Press Release
August 3, 2021

Transcript of Interview with Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon


SFMD: Last year they said there are 822 barangays that were cleared of insurgency and next year there will be a total of 2,220, so if you deduct the 822, which were previously funded, you will get a balance of 1,398 cleared barangays. At P20 million each, my estimate is there is roughly P28 billion that they will be asking for. That is why I estimated last June that given these statements by the DILG about the cleared barangays, I estimated that they will ask for P28 billion in 2022. That should be the figure and that is why I am a little surprised that I heard from our sources in the DBP that it will be P40 billion. Unless there is an increase in the number of barangays cleared, it should really be P28 billion. Whether it is P16 billion or P28 billion of P40 billion, I think what is clear is that the budget indicates misplaced priorities that we have in this administration. With the planned lockdown again, the estimated unemployment will again rise. As of May, there are already nearly 4 million unemployed. That number could increase in the next two weeks when we enforce the lockdown. That is why to me the priority should be the ayuda rather than anti-insurgency. Remember that the various departments would have their own budget designed to assist all the barangays. Why are we again allocating extra funds for these when we have different departments already implementing these projects. We will examine closely how this money was spent. That is why I asked for a special audit. If it is any indication, the COA called the attention of the DAR, there is a program where there are agrarian reform beneficiaries and the COA called the attention of DAR because they diverted part of their anti-in surgency budget as allowances to the agrarian reform beneficiaries. That is technical malversation. But beyond the legalities of this, it indicates how loosely the funds are used. Given our situation today, allocating a substantial amount of our budget is misplaced, because, to me, we need funds for ayuda.

Q: Iba pa sa P28 billion yung operation expense ng NTF-ELCAC?

SFMD: I do not know about the operational expense. I am just talking about what they call the budget for the Barangay Development Program. It is not unusual that the administration expense is 5% of the programmed amount like in the 4Ps.

Q: You called it an election giveaway. What do you mean by that?

SFMD: Do not forget that 2022 is an election year. Therefore, these amounts of money available is a campaign kitty, whether you like it or not. The fact is, a good portion of this NTF-ELCAC funds is what we call soft programs such as training and livelihood and these are funds that are easy to manipulate in terms of beneficiaries. Remember the fertilizer scam. Before, the favorite allocation of legislators was medical assistance. These are soft infra that could easily be used for election purposes and could easily be stolen.

Q: On how to convince other senators to vote against NTF-ELCAC funding?

SFMD: That is a political decision on the part of my fellow legislators whether they will allow a situation when an opportunity to use public funds for election is very obvious. Nasa kanila po iyan. We will oppose it. We will expose it. But at the end of the day, it is a decision on the part of the legislators. We cannot go to court on this. It is within the power of Congress to appropriate. The COA should audit this.

Q: Some sources are saying na parang pinamimigay n ani VP Robredo yung opportunity na siya ang tumayo bilang standard bearer ng opposition? Is that a fair assessment following her meetings?

SFMD: That is not a fair assessment. That is not a correct assessment of the intention of the Vice President. At this point, the Vice President is still looking at a possible presidential run next year. But the first objective is to make sure that an opposition candidate wins. Therefore, step one is to unite everybody. If she becomes the most viable candidate, she will ask the others to come around and support her because the objective is to have a united front. So, the assessment that she has given up is totally wrong and baseless.

Q: Tama po yung pagkarining ko na she is looking for...

SFMD: The objective is to have the strongest candidate against the administration. That is why she has been conducting these meetings. Needless to state the effort to look for a strongest opposition candidate includes the Vice President. That assessment that she has given is totally without basis and unfounded.

Q: United po ang opposition sa pag-oppose dito sa NTF-ELCAC?

SFMD: Yes, we are united. I'll try to talk to my colleagues about why we should not allow this budget for next year, because being an election year, I think the opportunity to use this for election purposes is very clear and patent.

Q: Ang gusto ninyo ay zero budget for NTF-ELCAC?

SFMD: Yes, because the projects that are supposed to be done by NTF-ELCAC, they are all over the bureaucracy. Why is it with the NTF-ELCAC?

Q: Hindi acceptable yung sinasabi na very effective yung anti-insurgency program ng task force considering na sa bawat departamento naman pala in every department?

SFMD: Yes.

Q: Inaprub ni President yung budget para sa ayuda. Enough na ba po iyon P1,000 to P4,000?

SFMD: Given the fact that over 4 million Filipino families have experienced involuntary hunger, certainly that amount is not insufficient. Not only that, they are still scrambling to look for the budget, so that is not even certain. That is why I am so disappointed that given the needs of our people, inuuna natin yung anti-insurgency fund. Ano ba yan? Why can we not have the correct priorities?

SFMD: We should do a cash sweep again in order that we have enough funds for the ayuda that we need.

Q: Napansin n'yo rin po na ang bilis ng release?

SFMD: Yes, ang bilis ng release. Totoo iyan. It is also on record that P4 billion went to Davao region. What makes us wonder is why P16 billion was released in a period of three months when the government should have realized that the pandemic is a continuing problem and the lockdown is a continuing solution and, therefore, unemployment and hunger will continue to worsen. Why did they immediately release P16 billion in four months? That is a question which I addressed to our economic managers. Remember that we are incurring a deficit and as of June, it is P761 billion and out of this, P16B pertains to NTF-ELCAC.

Q: Sa dalawang linggong suspended ang session ng Senate, sa tingin ninyo makaka-delay ito sa approval ng priority bills including the budget?

SFMD: We will have to work double time. Remember that in the years past, at this point we would have been having committee hearings because the budget would have already been submitted. Now, it is not yet even with us. We will have no sessions for the next two weeks. We will have to work double time because of the danger that we will have a re-enacted budget, which is like a blank check for the administration, because you re-enact everything. I would really press for the passage of the budget but we should not be surprised when we don't finish it on time because of the pandemic. We just have to work overtime.

Q: Sino ang makikinabang kapag reenacted budget? Ang administration?

SFMD: They are the one disbursing and under the Constitution, there's automatic renewal of the budget, so that is like a black check to the administration.

Q: Amid the search for a viable opposition candidate and the criticisms from Sen. Trillanes, do you still think VP is a winnable candidate? What do you

SFMD: Remember that in 2015 when Leni Robredo became a vice presidential candidate, what support did she have in surveys? She was 1 percent in the surveys. Let us not forget that. She decided to run for vice president with one percent and she beat Bong Bong Marcos. Today, she has anywhere from 6 to 8 percent. She has a better chance today than she had in 2016. If she won with one percent at that time, she has a better chance with 6 to 8 percent today. It is a question of her being able to decide as soon as possible. That is why, to me, at this point she should no longer entertain any local post that was mentioned before. It has not been repeated so I assume it is off the table. Insofar as the governorship of Camarines Sur is concerned, I don't hear that is being considered.

Q: The President last night said that the deaths of suspected drug suspects actually benefited Filipinos and actually put his life and his family in danger. The families of those who were killed may try to avenge their slain loved ones. What do you say to that remark?

SFMD: Speculative at this stage. I am not in the security sector so I cannot validly assess these dangers on the lives of people. What I know is that, it is admitted that there are over 6,000 deaths because of the war on drugs.

Q: Would you join the call to extend voter's registration?

SFMD: I endorse the extension of the registration period given the restrictions on people's movements because of the pandemic. I don't see any harm with extending this registration period. The Comelec just has to work double time in order to prepare for the 2022 elections. I encourage our new voters to register as voters because the election next year is critical.

Q: On LP coalition

SFMD: To me, the objective number one is to make sure that those who are not with the administration, the opposition, must have a unified front in 2022. It is difficult enough to present yourself as an alternative to this administration if you are not united. We must be able to have a bigger base so that we can effectively present an alternative to our people. It is in that sense that I don't agree with Sen. Trillanes that we should not talk to other prospective candidates. I think we should have a big tent wherein we can attract all sectors who believe that the next administration should not be identified with the present administration. Therefore, a broader coalition is necessary. Maybe in another time or ideal situation, we should not talk to certain people. But I do not agree that at this time that is a good strategy. I do not agree that we should not talk to Sen. Lacson or Sen. Gordon. They have done their share in maintaining their principles.

Q: You do not agree with Sen. Trillanes saying that talking to Senators Lacson and Gordon is crossing the red line...

SFMD: That is why we will present ourselves to the people and the people will judge each candidacy. At this stage, I don't think we should already exclude certain politicians and not pursue a united ticket.

Q: Can you give us a picture paano yung talks ng LP with Sen. Trillanes?

SFMD: That is a matter for Sen. Trillanes to judge but, certainly, talking to Sen. Lacson and Sen. Gordon is part of the effort of VP Leni to unite the opposition.

Q: Ano ang pwedeng gawing para ma encourage ang pagboto sa 2022?

SFMD: The media plays a major role because information is very critical in order to make our people more conscious of their duty as citizens of this country, because we only elect the leaders we deserve. If we do not register and exercise our right to choose our next leaders, we have no right to complain.

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