Press Release
July 22, 2020

Transcript of ANC's interview with Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon Headstart with Ms. Karen Davila

Q: What are you expecting from the President's SONA?

SFMD: This coming SONA next week is one of the most important state of the nation addresses that people would be witness to. For the first time in our history, we have a pandemic in our midst: 70,764 Filipinos were affected as of yesterday, deaths running to 1,837. That's on the health side. On the economic side, we have 5 million of our people unemployed, 40 percent of our MSMEs closed. According to SWS, which came out in today's media, 5.2 million Filipinos experienced involuntary hunger in the last three months, the highest in the last five years. Unfortunately, this is the situation that confronts us today. Therefore, I would like to hear the President lay out a comprehensive plan that the people would be looking for and would be guided by, including us in the legislature. Unfortunately, the only solution that we see today is the continuous and repeated lockdowns. A lockdown, to my understanding, is to give us time to plan and implement things. That's an end by itself, because if it's an end by itself, you kill the economy and you kill people because of hunger. I would like personally to hear comprehensive plans on the part of the administration how we address this. Let's call a spade a spade. Secretary Duque today lacks credibility to be able to command people to do things. He cannot influence decisions. On the other hand, I don't see any of the economic team in the IATF deliberations. Maybe they are somewhere in the background. Given the fact of the effect of the pandemic in our economy, they should be in the forefront together with our health sector. This is our problem today. We are waiting for a comprehensive plan. Today as I've said, we are still grappling.

Q: Would you consider that the IATF has failed?

SFMD: Yes, we call a spade a spade. Look at where we are today: 70,000 cases, increasing every day. The prediction is it will be over 80,000 by the end of the month.

Q: How would you want the President to address that? He has repeatedly stood by Sec. Duque. You have Sec. Galvez and Ano as I would say leaders there. You would see Sec. Dominguez but he is not a frontliner in the IATF.

SFMD: Rather than go into personalities, I would rather like to hear the comprehensive plan of the President. The matter of being in the IATF is a matter of confidence of the President.

The influence of Duque and his credibility is something that is lagging today.

By saying that the IATF is a failure, what would you want to hear from them? What would a plan entail?

For example on the economic side, how much do we need to stimulate the economy? Where do we source these funds? Which side of the equation we stimulate? Where do we source the funds? Do we source it from taxes or borrowings? To my mind, all these policy issues should be addressed by the President, because the IATF failed to address them.

Q: The HoR is eyeing a P1.3 trillion stimulus fund but the DOF said it is too high. In Bayanihan 2, what does it really contain?

SFMD: You raise the very core issue: how much do we need to stimulate the economy? The House of Representative says it's P1.3 trillion while Sec. Dominguez said we cannot afford more than P140 billion. This is a policy which I would like the President to address, so that we will have direction. Do we increase taxes or do we borrow some more? We would like a guidance from the President and the people would like to see where we stand and where the government wants us to go. There is no solution to this but we have to take the bull by the horn and have proposals that will guide us. Today we have not unfortunately.

Q: Do you see the Philippines heading into recession?

SFMD: There is no question. The economies define recession as two quarters of economic contraction. In the first quarter, we already contracted by 0.2% and for the second quarter prediction is worse. This means that the next six months will be a question of how to survive. They say that to survive in today's situation is already a success. We must be able to survive so that we can set the stage for economic recovery.

On the health sector, I would like to have seen that the lockdown would be used to strengthen our health capability. I didn't see any. What are our plans in the future? How do we intend to fund the UHC so that when another pandemic of this nature would come around, our health sector is more prepared? Today we see in the news that our bed capacity being in the maximum and our health sector being burdened. It has not yet collapsed but I hope it does not get to that. We should have a comprehensive plan to prepare ourselves in case something like this happens again.

You just said we should have a comprehensive plan so that the country is prepared if this happens again. That is exactly the reasoning of the DILG in proposing that we have constitutional reform. The DILG has said that it is time to have constitutional reforms to implement the Mandanas ruling so that LGUs will be receiving more.

The real intention is in the headlines today. It says that the proposal is to increase to five years the term of local government officials and no term limit. Constitutional reform is always a divisive issue. What we need today is food rather than Cha-cha. You know five million Filipinos experiencing hunger for the past three months, is Cha-cha the solution? Let us see what the intention is. The headline today said the purpose is to lift the term limit and increase their term by five years. Is this the solution? May I ask? The reasoning that the Mandanas be institutionalized does not hold water. The Mandanas ruling being the interpretation of the Supreme Court of what it means of national taxes is already institutionalized. In other words, while ordinary, the Congress can change the decision of the Supreme Court by passing another. In this particular case, we cannot pass a law, which says that national taxes should be limited to the BIR collections. Why? Because a decision of the Supreme Court interpreting the Constitution cannot be overcome by passing an ordinary law.

On the lifting of foreign investment restrictions, I am not against that. In the Senate, I have led the Senate in passing the legislation, which would liberalize investment. That is not the reason why we are not getting investment. In the recent past, none of those leaving China is coming to the Philippines. You have Indonesia, Vietnam attracting them. I am sure it is not because of restrictions on foreign ownership. Maybe some but I am sure the majority of those locating in other countries would be looking at other factors.

Q: Why do you think, because the Philippines is a bedrock of democracy? If it is not foreign ownership, what is it then?

SFMD: Infrastructure, for one. Our telecom facilities for another. We have a very inefficient telecom industry.

Q: You are right, but how about the political climate?

SFMD: They look at stability of both in policy and structure. As long as it is stable, the bottom line is what counts, what they look for is stability. They can operate in an environment better where there is stability rather than changes in policy from time to time.

Q: Is the closure of the biggest media network a factor?

SFMD: Certainly. It is a factor. The closure of ABS-CB is a factor because the closure is directly related to the political decision. The refusal of the House of Representatives to grant an extension of the franchise notwithstanding the fact that there are similar instances in the past that were treated differently. It is the stability and the predictability of policy, which the investors are looking for.

Q: No less than Speaker Cayetano said that the reason why the political dynasty is because of the term limit?

SFMD: I do not subscribe to that. Whether or not there is a term limit, so long as we have no implementing legislation on the anti-political dynasty provision of the Constitution, we will have a problem of political dynasties. It is the desire to hold on to political power rather than the term limit that is the cause of these dynasties.

Q: There are already rumors, it seems to be organized, saying that Sen. Pangilinan should be replaced.

SFMD: You got it correctly - an organized social media campaign. The Senate President has said there is no such plan. Sen. Pangilinan stated it very clearly: as long as the majority in the Senate maintains confidence in Sen. Pangilinan, there is no change. Nothing is written in stone. We hold the minority committee chairs on the will of the majority.

Q: Are you seeing a move in the Senate towards Cha-cha?

SFMD: I do not see anything. I have not heard any. I have not heard any move to reorganize. The Senate President said that is not a priority. Secretary Roque said it is not a priority of the President. Let's take it at that point.

Q: You are often mentioned regarding the anti-terror law, supporters of the anti-terror law said that if the measure has constitutional infirmities it would not have passed Senator Franklin Drilon. Why did you support Sen. Lacson's bill?

SFMD: I supported the bill. First, the Human Securities Act was not effective because it was crafted in the manner that was not well debated. For example, the fine of P500,000 a day for the error of law enforcers in cases of erroneous detention. What has happened is for the last 10 years or so, there was not a single prosecution. When Senator Lacson presented the bill supported by the majority. The pendulum was shifted to the other side and became very restrictive. What did I do? I presented bout 14 amendments in order to address the issue of human rights and, at the same time, address the security of the state, because terrorism is a matter that we must all confront. I did my best. I had no ulterior motive. My only motive was to try to balance the need to preserve the human rights and bill of rights versus the need of the state to preserve itself. I did my best. I consulted a number of people and when came out with a number of amendments.

I had only one vote. I voted to support those policy considerations but also for a tactical reason. Under our rules in the Senate, unless you vote in the affirmative you cannot become a member of the bicam.

Q: So you had another agenda, so to speak

SFMD: Yes, I wanted to be a member of the bicam so I could protect and probably to enhance some more the safeguards that we placed. Under our rules, I repeat, I could not be a member of the bicam and be able to influence the final result of the bill unless I voted in the affirmative. That is the tactical reason. That is the tactical reason. Unfortunately the HoR said we accept the version and therefore there was no bicam. I am only one of the 23 senators. I could not have prevented its passage. So what did it do? Try to make the best out of the situation. I really took time to review it and see what I can include in the bill to protect the right of the people against the incursions of the state and the police.

Q: Do you believe it can be abused?

SFMD: Abuse is, as you would note, in the implementation of the law. I do not deny that the implementers can abuse the law. That is why it is brought to the Supreme Court. These are all questions that would be brought to the Supreme Court.

Q: On the deaths of inmates and on the BuCor chief being uncooperative by refusing to provide details

SFMD: I am tempted to say fire him and dismiss him, because he appears to be oblivious of the issue of public interest. We lawyers have that principle in public offices, public officials are presumed to be performing their official functions. However, that presumption of the BuCor because of the record of past anomalies that we have unearthed in the Senate, like the sale of good conduct allowance, etc. This presumption of regularity in the performance of official duties cannot be maintained, because the people have no longer confidence in the officials of BuCor.

There is no basis to invoke the Data Privacy Act. Public interest is involved. It is a very specific exemption even for the living that the data privacy act will not apply when you endanger the health of the community. There is no question that COVID-19 is a pandemic that endangers the health of our people. A death is not among the sensitive personal information that cannot be released. There must be transparency.

Q: The presumption of regularity is quite difficult because there was no CCTV, no photos of the body, and the body was not opened when the body was cremated.

SFMD: That is precisely the problem. It enhances the suspicion that something is amiss, something is not right and something is being hidden. Such action does not merit his continued stay in the BuCor.

Q: Is it worth an investigation?

SFMD: Yes, in the first place, the performance of the BuCor is still a matter that is pending in the Committee on Justice chaired by Sen. Gordon. It is part of the effort to examine the procedure in the BuCor. It should be investigated.

Q: Being a lawyer, Jaybee Sebastian is the main witness against Sen. De Lima. How will this affect?

SFMD: In the first place, I don't think that there is any validity in the charges against Sen. De Lima. Whether or not Sebastian is there, I don't think it would be critical.

Q: Does this make her argument stronger that she should be granted jail?

SFMD: As I said, whether or not Sebatian is alive, in my judgment, De Lima should be granted jail. There is no credible evidence against her.

Q: Is there anything you'd like to add?

SFMD: Again, I would emphasize that today we live in a crucial period. Being in the opposition is not easy, especially with the troll farms all over the place. We are willing to cooperate and provide to the best of our abilities policies that we believe can help our country get out of this difficulty. But we hope that we are listened to also.

Q: This is quite interesting you, Sec. Teddy Locsin made a comment on Twitter that you are a presidential material. Is the opposition going to field a candidate and what do you think about you being a presidential material as tweeted by Sec. Locsin?

SFMD: Thank you, Sec. Teddy Boy Locsin. Yes, the opposition will have a candidate. Count me out.

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