Press Release
June 16, 2021

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

Q: Are you satisfied with the government's explanation on how the P82.5B was spent?

SFMD: In fairness to Sec. Galvez and Sec. Dominguez, they said they do not need the P25B today or in 2021. They are just raising if for a possible - and I underscore possible - discussion when we have the 2022 budget. At this time, we have enough budget, according to them. That is what I clarified from them and that should settle the discussion.

The budget for 2021 is sufficient and that is supposed to purchase 147 million doses of vaccines, good for inoculating approximately 70% of the adult population. If we are going beyond the adult population and inoculate 12 to 15 years old, they are estimating that it may need a budget of anywhere from P20B to P25B.

I started my questioning on the P25B and, immediately, they said they do not need it now but possible for 2022. Even on the present budget for 70 million Filipinos, remember that there is vaccine hesitancy at this point. If the present trend continues, we will only be able to vaccinate 60% if we follow the SWS survey. Again, we have enough funds. That's settled. There is no need for an additional budget for 2021. What is our budget today? Our budget is P83.5 billion. How much has been released? The release is P72.9B according to the DBM and out of which, P17.1B was obligated or 23.5% of what was released, was obligated, meaning the contract has been signed. Out of that P17.1B covered now by supply agreement, only P6.9B has been disbursed, meaning only 57% of what was obligated. For every P100.00 release, we were only obligate P23.00

Q: If P72.9B, where is the more than P50 B plus?

SFMD: It's still there. It is still untapped, unobligated and unused.

Q: That's such a waste of money.

SFMD: In fairness, it's still in the hands of the multilateral lending institutions.

Q: Mostly it's from borrowings?

SFMD: Yes. Of the P83.5B budget, P70B is unprogrammed, which would mean we have to borrow.

Q: The budget is P83.5B and I remember it includes something like P10B from Bayanihan 2.

SFMD: Yes, that's correct. It includes everything.

Q: What does the next administration have to face considering that we are hitting loans?

SFMD: Our economy is paying a hefty price to arrest the COVID-19 pandemic. Our debt portfolio would indicate a record high of P10.9T as of April as our debt. That is an increase of roughly P3.26T over the pre-pandemic level. My research indicates that as of end-2019, our national debt is P7.7T. by April of this year, our national debt has gone to ober P10.9T. it went up by P3.26T.

This is a burden to the next administration. I don't know why they want to run for President. We have this hefty debt. Of course, the Secretary of Finance assures that it is manageable. But that remains to be seen given the fact that we have been in the longest recession. Lumiliit nang lumiliit ang ating ekonomiya. Mayroong 4.14 million ang nawalan ng trabaho noong Abril. About 21% of Filipino families experienced involuntary hunger.

These are very difficult challenges for the next administration. I would repeat, this hefty debt as a result of the pandemic is a challenge. Let me emphasize that where we are today is the result of the mismanagement of the DOH of our pandemic responses. Our original sin, if I may call it as such, is when we refused to close our borders on China.

Q: What about the pre-payment for the vaccines? Do you also see that as part of the mismanagement?

SFMD: The reason why we are lagging behind in terms of the availability of the vaccines is we are last in the queue. Why? Because we have not advanced the payment when in fact the government is authorized to make advanced payments because we are in a national emergency.

This is where the criticism that I have. The inoculation is very slow. At the rate we are going, I don't know when we can achieve herd immunity.

Q: The government's economic team believes that the Phl economy will be able to recover starting the second quarter of 2022. Do you believe that?

SFMD: I don't believe that. Even with the election spending in 2022, I don't think we would be on the road to recovery by the second quarter of 2022. To say that we will be going back to the 2019 economic level by the second quarter of 2022, to me it is a pipe dream.

Q: On Bayanihan 3

Remember that a budget, the Bayanihan 3, is only an authorization. Whether or not we will have funds to back up that authorization remains a question.

Q: Right now, we are hitting 140,000 a day. Sec. Galvez believes that we will reach herd immunity by the end of the year or latest, early next year. When you were discussing it in the Senate, do you believe it is achievable?

SFMD: One of the problems of the vaccine program is the credibility. Here, a lot of people doubt whether we will achieve that number of inoculations. Can we achieve 700,000 a day by the end of the year, I doubt that.

Another interesting thing we discussed is the pricing of the vaccines. Sec. Dominguez said that on the basis of signed supply agreements, the pricing is anywhere from $6.75 to $27.59 per dose. In Phl pesos, that would be around P307 to P1,300. The lowest bracket belongs to Sinovac and the most expensive would be Moderna.

Q: All over the world, Moderna is the most expensive.

SFMD: That's correct. In fairness, the price range is within the range of what we know to be the worldwide pricing. Let me put on record. While I'm in the opposition, let me commend Sec. Dominguez and Sec. Galvez because I do not see the traces of the sticky fingers of the usual suspects in the procurement of the vaccines. Recall that at the start of the pandemic, we heard of overpricing and favoring of certain contractors. We do not hear of such today. In fairness, I would repeat, at $6.75 for Sinovac, that is within the range of the world prices that we know.

Q: Just quickly, Sec. Duque that the DOH needs P66B for Bayanihan 3 to pay contact tracers, unpaid overtime pay for medical frontliners. Wasn't this already figured into the 2021 budget in the budget of the DOH?

SFMD: That only indicates that we have lots of questions to ask when Bayanihan 3 is heard in our committee. We will talk about the fiscal performance of the agencies in implementing Bayanihan 1 and 2 when we discuss Bayanihan 3.

Q: Do we need a standard proof of vaccination?

SFMD: We must have a document which we can rely on to indicate vaccination, particularly for our OFWs. In my talks with members of the diplomatic circles, it turns out that in the EU, since they have not granted EUA for Sinovac and Sputnik, what the EU will do is to require you to undergo testing and quarantine. In so many words, although they do not say it, they do not recognize the efficacy of these brands.

So, I am in favor of some internationally accepted documents which would indicate proof of vaccination because this is for public health. It is controversial but it is necessary.

Q: On the ICC. Can the President avoid this?

SFMD: That is a decision that is within his prerogative. But the legal advisers of the President must be in a quandary. They are at a crossroads. First, I do not want to pass judgment on the sufficiency of the evidence. The President does not recognize ICC for the reason that we have already withdrawn from the Rome Statute. However, the ICC prosecutor has already ruled that notwithstanding this withdrawal they can proceed with the investigation. The President's advisers are at a crossroads. They can say we will not recognize that and we will not attend. That may possibly result in the presentation of evidence without the presence of the President's counsel. He cannot defend himself when he says he will not cooperate. On the other hand, they must assess this versus representing the President in the preliminary investigation and convince the court that there is no basis to proceed with the formal investigation. It is easy to say I will not recognize but when you start to talk about the path that is being undertaken, the non-recognition will not result in ICC stopping its investigation. If it proceeds with the investigation, what will the President do? Will he appear and defend himself, which is the logical thing to do? Or, there is also a situation where he said I will not recognize the ICC.

This is not an easy situation. I would repeat, the President's lawyers are at a crossroads because if this continues, who will defend the President during the presentation of the evidence?

Q: Davao City Mayor Duterte said that a Duterte-Duterte is not happening. What do you make of the possibility of another Duterte in Malacañang?

SFMD: We just hope that we will have a clean and honest election and that the people will be discerning about where we will be. That's our democracy. The ultimate decision is with the people. When Mayor Duterte presents herself, that is an issue which will be squarely faced by the electorate.

Q: Do you still consider that a political dynasty?

SFMD: I cannot remember the particular provision in the proposed anti-dynasty law which I authored. The anti-dynasty is provided in our Constitution. There is no enabling law yet. I would repeat, there are definitions I recall by the academic community on what a dynasty is.

Q: Some observers say there is no one strong opposition candidate at this point. Based on your experience... what are you seeing in terms of possibilities?

SFMD: For one, the opposition must go beyond an anti-Duterte platform. The opposition must present a platform which says that we can do better in the pandemic response because this is where the errors are committed and this is what we are going to do. Our economy is in shambles. How do we intend to revive the economy?

SFMD: On top of this, it is desirable to have one opposition candidate. That is what the 1Sambayan is trying to do. That is a very difficult task. They have taken upon themselves that difficult task. We support their effort. We do hope that the opposition can come up with only one candidate. As in any election in the past, the administration would always have the advantage. We must exert every effort to have one candidate to oppose the administration candidate.

Q: If VP Robredo decides not to run, will the LP field its own candidate?

SFMD: We are open to alliances. That is the reality of politics today. As we said, we should only have one candidate. We cross our fingers that VP Robredo will decide to run for the President and we believe she is the strongest and, hopefully, she can unite all the non-Duterte candidates.

Q: Is it true that some of the members of the LP are for Mayor Isko Moreno?

SFMD: We have not even met. Let me make it very clear. All the Liberal Party members would rally behind VP Robredo should she run for the presidency which is a personal decision. If she does not run for the Presidency, then the LP will have to meet and see where we will go from there.

Q: Is it possible for the LP to support former Sen. Trillanes when VP Robredo decides not to run?

SFMD: As I said, we have not discussed anything. What we have decided on, we are in full support of VP Leni.

Q: You also have colleagues that might be running for the vice presidency. I'm curious what discussion you've already had, for example, with Senate President Sotto.

SFMD: We have not discussed politics. I can go through a lie detector to confirm that. Hindi po namin napag-usapan. Alam mo naman sa senado, 24 republika. As my good friend Rene Saguisag would say, every time you talk about the presidency, you see 24 moist eyes in the senate.

Q: Do you think another Duterte presidency is possible?

SFMD: That is a matter for the Filipino people to decide.

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