Press Release
September 25, 2020

Transcript of Interview with Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon
CNN Philippines' The Source hosted by Pinky Webb

Q: On the proposed postponement of the 2022 election. Were you even surprised that this issue even came up?

SFMD: I am not surprised. This is the continued effort at a no-el scenario. The postponement could be a prelude to the main objective of extending the terms of members of the members of Congress and the elected officials. That is not feasible. Firstly, the postponement of an election can be done by the Comelec only in political subdivisions. That is what the election code provides. You cannot postpone a nationwide election without the law being amended. I repeat, presently, the Comelec can only postpone an election in a political subdivision, meaning the provinces, cities or municipalities, and there must be a showing that there is a serious cause of postponing the election such as violence, terrorism or destruction of election paraphernalia and the cause must be so serious that such nature that the holding of a free and honest election is not possible. I emphasize, the power of the Comelec of the Comelec to postpone it is only on the local level. They have no power to postpone the national level election.

Even if we postpone the election, the terms of the elected officials are set in the Constitution. Unless you amend the Constitution, you cannot extend the term of officials. The President has six years, the Vice President has six years, the senators have six years, the congressmen have three years, the local officials have three years. Only the barangay officials, whose term can be fixed by law, can extend office beyond three years. But the national officials and local officials, other than barangay officials, cannot hold office beyond the term set out in the Constitution.

Even if you postpone the election on the local level, you cannot extend the term of the local officials, much less on the national level, because the law does not allow the postponement of election by the Comelec on the national level. That has already been decided by the Supreme Court that the power to postpone the election is only on the local level or political subdivision.

Q: Could a pandemic not be a ground for the postponement?

SFMD: There was a SC case that quoted then Comelec chair Mele, when he said that it is impossible to have a failure of an election nationwide. It cannot happen. I cannot imagine how the Comelec can justify that. As the law stands today, you cannot postpone a national election. Even if you postpone the local elections, which is allowed under certain circumstances, you cannot extend the term of officials.

Q: Can Congress pass a law to postpone the 20211 election?

SFMD: Yes, theoretically, we can pass a law. On a theoretical basis we can pass a law. But even if you pass that kind of a law, that will not extend the terms of office of the elected officials. I cannot see any justification on the postponement of the election. We will oppose that vigorously in the Senate. I think the senators will not be swayed by any argument to allow the postponement of a national election. The Comelec said they might hold the election two or three days. That is not a postponement. That is just extending voting hours. Extending voting hours is justified under our present system.

Q: So you do not have a problem in the event that they hold the election for two to three days. It is not illegal?

SFMD: No, it is not. It will just stretch the voting hours. They have that power. Assuming that the pandemic is still there in May 2022, they can extend the voting hours.

Q: How do you postpone the election without having to extend the terms?

SFMD: The postponement under the law on the local level can be done provided that is within 30 days from the time the cause for the postponement would cease. By the way, in my view, the pandemic was never in the contemplation of the law when it allowed the postponement of the election. Remember that law says serious causes such as violence, terrorism, destruction of election paraphernalia, or force majeure or causes analogous to such circumstances. It can be argued that pandemic is not in the contemplation of the law. It can be argued forcefully by those who are opposing the postponement of the local election by saying that pandemic is not a ground and that is an issue that must be resolved by the Comelec. That is where we are. Postponing the election is only on the local level and postponement must be justified.

Q: If the elections were postponed, it cannot be later than what is supposed to be later than, for instance, June 30, 2022.

SFMD: Yes. You cannot extend the term by postponing the election, because the term limit is set in the Constitution. That is completely a separate matter from the matter of postponement of the local election. I keep on repeating that, senatorial elections cannot be postponed unless provided for by law.

Q: So what is the only way for the officials to extend their term? That is to amend the Constitution?

SFMD: That is correct, you have to amend the Constitution. That is why there is always an effort to amend the Constitution because of the term limit, for example. You cannot postpone the election in the hope that your term can be extended. To extend the term you need an amendment to the Constitution.

Q: You feel that the majority of senators would oppose any plan to postpone the election?

SFMD: The national election, yes, I am confident that our colleagues in the Senate will not agree to such a proposal.

Q: On the proposal in US Congress to suspend assistance to Ph. How serious is this? Is this something that should concern the country?

SFMD: I do not know how serious it is... But certainly, the government should not just brush it aside. It only means that the US Congress is conscious and aware of what is happening here. Whether or now the bill will pass the Congress and sign by the President, I do not know. But certainly, we could not brush this aside.

Q: On the P10-B DSWD unutilized SAP funds

SFMD: It cannot be justified. This is simply an act which is contrary to the very policy of the government saying that we should provide funds so that the people can eat. This is authorized under Bayanihan 1. I am surprised and disappointed that P10-B has not been disbursed although this is made available. Some quarters may justify that it is a small amount compared to the total amount disbursed. That may be correct on a macro level. But if you talk about the 5 million Filipinos who experienced hunger or if you talk about the 7 million Filipinos who lost jobs, then every peso matters. The non-release of this fund is contrary to the very policy of the government of providing funds for the poor. This is in the Bayanihan 1. Unfortunately there is no SAP under the 2021 budget and this is one of the grounds that I would insist that the budget should be amended, because the SAP is no longer carried in the 2021 proposed national budget. It is bad enough that it is not in the budget but it is worse that whatever is available is not even distributed. This matters to the Filipinos.

Q: When could this P10-B go? I am hearing that this should be returned to the treasury.

SFMD: Mayroong listahan iyan. Hindi naman mahirap maghanap ng mahirap sa bansa. They are all over. They are in the streets. You see jeepney drivers holding placards asking for ayuda. Talagang kailangan natin ito. I cannot understand why this is not being distributed. The list is there. In fact the list of 4Ps beneficiaries is outdated. Today we have a new poor as we would call it because of the pandemic. There are additional Filipinos who became poor. It is inexcusable that we cannot distribute the P10-B. The DSWD should distribute it to the needy.

Q: On the Ombudsman's order to stop lifestyle checks

SFMD: I do not want to substitute my judgment to that of the Ombudsman. The underlying principle of our governance today is transparency. The transparency is made effective by laws such as the code of conduct for public officials. The Ombudsman is no ordinary lawyer. He was a justice of the Supreme Court. The way that I understand it, the law does not allow such release of the SALN. May I suggest the Ombudsman submit to Congress his proposed amendments to the law so that the law can achieve the purpose of principle of transparency, because the view of the Ombudsman, in effect, is that the law should be amended...

Q: Is it within the mandate of the Ombudsman to limit the access of SALNs?

SFMD: The Ombudsman is following the law. The SALN is required by law. In fact the SALN provides a waiver on the part of the public officials, who submit the SALNs, allowing an inspection of the SALN in an appropriate proceedings, I assume. The Ombudsman has said that the law must be amended and we are willing to listen.

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