Press Release
December 13, 2016

Transcript of ANC Headstart Interview of Senate President Pro-Tempore Franklin M. Drilon by Karen Davila

Q: Let's start with President Duterte. He assured businessmen in a forum that he will honor contractual obligations in the country. How is this important for us?

SFMD: Very important, because of the instability created in the business environment at the start of the administration, when the President started making very strong statements on the alliances with the United States. And in our situation, one of the biggest industries is the service industry of which the business process outsourcing (BPO) is part of, and the BPO industry brings in - about what - $25 billion in foreign exchange yearly, I think it is almost the same or next to that of our overseas Filipino workers.

Q: And in 2022, something like $39 billion is the estimate.

SFMD: That's correct. Because in the next several years, there will be an addition of seats in the BPO industry, about a 100,000 seats per year. So this created instability in the future plans of the BPO industry. Remember, about 75 percent of our BPOs are based in the United States, so therefore, these statements that you hear from no less than the President about the not-so-smooth relationship with United States are making these people rethink their position here. So it is good and reassuring that the President has made the statement in order to provide some stability to that particular industry so that they will carry out their future plans.

As you said, it is predicted that in five years or so time, the BPO industry will have $39 billion. That means they are planning ahead, and if you would look around in Metro Manila, there are a lot of building that are being constructed, Double Dragon for one, and a number of real estate companies. They build office spaces for rent to the expected additional BPO industries coming in, and all of these are financed by banks. So you can imagine if this industry changes their plans and would not come to Manila, you can imagine all those empty office spaces, and no income.

Q: The President also said he is open to lifting the 60 to 40 ration of foreign ownership of local enterprises. Do you believe it will make a big difference?

SFMD: To me, whether big or small, it will make a difference. The image of being an open economy, making our investment climate attractive, and improving our investment climate in general, will do good to us.

Q: What else do we need to open? Many industries are already open for foreign ownership. Mining, power, for one.

SFMD: A number of industries will still be nationalized. For example, media and educational institutions.

Q: So media, is zero foreign ownership.

SFMD: The theory being that we did not want to expose our people to foreign influence. And yet today, you'll find cable TV right in your bedrooms, the internet. So there's really a need to review this.

By the way, we have started hearings, because these involve amendments to the Constitution. So the Senate Committee on Constitutional Amendments and Revision of Codes, which I chair, we started hearings on the proposed amendments to the Constitution last week. So there are four resolutions pending in the Senate, two of which called for a Constitutional Convention, two of which called for amendments through Congress.

Q: If you were going to propose changes in the Constitution, what provisions would that be?

SFMD: Let me put it this way, we would want to open the economy, and remove the undue restrictions on foreign equity, because that limits the flow of foreign capital. Whether you like it or not, projecting ourselves as open for business would suffer some credibility issues when in the very Constitution that we have, there are number of activities which are limited to Filipino nationals.

It is about time. Thirty years ago has passed since the Constitution was crafted. It is different now. We just have to accept the fact that the world has gotten smaller, and therefore, we must react accordingly.

Q: Would you agree with President Duterte that land should not be included?

SFMD: Well, I would want a debate on that. I am open to it.

Q: He has a point. For example, China could buy the whole of Tondo.

SFMD: Yeah. Precisely what I am saying is that we want to debate, we want to open the Constitution for review. We are not saying that we should open land to everybody.

Q: We could have foreigners buying islands.

SFMD: The productive aspect of our land ownership should not be compromised.

Q: Are they formal hearings already?

SFMD: Yes. The hearings are not already on the substantial amendments yet, we had the first hearing to find out from our resource persons 1.) if in fact, we have to amend the Constitution, 2.) assuming the consensus is that the Constitution has to be amended, how to do we amend it - through converting Congress into a constituent assembly or a constitutional convention?

Q: What do you believe is better? You have two schools of thought. Some believe that it is better for the President to assign members of a Constituent Assembly.

SFMD: No, the President cannot assign. The process of amending the Constitution is basically a function of Congress whether or not we do it ourselves or we call for a Constitutional Convention.

Q: What are the advantages and disadvantages of either?

SFMD: The often - repeated argument against the Constitutional Convention (Con-con) is the cost, that it can be a runaway convention, that we could not have limits on the terms of office or the length of time that the convention will assign itself to draft the Constitution.

The advantages of the Con-con are that we have a wider representation, because as in the past, the Convention is supposed to be non-partisan, and non-political. Therefore, a cross-section of our society will be represented. The advantage of the Constituent Assembly (Con-ass) is that is less costly, the representatives of the people - Congress - are already there. The disadvantage of course, is the ability of Congress in amending the Constitution.

Q: What I heard from supporters of the President is that he can appoint members of Con-ass, experts from different fields, then they change the Constitution.

SFMD: No. He can appoint a study group, and this is what he did, in that executive order that he issued, and brought into our attention by Executive Secretary Medialdea during our hearing last week. The President cannot amend our Constitution. He can choose the resource persons who will draft the suggested amendments to the Constitution.

Q: But not as members of the Con-Ass.

SFMD: No. Only members of Congress can be members of the Con-Ass. That's under the Constitution. Only members of Congress can be members of the Con-Ass, no appointive official can be member of the Constituent Assembly, because these are composed solely of members of Congress.

Q: So for example, a member of the academe, or a scientist they cannot join the Con-Ass? They cannot take part in changing the Constitution?

SFMD: If we have a Constitutional Convention, then they can run as delegates.

Q: But they will have to spend to run?

SFMD: That is a fact of life.

Q: What if they do not have the money to run?

SFMD: That is a policy issue provided in our present Constitution, that a Constitutional Convention will be composed of elected delegates. Now, appointive experts can act as experts and resource persons, they can submit papers and studies. That is exactly what the President did. He has formed a group of experts who will draft a set of recommendations to either Congress or to the Constitutional Convention. By the way, the President, in a National Security Council meeting, said that he prefers Constituent Assembly. After some discussions, he said on the issue of whether the two houses of Congress will vote jointly or separately, he said, "I concede, that you must vote separately." I argued with him that if he wanted us to vote jointly with the House, we might as well make ourselves irrelevant. The 3/4 vote will always be achieved by the House, because of the numbers.

Q: I assume that this is in a roll already.

SFMD: Well I assume that his allies in Congress would take the sinews from him, as their political leader.

Q: Do you think it is time for the Charter Change already? He is just six months into office, not even a year.

SFMD: To me, and the discussion that we had in the committee hearing, there is a consensus that it is time that we review the Constitution, and the only issue that we are discussing - at least after the first hearing - is that if whether or not we go for a Constituent Assembly, or a Constitutional Convention.

Q: If we review the Constitution, that would include already issues like political dynasty?

SFMD: Yes.

Q: Even the system of government - federalism?

SFMD: Yes.

Q: Terms of office?

SFMD: It includes everything.

Q: In terms of office, does it work that a mayor has only three years? Some say that a mayor is preoccupied with running again, instead of doing his job?

SFMD: A valid argument. On the other hand, those who are for the present system argue that we have this kind of system because precisely it keeps our elected officials on their toes. As I said, this is the beauty of democracy, that we can debate on ideas, and that we open it up for discussion.

Q: If I were to ask you what is your personal advocacy- the thing that you would want to change in the Constitution?

SFMD: Firstly, this Constitution was crafted immediately after Martial Law. Many of the provisions had in mind the very dark period of our history. Maybe it is time that we review that and having learned our lesson, we would now be able to have a more objective view of the Constitution. As I said, the Constitution is already 30 years old, and a lot of things have happened. If there is anything I would like to see, I would like to see a more flexible Constitution, to be not unduly restricted by the Constitution.

Q: So you are saying that the 1987 Constitution is much stricter?

SFMD: Of course. As I said, this Constitution is crafted right after Martial Law. Therefore the pendulum swung the other way around. For example, all this talk about Martial Law, if you are going to follow the Constitution, then it is ineffective. The only thing left for an authoritarian president would be to declare a revolutionary government, throw away the Constitution, and close Congress and the Supreme Court. That is why I would want a Constitution that would just set the General Principles rather than so restrictive as we have today.

Q: Do we have a model Constitution in the ASEAN today?

SFMD: I haven't gone in-depth in that aspect. I'm sure that in the course of our studying we will be getting references, as rich sources or good models.

Q: Speaking of Charter Change, you do want to change the Corporate Code of 1980.

SFMD: This afternoon, I will sponsor the Senate bill which we crafted which will propose changes to the 1980 Corporation Code. 1980 was 30 years ago. Again, there are so many restrictions. Just to give you an example that is easy to understand, you and I could not form a corporation today.

Q: You need five people.

SFMD: You need five. So it is common knowledge that sometimes people get their drivers, their maids, their cooks, just to form five. What is the use of all these pretense? One thing that we will change is that we will allow a one-person corporation so you alone can put up a corporation.

Q: Is that allowed in other countries.

SFMD: That is allowed. That is one area of amendment.

Q: That would encourage people to start businesses easily. I won't have to pretend to look for four more.

SFMD: That's correct. You see, the limited liability of a corporation become an attractive vehicle for putting up corporations, but presently we have to look for four more.

Q: Are there no disadvantages to this amendment?

SFMD: No. In other words, under the general principle of ease of doing business, in other words these corporate provisions would make it easier for one to start a business - which is one of the objectives of this amendment, so that we could really use the corporate entity as instruments of economic activity and generate more employment for our people. That is one of the things that we will have to do.

The second aspect of the proposed amendments that we have is corporate responsibility, especially in cases of corporations imbued or vested with public interest. What are these? For example, banks, those publicly-listed corporations. You solicit funds from the public, and yet it is the majority stockholders who have the full say how the company is run. So how do we put a check on this? By strengthening the 'independent directors' concept.

Q: How would you do that? That is quite interesting. We have multinational companies, we have listed companies. How do we monitor if these appointed directors act independently?

SFMD: First, not all. If you are the majority stockholder, you would still have the majority in the board. But now as required in the present system, 20 percent but not less than 2 percent should be so-called 'independent directors' who need not have enough shares to sit in the board. As I said, we want to strengthen this concept for the better protection of our investing public.

Q: Will you be imposing responsibility to private corporations?

SFMD: We will be imposing more responsibility especially in cases where the corporation is vested with public interest. And generally, where you solicit funds from the public, through bonds issues or sales of shares, we would consider you as a corporation vested with public interest, because then the public is involved.

Q: How do you work with the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) in this matter? You have listed companies, some are not brick and mortar, some have made money just issuing an IPOs, and you have people losing money from these companies, and they are still there.

SFMD: A lot of that will involve in the ability of the PSE to police its ranks. There are certain rules there designed to protect the investing public, and the responsibility in enforcing these are precisely with the Philippine Stock Exchange.

Q: On the Senate Ethics Committee case against Senator Leila de Lima. What is the process?

SFMD: This could be the first case in the committee that was filed by the House leadership against a senator. This is unprecedented. What is the process? The Secretariat receives the complaint as it did yesterday. We will take this up and find out if we have jurisdiction. The first thing that we decide on is whether or not we have jurisdiction, and we have to decide on that because we don't want to into look at complaints based on acts long before an incumbent senator became a senator.

Q: This one was allegedly committed long before an incumbent senator became a senator.

SFMD: That's right. After we have decided on that, we ask the respondent to file the answer to the complaint. After that we hold hearings, and let me highlight the fact that the Senate Ethics Committee hearings - unlike any other committee hearings in the Senate hearings - are adversarial hearings.

Adversarial meaning that the process goes like in a court, where you question and answer, and a cross examination, because this already involves the integrity of a member of the Senate, and therefore he or she must be given every opportunity to hear his side, as contrasted to all other hearings which are in aid of legislation - even the Blue Ribbon Committee hearings. When you see us asking questions on TV like prosecutors or judges, that is only we want to draw the answer we can use either in crafting legislation or amending an existing law. But not in the Ethics Committee, in the Ethics Committee, it is like a proceeding in court, though not as strict as the Rules of Court. But the due process is strictly observed, since the ethics case is no longer a matter of writing or amending a law, but whether a member of the Senate should be disciplined.

Q: How long does the Senate Ethics, Committee hear a case like this, if the committee decides that it has jurisdiction?

SFMD: Well, depending on the nature of the case being filed. If the facts are not disputed, it could be a few hearings. Because then, there is no question of fact.

Q: Does the committee decide whether an individual is guilty or innocent?

SFMD: Yes, ganoon talaga. And what is the appropriate penalty- ranging from the removal from office or a mere warning.

Q: Yung warning, from the committee or the Senate as a whole?

SFMD: As a whole, because that is a form of discipline. We submit our findings to the plenary.

Q: Let's say someone gets suspended for a month. That would be the whole Senate?

SFMD: That's correct.

Q: Is this important to the public?

SFMD: This is important to the public since we have no masters but the public. We must be held accountable for our behavior, but we cannot be accountable for our behavior outside of Congress' halls. In other words, we cannot be held for libel for a privilege speech we delivered, but we are subject to discipline by the Senate Ethics Committee if we abuse the privilege speeches.

Q: How do you feel about comments that Senator Leila de Lima - a partymate - that say she is being politically harassed?

SFMD: Unavoidable in an open society like ours. When we go to the real McCoy of issues, the issues must be simply decided on whether or not she violated our ethical conduct. That's all.

Q: Who is responsible for deciding if Senator de Lima took or did not took drug money? The courts?

SFMD: That's correct. Precisely that is one issue of jurisdiction that we have to decide. This is not without precedent. In the case for example of former Senator Loi Estrada, there was a guy who filed a case of malpractice against her in cleaning up the Pasig River. We said that if something is wrong with us, file a case in court, not in the Senate Ethics Committee, but these are acts done before she became a senator. Precisely the point is, how far back do we go?

Q: The President is saying, "The yellows want me out. They want to oust me."

SFMD: That is not true. Mind you, we started with around 110, we are down to 30. Just by the fact alone, how do we propose to carry out that task of removing him?

That's why I said, "Hindi ko po alam kung saan nanggagaling itong mga kwentong ito." Who feeds the President with this kind of misinformation? It is sad.

Q: Do you want Vice President Leni Robredo to be the voice of the opposition?

SFMD: Of course, we are all elected officials, who are all elected with the expectation that we will work for the welfare of our people. We expect Vice President Leni to lead the Leni to lead the Liberal Party, and the Liberal Party to be the voice of the opposition. That is the role that is inevitable today, given Leni was practically eased out of the Cabinet. And from where I sit, I see no other reason but politics, especially in light of the fact, we would not know what would happen in the next several years, but certainly we think weakening the Vice President politically is an objective that is not far-fetched.

Why should that be an objective? You know, Mr. Bongbong Marcos has a protest in the Supreme Court and if, ultimately, acting through the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, would sustain the protest, the political cost to the administration would not be that great, because they have weakened Leni politically.

Q: Do you expect fairness from this administration for Vice President Leni?

SFMD: I would just appeal for rationality, for the sake of our country. Leni was elected as vice-president, she has the mandate of the people, she has very clearly said she wants to work to alleviate poverty and the difficulties of our people today. I think that should be given appropriate respect and support. She is the Vice President of our country.

Q: Have you signed the Senate committee report on extra-judicial killings?

SFMD: With reservations.

Q: Why? What are your reservations?

SFMD: Precisely because I want these to be debated. This is just a committee report, and I signed it with reservations and a right to amend, and we will amend. If we proposed amendments that we think are consistent with the truth and they are rejected, then we will vote against the adoption of the committee report in the plenary.

Q: On the case of the killing of Mayor Espinosa

SFMD: The President should allow the process to proceed. The process can precisely find out the truth, if there are state-sponsored killings or not. Let the process go through the process. The President knows this. He is a former prosecutor. Now if at the end of the day, if Col. Marcos et al are found guilty and he doesn't agree with it, then he has the power under the Constitution to pardon them. But only after the trial in our courts.

Q: Do you still the culture of opposition is still there these days? Is the opposition still strong like it was during the time of President Estrada, or GMA or even P-Noy?

SFMD: There is some reluctance. Well, I wouldn't be here today if that is a concern. I'd say there is some reluctance, particularly due to the access in social media these days, opinion makers sometimes have reservations about being too vocal or too forward about their views.

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