Press Release
November 9, 2020

Transcript of Zoom interview with Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon

Q: On the anti-insurgency fund

SFMD: The minority will propose the realignment of the anti-insurgency fund in order that we can set the correct priorities in the budget. That is principally to address the Covid-19 pandemic and the calamities brought about by the recent typhoon Rolly and incoming typhoons, as well as the housing needs and the DSWD budget for the ayuda or SAP.

Let me make the following statement. The 2021 budget cannot be a "business-as-usual" budget. This is the first time that our country is confronted with a very heavy responsibility in terms of the pandemic and the typhoons, the critical housing needs. These events were not there when the 2021 budget was crafted. Remember that our economic recovery will depend on the confidence of the public in our ability to provide our people with protection on the Covid-19. Kung walang tiwala ang taumbayan sa ating health programs, matatakot lumabas at kapag hindi lumabas, there is no economic activity and when there is no economic activity, there is no recovery.

Therefore, the key is to restore public confidence. I do not see that policy being pursued in the 2021 budget. In fact, the 2021 budget is skewed in its priorities. It still gives the highest priority to the security sector, which to me, this can be deferred for 2022. We need for 2021 heavy government spending to restore public confidence in our ability to address the pandemic.

What I'm talking about. We need vaccines. According to the DOH, to achieve population immunity, they say that at least 60-70 percent of the population must be inoculated or immunized. Based on the 105 million Filipinos, you will need to inoculate about 60 to 70 million Filipinos. At P500 per person, that will require an allocation of P30B. Admittedly, it cannot be done in 1 year because we are not prepared. So let us put it in two years. That should roughly require anywhere from P32-35 billion to inoculate 60 to 70 million of Filipinos. That is way beyond the P2.5B in the NEP and even in the P8B in the GAB. My proposal is to increase the vaccination budget to about P16 billion to immunize at least ½ of what is required to have a population immunity. It is a two-year program and after two years we inoculate 60-70 percent of our population. For next year our proposal is at least P16B.

The proposed P2.5B or P8B under the GAB is just grossly inadequate. Typhoon Rolly caused a damage of P15 billion. The incoming typhoon Ulysses will be passing through the NCR this week and we expect it to cause extensive damage. The 2021 NEP did not anticipate that. Therefore, we must have a bigger budget to address these calamities.

Number three, the matter of the ayuda. The DSWD for 2020 is P171.2B. Under the 2021 NEP, it will go down to P164B. Yet, we need ayuda or SAP because an extraordinary number of our countrymen lost their jobs. They need continued assistance. We need additional funding there. The DOH budget for the current year is P180B including Bayanihan 1 and 2 but under the 2021 NEP, it is P131B.

On housing, we now need 6.4 M housing units to address this problem. If we do not provide funds where our mouth is, we will have a problem. We need about P24B to partially address the housing needs in 2021. Partially we must address this so it does not become a crisis.

This is what I am saying that our priorities are skewed in this budget. We need more funds for the social aspects of governance rather than the security aspects. I am not saying that we do not need to support our security sector. The allocation for anti-insurgency can be postponed for a year. I don't think our programs will collapse if we postpone that P19B anti-insurgency fund to 2022. We need every fund available for the needs of our people.

Moreover, let me point out, you are fully aware that the SC in the PDAF cases is that lumpsum items are unconstitutional. Why? Because you should not have post--enactment intervention. This prohibition should apply to both the executive and the legislative branch. We cannot have a lumpsum and leave to the NTF-ELCAC the authority to point to the projects and barangays where these funds will be devoted. The NTF-ELCAC intervention after the budget approval, these are post-budget interventions, which, according to the SC, are not permitted in our system. We must examine these allocations. The legislators must examine these being the guarding of the purse or as the body that authorizes public spending. The legislature is deprived of the opportunity to examine the validity of this appropriation. That is what the anti-insurgency funds look like today. It is a lumpsum appropriation of P19-B. we will have no opportunity whether or not these 822 barangays are the ones which need the funds. We will not have an opportunity whether these barangays would need farm-to-market roads, etc. This is precisely what the SC ruled as unconstitutional in the PDAF cases.

Q: You are going to use this as part of your argument...

SFMD: I will use this argument in order to convince the Senate that we should realign these funds, which, in the first place, are of doubtful constitutionality. Let us realign them to better use and urgent need. As I have cited, we need funds for Covid-19 response, calamity response, ayuda response and housing needs. These are the four areas we have identified as where these funds can be realigned.

Q: We are talking of the entire P19B budget.

SFMD: That is correct.

Q: On the P20 B calamity fund, do you think that is not sufficient?

SFMD: Not sufficient. We find the budget as based on historical precedents which did not take into account the calamities which specifically came to our shores.

Q: Do you foresee any ideal amount?

SFMD: No. We intend to look into that during the debates.

Q: How much should be the ayuda budget?

SFMD: This will depend on the data as to how many people have not recovered in terms of lost jobs in 2020.

Q: About the US elections, what can we, the Filipino electorate, learn from this?

SFMD: While the incumbent has all the powers, the resources, in a democracy this is not enough that you are in power and have the resources, you must be able to convince the electorate that you deserve another mandate.

This is an eye opener for our electorate. We should not be swayed by resources. We must exercise independent judgment. This is what democracy is all about. That is why I am not so keen nor I am convinced that our system can adopt the mail voting system. We do not have the infrastructure that is needed to assure our people that voting by mail will reflect the true intent of our people. There are even complaints about rampant vote buying and intimidation in a system where only personal voting is allowed. You can imagine the kinds of complaints we will get in voting by mail where it is difficult to monitor. Our current system simply does not permit voting my mail as a process that will accurately reflect the will of the people. I am opposed to it at this time. We can look at it again in the future.

Q: Balikan ko lang po yung anti-insurgency fund pero nagsalita na si Senator Angara at SP Sotto na ayaw nilang galawin iyon.

SFMD: We'll see. We will present our arguments. We are confident that our colleagues are open to this. They are all after the welfare of our people.

The discretion as to which projects will be carried out is so general and we certainly have a very serious problem about these soft programs, meaning medical assistance, training, etc. This is difficult to monitor and audit.

Q: Open kayo kung ang kanilang proposal ay tapyasan na lang yung anti-insurgency funds.

SFMD: I am not in favor of reducing the expense. I am in favor of retaining the budget but it should be in areas where it is needed. The anti-insurgency fund can be maintained but it should in areas we identified.

Q: Ano po ang observation ninyo sa GAB?

SFMD: I have not examined it in detail because it is still in the finance committee. On the basis of the media reports and our analysis of the NEP, which we suspect will basically follow the GAB, we have our reservations.

Q: Kung sakaling business-as-usual, hindi po niyo ito susuportahan?

SFMD: We will propose amendments.

Q: Ano yung expectations ninyo sa Ph-US relations?

SFMD: Do not forget that the foreign policy of the US will have the national interest of the US as the primary objective. In terms of actual implementation, what will that mean. In the SCS, the US will continue its policy of allowing free access to the sea lanes critical for the free passage of goods. We expect the US to be more assertive insofar as to stop the expansionist positioning of China, because maintaining free access to the sea lanes is to the interest of the US.

We have the advantage of having stronger relations with the US, political and historical. Our number of Filipinos in America would provide a stronger basis for our relationship with the US.

Q: Over the weekend, may report na isang convicted drug lord na pinabulaan na nagbigay siya ng any financial aid kay Sen. De Lima. Do you thin it will help her case?

SFMD: Certainly. Bail is a matter of right except in capital offenses where the evidence of guilt is strong. In this case of Sen. De Lima, more and more it is becoming clear that the evidence of guilt cannot be established or at the very least is put to doubt by the evidence being presented. Therefore, the grant of bail is in order. At the very least, there should be a basis for the grant of bail.

Q: If the budget won't be amended, it will not achieve its goal of reviving the economy because of its misplaced allocations?

SFMD: My view is that it will take us longer if we follow the skewed priorities in the 2021 budget. The recovery of the economy depends on the ability to fight the pandemic and the restoration of this confidence depends on the health sector. But the budget does not support that thrust. There is a need for at least P16B to inoculate ½ of the required 60-70 million Filipinos as per the standard of DOH.

Q: On former Sen. Marcos' filing of inhibition case against SC Justice Leonen

SFMD: The inhibition of a justice is addressed to the justice whose inhibition is being asked and also on the decision of the members of the SC based on precedence. I would leave that to the SC justices and Justice Leonen. From my recollection, the SC will initially address this to the justice concerned.

Q: Going back to the US elections, there have been comments that there are "hidden democratic supporters," do you feel something similar in the country?

SFMD: I think that is purely speculative and too early at this stage.

Q: Before the Senate suspended, Sen. Recto offered three solutions to settle the seeming deadlock on the CREATE bill, ano po yung most likely you are inclined to agree with?

SFMD: The option presented that we must make a distinction on the incentives granted to the companies purely for exports and to the companies which would tap the local market appears to be more reasonable to me. set of incentives engaged purely in exports would be different from companies engaged in local economic activities

Q: What about the proposal by Sen. Poe to allocate 3% of the3 budget to disaster?

SFMD: I am open to that. I would like to see some details. By geography, we are in the typhoon path every season.

Q: You remember NCR Chief Sinas, kino-consider daw na maging PNP chief.

SFMD: I would like to think that there are certain standards and qualifications that should be considered before one is considered before one is appointed to head a very important organization. They should be conscious that confidence of the people in the institution is very critical. They must make a judgment as to whether or not the pendency of that case will erode the confidence of the people in the PNP.

Q: Sa NTF-ELCAC, yung retention provided na ilalagay sa enumerated areas, sino po ang mag-manage ng budget?

SFMD: It should be enumerated in the budget what these activities are. That is the PDAF ruling. You cannot have a lump-sum as what is found there right now. For example, the need for housing, in those areas where insurgency is assumed to have been solved, put up housing units in those areas. Hindi bag anon?

Q: So, NTF pa rin ang may decision.

SFMD: Yes, but specify the areas. Both purposes can be served. You serve to stabilize the barangays freed of insurgency by putting up housing units in those barangays. We need it anyway. That kind of a system will address the purpose of the anti-insurgency funds and, at the same time, address the housing needs.

If the barangay has 10,000 Filipinos, then allocate so much for the inoculation of those 10,000 population, included in the anti-insurgency fund. It can be done. I am sure the senators will consider this. What we are just opposing is an absolute discretion - a lumpsum fund to be devoted to projects which will be determined after the budget is approved. That is not legal according to the SC rulings.

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