Press Release
March 30, 2021

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

Q: We are back to ECQ. Some said we are back to square one. I wanna get first your thoughts on that.

SFMD: We are doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. We keep on repeating the same thing over and over again. We keep on doing prolonged lockdowns and hope that it will have a different result. It will not have a different result unless we couple it with critical reforms and observance of basic rules which have already been shown effective in other countries. What are these? Testing, tracking, treating and teaching or 4Ts. We are failing in the four areas. There is no extensive testing. Compared to other countries, we are conducting 17 tests out of every case. In Vietnam, they are testing 4,200 out of every COVID-19 case. In Laos, it is over 2,000. In China, it's 1,853. This is critical so we can go to the next step: tracking. When we see people affected, we can track. Again, we fail here. There is no tracking system in place. That was also what the Healthcare Professional Alliance said, there is simply no tracking. Then, treatment. The vaccines are insufficient. Then, the fourth T is teaching. The people's behavior will be influenced by the credibility of the policies and the announcements. Here, we have announcements that change on a regular basis. The credibility of those who are making announcements and the examples set also matter. When you have "mananita"...when people see this, you lose your credibility when you say social distance.

Q: Experts said the Philippines should be testing at least 130,000 Filipinos a day. Yet, after a year, according to USec. Vergeire, we have only reached 50,000 a day. Some have criticized that testing in the Philippines has become a business...In other countries, testing is for free. What can we do?

SFMD: That's what I said. From the World Bank findings, we are conducting 17 tests for every COVID-19 case. In Vietnam it is 4,275 tests. You can imagine the disparity. The disparity is also further confirmed by what you said that we needed 130,000 a day and we are only testing 50,000. Maybe Vice President Robredo saw this gap and came up with her own limited way of helping and has this "Swab Cab", a mobile testing center. You said that testing has become a business. Business will come in where they see an opportunity. Because the government is not addressing this vital need of testing, the private sector comes in.

Q: For us to be able to conduct more testing, what do you suggest?

SFMD: I am no scientist. There must be a deliberate plan and effort to do mass testing. I do not see any. They're saying we are conducting 50,000, that is grossly insufficient. You will see the gross inadequacy and because we are grossly inadequate, we cannot track. If we cannot track, we cannot vaccinate, not only because we do now know who is infected but because there is no vaccine.

Q: The people have been asking, is the government to blame? Malacanang has said that we have now more contagious variants.

SFMD: On the other end of the scale, why is Vietnam able to control it? Why is Taiwan able to control it? That is because from the very start, they are able to do the correct process. The original sin is when we did not close our borders to Chinese tourists. While Taiwan, in January or February 2020, they closed the flights right away and Vietnam did the same. But we did not do so, because, as what Sec. Duque said, it might displease China. I am sorry to say this but pleasing China resulted in 13,000 deaths, pleasing China resulted in 700,000 cases in our jurisdiction.

Q: On allowing private sector to procure vaccines

SFMD: That's in the law - a tripartite agreement. That is there because of the strong SFMD: We have ordered late because of wrong advice to the President. He was advised that we cannot make an advanced payment because the law prohibited it. The fact is, in emergency purchase, the law allowed the President to advance the purchase. The failure to advance the purchase price resulted in us being last in the queue.

Now the private sector will be allowed to import freely, as I said, this is a good policy. We still hope it can be effective because of the tightness of the supply.

Q: Is it coming too late in the day considering that the Senate has been calling for this for the last few weeks? You have business groups that have been calling for this. It could have been done much earlier?

SFMD: Not only that. Remember Sec. Duque that companies engaged in beer, tobacco, milk products, they were prohibited. Can you imagine that?

Q: What is it? Is it arrogance? Is it control? Is it impotence?

SFMD: I think you mentioned everything. All of that could possibly describe it. All of these incidents indicate the lack of planning. As we said, unfortunately, we follow in the IATF's command and control. Maybe we need more scientists and the science-based decisions to influence the kind of thinking in the IATF.

Q: So, it is the kind of thinking of the command and control.

SFMD: Yes.

Q: On the "ayuda"

SFMD: I welcome that. We need every assistance to help our suffering people. We have over 4.5 unemployment rate. With our own eyes, we see the poor jeepney drivers on the street begging. It is really hurting. Nakakaiyak po. We hope that it can be implemented better. But I have a little concern with the instruction that it could be given in-kind, because the logistics cost will reduce the net assistance to the beneficiaries.

Q: Kapag in-cash, Sec. Roque said some mayors are saying ginagamit sa iba like sugal.

SFMD: If it is in-kind, ibebenta rin nila iyon, if that is your premise. On the other hand, when you say in-kind, you have to have a logistics cost of at least 10%. The P1,000 ayuda is needed by our hungry countrymen and unemployed countrymen but the instruction that it could be in-kind has its own disadvantages. Number one is the logistic cost. Number two, at the local level, my goodness, I don't know what the commissions are. I can assure you a week from now, you will hear allegations of corruption in the purchase of this ayuda in-kind.

Q: Your suggestion is to give it in cash?

SFMD: Yes, give it in cash, it is simpler.

Q: Where we are right now. You have Bayanihan 2 that is extended by the end of June 2021. You have the 2021 budget. But the World Bank also said that the Philippines is underspending. It said that the Phl will grow much slower than its neighbors. Do we need another stimulus package? You have a Bayanihan 3 pending at the lower house.

SFMD: Before I answer that, where do we get the funds? The WorldBank said we will be behind our neighbors in terms of the quickness of our recovery. They predicted that while Vietnam will have something like 8% GDP, we will only have 5.5%. What is this due to? This is due to erroneous handling of this pandemic that we are experiencing now. In other words, because of the errors we committee - we have not learned to handle it properly - we are suffering from this longer recovery period, including this prolonged lockdown. Your question is, should we borrow some more? Yes, we should borrow some more. We should not be afraid of borrowing, because people are hungry, people are unemployed; our critical industries need assistance. So, we need to borrow. We have been advocating that there should be higher borrowing. We should not be too concerned about higher debt to GDP ratio. We believe that we should borrow more provided that it is spent properly.

Q: Health experts are already saying that we should extend the lockdown. Can we afford that? What will happen?

SFMD: The prolonged lockdowns, without highlighting and emphasizing the 4Ts, we can have another lockdown. You can extend the lockdown, you will still have the same results at the end of this lockdown, if we do not follow the 4Ts.

Q: On the proposal to replace IATF

SFMD: Maybe we should reorganize the IATF so the kind of thinking that we have today will be replaced by a clear path toward a science-based program, instead of a command-and-control kind of program. We should have science-based programs so that the responses can be based on accepted scientific based programs.

Q: On red-tagging bill

SFMD: What we see today is the chilling effect of being red-tagged because of the unfortunate killings that could happen when one is red-tagged. In my own city, there is this lawyer, Atty. Guillen, who was attacked after being red-tagged. A number of members of the media have been tagged as communists. This has a chilling effect on our freedom and on our people. This is the context that prompted us to file this bill. Talking about lawyers, for the past five years 61 lawyers have been killed. In a number of instances, even judges are red-tagged.

Q: The strongest feature of the bill is that any state actor, such as law enforcement agent, paramilitary, or military personnel who labels, vilifies, brands, names, accuses, harasses, persecutes, stereotypes, or caricatures individuals, groups, or organizations as state enemies, left-leaning, subversives, communists, or terrorists as part of a counter-insurgency or anti-terrorism strategy or program shall be imprisoned for 10 years and shall suffer the accessory penalty of perpetual absolute disqualification to hold public office. Now, the supporters of anti-terror law are saying, what about those who openly call, let's say, violence and overthrow of the government?

SFMD: In that case, the state agents should file cases against them, because that is sedition... But do not do what you are doing today.

Q: What you are saying is, when you have evidence, file a case. Don't red-tag.

SFMD: Yes.

Q: Because you know how it can go, Senator Drilon is supporting communists...

SFMD: Well, I expected that. Trolls are earning their fees. I filed this bill in order to generate a debate and let's see which is the proper thing to do. The Committee on Justice will call a hearing and Congress will decide what to do.

Q: Why did you include a permanent disqualification from holding public office?

SFMD: First, that is usually an accessory penalty as outlined in the Revised Penal Code. Number two, the policy reason behind the perpetual disqualification is that it means that a public official found guilty of red-tagging, if this becomes a law, is not worthy to be a public official.

Q: There is a question that came in here. Going back to Covid-19, do you believe this will be an election issue?

SFMD: It will certainly be an election issue because a lot of people lost their jobs due to mishandling of the pandemic and a lot of people died because of the mishandling. It will be an election issue.

Q: I am also curious, there have been some talks recently that the Liberal Party will support Mayor Isko Moreno in 2022. Have you heard of that?

SFMD: I am the vice chairman of the Liberal Party. I have heard of this. That the Liberal Party has taken an official position, no. We haven't even met to discuss this. Maybe we should in order to discuss this. Right now, there is no question Vice President Leni Robredo, to us, is the most qualified to be the next president. She is our chairman. We will support her but the matter of running is a personal decision and up to this point Vice President Leni Robredo has not decided to cast her hat in the national political race. That is where it is today. Those statements are really political in nature.

Q: Anything you'd like to add?

SFMD: We just have to be consistent to our countrymen. Marami na po ang naghihirap sa atin. Tiisin natin. Let us observe health protocols so that we can save our lives and our loved ones from getting infected with this deadly disease. This is my contribution because I am in the opposition. Whether the administration will listen to me or not, that is a completely separate matter. We ourselves can help by observing strict protocols. I hope that we do not commit the same errors that we have committed in the past year. Doing the same thing over and over again in the hope that it would produce a different result, it will not, Mr. DOH and Mr. IATF.

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