Press Release
May 5, 2021

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

Q: Let's talk first that in one cabinet, you have two different messages coming out.

SFMD: Quite unfortunate, because you have two members of the cabinet, Sec. Locsin and Sec. Lorenzana, taking a strong position on this issue. On the other end of the scale, President Duterte who asserts that we must continue our cordial relations with China. This is quite unfortunate that we are talking of different voices. Having said that, I know Sec. Locsin very well. He is very patriotic. Maybe his emotional outburst is because of the frustration that he cannot do much except file diplomatic protests on this incursion of China. It is because of this frustration. I bet, the statements of Sec. Locsin and Sec. Lorenzana would reflect the sentiment of the majority of our people. We are all frustrated by what China is doing. That is the reason why I file Senate Resolution 708 which, in effect, would support the statements of Sec. Locsin and Sec. Lorenzana. As expected, of course, the Chinese foreign minister said that we should not engage in megaphone diplomacy. I would rather that we continue with the megaphone diplomacy because of the gunboat diplomacy of China. We could not confront them. The only available peaceful means to us is to keep the issue in the forefront. We must continue to expose these illegal acts of China. That is why megaphone diplomacy as the Chinese foreign minister would call it is maybe the appropriate course that we have today so that we can keep China on its toes insofar as the international forum is concerned. They keep on confronting us with arms in the WPS, driving away our fishermen, ramming a fishing boat. We should keep on reminding the world that China is not following the rule of law but the rule of might in this part of the world.

Q: Is China taking us seriously given the fact that the head itself of the nation is singing a different tune?

SFMD: You asked the question: is China taking us seriously? No. That is simply because we are facing a military and economic might of China. That is why I am saying that maybe the only recourse left to us is the megaphone diplomacy in order to keep this issue alive in the world forum. Otherwise, if we just keep quiet, wala ng mangyayari sa atin. Again, maybe Sec. Locsin used a little strong language. But if I know Sec. Locsin, he is frustrated with the situation and we support Sec. Locsin and Sec. Lorenzana. I am certain that their sentiments reflect the sentiment of the Filipino people.

Q: Would you already consider this an impeachable offense?

SFMD: I would not want to talk on a theoretical basis considering that an impeachable offense is a very serious offense and the Senate would be the tribunal where these cases would be tried. I would rather decline at this point in answering that very theoretical question.

Q: What action do you think can this resolution or objection bring about? Ano ang mapapala natin dito?

SFMD: Firstly, this will reflect the sentiment of the Senate. Remember that the Senate is a partner of the President insofar as foreign policy is concerned. This would deliver a very strong message on how the Senate would view this. What will this bring us? As I've said, the megaphone diplomacy is probably the only weapon that we have today. We keep this in the consciousness not only of the Philippines but of the world. You cannot compete with their gunboat diplomacy, so we must keep this to the attention of the world so that China will realize that they are getting isolated with the way they have been conducting themselves, ignoring the judgment of the tribunal.

Q: On the use of Sinopharm vaccine

SFMD: The matter of inoculation is a personal decision. There is no EUA, only a compassionate use, which means that if something happens to you, because you disregarded the advice of the FDA, you are the ones who will be prejudiced by your own act.

Q: You've talked about megaphone diplomacy versus gunboat diplomacy. Clearly, China is using vaccine diplomacy. What do you think should be the role of China at this point given the vaccine diplomacy?

SFMD: They can compete with China and do exactly what China is doing, if they want to do so, vaccine diplomacy. Today I read about Mrs. Bill Gates saying that at a certain point the US may have to do vaccine donations to countries like the Philippines. This is the world order. China is an economic power today and will continue to exert its influence not only over this part of the world but worldwide. What is there for the US? They should compete with China insofar as world influence is concerned and one available venue is vaccines.

Q: What else do you believe the country should proactively be doing?

SFMD: Consistent with the tact that we should keep this on the table, we should confront China as a group of nations which would be prejudiced by what China is doing in this part of the world. What I'd like to see is the Philippine leading this group of nations to confront China using a multi-national approach, because we cannot confront China alone. Maghanap tayo ng mga kasamang nations which are similarly situated. Maybe a group of nations would have a better chance of confronting China.

Q: Do you think it is time already for the Philippine to ask assistance from the US in terms of additional presence in the WPS?

SFMD: Let's be careful about the response because my response could be interpreted that military bases return to the country. Yes, I agree that we should ask the US, because freedom of navigation is to the interest of America. They cannot stand aside and allow China to have control over these areas. Therefore, it is to the national interest of the US to strengthen its presence in WPS.

Q: Can the President realign NTF-ELCAC funds?

SFMD: Realignment is within the power of the President. In fact, that is so authorized under the Bayanihan 2. Having said that, we found out that over P10.6B out of the P16.4B funds under NTF-ELCAC has already been released as of April.

Q: That was fast.

SFMD: In one month's time. Yet, it is so difficult to fund a P8,000 ayuda which is being asked for by our workers in the SMEs. Yet, with a click of a finger, P10.6B were released between the period March 24 to April 29.

To me, I raise the issue of the priorities of the administration.

All that we are asking is to postpone the projects under the NTF-ELCAC. Can we not wait until the end of the year and let us address first the hunger that we see and the unemployment that we see today.

That is what I question. I am not saying this is illegal. What I am saying is the appropriateness of such an early release of almost 60% of the budget of NTF-ELCAC. It raises the question whether it is deliberately done to defeat any attempt to realign these funds.

Q: Is there a way that this can be audited? The funding and the use of NTF-ELCAC, will you be able to ask for auditing within the year?

SFMD: We can ask for a special audit for this, whether the programs have been submitted or validated. In the Senate, we can exercise our oversight functions. I strongly suggest to the Senate that we exercise our oversight functions in order to look into these releases. To me, given the times and the needs, is totally inappropriate in terms of this government's priorities.

Q: The DBM has also released the President's intelligence funds. Frankly speaking, you don't have oversight functions on that.

SFMD: We attempted to insert a clause which would require the submission of reports to Congress on the utilization of the intelligence fund but that was vetoed. The audit of the intelligence fund is through what we call a closed envelope system... That's the accounting of the intelligence fund.

Q: Is this a unique situation when it comes to the intelligence fund? Or this has happened before?

SFMD: I could not answer that with certainty but the matter of accounting through a closed envelope system is a practice which has been there for quite a while.

Q: How would you describe government's spending in terms of priorities?

SFMD: The priorities are wrong given the pandemic that we have today. That's how I would describe it. When you spend in one month's time P10.6B for an anti-insurgency fund versus the need for P8,000 ayuda for the NCR workers affected by the lockdown, there is no debate as to the priorities that should be followed.

Q: What are your thoughts of the President describing the DOH chief as a hero?

SFMD: As they say, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Where are we today with leadership of Sec. Duque? As early as January 30, 2020, we should have closed our border as what Vietnam and Taiwan did, we did not. Number two, we dropped the ball as Sec. Locsin said when we did not sign the confidentiality agreement demanded by Pfizer. Number three, when we failed to advance the payment, hence we are at the end of the queue insofar as vaccine procurement is concerned. We have no tracking system. Our testing system is very deficient and expensive. We have failed in the 3 Ts in this campaign. So, I will lay it on the table. The proof of the pudding is in the eating and we have failed insofar as the management of the pandemic is concerned.

Q: On the Bayanihan 3

SFMD: We are in support of Bayanihan 3. We need the Bayanihan 3. The issue is the funding. Where do we get the funds? Our tax collections are at the bottom of the pit. Where do we get the funds?

Q: On the possible source of funds

SFMD: We also made our own analysis. We can review about potentially P500 billion in the budget for activities which have not been undertaken. These are potential sources and they can be realigned such as the contingent fund, anti-insurgency fund, etc.

Q: On the anniversary of the closure of ABS-CBN

SFMD: It has always been my position that the closure of the ABS-CBN sends a chilling effect to the freedom of the press. I was a book ender in the President's SONA because of this. But I stood my ground and said that I owe the Lopez family no favor and if I stand by ABS-CBN, it is because I feel and believe that freedom of the press is essential to democracy and the freedom of the press is certainly put at jeopardy with the closure of ABS-CBN.

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