Press Release
July 28, 2020

Transcript of Interview with Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon
CNN Philippine's The Source with Ms. Pinky Webb

Q: I want to get your overall assessment of the 5thSONA?

SFMD: I have been hearing SONA for the last several years. This is the first SONA where I was the introduction and I was the conclusion. The President said that I am a defender of the oligarchs and particularly of the Lopezes because of the position that I took on the ABS-CBN franchise. I took a position that we should renew the franchise because the issue was freedom of the press. The Lopezes were not the issue and if they are, it's only incidental. I admit the Lopezes are familiar to me because we came from the same province. But I have not asked any favor from them, which can be cited as the reason why I favored the renewal of the franchise of ABS-CBN. It was because of my view that a free press is critical to the strengthening our democracy. For that reason I took the position that ABS-CBN should be allowed to continue to broadcast, especially at this time when our people would need information insofar as the COVID-19 pandemic is concerned. Admittedly, ABS-CBN has a wide reach in our country and the people needed information.

Finally, we had 11,000 employees in ABS-CBN. To close the ABS-CBN at this time of pandemic is, for me, not correct.

Q: For the record, there were a number of you in the Senate who expressed support for the renewal of franchise of ABS-CBN.

SFMD: Marami po kami. Sa katunayan, may 13 senador na pumirma ng resolution na nananawagan na dapat i-renew ang franchise ng ABS-CBN.

Q: Nagulat po ba kayo na within the first three minutes of the SONA, your name was already mentioned?

SFMD: I was surprised. I did not expect it. But I stand for what I believe is necessary. I believe that the franchise should not have been terminated and ABS-CBN should have been allowed to continue broadcasting especially at this time of pandemic. There were precedents in the past that we allowed a franchise to continue while it was being heard in Congress.

Q: Basically you are saying that you were not defending the Lopezes and you are defending press freedom

SFMD: Yes, that's correct. The Lopezes are incidental to the bigger issue of press freedom. ABS-CBN was not given a similar treatment as on the other franchises that came before us for renewal.

Q: At the last part, towards the end, he said, "were you part of ACCRA when the water concession was being drafted?" For the record, what was your position in ACCRA and when did you retire?

SFMD: First of all, on the grave of my parents, I swear that I had nothing to do with that contract - not even a period or a comma. Up to this point when I am talking to you, I have not seen a copy of that contract. It was signed by the government during the time of President Ramos. I think I was already in the Senate when that was signed. I had nothing to do whatsoever with that contract. I had no participation whatsoever - not a single comma, not a single period.

Q: If I am not mistaken, this deal was inked sometime in 1997. You were a senator in 1995, I believe.

SFMD: That's correct. In 1997 I was already in the Senate. I long retired from ACCRA by that time.

Q: When did you retire from ACCRA?

SFMD: When I joined the Cory Aquino government in 1986, August. I left the firm and had not gone back there except when I was not in the Senate for three years from 2007 to 2010.

Q: Would you know who in ACCRA was part of this deal?

I wouldn't know. I don't even know. Well I was informed that ACCRA was not a lawyer for any of the concessioners - neither the Manila Water nor the Maynilad. But ACCRA was the adviser of the World Bank, not the water concessionaires. I repeat, I don't know the terms of the agreement and I had not thing to do with it.

Q: Have you filed an anti-political dynasty law?

SFMD: What I can tell is I was already voting for the anti-political dynasty bills which were presented before and the last bill I filled on this is in July 2016 during the 17thCongress which prohibited political dynasties. (Note: Senator Drilon also filed Senate Bill No. 11 in July 2019, which seeks to prohibit spouse or relatives of an incumbent elective official seeking re-election to hold or run for any elective office in the same province in the same election.)

I was asked in the media if I was referring to the President's children? I said no. The President, in my mind, has enough reason to rise above all of these. He is the President and he has the capacity to rise above all of these issues and push for the constitutional mandate that Congress should pass an anti-political dynasty law.

For the record, I do not have a single relative in politics, even in Iloilo.

Q: Why do you think you were singled out?

SFMD: I don't know why. Probably the President erroneously thought that I was after his family and that is because of my position on political dynasty. But that position that I have on political dynasty was already there even before he became President. That is because I believe that indeed, dynasty would not be god for our system of democracy.

Q: Were you after the President's children?

SFMD: No, not at all. As I said, I have filed the anti-political dynasty bill even before the children got elected in public office.

Q: Let's talk about COVID-19. Did you hear a comprehensive plan from the President?

SFMD: One of the plans I would have wanted to hear is how to strengthen our health system. Today we have almost 85,000 cases. We have nearly 2,000 deaths. It is quite obvious that our health system was not prepared for this pandemic. How do we strengthen our health system? How do we fund the UHC? How do we strengthen PhilHealth with what we hear of corruption taking place there. In other words, I would not expect that this is the last pandemic that we would go through. This is our opportunity to strengthen our health system so that we can better respond to it in the future.

Number two, these lockdowns really caused problems. We have the longest and most stringent lockdowns in the entire world and it has caused a lot of difficulties to our people. Of course it is a debate between the health and the economy. But four months into this, I had wished that we should be able to come up with a more definite plan on the matter of the lockdowns in order to minimize its adverse effects on our economy. That was what we were looking for and I expressed this view two weeks before the SONA and I said that I would like to hear a comprehensive plan, because we will support insofar as this is concerned. Like today I will vote on third reading as I voted on second reading on the Bayanihan 2. Although I feel that P140 billion is not enough since P45 billion will go to the distressed industries and less than P100 billion will go for SAP. Nevertheless I will support this Bayanihan 2 although I find it inadequate. I wished that the President laid before us a more comprehensive plan on where we will be in the next six months.

Q: I want to talk about short term. You said it seems kulang ito? Hindi na ba pwedeng taasan ito? And the, my follow up question, must the government borrow more money?

SFMD: Yes, the government must borrow some more, because we will put these into good use. Can we afford to pay? Yes, we can afford to pay these if the funds are dedicated to right projects. For example, one of the things we can do is to ramp up the infrastructure projects because it can provide employment. We must borrow some more. We are not alone in this situation. We should take this into account when making a decision. To me, P140-B is not enough. I may have my reservations but I will vote for it.

Q: You said the IAFT failed. How can we move forward so that the IATF won't be a failure?

SFMD: One, the health secretary must be able to influence better the decisions of the IATF. Second, The economic sector should have a strong voice. This problem involves two basic sectors: health and economy. The secretaries of the DOH and DOF should lead the recovery program. Unfortunately there are so many issues raised against our secretary of health that his effectiveness to influence health policies is open to question and is questionable. Honestly, I don't see the hand of Sec. Dominguez. I know his position about continued lockdowns, being harmful to the economy. Unfortunately I don't hear his voice very often insofar as the IATF decisions are concerned.

Q: Palagay po po ninyo on July 31, kailangan na maghigpit ulit in terms of quarantine protocols?

SFMD: I am no health expert. I am no expert on this. But I wished there were more inputs from those who understand these things and from our economic sector, because it involves all of us.

Q: On telcos if whether they should improve their services

SFMD: Yes, I agree with the President. We must improve the services of these two telcos. Even in the Senate sometimes we have a teleconference talking about telcos and we could not hear each other, because the signals are very poor. I think there is no dispute that we need an improvement insofar as telco is concerned.

Q: What were your thoughts when you heard the President talking about China and the Philippines, saying that China has the arms and we don't, we cannot afford a war, etc...

SFMD: I would like to think that a country like Vietnam whose state of development is similar to ours is able to assert their rights over the disputed South China Sea effectively without resorting to arms. I'd like to think that given the geo-political situations, presenting our case before world opinion is something that we can do. Yes, we cannot confront them militarily and I am not in favor of that. But there are other ways of espousing for the cause of a country without resorting to arms. The other countries are able to do it.

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