Press Release
July 16, 2020

Transcript of Zoom Interview of Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III

Q: On SONA preparations.

SP Sotto: I just received word today, the President has decided to deliver his SONA in the Batasang Pambansa, the House of Representatives on July 27. So yung napagusapan namin na mga preparations ay, as a matter of fact I just left a meeting with (unclear), the Sergeant-at-Arms of the Senate, and he will be meeting with his counterpart, and also Sec. Villarica with the Secretary General, the preparations (unclear) with the Executive Department should be included. As of today, unless the decision is reached or naiba, today the word that was given to me was the President would deliver his SONA in the Batasang Pambansa.

Q: Ilang senador po yung mag-aattend sa Batasan?

SP Sotto: Ganito ngayon ang nangyari. Beforehand pa, or a week or so, ang usapan namin was dapat mga, ang sinabi ng Executive Department, ang PSG, maximum doon sa buong Batasan would be 50 persons only. Ginawa nila, hinati nila, 25 from the Executive Department, kasama na yung mga security. So hindi lahat ng gabinete, meron na silang pinili. Wala na ring audience. Tapos 25 from the Legislative. So sa 25 ng Legislative ang napagusapan is 13 sa House, and 12 sa Senate, (unclear) mga members yun. Nandoon yung Sergeant-at-Arms, Senate Secretary, at yung one or two officers sa documenting. So in other words tumatama naman ito doon sa mga nagsabi ng mga interest nila to attend. There are 8 possible senators that may... sa House, (unclear) there will be 9 congressmen who will be there physically. I have no doubt that we (unclear) more than enough of the senators at 10 AM when we open the Second Regular Session...

Q: Yung 8 senators (unclear)?

SP Sotto: Oo, naunang nag express ng intention to attend, na gusto nilang umattend. Bale 7, ako yung pang 8. And then (unclear) originally reserved for the Pro-Tempore and the Minority Leader. Both of them have given their slot to other Senators who would want to attend. In the case of Sen. Ralph Recto, he'd rather give it to Sen. Dela Rosa and the Minority Leader also told me that you can ask any members of the Majority na nag express ng intention to attend instead of him. Nalista namin bale 7 na members of the Senate who will be physically present. Yung iba rin, ang sinabi nila they would be present in the morning but will no longer join in the afternoon. They know na medyo masikip, kaunti lang ang pwede, hindi maaaccomodate not even half so mas mabuti pang ganoon at saka (unclear) dadaan ng medyo (unclear) because lahat mag rarapid test, our usual health protocols.

Q: Doon sa seven, Sen. Bong Go or (unclear) sa kabila?

SP Sotto: Kasama siya doon. Ngayon kung may ibang may gusto pwede nating pakiusapan na Executive. Wala namang nagsabi na gusto nila. Kung tutuusin, medyo masyadong (unclear) health protocols pagka (unclear), eh pwede naman kami sa umaga.

Q: Ang media hindi pa rin allowed?

SP Sotto: (Unclear) we will be livestreaming it (unclear) and also to the public, yung media yung SONA in the afternoon.

Q: Sana pwede namin kayo mainterview.

SP Sotto: Okay lang yun, sa Batasan. Pwede na Zoom siguro after.

Q: Sino po yung pito maliban sa inyo na pupunta sa SONA mismo?

SP Sotto: Baka magkamali ako kaya (unclear) sana pero counter check ninyo na lang muna. Ako, si Sen. Lacson, Tolentino, Sen. Bong Go, (unclear), Sen. Gatchalian, Migz Zubiri of course, the Majority Leader...

Q: Isa na lang. Bato Dela Rosa?

SP Sotto: (Unclear) kay Sec. Myra, binigay sa kanya ang listahan. Get it from my Legis lang kasi Sec. Villarica was the one who wrote down habang kausap ko yung (unclear), she has the list. I am missing one name so...

Q: Pia Cayetano?

SP Sotto: Pia, correct.

Q: So kayo, Lacson, Dela Rosa, Go, Zubiri, Cayetano...8 senators. So ilan po yung ineexpect ninyo sa opening, the rest, tama po ba yung intindi ko (unclear) doon na lang sa Senate and (unclear) or SONA?

SP Sotto: They may stay here or they monitor in (unclear). In the morning, there will be more than 12. (Unclear) the physical forum, we have a resolution to that effect, (unclear) changed the rules. Until there is a national emergency, for every time there is a national emergency, we have adopted that particular rule which is already incorporated in the (unclear) Senate rules na pwedeng mag virtual presence and even voting.

Q: Yung media coverage po sa opening and the SONA, allowed po ba media coverage sa opening and sinabihan na rin po ba kayo kung allowed sa SONA?

SP Sotto: Ang agreement namin nila Sec. Villarica, yes, pero ano yata, limitado na lang, parang ganoon. Limitado lang pero pwede.

Q: Saan po pwede? Sa opening or sa SONA?

SP Sotto: Sa SONA, the PSG calls the shots. Ano lang kami doon, guest ang Senate doon.

Q: You mentioned magiging stringent yung protocol sa SONA mismo at (unclear) mag rapid testing po ng lahat ng aattend, ano po yung binanggit na magiging bagong protocols?

SP Sotto: I think siyempre yung temperature, tapos yung maingat sa mga gamit or something like that. Everybody should be wearing a mask, ganoon yata. Hindi ko matandaan, wala pang firm, meron palang listahan ng maaaring gawin, so there is nothing firm yet but I am sure about rapid testing and the temperature taking.

Q: Yung flow po of the program, yung tradition po, masusunod pa rin?

SP Sotto: Yun pa rin yun. For sure, yun yun. I open, the Speaker opens, and then we recognize the President and that is after the flag ceremony, after the prayer and the national anthem.

Q: Ang nakausap ninyo po sa Malacanang is si ES Medialdea po, tama?

SP Sotto: Hindi, Ang secretariat ng Senate, si Sec. Villarica ang kausap ng Palace kaninang umaga. Last night, but it was not official. Kaninang umaga yata official.

Q: Priority measures po. When you open on July 27, ano po ang plano ng Senate dito sa Second Regular Session? Ano po ang mga ipapasa na measures?

SP Sotto: Una in the morning if you are interested, siyempre the ministerial resolutions muna as usual, and then in the afternoon, the SONA. The following day, we will approve on third reading the bills that have been pending and number one there would be the Bayanihan 2. Bayanihan 2 will be approved on third reading. Thereafter, I will designate the members of the bicam to coordinate with the House of Representatives and they will meet in a bicameral conference committee on the disagreeing provisions. The Executive Department will be present and anything that has been taken up by both Houses may be incorporated in the bicam kung napagusapan. It does not necessarily have to have a Senate version on any points na gustong idagdag ng Executive Department or ng House. Doon pwedeng mapagusapan yung mga maaaring sa tingin nila ay kulang sa Bayanihan 2 or pwedeng alisin yung sa tingin nila ay sobra. Thereafter, there will be priority measures of the Senate. Una na sa lahat yung, well, una, the Anti-Terrorism Law is already a law, it was signed by the President during the break. Now, pending third reading, pending the signature of the President and we are awaiting, the amendment to Republic Act 7977 which is the School Calendar Act. Once the President signs this, the August 24 deadline could be adjusted if DepEd and CHED are not ready. It can be adjusted because of this law, if the President signs it into law before August 24. Then priorities would be the third reading in the House of Representatives, approved na kami on third reading, pending in the House of Representatives, the amendment to the Revised Penal Code, Articles 183 and 184. This is the perjury law, the perjury bill. We have also approved on third reading, pending at the House and baka sakaling mag bicam kami, is the Organic Agriculture Act of 2020. Now, priorities, isusunod would be those in the period of interpellations already in the Senate. That includes the CITIRA, the Expanded Solo Parents Act, the Act creating the coconut farmers' industry or the COCO Levy Fund in short (unclear). Of course the Medical Scholarship Act which is top priority as far as I am concerned, and the ROTC. Citizens in Service Training Act (?), the Department of Disaster, the amendments to the Public Service Act, the Agrarian or Agriculture Credit Cooperative Condonation Act. There are other priorities, but these are the ones that are on top of the list. I do not want to belabor your time by reading all of those. Yun ang mga top priorities na nandoon pero marami pang ibang top priorities, meron pang mga pet bills yung mga kasama namin. Now, as far as I am concerned, my priorities are the Medical Scholarship Act, Senate Bill No. 1, kung Senate Bill No. 6 which is the Anti-Terrorism Act that I principally authored is already made into law, sana naman yung Senate Bill No. 1 which is the Medical Scholarship Act would be passed already. Again the Presidential Drug Enforcement Authority Act, tapos yung Hybrid Election Act, naghearing na Kahapon si Sen. Imee Marcos and I think she is ready to come up with a committee report even before the start of the SONA at baka sakaling maisama ng Presidente sa SONA as a priority. Also the Anti-Fake News Bill, it is pending in the committee at yung 14th month pay law or bill that (unclear) itatake up but then doon sa Bayanihan 2, do not expect that the original proposal of the Executive Department noong bago namin ipasa on second reading, ay maaaccomodate, hindi na siguro. We will just allow Bayanihan 2 to stand as it is with some minor amendments. But we will prioritize the proposal of the Executive Department on the ARISE or the guide kung tawagin na ngayon. Magkasama yun. ARISE is the Acceleration Recovery and Investment Stimulus of the Economy kaya A-R-I-S-E. Yung (unclear) na rin, gagawin nating nakahiwalay, hindi kasamang Bayanihan 2 or economic stimulus package would be the FIST which is the Financial Institutions Strategic Transfer. Parang (unclear) nung araw yun. More or less, ganoon, yun ang magiging priorities in the start of the Second Regular Session of the 18th Congress.

Q: Yung ARISE and FIST parehas po galling sa Malacanang and considered priority rin po siya?

SP Sotto: Sa Department of Finance.

Q: Isasama mo rin siya sa priority so pag open po natin, third reading nung pending na Bayanihan 2 tapos aasikasuhin ninyo na kaagad yung ARISE and yung FIST?

SP Sotto: Oo. The Committee on Finance will be tackling it. They are tackling it already as of now.

Q: Lahat din ng magpupunta sa opening ng session sa Senate irarapid test? Even media na sabi ninyo iaallow?

SP Sotto: Dito sa Senate? Hindi pa namin napapagusapan ang health protocols dito sa Senate pero ang sinasabi ko, yung health protocols doon sa kasama ang Presidente, because health protocols ng PSG yun.

Q: Doon sa media coverage that you will allow during the resumption of the session, how strict will it be? Papayagan ba may ambush interviews or basically we are just gonna be allowed to get videos lang po?

SP Sotto: Oo, palagay ko we will not be able to allow ambush interviews kasi even if you are six feet away from the interviewee, kayo magdidikit-dikit. Magtatabi-tabi, baka masisi pa ako, so I doubt it. Baka coverage lang from the gallery, and then baka virtual na lang.

Q: Pero definitely papayagan po may coverage ang media, pero sabi ninyo nga, kaunti lang. Paano ba?

SP Sotto: Sa pagkakaalam ko, parang ganoon. Bilang lang. I think the Senate Secretariat is now firming up on how to allow the media dito.

Q: May we know bakit po nagdecide si Pangulo sa Batasan considering medyo delikado po ang taas ng kaso dito sa QC? Bakit po hindi sa Malacanang yung pinili niyang location for his SONA?

SP Sotto: Well, there were two or three options, I (unclear). I cannot speak for the President. Siguro, if I may venture a guess, first of all, the President, if I will describe him, the word is swashbuckling. Siguro ayaw niyang masabi na cower ang gobyerno ng pandemic. But because we will be able to come up with health protocols naman that will make everybody safe there, sa laki ng Batasan isipin mo 50 lang tao ang available. Kasama na ang mga security doon, kasama na ang page doon sa 50. Hindi 50 participants, the entire Batasan. So very safe yung health protocols. Siguro the President was briefed on that. Nasabi sa kanya ang (unclear) so namili siya. I am just guessing ha? I am just guessing because we just got word this morning about the approval. It can change as we speak, that is how it is.

Q: Given the health protocols, you think it is safe na 50 people will converge in Batasang Pambansa on July 27? Your own personal assessment on it?

SP Sotto: Yes I think so. If I don't think it is safe, I won't go. I think it will be safe because wala naman kaming, hindi kami magkakalapit-lapit doon for sure. Tapos naka mask lahat yun. Everybody will be rapid-tested, hindi naman kami magtatabi-tabi kasi ako din, I agree with that decision of the Executive Department because we must give the country and the public, and the people, the semblance that your government is up and about and ready to continue with its job, especially Congress. I think that is a very good decision.

Q: Yung sa session lang po, papayagan ninyo pa rin yung virtual presence ng Senators, parang itong nakaraan po, until when po?

SP Sotto: Until a national emergency is lifted. That is based in our rules. Nilagay na namin sa rules namin yun. As long as there is a national emergency, pandemic proportions, hindi naman basta national emergency lang na may bagyo, hindi kasama doon sa definition namin.

Q: Gaano po mababago yung Bayanihan 2 na pinasa ninyo sa second reading doon sa ipapasa ninyo on third reading or hanggang saan yung iaallow ninyong mabago hanggang bicam po, considering that the DOF was saying wala na nga pong pera or P140 billion na lang yung available funds?

SP Sotto: Magkakatalo sa bicam. Sa amin, from the time that we approve it on third reading on Monday, the 27, walang mababago doon. Palagay ko the Executive Department will back us up in the P140 billion possible for Bayanihan 2 because there is a forthcoming economic stimulus pieces of legislation that will support it thereafter. Yung mga nabanggit ko, FIST, (unclear), ARISE, CITIRA because yung sa House kasi na version, ang alam ko, malaki, trillion, P1.3 trillion ang proposal nila, so I don't think it will be accommodated, so (unclear) in the bicam, baka may slight na difference pa rin na paguusapan. Pero as far as the funding is concerned, we will load the necessary funding in the other pieces of legislation that is being asked of by the Department of Finance.

Q: Pero okay na po kayo sa P140 billion? Kaya ninyo po mameet sa lahat na ibibigay na ayuda within the Bayanihan 2 or yun nga, kailangan nung ibang mga measures na ipasa?

SP Sotto: Thereafter, pero as far as Bayanihan 2 is concerned, we will have to (unclear) the P140 billion, will have to suffice.

Q: Pag halimbawa ang naapprove is P140 billion, hindi natin kailangan na mangutang?

SP Sotto: Hindi. Sa P140 billion hindi ka na uutang kaya malakas ang loob (unclear) as far as the DOF is concerned P130 billion yung sa proposal nila. Kaya lang meron kaming mga nakita na talagang mahigpit na pangangailangan as far as the Committee on Finance is concerned and that is the reason why we were pegging it at P140 billion. (Unclear) kung yun lang ang ipapasa, yung Bayanihan 2. Ngayon, yung mga parating na legislation baka (unclear) kailangan pero meron na silang inuumpisang identified sources na pwedeng makatulong.

Q: So bali ang Senate, as far as the Senate is concerned, nakapako na yung position ninyo sa P140 billion, hindi na magiging flexi kung ano man ang ibibigay ng House sa bicam?

SP Sotto: Mahihirapan na kaming mag (unclear) noon, mahihirapan na kaming mag flex because the Department of Finance has told us that that is what can be accommodated as far as Bayanihan 2 is concerned. To be clear, the other budget proposals of the House of Representatives (unclear) incorporated in the other stimulus packages so it does not mean that we are not accepting the proposal of the House. It can be accommodated in other legislations and not the Bayanihan 2. Para mas madali at kayang gawin (unclear), di ba?

Q: Given the situation, na ang daming kailangan na (unclear) ng gobyerno ngayon, ididiscourage ba muna yung mga bills na magrerequire ng funding from the government?

SP Sotto: Well, I cannot say that. Perhaps the Committee on Ways and Means would be the best or Sen. Pia Cayetano would be the best person to be asked but I (unclear) yes or no.

Q: Ano po yung this year, maliban sa (unclear) natin yung state of the nation address mga naka mask, naka social distancing, ano ang nakikita ninyong kaibahan nitong fifth SONA ni Presidente? Ano yung mga expectation po ninyo?

SP Sotto: Well physically siyempre ineexpect natin it will be really a completely different type of physical SONA because of the situation that we are in now, not only in the Philippines but aside from that, the important thing is the message of the President and what is being (unclear) or the situation of the country. We would like to have complete faith that the President will present, that is usually the content of the state of the nation. I think there would be very important figures that would be (unclear) for the next two years.

Q: Paulit po yung expectation ninyo doon sa SONA?

SP Sotto: Well, I would like to find out the exact state of our nation, that is the purpose of the state of the nation address. More particularly on the issue of the pandemic. Yun ang magandang makita natin, makuha natin ang exact figures sa Presidente, hindi magbibitaw na mga figures si Presidente diyan na hindi verified. Hindi katulad nung mga naririnig natin na mga flattened na ganito, flattened na ganoon. Hindi ako mahilig kasi sa mga American terms pagdating sa mga ganyan. Pwede namang sabihing the figures have gone down, bakit flattened the curve pa. Americano lang ang gumagamit noon. Okay lang sa kanila yun, pero sa akin, hindi ako mahilig doon. Siguro ganoon, makikita natin ang figures from the President and then what has transpired and how government spent and what would be the proposal for the next few months even with the pandemic. We will be expecting that from the President.

Q: Kasi yung situation ngayon is parang volatile sa crisis, and then medyo yung atmosphere natin as a nation medyo parang divisive or divided, this time ano yung kung meron man pwede ninyong isuggest sa Presidente para maging mas unifying especially yung SONA niya this year?

SP Sotto: Ako kasi, you will have to cut me some slack here. Hindi ako mahilig magbibibigay ng mga advise ko, mga comment ko kung hindi ako tinatanong lalo na pag Presidente. So unless I am asked, in the past we have been called and we have been asked pero other than that medyo mas mabuti pang (unclear) and it cuts both ways, kasi you should also ask the detractors of the President, ano ba ang gusto ninyo para maging united tayo, di ba? You should also ask that question to them.

Q: What can you say about the level of toxicity ngayon sa social media? I think you are also seeing this, mga labanan ng mga opinion about the ABS-CBN franchise, about the COVID, etc. etc. How do you find this, especially because yung mga nag-aaway doon Karamihan mga nakasama ninyo rin sa legislature?

SP Sotto: I find it really part of the landscape of social media. First of all, because of the situation we are in, because of the pandemic, there are more people in social media than before. Mas marami rin ang walang ginagawa, mas maraming oras. Even if you are going to attend a meeting, dati you take about an hour, an hour and a half, even two hours to attend a meeting, ngayon, you can attend a meeting with the click of a finger at saka you can watch all, listen to all these, with the flick of a finger, so expected ko yan. Sa akin, personally, I know na ganyan. Maraming ideas na lalabas, maraming komentaryo na sino-sino, merong magandang komentaryo, merong hindi, I think we should expect it because that is how it is, because of the pandemic. The stay home policy, the stay home idea really is working, it should work for the entire world, and therefore we are not confined to comments coming from Filipinos, we are getting comments from all over the world kaya ganyan. So, it is expected.

Q: Hindi natin dapat itake negatively? Is it a reflection of a vibrant democracy or exchange?

SP Sotto: Yes, because if (unclear) thing as people are saying that there is no democracy in the Philippines, wala lahat yan, hindi ba? Sa China, hindi ka pwede mag Facebook. Di ba hindi pwede lahat yung social media, kontrolado lang ang pwedeng social media, so we should allow it, it is freedom of expression, freedom of speech. Ganoon talaga, hindi kayang awatin yan and you cannot (unclear) somebody na lahat ng tao naniniwala sa kanya, walang ganoon. There is no such thing, there is no perfect politician. There is no perfect situation, there is no perfect democracy, there is no perfect life, but you can have a happier life.

Q: By not using social media?

SP Sotto: Eh huwag kang judgmental, huwag kang puro masama lang ang nakikita mo. Meron kang nakitang hindi mo gusto, you can criticize pero siguro kung nasa lugar. Kung hindi naman, naghahanap ka lang ng butas or ng gulo, huwag na lang at baka hindi maganda ang paningin ng Panginoong Diyos sa iyo.

Q: Ano ang masasabi mo sa mga politician na gumagamit ng platform ng social media na doon sila nag-aaway, naghahamunan ng mga debate, yung mga ganyan?

SP Sotto: Anong masasabi ko? To each his own, eh type nila yun. Let them be.

Q: Ano pa po yung nakikita ninyong measures na maaring ipasa sa nalalabing dalawang taon po ng 18th Congress para po suportahan yung laban ng gobyerno amidst the pandemic?

SP Sotto: Lahat ng binanggit ko kanina from Bayanihan 2 all the way to FIST, CREATE, GUIDE, lahat yan, all papuntang (unclear) yan. It's an entire economic stimulus package, lahat yan. Ang nangyayari lang ngayon sa tingin ng DOF at saka sa pananaw din ng Committee on Finance ng Senate, na mahirap yan ng wholesale kaya per topic. Mas magandang ipasa ng per topic. Mas madaling mapasa kesa complex na pagsasama-samahin mo yan sa isang economic stimulus package. Hindi madali yun. So, lahat yun, binanggit ko, nakatuon yun to address the pandemic because, again, the health protocols that were (unclear) by the IATF and of course endorsed by the President, lahat ito nakatuon ito sa health ng bansa, ng Pilipino. Itong ekonomiya babagsak at babagsak (unclear) those health protocols and now that it is down, it is a good thing that it is not as down as the other countries who have or are suffering now from recession. Itong mga economic stimulus packages (unclear) is meant to address and uplift the (unclear) kas inga ang idea natin nung una, and I think I share the same, the Executive Department share the same idea as I had before, which is buhay muna, saka na ang ekonomiya. Kasi yung buhay, pag namatay, hindi mo na mabubuhay. Yung ekonomiya, pag namatay, mabubuhay mo, ayun. So yun ang situwasyon.

Q: Ano po ang stand ninyo, mas mabuti pang magbenta na lang ng assets ang gobyerno kesa sa mangutang para magkaroon ng pondo dito sa pandemic?

SP Sotto: Merong nga pwedeng ibenta, hindi naman pwedeng ibenta lahat. Merong mga pwedeng ibenta na may magandang repercussion so pwede talaga yun. For example, the National Bilibid Prison. Ilang hektarya yang napakalaking property na yan ng gobyerno diyan, samantalang pwede namang gawin na alisin na sila diyan at gawin na yung proposal natin na gawing regional ang national penitentiaries, ay regional. Regional penitentiaries. So masosolve mo yung problema ng gulo, masosolve mo yung decongestion, maihihiwalay mo yung mga heinous criminals, di ba, pero ang laki ng pakikinabangan ng gobyerno diyan. Trillion na ang halaga nung lugar na yun. Alisin mo yung buong National Bilibid Prison doon sa Muntinlupa ay gawin mong, sa akin ang idea ko doon, gawin mong university belt, aba eh papatulan lahat ng mga may ari ng mga unibersidad yan pag nabili yang mga properties na yan. Isipin ninyo ang gaan na ng gobyerno doon, yung mga ganoon. So merong pwede. Merong mga pwede, na talagang pwedeng pakinabangan at idispose ng gobyerno, meron namang pwedeng hindi lalo na pagka merong issue ng patrimony or merong ika nga ay historical issues na dapat ipreserve. In the end pwede pa rin ikumbinasyon yun kung kakapusin or kailangan pa, eh medyo mild lang ang pangungutang, hindi nakalubog tayo hanggang leeg. Pwedeng hanggang tuhod lang ang pangungutang.

Q: Ang Bilibid pala pwedeng trillion peso na ang pagbebentahan?

SP Sotto: Oo, at saka yan, bagong senador pa lang ako, pinopropose ko na yan. Problema kasi pagka fledgling Senator ka katulad nung araw, walang nakikinig sa akin.

Q: Kaya lang hindi ganoon kabilis magbenta.

SP Sotto: Hindi, yan, mabilis yan, prime property eh. Paki check ninyo nga kung gaano kalaki yung buong National Bilibid Prison, kung ilang hektarya, daan ang alam ko. And then even pagpalagay mong hindi yun ang talagang dahilan, it is not the money, it is not pagbebenta, yung alisin mo lang yun doon at gawin mong regional ang penitentiary at rehabilitation, maganda talaga yun para sa atin, para sa kanila mismo. Madedecongest mo. Pangalawa, yung mga preso, or mga PDLs ang tawag natin, yung mga PDLs, usually pag hindi na dinadalaw ng, ito, study na maliwanag ito ha? Late 90s pa nasa akin na itong resource materials na ito, pag ang isang PDL hindi na dinadalaw ng pamilya niya, doon mag-uumpisang magloko. Sumasali sa mga gang, kung ano ang naiisipang pasukan, ginagawa. Pero pagka yung dinadalaw? Mababait at matitino lahat. Ngayon, paano kung ang PDL ay ang pamilya taga Sultan Kudarat? Papaano kung taga Negros? Ni hindi one week, ni hindi once a year makaka bisita, di ba? So talagang ano, mas maganda talaga gawin ng regional, iregionalize ang national penitentiary. Yung sa Muntinlupa, right now the New Bilibid Prison is 587 hectares, can you imagine the cost of that? In other words, ang halaga doon sa area, yung assessment doon, fair market value doon which is usually lower than the truth, is P28,000 per square meter. Ang isang lote in that area, P28,000 per square meter. Ilang square meters yang 587 hectares at yun ay assessment, fair market value supposed to be. Alam mo naman kung ano ang, mas mahal yung actual value. Yung mga ganoon, pwede.

Q: Ibabalik na daw sa MGCQ ang Metro Manila kapag hindi pa rin bumaba yung datos na nagkakaroon ng COVID within the next two weeks? Ano po ang position ninyo dito?

SP Sotto: Babalik sa MGCQ?

Q: Hindi MECQ, MECQ.

SP Sotto: Well, the IATF and the Executive Department would know best. We in the Legislative Department are just seeing the superficial landscape. Sila ang nakakaalam kung ano ang nangyayari. I will agree to the suggestion, ako personally, papayag ako doon sa sinasabi na ibalik sa ECQ yung mga areas lang na malala, na hindi nag iimprove o hindi nagcocooperate. Do you remember or have you seen the picture that I sent in the Viber group ng Senate media? Picture nung 1919, naka mask silang lahat tapos yung babae sa dulo may hawak, ano ang sabi niya? Nung araw pa yan, imagine, nung araw yan, 1919, ang sabi no mask, go to jail. Paano yung ano? Hindi ninyo nakita yun? Cely, nakita mo yun. Wear a mask or go to jail 1919 pa yun di ba? Sa atin nga sinisita lang dahil walang mask, nagagalit pa. Di ba? Ang tigas ng ulo ng mga kababayan natin tapos sasabihin wag ECQ sa area na yun? Doon sa area na matitigas ang ulo, dapat talaga ECQ.

Q: May mga lawmakers sa America na nagpass ng parang manifesto nila, they are calling on the Philippine government na irepeal na agad yung Anti-terrorism Law kasi daw the law is over (unclear), being used to stifle peaceful dissent and targets civil society including human and labor rights?

SP Sotto: Well, offhand I can safely say that they are misinformed. Why don't they take a look at their laws. Tingnan nila yung anti-terrorism nila which is the ang title nila yung Homeland Security Act nila. Bago sila mamintas sa atin, tingnan muna nila yung kanila, napakahigpit nung kanila, napaka sobra. Ang layo sa atin, kaya I think these guys are just basing it on what they read on social media. I can safely say na mas magaling yung mga senador ng Pilipinas kesa senador nila pagka ganyan.

Q: Sa tingin ninyo paano makakaapekto yung ganitong ingay sa mga pending na mga petitions sa Supreme Court?

SP Sotto: Wala na, hindi naiimpluwensiyahan ang Supreme Court ng mga ganyan at sa hindi naiintimidate ang Supreme Court ng mga ganyan. The Supreme Court will base it on hard facts and what they see, on what they read, hindi yung sabi sa social media. Pag tinanong mo nga yung mga legislator na Americano kung ano yung mga point na sinasabi nila, alin doon? Saang provision doon? Hindi kayang sagutin. Paano binebase lang nila sa naririnig nila sa mga nag ooppose sa Anti-Terrorism doon sa social media, doon lang nila binebase yun. They don't even know what are the real contents of the law. Kaya nga nakakatawa din pati yung mga tagaibang bansa na Fil-Am or Pilipino pero dual citizen sa ibang bansa, namimintas sila sa anti-terror law natin samantalang yung bansa nila, mas mahigpit kesa sa anti-terror law natin. So ano ang ibig sabihin? Bakit sila nakikialam sa atin, bakit hindi nila pakialaman yung bansa nila like for example, those guys from the United States or those guys from Australia, they should amend their laws if they think their Homeland Security Law is pareho nung atin eh. Pag kinumpare mo, mas malala yung kanila kasi sa atin, lahat ng mga safeguards tinanggap. Lunod sa safeguards yung anti-terror law natin sapagkat pinagtatanggap ng ani Sen. Lacson as principal sponsor yung mga amendments.

Q: So parang mind your own business ang message ninyo sa kanila?

SP Sotto: Yes, mind your own business, scratch your own galis.

Q: Kasama sa quote yun sir?

SP Sotto: Oo, akala mo naman dahil yung senador ay puti eh magaling? Naku.

Q: Clarify ko lang yung sa SONA. Yung rapid test will be done in Batasan or before you go there dapat...

SP Sotto: Before entry of Batasan. Doon mismo, upon entrance, sigurado we will be... Hindi, pinaparis ko lang ito ng sa Malacanang. What they are doing in Malacanang most probably they will duplicate in the Batasan, In Malacanang when you enter, when you enter pa lang merong disinfectant na capsule na dadaanan ka. Paglabas mo roon, isaama ka na sa ano, kailangan naka mask ka, sasama ka na doon sa isang area wherein kukunin ka ng dugo and then you will be escorted into an area na maghihintay ka ng resulta mo. Kung may mga kasabay ka man doon, magkakahiwalay pa rin kayo, there are seats provided na magkakahiwalay kayo. And then when your results come, isa-isa ayong tinatawag, kung sino ang may (unclear), saka yun, pwede na. By the way, before that, your temperature is of course taken. If your temperature is beyond 37.5, you will be asked to go home or to go for a swab test, ganoon instead and it will not be there, you will be refused entry. Ganoon din sigurado ang magiging protocols doon sa Batasan.

Q: Kay Sec. Duque, although nag clarify na siya, ano yung dapat...

SP Sotto: Nag clarify na siya na tama ako, hindi flattened the curve, kundi fattened the curve.

Q: Ano ba dapat ang (unclear) ang panibagong blunder ni Sec. Duque, does that make him more of lalo siyang nagiging incompetent or ano ba? What does that make of Sec. Duque?

SP Sotto: Ano ba yung tawag doon sa nakikisuntok? Ayaw ko ng makisuntok kay Sec. Duque. Yung akin kasi siguro he's been fed some kind of wrong info, Biglang nagbigay ng statement later realizing na mali. Kasi nga ako naman napansin ko agad yun kasi hindi ako mahilig sa tinatawag na figurative. Figurative talaga yun, yung mga figures lumalaki. Wala, tayong lahat yun hindi maiiwasan. Teka muna, mabuti binanggit ninyo yan. Okay. Ayan, katulad niyan, yung statistics ng Department of Health. Yung stats nila marami talagang tanong laya siya mismo hindi ako nagtataka kung malilito si Sec. Duque. I am not giving an excuse for him, I am just saying that that's my guess. Individuals tested as of July 13, ang figures natin sa ngayon is 946,766, yun ang mga tested na ng RT-PCR. PCR yan, hindi rapid test. Hindi ko alam ang bilang ng rapid test. Ang DOH hindi rin alam ang bilang ng DOH, yun. Pero ang total cases sa Pilipinas, confirmed cases, 58,850. Pero doon, ang totoong active cases pa lang, 36,000 kasi meron ng 20,000 plus na recovered. Dito sa 36,000 na ito, ang namatay 1,614. So siguro merong nakapagbigay sa kanya ng stats na ang laki ng binaba, boss, kaya ang tingin niya huy, di ba? Ngayon, ang hirap kasi, mahilig kasi ang iba sa atin gumamit ng flattened the curve, pwede mo naman sabihin the figures have gone down, di ba? The graph has shown that yung hindi ko alam kung idiomatic ba yun or figurative, or figure of speech yung ganoong style eh. Kung minsan nga ayun, namimis-interpret.

Q: Bale yung mangyayari doon sa 32 amendments na pinupush dati ng Malacanang, iseseparate bill na lang para hindi na maguluhan yung Bayanihan 2?

SP Sotto: Correct, that is precisely what we are going to do and the Department of Finance has agreed. Even the NEDA representative, Sec. Chua I was informed sa mga proposal nila, mas mabuti pang ganoon lang. Kung ano yung pinasa namin on second reading, ithi-third reading na lang namin, bicam with the House, kung ano ang pwedeng iaccomodate, iaaccomodate sa proposal ng Department of Finance as long as we have already discussed it also in the second reading.

Q: What could be the strategy doon sa significant difference ng figure ng Senate at sa House? Di ba yung sa House kasi trillion, tapos kayo P140 billion lang. Paano po sa tingin ninyo yung approach na gagawin to reconcile?

SP Sotto: The approach would be yung sa House kasi nga most of their proposals can be accommodated in the economic stimulus packages na nabanggit ko nga kanina, yung FIST, CREATE, GUIDE, ARISE, pwedeng iaccomodate naman doon. The House did not pluck it out of thin air, yung figures nila. They were proposing economic stimulus packages in the different departments, kaya ganoon kalaki. Naintindihan ko yung proposal nila na yun. Meron silang pang DOTR, merong pang Department of Tourism, merong pang Department of Agriculture, may kanya-kanyang packages silang nilagay doon na para mabilis makarecover ang ekonomiya natin. But then, you know it is very difficult to include it in Bayanihan 2 at saka ang DOF mismo sinasabi na not at this point, dahil ang maaafford lang natin about P130 billion. Ipipilit na lang yung gusto ng Senate na P140 billion. Ganoon yun, ganoon ang pinanggagalingan nung sitwasyon na yun.

Q: Most likely yung P140 doon bababa?

SP Sotto: Hindi, I think baka yun na yun. Baka yun na yung P140 billion, yun na yun pero yung ibang pinopropose ng House, need another legislation.

Q: Although natanong na yung expectation mo sa SONA, di ba yung budget natin for 2020 is P4.1 trillion? Ngayon ano ang napoproject mo po na ipopropose ng Executive na pwedeng ideal naman sa tingin mo?

SP Sotto: Hindi ko sigurado. Depende kasi, I am not part of the team that is preparing the SONA, the State of the Nation Address of the President. Meron akong mga sarili kong thinking like in my proposal to have an early retirement program doon sa right sizing law or right sizing bill namin meron doong early retirement program na iniincorporate. Napakatagal ng panahon na sinusuggest ko yung early retirement program for government and again at the risk of sounding like a broker record, 60-65 percent, baka 65 percent ang exact figure of the P4 trillion is for personnel services so can you imagine if half, 50 percent of personnel services mag opt for early retirement? You will be freeing almost P2 trillion a year sa pera ng gobyerno.

Q: Without sacrificing of course the public service?

SP Sotto: Of course not. Bloated talaga tayo, alam ng lahat yan, binago lahat, wala naman kumokontra na bloated ang bureaucracy natin, talaga naman eh. Well, I don't think it will be included in the State of the Nation Address of the President, unless he is aware that the right sizing bill na proposal namin ay nandoon na sa mesa niya, masasama yun pero at the moment hindi, because that is one way of freeing a lot of funds from government.

Q: Yung isang Congressman si Cong. Benitez nagsuggest for a review of the Universal Health Care saying limited daw po yung access ng country in any breakthrough sa drugs, sa medicine even amidst the present pandemic.

SP Sotto: Well it would be better if he proposes a bill amending the UHC. I am sure we will be ready to take it up here and listen.

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