Press Release
August 4, 2021

ANC Headstart Interview of Senator Win Gatchalian with Karen Davila on vaccination of minors, face-to-face classes, ECQ ayuda and 2022 elections


Q: You know many parents agree with you that minors need to be already included in the priority list of vaccinations, but we heard Secretary Galvez, there's not enough vaccines, and even to vaccinate the general population, he says, "No, it's just insufficient". What do we do, how do we do this?

SEN. WIN: Actually Karen, he agrees that teenagers and young people should be vaccinated already. The only stumbling block now is the supply of vaccines, and we're actually beholden to foreign suppliers, and also to their situation for example in Thailand and India, we're in the curtail the supply of vaccines to our country because they themselves needed the vaccines. But they think in terms of agreement, he and I and the rest of the community agrees that teenagers should be vaccinated. And in may latest count, there are about a dozen countries already doing this, United States, United Arab Emirates, and a lot of countries and there are about 30 to 40 countries who have already authorized the vaccination of teenagers and young people.

Q: So is there a different approach, I mean, clearly we are relying on the vaccine stock that's coming in through the government. Should there be an innovative approach to get more supply for minors?

SEN. WIN: I think this is where our relationship with various countries will play a big role and we have seen this in the past. The United States donated vaccines. The United Kingdom have donated vaccines, of course, China donated vaccines even earlier on. And this is where at this point in time, this is where our strong relationships with other countries will come in. Diplomacy will play a big role in terms of additional supply but of course, we are relying on their good graces. We have to be self-sufficient in a way. Funding is an issue. I have to emphasize that P80 billion in terms of funding, but it's a supplier that's being hampered because of the global second round, the third round with spread of the virus and right now, what we can do is make sure that our schools have the proper health protocols, we have funding for that also close to about P23 billion. I'm still pushing for face to face classes, hopefully. This coming September, we will have a hearing on that. and I know we have the funding to make our schools safe and make our students and teachers safe.


Q: Let's clarify, face-to-face classes. There have been criticisms that it shouldn't be a one size fits all or a gunshot approach. There are other areas with no COVID cases. there are other areas that technically are now open to tourists like Batanes for example, could we already open specific areas with no COVID cases to face-to-face?

SEN. WIN: Karen, I've been tracking what I call zero COVID LGU. In my latest count, we have about close to 200 LGUs, which have zero COVID at all, and these are island provinces, island municipalities, mountain municipalities where people don't really go there and see anyone. So in other words, for example, Batanes which is an island province, they can actually go back to face-to-face classes already. Maybe not full-blown, immediately, but the test it the first month, and then learn from it and then go to full-blown face-to-face once we have that experience in play, but if we don't do this, we will not learn, and nothing will happen.

Q: But how do we convince or how do you convince the President to agree with you because the DepEd did pitch this to the President before, and he was open and then finally he just decided it wasn't safe.

SEN. WIN: The best argument that we can put is funding, and again we are funding to make our school safe. I've been tracking also the funding that goes to our schools. And there is close to about P23 billion that we can use. That's for hand washing facilities, putting barriers in schools and practicing the health protocols that we have learned in the past for more than 12 months for example, social distancing. A lot of these schools are proposing a two or three-day school week, so that our schools will not be full. They can fill the classrooms with 30 to 50 percent capacity. So it's as if we would go back to normal, instead, a new normal where students have some interaction with their teachers, while practicing social distancing and wearing masks and other health protocols.

Q: I'm curious as well, is there any effort on the part of the Senate. This is the second year that kids are learning online and many schools frankly have not decreased tuition. It's still the same tuition fee.

SEN. WIN: The tuition fee for private schools, Karen is lightly regulated, in a sense, because we leave that to the schools to talk among themselves and the parents, the school administrators to agree among themselves.

Q: But mostly parents have no choice. Many parents have asked private schools, but, I mean the private school will just say well, no.

SEN. WIN: In extreme cases, they can complain to the DepEd and the DepEd being the supervisor and the regulator of all schools, including private schools can Look at the tuition fees and how reasonable the tuition fees are. But a lot of the private schools that I talked to also are clamoring for support. There are about close to about 200 private schools have already closed. And a lot of teachers retrenched, and the only way of surviving this pandemic is to maintain their tuition fees and their argument on this is even though they don't have schools, they use online learning. They still give salaries to the teachers and they have other innovative expenses to continue learning. So, this is a matter where teachers and the school should really sit down and talk about what's reasonable for the community.


Q: Let's talk about the two-week ECQ, ang Ayuda. Malacañang has said that it's at least P1000 to P4000 per family. The President has ordered it. Pero sabi ni Secretary Harry Roque hindi pa alam kung saan ito kukunin. Frankly speaking, saan ito pwedeng kunin, Senator?

SEN. WIN: Karen, the budget right now has been allocated for various different expenses. This is where supplemental budget or the Bayanihan 3 will come in. In the last interview that we had, I was against Bayanihan 3 because the expenses of the allocations were not spent. But in this particular case, because we will now have to block out some of the existing allocations, we will need supplemental budget, or in this case a Bayanihan 3. There are other things that we can allocate from. For example, what I'm looking at is probably infrastructure projects that are not relevant for now. For example, school buildings for now because, obviously, students are studying at home. Other government buildings that are not necessary at this time. So we can actually reallocate some amount to fund the Ayuda. But if you ask me Karen, the ECQ should be the last thing that we should do. A lot of our constituents are really suffering from low income or zero employment and in my latest count here in Metro Manila, there are about 2 million, informal or self-employed constituents, and they will be out of the jobs. For example, the hairdressers, the masahistas, people that go out and doing home service. These people will not work at all. It should be the last case.

Q: Do you believe the ECQ was an extreme option, frankly?

SEN. WIN: I would advise IATF to use localized lockdowns, instead of a system-wide lockdown because it's painful. For example in Valenzuela, they pinpoint where are the hotspots and lockdown those hotspots instead of locking down the entire City. Number 2, is we have to prevent gatherings. We have already identified, after one year, we have identified the vectors where the virus come from and these are congested places, eating places, gatherings, we should close them down. Instead of system-wide, we should close down those vectors of those possible areas that have been possibly create the spread of the virus.

Q: I'm curious what you think about this, because one of the vectors. If you've used the word 'vector' is the DOH said, the Delta variant was actually detected from one OFW or one Filipino, who returned to the Philippines. There are countries that at some point in time were not accepting returning residents. Should we move to that already?

SEN. WIN: Karen, we cannot do that. We have millions of OFWs abroad and the OFWs are the most highly mobile. And they move from one country to the other depending on the employment contract. We are really in a sense that we have a very big OFW population abroad and there are middle class. Our middle classes is not in the country outside the country. They move around so it's impossible for us to close our borders. I support the stricter quarantine for OFWs and people coming from abroad. With the advent of Delta variant, we have to support strict quarantine, seven day, testing upon landing, testing after seven days.

Q: Wala nang testing upon landing Senator, di ba? Parang they test on the fifth day.

SEN. WIN: They brought it back, testing upon landing. And then quarantine for the next 10 days. It's really inconvenient, but the only way we can drop and track the virus.

Q: I'm curious Senator Sherwin, how much money do you think will be available para sa Ayuda. Because what you were talking about is reallocating funds, would you consider this as Bayanihan 3 or just an immediate shift of funds?

SEN. WIN: Karen, to be honest, our debt is up to our necks right now. We are running at about 60 to 65 percent of GDP. In pre-pandemic time that's about, we started at 30 percent GDP where are credit rating is superb because of that 30 percent. But if you see the credit rating agencies, they're now at the red alert level in terms of fiscal health because we're now hitting 60 percent. So borrowing again, is a dangerous proposition to fund the ayuda. We have to get it from our internally generated funds so meaning we have to get it from projects that are not useful at this time and reallocating. And I'm looking around P10 to probably around P20 billion depending on the length of the ECQ.

Q: But how fast can this be released, Senator Sherwin, I mean, ECQ is already this Friday, and isipin po natin for two weeks walang kikitain, di ba? Walang pagkukunan ng pera and then the worst thing is when the ayuda reaches them literally on the third week or the fourth week.

SEN. WIN: That's very good question. In fact I was talking to my friends. It's really slow. And from our experience last time, if we lockdown NCR, and assuming, we kick off the ayuda on the first day, it will still take about a month to completely give everyone their ayuda. Because it's very manual and second, we practice social distancing at the distribution center so we cannot just let everyone go there and give the cash. We're still in the stone age and Jurassic age when it comes to a dispensing of ayuda. And this is something that we need to change moving forward because we cannot do this over and over again. That's why I propose to give one a bank account to every Filipino, so that all the government support will just go to your bank account and you can withdraw it from the nearest ATM.

Q: Because you're right there are some cities that actually transfer digitally like Makati. Makati is the fastest, I mean so far in the NCR, with digital transfers, and it's not uniform yet even in NCR.

SEN. WIN: If Makati can do it, the whole Philippines can do it. Makati is a good model to follow. In fact, the LGUs need to study their system and I salute Mayor Binay for innovating that distribution of ayuda. That should be the benchmark and the gold standard for distributing some of the ayuda right now. Because [inaudible] is time, we need to give the ayudas because we want them to use that to buy food, because they lost their livelihood in that ECQ period.


Q: Let's move on now to the 2022 elections. The Comelec says, most likely the registration will not be extended. There are now 61 million voters registered, 5 million voters who are new, but there's two weeks of ECQ, and the 2022 elections is, frankly, a game changer and it's crucial for the country. Businessmen say it's critical for the country. What do you make of this that the Comelec says they cannot extend registration?

SEN. WIN: Just like any other organization this to ECQ will practically halt everything inside your organization. So, the most logical thing to do is to extend for another two weeks. In the Senate, we're talking about that. Our session is normally Monday to Wednesday but we're thinking holding sessions on Thursday, as well as, to cover the lost ground during the ECQ. So in other words, Comelec should do over time. If they need to come in Saturdays, Sundays to cover that lost ground they should do it. Because we owe it to the people to get registered, and we want them to register, because the more people who will vote, the better for our democracy.

Q: But what can be done to actually influence the Comelec to change its mind because James Jimenez already said on ANC that most likely it's not going to happen but in places without ECQ, registration continues. But we do know that Luzon has the biggest voting base in the country.

SEN. WIN: Right. The Senate will exercise its oversight powers and definitely compel them to cover that lost ground in the ECQ. We are not telling them to extend or come up with additional dates. But what we are telling them at least from my point of view is to do overtime, to come in Saturdays, Sundays to cover that lost ground because we're talking about the two weeks of ECQ, that's only 10 days. You can cover that in five weekends, so that's not so much for them to do, and we owe it again, it's good for a democracy, that more people will register.

Q: In terms of your political party you are with NPC?

SEN. WIN: Yes.

Q: Yes, so clearly you are running under the Senator Ping Lacson-Senate President Tito Sotto tandem?

SEN. WIN: I'm talking to SP Sotto being our chairman in the NPC and being a party member. Our political plans are always intertwined. So we're discussing on how to move forward.

Q: When you say how to move forward because what was interesting in the past, you did have an independent block so to speak, when you all ran, right. So are you still gonna campaign together? You, Senator Migz, sino pa ba ang kasama niyo this time?

SEN. WIN: We call ourselves Seatmates Karen, because we're all seated together. So it's me, Senator Zubiri, Senator Villanueva, Senator JV, and Senator Gordon as our senior seatmate. And five of us are very close to one another, personally, and we feel that we're stronger together, and we want to campaign together. Bur right now, it's very difficult to campaign. And it's very fluid. All of us belong to different parties, all of us belong to different leaders, and we frankly haven't really discussed incoming elections.

Q: Because you were adopted in the past by different--this is what's unique in your situation right now is you didn't have a presidential candidate in the past, so you could be adopted by several parties, even if they had different candidates.

SEN. WIN: Actually Karen, in 2016 I only had one group, under Senator Grace Poe and Chiz Escudero when they ran for President and Vice President respectively. Although, our group it's multiple parties. In our group, there are adoptions in different parties. Our system allows that. In fact, I am for strengthening and tightening political parties, this is becoming very very confusing for our voters. Because on the ground, nahahati ang mga supporters natin. It doesn't build loyalty at all. There's zero loyalty in this particular case and I want to advocate stronger and tighter political parties, and also responsible political parties.

Q: And that's a good one because it doesn't have to be just a two party system, but then you can tighten regulations when you join a party, right, so for example if you join one, there are certain rules universally when you cannot leave, you cannot join another party, you know, certain rules like that that make it more difficult for a person to just leave a party or decide to join a party.

SEN. WIN: Karen, setting up a party here it's as easy as setting up a sari-sari store. You can have a party tomorrow with one or two members and it can be a party. It can be an national party, it can be a local party, it can be any party. And that's not the essence of a party system. The essence of a party system is to develop loyalty and develop advocacy. But right now, we don't know the advocacy of the parties, in fact you don't know the members. What's happening on the ground and I'm not saying this because I'm a member of a political party, I'm a politician, but you want to also develop the structure all the way to the ground. So that one who will support you will know what you stand for, what you fight for you and what are your advocacies. Ngayon kasi they know who you are, and they like you because you're good looking or you're popular at this point. They are loyal to the personality and that's it. But what we want is people loyal to the advocacy, and what do you fight for and what you stand for and this is how political parties should be moving forward and we need to reform it. It's really about time.

Q: So I'm curious, are you still gonna run with your seatmates, Are you still gonna campaign together?

SEN. WIN: That's our goal, and in fact we've been talking about this for a very long time, I was with Senator JV Ejercito the other day and we both agreed that we should because we're comfortable with one another. We complement one another, and we've done a lot of things in the Senate together. So it's also good to get all of our seatmates together so that we can finish more work.

Q: I'm curious. Was it true? My sources told me that there was a period in time you were considering or somebody was asking you to run for vice president.

SEN. WIN: I am vying for the vice president position, but this is still very fluid.

Q: Vice President of the country ang tinanong. You're vying for that?

SEN. WIN: Yes, Karen.

Q: And running for the Senate?

SEN. WIN: It's very fluid as of this point because everything is still being discussed with group so there's no final decision yet.

Q: Wait, this is the big story today, I don't think you've ever admitted it, you're running for the vice presidential position but who will you run with if Senate President Tito sotto is already running under NPC?

SEN. WIN: Karen, that's why we're talking, and right now everything is still fluid. Although that is my intention, and my mind is open to that.

Q: But why I'm curious, you still have another term right in the Senate, why the vice presidency?

SEN. WIN: I've been to both the executive side and also the legislative side and I've learned so many things in both sides. And I've been with the legislative side for nine years and I feel that I can contribute much more in the executive, once I go back to the executive site and practice everything that I've learned. Again, it's quite fluid and so this might--It's my intention, my mind and my heart is open to that, and we're still talking to--I'm still talking to Senator Sotto about arrangements.

Q: But then will you leave the party? Are you willing to leave the party if let's say Senate President Tito Sotto says no, Sherwin I will run. Not both of you can run.

SEN. WIN: We will talk about it. We will talk about it. I don't have any definite answer for now because it's still quite fluid.

Q: Do you have a possible presidential candidate already, honestly, is somebody speaking with you?

SEN. WIN: I talked to Mayor Sara a few months back and we talked about my plans as Senate. And her party Hugpong invited me to be part of their senate slate during that time. Speaker Lord was the emissary to invite me to be part of their Senate slate and when we had that conversation I also opened up the possibility of running for Vice President under her group.

Q: Some people may say this boldness and courage coming from you. What encouraged you? Was it the survey, or is your father pushing you? I mean some parents would say, are you crazy, wait a while. Right, So what did it for you?

SEN. WIN: Surveys definitely not, Karen. I'm far from the winning number.

Q: You are not even included yet because nobody knew that you wanted to run.

SEN. WIN: But Karen, that's the same, I had the same experience in 2016 when I ran for the Senate I was far from the winning number. In fact, I was not even in the magic 40 at that time, I was out. But I worked in government for the last 20 years, in fact I celebrated my 20 years in public service, this year and I learned a lot in public service and I have solutions in various issues and problems that is facing our country. Next year will be like you said, it's a very critical election. Because the country is facing a lot of headwinds.

Q: An P11 trillion debt.

SEN. WIN: Debt, in fact debt is one of the problem. But the biggest problem is economic growth. Without economic growth, you will not have revenues to pay those debt. Those issues should be tackled with someone who has experience. And I feel that over the last 20 years I have a lot of experience that can contribute to a quick recovery of our country.

Q: Another question, is it right to say, I'm curious how you are making decisions on this. If you are not Mayor Sara's VP, you would not run for VP.

SEN. WIN: I will not run for VP.

Q: Okay, that's quite clear, at least you're being frank. Okay, so one thing is clear is you will only run for VP, if we are Sara is your ka-tandem.

SEN. WIN: Yes, and I already signified my intention to her when we talked. I thanked her for drafting me. In fact, they were the first one who drafted me and I'm honor to be drafted in their team. That was very early on. I think that was last March when they drafted me.

Q: Well it's quite refreshing, wala kang paligoy-ligoy. Ang ibang senador kapag kinausap mo hindi diretso sumagot. It's a first time na diretso sumagot na you will only run for VP if it's with Mayor Sara. So she clearly has not made a decision yet? Whether it's Gibo Teodoro or Martin Romualdez, you're saying right now it seems it's open.

SEN. WIN: Right. The last time we talked, she's still contemplating whether she would run or not, but definitely a lot of personalities have signified to run with her and being a person with experience, I also signified that. But then again, everything is still fluid. But what I heard from the grapevine. So, I think decisions will be made in the next few weeks.

Q: And my last question you don't believe that Senate President Tito Sotto may take offense. I mean clearly number one, he's more senior than you are. He's 70 and running for vice president, for Tito Sotto, career wise is quite logical. At this point, he may say Sherwin may oras ka pa naman, bakit hindi ka na lang maghintay?

SEN. WIN: Karen, he is our party chairman, and I have a lot of respect to him, and I have a lot of respect with Senator Sotto because he's a man of experience and he's very fair and open. We talked about this, and in fact I told them that we have to keep our lines of communication open. But rest assured, we will not have any conflict. Being partymates and being a person who respects him, we'll not have any conflict because our communication lines open, and we talked about this, in fact our talk was quite fatherly. And we told ourselves that we have to talk more often. Especially the election is already coming.

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