sine die adjournment, please share what the Senate has achieved, because the public might think that, "All you guys did was get into all these investigations."

But first: Did you sign the Senate committee report on VP Binay?

SPFMD: I do not sign committee reports, because I am not a member of any committee. I am the Senate President. I cannot sign, in fact, the committee reports are addressed to me, and we will calendar that for debates in the plenary. So we investigated that. We investigated the Mamasapano incident, the PDAF anomalies.

And these have concrete results. The issues have been aired, cases have been filed in the Ombudsman and the Sandiganbayan- including on some of my colleagues. It is not as if wala na kaming ginawa kundi magimbestiga because the investigations would expose anomalies and bright light into certain darkened corners.

Q: Let me ask - is Senator Enrile's term ending in 2016? Can he run again?

SPFMD: Yes, in 2016. He can't run again.

Q: For Senator Jinggoy? Senator Bong?

SPFMD: The same.

Q: Can they run again?

SPFMD: No, I think they are all ending.

Q: So you will have three new seats in the Senate?

SPFMD: That is correct. That is why there are only 6 re-electionists, because the other six have expired.

Q: 2015 National Budget, is it finished?

SPFMD: We have finished in 2014. So what have we done, first we have extended the Philhealth coverage to all senior citizens. We have increased the number of divisions in the Sandiganbayan. We have increased the exemption for income taxes. We have granted the subsistence allowance to our military and police personnel.

Today, we will approve and send to the President the Cabotage Law which will allow domestic and foreign ships and vessels to transport domestic goods between islands in the Philippines so it could lower the costs of transporting cargo. We have the Fair Competition bill before Wednesday, so very substantial laws are being passed.

Q: So let's go through them quickly. The bill on liberalization of foreign banks.

SPFMD: Yes, the entry of foreign banks, we have passed that. We will see more competition in the banking industry.

Q: The Go-Negosyo Act passed?

SPFMD: Yes that is passed.

Q: The GOCC Act?

SPFMD: Oh yes we have passed that.

Q: The Sin Tax Reform Act - I will have to say that is a very big achievement of the Senate.

SPFMD: And I sponsored that, yes. I have fought hard on that and we won by one vote.

Q: In 2014, imagine because of the Sin Tax Reform Act, we had an increase of P42 billion in tax collection.

SPFMD: That is correct. In 2014, I think it was about P70 billion already.

Q: The graphic health warning label on cigarettes?

SPFMD: Those have been in debate for decades. We passed it.

Q: The Open Distance Learning bill?

SPFMD: Yes we passed that, for the education sector. That is correct.

Q: You do have a priority legislative agenda in the Senate. The Fair Competition Act?

SPFMD: We will pass that before Wednesday.

Q: How important is that?

SPFMD: Very critical, because that will level the playing field. Right now we have the monopolies and combinations in restraint of trade which results in unethical business practices to the prejudice of the consumer. Because monopolies are very bad for business, it makes perilous investment, and the victims are the consumers because of high prices.

So we put up a Fair Trade Commission which will prevent monopolies from taking place. For example, if you purchase your competitor and it results to a monopolistic situation, the government can say, "No, that could not proceed."

That is what is happening in America, if you recall. They can complain to the Anti-Trust Board and the Anti-Trust Board will say, "No, we do not approve of such a deal."

Q: On the Build-Operate Transfer Law?

SPFMD: That is still in the committee stage. But again, we have passed on third reading the creation of the Department of Information and Communications Technology, which is very critical. One of our difficulties today is that we have one of the slowest internet speed in the region, and the most expensive.

Q: What will we do about that?

SPFMD: Well we will have this DICT which will have closer supervision over the telecommunication companies and address this need for a better internet system.

Q: After the very controversial NBN-ZTE deal which would have been nationwide broadband, don't we have plans?

SPFMD: The DICT should be able to implement it and review it. The problem with the nationwide is in the manner on which to implement it.

Q: Do you think the Senate has recovered from the PDAF controversy?

SPFMD: I think so. I'll blow my own horn, I was considered as the most trusted among the top five officials. I wouldn't claim that I did that on my own. It was because of the people's perception of the Senate. If they don't trust the Senate, I will be on the bottom of the list.

Q: Now, people find it unfair that DOJ Secretary De Lima is not pursuing anymore the next batch of PDAF cases?

SPFMD: In the latest news reports that I had, she said she's pursuing. That's what I read.

Q: Let's talk about the case against you. The Ombudsman junks the case of plunder that was filed against you. This was regarding the Iloilo Convention Center.

SPFMD: To say that I am an investigative journalist and I base my investigation on Wikipedia, you're a joke. To say that I have no evidence and go to the Ombudsman is again a joke so it is not surprising that the Ombudsman simply threw out in the wastebasket all these allegations. The Iloilo Convention Center is the pride of the Ilonggos. We will host the APEC. We will finish that by the end of July.

Q: And Iloilo is also hosting this year's Independence Day. I know you wanted to talk about this, how important is this for Iloilo?

SPFMD: It is very critical for Iloilo because we will showcase how political unity and good governance can result in substantive progress and how our concern for the environment was translated into actual projects for the benefit of the city. We have 1,000 informal settlers along the river but I was able to convince the President to put up a housing project for the squatters. We had a very dirty river. On the premise that we want the environment to have a clean river, we were able to remove all the restaurants, slaughter houses, and now we are very proud of a river that is clean. We were able to put up an esplanade.

Q: You want Iloilo to grow like Cebu?

SPFMD: Yes but more than that it was only possible because of a united political leadership. Hindi kami nag-aaway-away doon. Can you imagine if somebody will propose a project and the others said no? This is a situation of a united Iloilo, the mayor, the congressman, as long as it is for the benefit of the people, we go ahead. That is why a united political leadership and the principle of good governance, we can proudly say that we were able to move the city and the province forward.

Q: Why can you not sign the committee report recommending plunder charges for Vice President Binay? You have already heard the subcommittee hearings. I'm sure you've seen the facts presented. Do you believe them?

SPFMD: This is a matter that will end up in the Ombudsman. Being a Senate President, I don't want to express an opinion. This will be taken on the floor and we will have to vote. At that point we vote as a Senate institution. I don't want to express any personal view at this point because being the Senate President I don't want people to say that I'm influencing the Senate vote. If the case is before the Ombudsman, they will investigate it. I assume the Ombudsman will act on this. I will cast my vote when the time comes when it is presented on the floor.

Q: So, what will your vote be?

SPFMD: Abangan mo na lang.

Q: Is it possible for the Liberal Party to partner or ally with NP because you have already Senator Trillanes voicing out that he wanted to run for higher office.

SPFMD: By the way, you mentioned Senator Trillanes as an NP that in itself debunks the proposition that the LP is behind this investigation. Senator Koko Pimentel is PDP-Laban. Alan is NP, Trillanes is NP. Is LP open to coalition? At this stage, it's an open question. We will discuss the coaltion thing in the structure of the party.

Q: But you said LP has a deep bench. For those who want to run for VP, I'm curious, can you give me some names because I can't think of one? Just rattle off some names that you feel would make a good vice presidential candidate. Kasi given that Secretary Mar is the bearer for now until the President endorses, pero sa VP?

SPFMD: Alam mo, kapag sinagot kita, bukas nasa dyaryo na tayo. You make your own conclusion. The moment I answer your question, nakikita ko na ang headline bukas.

Q: Can you at least tell me one?

SPFMD: It's a deep bench. Bakit ako ba hindi pwede?

Q: Are you open?

SPFMD: No, I am not. I am just talking about the bench.

Q: Then you're out because you said you're not.

SPFMD: Precisely I'm not.

Q: Why aren't you open for VP? Why not?

SPFMD: I can do the job in the Senate without being VP. I can help people, I can influence policy.

Q: It's quite interesting how untempted you are to seek higher office.

SPFMD: I have my head attached. I have my feet to the ground. I know how this thing works. I have been in public service for 30 years.

Q: There are six reelectionists, sitting senators, Senators Drilon, Recto, Marcos, Osmeña, Sotto and Guingona. How about Senator Miriam?

SPFMD: It's her term out.

Q: Four of them would have their term out. Six would be term out, Enrile, who are the others?

SPFMD: Pia Cayetano, Lito Lapid would be terming out.

Q: The public doesn't think of these things just yet.

SPFMD: There are four prospecting balikbayans. Senator Kiko, Ping, Dick Gordon and Zubiri.

Q: When you think of it, 2016 would be a hard race for newcomers.

SPFMD: That's correct. It would be a hard race because they have an advantage of recall. It's not easy.

Q: Are you open for regions to have a number of senators?

SPFMD: That's a good political equation but unfortunately are elected nationwide. Media plays a critical role that as much geographical.

Q: Unless only the region votes for you iba yon?

SPFMD: Oo. We have to amend the Constitution.

Q: It's irrelevant if you put a number on a region kasi nationwide ang voting. Last question, the President's endorsement is important to the party. Candidly you said the party may go that way rightly so. Is winnability more important?

SPFMD: Certainly, winnability is a consideration but that is not the only consideration. It's in the track record of the candidate because that is the purpose of the campaign. He could be low in the surveys but your ability to explain and to put across a message is something that you must take into heart. I give you a recent political example. Where was Binay at the start of the campaign for Vice President?

Q: Nine percent.

SPFMD: Four percent but because he correctly projected himself in the media particularly then he was able to win. So, that is an example that popularity or lack of it is not the only determining factor.

Q: So you believe that Secretary Roxas at 19% today which is not very low compared to VP Binay's numbers before but do you believe that Secretary Roxas, throughout the campaign with the LP machinery and messaging, will still beat Binay and Grace Poe?

SPFMD: Of course, right now only Binay is the declared candidate. I think Mar has a good chance of being able to present himself as the most qualified candidate.

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