Press Release
July 15, 2020

Excerpts from the Kapihan sa Manila Bay Webinar with Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon

On the franchise of ABS-CBN

SFMD: Firstly, there is a suggestion for a people's initiative route to be taken, meaning the ABS-CBN would secure the signature of the 10% of the entire population and 3% in every legislative district. The Malacanang has raised doubts upon this on the theory that the grant of a franchise must originate from the HoR. I found this without basis because the Constitution allows people's initiative in enacting laws. We have a rule in law: where the Constitution or the laws do not distinguish, we should not distinguish.

The other issue is the fact that the initiative will involve budget. If Congress does not provide the budget on the Comelec, there is no way that they can hold it.

SFMD: There is the issue as to whether or not the action of Congress was completed by the report of the committee recommending the disapproval of the franchise. The committee said we would not report out the application for franchise and therefore, the debate on whether or not ABS-CBN will have a new franchise dies in the committee. That is the end of the route because it is no longer debated in the plenary. Can the act of 70 congressmen substitute for the judgment of the 300 or so members of Congress? Under the Constitution, it is Congress, which acts on the issue.

Under the rules of the HoR, if the committee report is unfavorable it is no longer brought to the plenary. As to whether this is valid under the Constitution is an unsettled issue. That is an open issue, which the ABS-CBN may avail of, in order to find out what is the real decision of the HoR, not of the committee. That is what they should look into.

With the House rejection, it will never reach the Senate at all.

SFMD: That's correct. Under the Constitution, a franchise bill must originate from the HoR. We cannot entertain it in the Senate unless it is approved in the HoR. We cannot do anything. The majority of the senators would vote for the renewal if given the opportunity to vote on it.

On dismantling oligarchy

SFMD: Well, let's have a correct understanding of what oligarchy is all about? Oligarchy is a form of power structure in which power rests with a small number of people which use their power to seek personal gain or benefit their business interests. That's how an oligarch is defined. To emphasize, you cannot equate rich and oligarch, meaning it does not mean that if you are rich, you are on oligarch. An oligarch is the one that influences the decision of the government or the one using their wealth in order that the policy that they want will be pursued. There is a monopolistic tactic to dominate an industry that makes possible oligarchy. The policy to remove or to not allow oligarchy is a policy that we support. We should not have an oligarch because that is not good. The question is we must review the whole structure, because the structure may in fact or make oligarchy easy to achieve. For example, the anti-dynasty concept, as I said it is when a small group of people who would possess political power to influence the government is when you have oligarchy and that should be dismantled. The lack of an anti-dynasty system or provision in our system would allow oligarchy to continue. What I am saying is that I am willing to sit down with the Duterte administration to examine the laws that we have and find out which laws should be amended or laws that should be enacted in order that we can remove or dismantle structures that made possible the oligarchy. We have some laws right now.

Oligarchy is bad for our governance and, therefore, as a policy, yes, we should adopt policies to prevent or dismantle these oligarchies. But, let's make sure that the oligarchs are not substituted by cronies. You may remove another oligarch. I would repeat, I am willing to sit down with whoever the administration designates to work on and examine all laws especially in governance in order that the opportunity for oligarchy will be removed or minimized. One of those is the lack of anti-dynasty law.

The anti-dynasty will never get passed in Congress.

SFMD: With the popularity rating of the President, he has the capacity to push that in Congress. He has proven his mettle insofar as this is concerned.

Sa Davao...

SFMD: When you want to remove oligarchy as a power structure, then you should rise above all of these.

I will give you the best example. When you were with the Ramos administration, you broke the back of the telco.

SFMD: That is an example of a structural reform that allowed competition in the telecom industry. That is when you break a monopoly which is a way of protecting the country against oligarchy. It is not in wealth that you are an oligarch; you are an oligarch if you use your power to promote through political system your own interest.

Nakakatakot pala iyang oligarchy, baka mga narco politicians na...

SFMD: That is a bane of many societies. In Russia, you keep on hearing about oligarchies when favored Russian cronies would control vital industries. We must be able to make it difficult for oligarchy to prevail in our system of governance.

On the anti-terror law

SFMD: What I can say is this, sincerely I exerted every effort to have a balance between the human rights of individuals and the need of the state to repel terrorism. Let me state a few things. The Human Securities Act, I think at this point, is considered to have been very ineffective in providing a legal weapon to fight terrorism, and because of the many provisions there that make it difficult to enforce. That's what we were facing.

Indeed when this bill was first presented to the Senate. My concern is that it is going to the other extreme. The pendulum shifted to the other side. I thought that I should put in effort in order to balance this very strong measure to equip our police agencies with the proper legal means and to protect the rights of our people. I am not perfect. I introduced 14 amendments all designed to balance and protect the rights of the people and all I can say is I tried my best. I can face any one and say I am not favoring any one. Whether or not it was sufficient or it was correct, that is a matter for the court to decide.

It was in my desire to have a balance between the desire to prevent terrorism and balance it with the rights of the people. I have done my best.

As you correctly said it is a question of trust but I could not legislate trust. Respect is always earned, never imposed. Trust is always earned, never imposed.

What I can say is I tried my best. Whether my best is good enough, I cannot make a judgment. It is now pending in the Supreme Court and it is for the court to decide.

When we celebrated the victory of The Hague ruling, is there a way for the Senate to assume a personality to have this ruling executed?

SFMD: I cannot think of any insofar as this is concerned. We can only exercise check and balance. The execution of a policy pertains to the executive. I supported the protest and the position taken by Sec. Locsin putting on the record the transgressions of China.

On Bayanihan 2

SFMD: We support the Bayanihan 2. One of the contentious issues here is the policy of providing support for the so-called supply side of the economy, meaning the business sector. There is a proposal to provide P45 billion in order to assist the distressed industries. We are willing to assist them pero huwag naman yung hindi nangangailangan. We must make sure that the assistance is really to those distressed industries, especially in the critical sector, who suffered much from the pandemic and their permanent closure could do harm.

The social amelioration program is a subsidy on the demand side. In other words you provide the people with resources to buy goods and resources. We should continue that. The government however has no money. For me, let's borrow. We are not alone in this situation. We could not maintain the ideal debt-to-GDP ratio but we have to breach that because the economy needs stimulants. Our credit rating should not be our concern.

How about your own legislative agenda?

SFMD: I have three legislative agenda: the anti-dynasty bill. I also have two bills that will open the economy to foreign investment. The reality is, we need investors, foreign capital, in order to perk up the economy. I have introduced bills to redefine the Public Service Act and the other one is the Retail Trade Rationalization.

On dismantling oligarchy

SFMD: What it is in our legal system that makes possible oligarchy. To me, we must study that. Structural reform is necessary.

On LP and politics

SFMD: I don't think the public will accept talks about politics. It is difficult to talk about politics when you have five million people unemployed. It is difficult to talk about politics when you have over 50 thousand positive of COVID-19.

What keeps LP intact? Is LP still a force to reckon with?

SFMD: We have a brand. No matter how people dislike dilawan, we have a brand and we stand on certain principles that will never disappear. We stand for people's rights, participatory governance. I am not worried about that. Again, as part of the political reform to prevent oligarchy, maybe we should look at our political party system, because that is not helpful. Our present system cannot be cited as an anathema or a check on oligarchs. That is why I have filed a bill that attempts to reform our political party system.

May batas bang ganon?

SFMD: I filed that, now pending. Again, the overarching concept of oligarchy, the problem can be addressed by our reforming the political party system, which makes oligarchy easier.

Your reaction to the DILG target to conduct a house-to-house in search of COVID-19 patients?

SFMD: I would urge the DILG to review what they are proposing, because it runs smack to the right of the people to be secured in their residences. I would strongly suggest that, because it reminds us of operation tokhang. I urge a review of this system proposed by Sec. Ano because it infringes on the right of the people under our Bill of Rights to be secured in their houses and against unreasonable searches and seizures.

There is no question that there is a need to protect the people but we should do it with due deference to the Constitution. The pandemic does not set aside the Constitutional restrictions and protection under the Bill of Rights.

There are fears that this move can be used against critics

SFMD: It is a manifestation of the mistrust. Because of what has happened in the past, you cannot blame the people if they fear that that it would be used to oppress.

On the anti-terror law

SFMD: I signed it on the basis of my best judgment that strikes a balance between protecting our people against abuses by the state and protecting the state itself.

I've done my best; I have no political agenda. It is an application of my best knowledge and ability to craft legislation. I don't think any one can say that I was motivated by any consideration other than what I perceived is for the good of the country.

As a matter of policy, we are against oligarchy and the remedy is to look at our legal structure to why oligarchy continues to rear its ugly heads. The question that will arise is, who are these oligarchs? What do we do insofar as the legal structure is concerned so that the ill effects of oligarchy will be addressed.

On the Oplan Kalinga

SFMD: I will repeat, the pandemic does not suspend the Bill of Rights under our Constitution. The issue of detaining people or going around house-to-house in residence - and say, you cannot stay here - is an issue which could run afoul with our right against unreasonable searches.

Ito pala Sir yung sinasabing batas ni Ano, yung mandatory reporting of notifiable diseases

SFMD: It is reporting, not detention, not seizure.

Is there a need to do this?

SFMD: The difficulty is that we have failed in our tracking system. The problem is, four months after, we have no effective tracking system and, therefore, we do the shotgun approach of declaring a general lockdown. To be more effective in this fight, we urge that the matter of our tracking system should be improved. This is the key in many of the countries, which successfully managed the disease. You talk about Taiwan and few others.

The DOH said the country is short of 94,000 COVID-19 trackers. How do you implement successfully a campaign to stop the pandemic when we do not have enough contract tracers. We must be able to develop a technology to do contract tracing immediately.

What are we doing wrong?

SFMD: At the start we did not have enough testing facilities. Therefore. we were blinded. We were adopting policies on the basis of facts, which are not verified. That delayed reporting, etc. The default remedy is to implement a lockdown, but the effect in the economy has been very bad. We are in this situation because of our erroneous decision based on inadequate facts at the very start.

In an interview this morning, Sec. Ano said the funding for contract tracing will come from Bayanihan 2...

SFMD: Alam mo, there is much available technology to automate contact tracing. Realistically, the DOH says we are short of 94,000 contact tracers. I recall that the budget here is proposed to something like P11 billion - I hope my memory serves me right. The need for an effective contact tracing is a key to a successful drive to contain the virus.

Paano po mababantayan ang mga nagamit na inutang para sa COVID-19? Pwede po bang isama ito sa GAA muna? Should Malacanang submit a report on these foreign loans?

SFMD: Yes, Nimfa, good question. During the budget hearings, we can inquire into these because there are funds, which were authorized to be spent and therefore, in exercise of our oversight functions, it is a question that will be asked. The COA is there. It has a mandate under the Constitution to see to it the funds are properly spent.

Can we include these anti-COVID measures in the 2021 budget?

SFMD: Certainly, yes. In fact, what the Bayanihan 1 did is to authorize the President to realign items in the budget. I think there is an existing law that requires the government to report on the level of our indebtedness.

You said a while ago that you are open to the government borrowing money and will you ask the government to report it?

SFMD: Certainly yes. There is an existing law that requires the government to report on the level of our indebtedness, sourced from foreign and local borrowings. It is expected that it will be submitted and how it was applied. Remember that our tax collections went down. That is why there is a push to have more borrowings because we have no choice.

And the government declared it is willing to sell government properties.

SFMD: Yes. Why do Camp Aguinaldo and Camp Crame have to be in city centers? That's a huge asset. The land management experts can craft a policy which will make the government realize the maximum revenue. I repeat, if you look at it objectively hindi naman po kailangan na ang military camps ay nasa city. There is no sense in letting these assets not serve their fullest extent. The other one is the Muntinlupa penitentiary. We have the most expensive penitentiary in terms of cost per square meter in the entire world.

Paano n'y po ide-describe yung planong house-to-house ng PNP?

SFMD: In our system, the remedy is the judiciary. Somebody can bring this to the Supreme Court and say it is a violation of their rights against unreasonable searches and seizures.

With the increasing number of COVID-19 cases, do you think GCQ should be maintained?

SFMD: I already get confused about these quarantine categories. Generally, I am in favor of slowly opening the economy with the proper protocols being strictly observed. We cannot just take the attitude of a shotgun approach - lockdown here and there. The decision must be based on reliable evidence and sets of facts, which right now are lacking.

Closing remarks

SFMD: I can only pray and all of us should pray that we get out of this pandemic in one piece as a people. A lot of our countrymen are suffering today. We should have the ability to discern the proper approach in order that the solution can be effective and will cause the least damage to our people. We have not gone through this experience but I am sure that when we have a rational decision making process based on facts we should be able to survive this difficulty.

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