Press Release
March 15, 2023


KAREN DAVILA: Before we talk about the bill that you've had filed, I think the bigger story it seems, is really coming from the lower house. Let's talk about that. Congressman Rufus Rodriguez says the Senate cannot ignore the overwhelming support for charter change and out of inter-chamber courtesy, he's calling on the Senate to tackle any measure passed by the House, especially if it's been approved by an overwhelming vote and he says requires urgent attention.

Senate President Juan Miguel "Migz" F. Zubiri: Sometimes, I get confused. I don't know what requires urgent attention, the priority measures of LEDAC, Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council, that is our group, made of the House of Representatives, Senate, and the Executive, which discusses the priority measures needed for our country and charter change is not there.

You all know that the President already said that it is not part of his agenda. It is not a priority of the President. And to answer the fears of my dear colleagues, I don't want to pick a fight. You know, Karen, I, as interparliamentary courtesy, I never pick a fight with the members of the House of Representatives. I came from the House of Representatives for nine years. So I have my utmost respect for them but we are tackling charter change through Senator Robinhood Padilla. He is going around the country, doing his hearings and public hearings and listening tour. As a matter of fact, I never stopped him. Last time I discussed with him yesterday, continue your job. He is the chairman of the Committee on Constitutional Amendments, so he is doing his job. We have not prevailed upon him to stop that. So he is doing his job. We are doing our job to listen to the people's voice on this particular issue.

However, going to the gist of it, Karen, I don't understand why our dear colleagues in the House would like to rush this when in all honesty, we passed the economic measures in the 18th Congress. I was majority floor leader and of course, Speaker Martin was majority floor leader when we passed the Public Services Act of (Sen.) Grace Poe. We passed the Retail Trade Act of Sen. Koko Pimentel and we passed the Foreign Investments Act, which Sen. Imee Marcos was the sponsor and author together with all of us. And these three was to answer the problem of the economic provisions, in the restrictive economic provisions in the Constitution.

Now, what was the PSA? The PSA now allows foreign ownership of utilities, telcos, TV stations, even highways, subways, railway stations, airports. It allows it now. That was the most restrictive part of the Constitution when it came to economic provisions. Now, the argument of my dear friend and I have the highest respect for him. He is my neighbor in Cagayan de Oro, Cong. Rufus Rodriguez, is that there's a case in the Supreme Court. Yes, we knew that somebody would file a case against the Public Services Act in the Supreme Court.

However, the Supreme Court, Karen, never released a TRO. Therefore, the law stays until a decision is made. So why don't we wait for the decision of the Supreme Court? The Supreme Court may say that it's constitutional. Remember that in the Senate, it was no other than Sen. Frank Drilon, who was former DOJ Secretary, our resident constitutionalist who co-sponsored this with Sen. Grace Poe who defended the provisions, but it is not, it is not unconstitutional. And so, we are confident that it is constitutional and can stand the test of the Supreme Court scrutiny.

Now, Karen, moving forward, so our position is why don't we wait for the decision of the Supreme Court? If it says it's constitutional, why do we have to amend the Constitution? Now, there's also another issue, it's not being implemented. Why? The implementing rules and regulations, Karen, after one year, have not been released. Hindi pa nilalabas iyong implementing rules and regulations, IRR, nitong batas. Hindi ko po alam bakit. Are they delaying for some underlying reason? Why don't they let IRR go and let it out so that more direct foreign investments can come to the country. Obviously, they are still in a quandary what the implementing rules and regulations are. So let us release the Public Services Act implementing rules and regulations together with the Retail Trade and Foreign Investments Act.

If you ask me, Karen, to close my argument, what else do we want to loosen up in the Constitution for economic reasons? Is it the ownership of land? Because I personally, I am against the ownership of land. Why? People come to me, hindi naman nila madadala yung lupa sa kanilang bansa. Pero ang totoo niyan Karen, kung bubuksan nating yung ownership of land, mamahal at mamahal ang lupa dito sa ating bansa tulad ng nagyari sa Canada, many countries, even Europe now, Spain. Many of their countrymen are complaining that they cannot anymore buy their own homes in their own countries. Alam mo, maraming Chinese nationals dito from mainland China, namimili ng condominium at nagre-rent ng bahay. Mga staff ko sa Senado, hirap na hirap na maghanap ng studio apartment or 1-bedroom apartment doon sa Mall of Asia area, near the Senate, because everything is, a studio which used to be P20,000 a month is now up to P50,000 a month dahil nga it's being rented out by foreign nationals from China. So my people, our own Filipino people, can't even rent within their own cities. Nandoon pa sila sa Cavite para mag-rent ng tahanan para makapasok po sila sa Senado.

Ang punto ko, that's the only provision left and I'm sure that it's going to be very difficult if we open it up because we all know who's going to come here and buy all the homes in all the high-end subdivisions, including all the other homes all around Metro Manila. It's going to be our neighbor, right and it's not exactly a strategic move to make.

KD: OK, Senate President let's go back first a little. You revealed something today that was quite surprising that there's still no IRR when it comes to the amendments in the Public Services Act and Retail Trade Liberalization. My question is, who's supposed to make that?

SP ZUBIRI: Well, the departments concerned are supposed to be make that. NEDA is supposed to release that. We discussed it in the LEDAC and they're saying there are still agencies that are delayed in giving their comments. Oh, come on. It's been a year, Karen, they should bring out the implementing rules and regulations already yesterday. They should have brought it out yesterday. Not today, not tomorrow, yesterday. And then they're blaming us that it's not working, walang pumapasok na foreign direct investment? Wala na po iyan sa lehislatura. Tapos na kami, yung trabaho namin. We are done. It has been pending with us for about 30 years, and we were finally able to amend it in the 18th Congress. So the ball now is in the Executive's court, Karen, to bring out the IRR and finally implement the Public Services Act so that it will address the concerns of the Congressman when it comes to foreign direct investment. And to be honest, Karen you took up a very important point earlier. You honestly think in a Con-Con that they will only be discussing economic porovisions? Hindi lang po ang economic provisions ng konstitusyon ang pag-uusapan diyan. With due respect to my colleagues, with due respect to Congressman Rufus Rodriguez, he's a very well-known lawyer and a very good lawyer at that, once the Con-Con is set up, they will not be limited to just economic provisions. Pwede nilang repasuhin ang Article 1 to the last article of the Constitution, baguhin lahat iyan pati economic provisions. Paano naman iyan, Karen, kung may economic provisions na, tatanggalin nila ang term limits, tanggalin nila o i-extend pa nila yung terms ng mga politiko. Aba, ako politiko ako, masaya ako niyan pero ang taong-bayan magagalit sa atin. Magagalit sa atin ang taong-bayan. They will really get upset. What if they change the structure of government? If they change the structure of government, Karen, it's not like passing a simple law; that takes time. That takes time to study, that takes money, funding, especially kung gagawin nating federal form. I used to be a believer the federalist form of government until I saw the numbers, Karen. Nakita ko yung numero, yung mga regional setups. They wanted to set up several regions for the federal system, federal states. Only three federal states would survive in a federal system, that is Metro Manila, Southern Tagalog, and Central Luzon. Everywhere else would collapse immediately after two to three years kasi wala tayong pambayad sa teachers, wala tayong pambayad sa police, wala tayong pambayad sa ating government employees. Magko-collapse 'yan. Dahil, internally, kulang ang ating pondo, ang ating income, to be able to run the federal states. So it takes a lot of study, a lot of in-depth...consultations to be able to get the proper picture.

So ang punto ko d'yan, are we ready for that change? Are we ready for all that change? At this point in time, kakalabas lang natin sa pandemya, Karen, we are being - I am being bashed - imagine, trabahador niyo sa Senado, I am being bashed for the "lack of output." So, you know, just yesterday, we passed on second reading five measures, important measures. In the Senate, we are moving as quickly as we can. Because it's not quantity, Karen, it's quality. What is important is that let us address post-pandemic issues, which is, economic recovery, bringing down inflation, and making the lives of our people a lot easier, a lot simpler, and of course, making their lives a lot happier.

KD: Senate President, we're gonna move to what's was recently passed in the Senate but let's focus on this: You brought up one concern already, which is, if you agree to the Con-con, if the Senate agrees, it will be unstoppable. Anything can be touched. It's a whole overhaul. And do you think that your colleagues will support that?

SP ZUBIRI: Isa pa 'yon, Karen, sinabi ko nga in an interview, ilagay mo na, "I support it," but you know we have 23 other republics. We have 24 republics in the Senate. Even if I would say - and at this point in time, I don't support it - but say, I support it, I'm only one out of the 24 members of the Senate. To be honest, Karen, tama 'yong sinabi ni Sen. JV Ejercito kahapon na apat o lima lang ang nabibilang namin na pumapabor sa charter change. And you know, the vote for charter change, Karen, I'd like to correct the misconception yesterday, the news mentioned that it was two-thirds vote. It's not two-thirds vote, Karen. It's three-fourths vote. It's stricter.

KD: Okay --

SP ZUBIRI: The amount of members of the House of Representatives and the Senate voting separately - as far as I'm concerned, it's voting separately - is three-fourths vote. So three-fourths, in the Senate, it's 18. We need 18 votes to dance the Cha-cha. I don't think we have 18 votes to dance the Cha-cha. Hindi kami makakasayaw, wala kaming numero.

Para malaman ng taongbayan, labing-walong boto ang kailangan ng ating mga kasamahan sa Senado para umusad ang charter change. Wala po kaming numero na ganyan. So, to us, it's moot and academic, we might as well focus on LEDAC priority measures which will help solve the problem of inflation, smuggling, which will increase, of course, or lower the inflationary prices and hopefully, maybe, possibly, better the lives of our Filipino people. Maybe throw a wage increase, as I'm proposing.

KD: Okay, alright. Before we get there, I'll go back to what you said. Let's go to the argument of Cong. Rufus Rodriguez and those who support it. They say that the Philippine Constitution is the most restrictive in ASEAN, it's the third most restrictive in the world. I mean, those are facts. Just to get on to a more balanced argument, their argument, and there are other arguments with the economic provisions. For example, Thailand has a long-term lease of 99 years for foreigners; when it comes to education, the Constitution is quite restrictive, we can't actually partner with Harvard, Stanford Universities and they are opening up in other parts of the world. And even natural resources is an argument for these lawmakers, you have arguments of Vietnam getting all the foreign direct investments coming from China - so, are you entirely against charter change? Or it's the manner of con-con that you disagree with?

SP ZUBIRI: No. It's the timing, Karen, the issue of timing. They will say, "Timing, but we've been discussing this for 30 years," yes, but we've been having problems for the last 30 years that we just need to address first, which is poverty and educating our people. Now, their argument on the restrictive foreign [ownership] provisions in the Constitution was addressed already...The restrictive portion of the Constitution is the 60-40 rule, that no foreigner can own majority...Now, we took that out completely, 100 percent, they can own, under the PSA Law.

The other 60-40, for railways, for subways, nobody would invest here in big-ticket items because 40 percent 'yong investor, sinong papasok rito? Gusto nila majority. We took that out completely. They can be totally foreign-owned. 'Yong retail trade, dati 2.5 -- malaki - $2.5 million, mataas, 'yong investment [capital], para lang maglagay ng store dito. Per store 'yan. Binabaan na namin ng $500,000, which is basically a Jollibee.

There was survey conducted recently, I think it was last year, Karen, on why foreign direct investments have been bypassing the Philippines. So they've interviewed the foreign chambers. Magandang pakinggan ito, Karen, ah. Wala silang - napakaliit - very insignificant, single-digit, on the issue of constitutional prohibitions. Very small. You know what's the problem? Ease of doing business. My other law. Ease of Doing Business, it's not being implemented. It's a beautiful law daw, it's perfect. But unfortunately, is it being implemented on the local level? No. Hinaharass pa rin sila ng mga LGUs. Na instead of three days, or a maximum of seven days, seven working days 'yong kanilang permits, umaabot ng buwan-buwan pa rin. 'Yong corruption sa malalaking agencies. Ease of doing business. Corruption to the big agencies. We saw that already with Ease of Doing Business, but yet, there's still departments who are releasing their permits, certificates and licenses that takes five to six months. We have the law already. Every time I meet with the businessmen, iyan po ang complaint nila sa akin. So sabi ko, "Walang hiya, may batas na tayo, what are they doing? What's the government doing about it?"

KD: So, the problem, really, is the investment climate in the Philippines.

SP ZUBIRI: It's the investment climate, peace and order. I was about to reach my third point. One of their complaints was peace and order. Eh 'yong nangyari kay Degamo, does that inspire people to invest in the Philippines? That does not inspire a friendly investment climate. And of course, our lack of marketing. To be honest, naiinggit ako, when I open CNN, BBC, napapanood ko 'yong commercials ng Cambodia, napapanood ko 'yong commercials ng Brazil, "Invest in Brazil, invest in Cambodia, in Thailand." We don't have any advertising. We have no marketing whatsoever.

Ang bukambibig lang nila ang ating pangulo, in fairness to the President, he's the one who goes around, selling the country. But then even he was bashed for travelling so much. But we have fruits, the fruits of his labor coming back. Next week, we're doing a formal signing, I was able to help bring in the largest e-vehicle manufacturer in the United States, they're called EVT. You can look it up: EVT. They're the biggest public utility, they make public service vehicles in the United States, na electric. Electric bus, school buses, electric trucks, in the different states of the United States. I was able to get them to come to Clark, they're doing a formal signing next week. They're gonna hire 2,000 jobs within this next quarter, and they're gonna, hopefully, be able to open up a larger portion in Clark of their manufacturing, and hopefully, employ 5,000 more.

So, we don't need amendments to the Constitutions on that. But we were able to do it because I handheld the whole process, sinama ko sila para mag-meeting kay Secretary Pascual, sinamahan ko sila pag meeting sa BOI, Board of Investments, sinamahan ko sila, together with my team, to Clark para makita nila 'to lahat. But does it have to be the Senate President who does that to every investor? There should be an investment house in the Philippines, for example, the BOI should step up and do all these things as a one-stop shop, ika nga. That's what they are saying: Ease of doing business.

Vietnam has that. Thailand has that. Singapore has that. They've got investment offices, just one, not five, just one that takes care of all of them, handholds these investors to come and locate to the Philippines. 'Yan ang kailangan natin.

KD: Okay, I'm letting you speak because you're really passionate about this. And UP Professor Edna Co is listening and watching, and she says you have great arguments that you are raising on public administrations concerns left unminded prior to a call for charter change. So, I think you need to be heard on your points when it comes to charter change. Before we move on to the bill you filed, the last question I'll ask you is this: Sen. Robin Padilla said that he was against the Con-con. He's concerned. But he said, what if it is a constituent assembly, so that there are boundaries to the change? If it's really just the economic provisions, that's one. And number two, with the way you sound - and also when I interviewed Sen. Loren Legarda, Sen. JV Ejercito, a few of your colleagues - is it fair to say charter change in the Senate is dead?

SP ZUBIRI: At this point in time with the numbers that I'm looking at, we can't get three fourths vote. At this point in time the Senate is very difficult to discuss or to deviate our legislative track into focus on the constitutional amendments. That's another thing, I had a discussion last night with Senator Robinhood Padilla and talagang ayaw niya din ng Con-con. He's the head of the committee, Right. So ayaw niya ng con-con. If there's disagreeing provisions in the house and the Senate, obviously, there'll be a stalemate on this particular issue. And even then, can we're also worried that there's a gray area in the Constitution the gray area of the Constitution is on how to vote on these amendments. The framers of the Constitution forgot to make it specific and clear. You know, are there arguments from one side particularly from our colleagues in the House that say they don't say it openly, but they say privately, that it should be voting as one. Kung voting as one Karen, yung 24 senador ay talagang lampaso sa 301 members of Congress. so they would able to reach 3 /4 vote without any say from the senators even if we all voted against. Imagine if the provisions there will be political amendments tangalin yung Senado. My goodness Karen the Senate as an institution...

KD: Tinanong ko nga yun, Tinanong ko yun Senate President kay Cong. Rodrigues I said, so if it's if it's limitless, you mean that they can actually remove the senators and he said, Well, it's possible. So ang sagot nga ng ilang the Senate shouldn't be selfish just to think of their own but really when you think about it, where can that go?

SP Zubiri: You know Karen with due respect to my colleagues in the House Representatives at sa mga kababayan na nag-iisip na hindi po nila kailangan ng Senado, Many times throughout history and Senado ang tinatawag po nating last bastion of democracy many times when a very powerful person would insist on legislation that is detrimental to national interest, who steps in? it's the senators, who step in. Because we're elected at large. Ano po kami elected at large, wala po kaming distrito pinoprotektahan, kase po kung distrito lang pinoprotektahan namin, medyo hindi po kami masyadong maingay dahil syempre natatakot din kami na mawawalan kami ng projects o pondo para sa aming mga distrito. Kami, iba po we're supposed to be above the fray. The political fray in the local level para maka desisyon po tayo para sa ating mga kababayan na karapatdapat na ibigay sa kanila. You know, it's been an institution since 1916. So sobrang 100 years nap o ang senado and you have the likes of Manue L. Quezon, the first Senate President you have Gil Puyat, you have who was also former Senate president you have Lorenzo Tanada, you have the Diokno, Sen. Diokno. Mga batikan na mga senador that really helped shape our country and who became future presidents, many presidents came from the Senate.

Not that we're saying we have presidential ambitions, but my point being is major statesmen like kse yung senado, we have to always look above the fray. Now kailangan ba natin ng Sennado? Yes, bakit? Ako'y naniniwala na sa paggawa ng batas, it is not paramihan. It is not mine is bigger than yours, there's an argument like that. It's not about that. It's not about paramihan.. It's about the quality of legislation that we pass. Kung unicameral napo tayo, unicameral parliament, You think na pwede natin malagyan ng preno ang mga panukala na controversial? Let say tax measures additional tax measures, dagdagan yung buwis ng ating mga kababayan? Dun sa Senado talagang pinaguusapan naming n g matagal yan, ano ang impact sa taongbayan, we do our listening tours and all, bago naming talakayin yan. So it's really very important that we have the there is a possibility na mawala ang Senado, and all these great men that I mentioned would be rolling in their graves. Pati si Si Sen. Joker Arroyo, pati yung mga past sa atin si Sen Raul Roco, Sen,. Edgardo Angara all these great people will be rolling in their graves that under my watch, nawala yung Senado Karen.

KD: So it looks like the way you sound. Not on your watch?

SP ZUBIRI: Not on my watch. I mean, that's why they were coup threats against me. Well it's fine, but I'm a institutionalist Karen, I believe in the institution, akoy naniniwala sa institusyon ng Senado na kailangan talaga ito para may checks and balances. Hindi palaging alam mo nanggaling na ako ng opposition. I was in the opposition during the time of President Erap. So it was in the Senate that we when we have our arguments against the administration then at a that time we look up at the Senate to help us in finding and ferreting out the truth because there was only 27 of us in the House of Representatives. So hindi palaging nasa administration kayo baka may darating na panahon na nasa opposition din kayo, you will welcome that there is a Senate who believe in the who believe that the national interest is the most important interest for the Filipino people with due respect to my friends on House of Representatives baka sabihin nila mayabang ako pero I've there galing ako ng house of representatives Karen three terms ako un and I'm on my third term as a senator. So yes, the Senate is very important at possible mawala ito pag nagkaroon ng Con-con palitan nila ng parliament eh kung parliament eh di mawawala na yung.. Alam mo Karen is another very important point. Kung pumayag ang con-con na gawin parliamentary an gating bansa, papaya kaya ang taong bayan na hindi nila ihahalal ang leader ng atign bansa. Ang president or magiging figure head na kase ang president. Yung magpapatakbo ng bayan ang prime minister, papayag kaya ang taongbayan na sanay na po sila since the 1935 Constitution we've been electing the president. One vote for every person counts. Tatanggalin natin yun, ibibigay natin sa unicameral body. Naku magkakagulo yan. Siguro sasabihin exciting but after how many election that you'll see very unpopular yung prime minister dahil hindi naman yan ibinoto ng taongbayan, tignan nyo magkakagulo't magkakagulo din yan. Look at countries like Malaysia rigodon every year of their prime minister and several other countries, of course Malaysia now has a new Prime Minister, but prior to that they wre ahaving problems and many other parliaments as well so napakahirap Karen na gawin ito.

Karen my really last point in the Con-con. They're planning to elect members to districts. Akin lang Karen maganda sana kung nilagay nila siguro pampagaan na lang ng loob, Sana ginawa nila nilagay nila ng anti-dynasty provision. Yung tatakbo sa district nila hindi yung kamaganak, hindi yung asawa, hindi yung anak ng political kingpin or up to the fourth degree of consanguinity. Tapos bawasan mo na yung sweldo P10,000 a day, P10,000 a day ang sweldo nila, gawin mon a lang P500 a day or gawin mo na lang P1,000 a day, bakit Karen? Para mapabilis ang trabaho nila. Kase kung P10,000 a day aabot ng siyam-siyan yan baka tatlong taon bago matapos yung con-con na yan and I really think that they should put an anti-dynasty provision so that the political kingpins will not have control. Because obviously ang ilalagay nila po sa distrito, let' be frank about it, will also be politically astute individual ang mananalo dyan or may political closeness sa politiko.

So definitely as the sun will shine tomorrow Karen ang papagusapan din nila dyan hindi lamang economic provisions, pati political provisions paguuspan nila dyan. I wasn't born yesterday, I have 20 years of legislation. I was part of the team of then Speaker Joe De Venecia on this issue on charter change so I know what's being discussed. Even if we're not invited. I know what's going on with my with, my friends in the lower house. Ang akin lang diyan go slow, hinay-hinay let's discuss. Ako why don't we lift our people out from poverty. Let's come up with single digit numbers. Let us educate our people, continue ot educate our people para sa ganun pag dating sa concon, pagdating sa plebisito they can make an informed and right proper decision on their vote.

KD: I want to ask you this You said it yourself because us you stood up to your convictions when it comes to con con and charter change that suddenly threats of a coup. A change in leadership in the Senate started to emerge right? and Senator JV Ejercito said yesterday that's baseless, you're up essentially said that you still have the support of your colleagues. Where is this coming from? were you able, what did you find out?

SP ZUBIRI: Your guess is as good as mine. Karen, of course, Sen Win Gatchalian got information on that it could be for my stand against charter change. And I also got it from another source naiirita daw yung mga pro-charter change sa dahil hindi daw ako sumasayaw ng ng Cha cha, ang punto ko dyan as I mentioned Karen, I'm an institutionalist I believe in the institution. I really believe in the sanctity and the wisdom of having a Senate, a bicameral system of government. And if it means my head then so be it. I mean, so be it, but not on my watch. Where I'm sitting here, Karen, in since 1916, where this has been the last bastion of democracy that I allow it to happen that I dissolve. I'm the person that last and the president who allowed to dissolution of the Senate. I don't think that's, that's, that's not going to happen on my watch, Karen but my point there being is the timing is important and let's address the real situation. Why people aren't investing in the Philippines. Binanggit ko na sayo Karen.

KD: Welcome back to headstart, we've had such an insightful and intensive discussion with Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri on Charter Change and where he stands with ConCon. Now let's move on to how he sees a way in a way to really address problems to prioritize and actually addressing problems that the Philippines is facing. So recently he proposed a minimum wage hike of 150 pesos for all private workers. So, Senate President Zubiri how can you actually mandate? Is it actually wise to order private companies to do that? I mean, in the States, you have Joe Biden, ordering the biggest federal increase with salaries for government workers. But can you really legislate salaries for private workers considering we have 90 percent of the businesses in the Philippines or MSMEs?

SP ZUBIRI: Karen you know in the United States, looking at the United States model, they've increased in the last 10 years other minimum wage per hour. It used to be $6 an hour now it's about 10 to $11 per hour depending on the state. So napakalaki ng increase in the last decade. Ang atin Karen napakabagal, hindi gumagalaw. And we all know because of the high cost of inflation, napakamahal ng bilihin. Ang masama rito Karen, to be honest, many products, including agricultural products, nakatikim nayan ng mataas na prices and therefore many of them are hesitant to bring these prices down unless the President has a policy of importing everything, which of course will kill the agri industry. So what do we need to do? Kailangan natin bigyan ang ating mga mangagagawa ng tinatawa nating living wage hindi naman minimum wage, because the minimum wage is not a living wage. We also have to share we have to share, I think we have to share the blessing scared every time I watch the world tonight. I watch it every nine o'clock. And then if I miss it, I watch it at 12 midnight. I was also looking at the business side. I always look at though companies coming back from pandemic, pandemic levels.

They go back to the black we're making a lot of money. There's any increase in income, particularly the oil companies and all the other companies are doing poorly during the pandemic. Now Karen, ang akin lang share naman natin, let's share to our people. I personally, I'm not only a public servant, but I'm also a businessman. I do industrialized. Renewable energy, we're doing hydro and all employees that are our minimum wage earners, the more I give them more than minimum wage, so whatever minimum wages I get, I give them more, I give them more I answer the percentage more. I give them 15 months pay so they get 13 month plus two two months bonus. So I'm a small I'm an MSME. I'm an MS. But my point is tuwang tuwa ang workers ko. I did it the same in the Senate. I was bashed in the Senate. I gave an inflation bonus which is basically 130 pesos a day for the whole year. And everybody was saying sana all. Sa ating mga kababayan na nagsasabing sana all, ito na to, we will try to pass on 150 peso legislated wage increase because we need to come up with an amount where our people are comfortable, na hindi sila hirap na hirap at hindi po sila umiiyat na wala silang pambayad sa gustosin sa kanilang mga tahanan.

KD: Or right and irony of this is of course in the lower house. It wasn't the maturity was suggested and increase across the board. It was the Makabayan block. Right? So that's the irony here is the majority of the Senate bill coming from the Senate President himself in effect, in a way siding with the minority in the lower house. I want to ask you the ECOP says two things so you can answer directly. They say if you raise the minimum wage further, only two things will happen. Small businesses will either cut the number of employees or they will raise the prices of their products. They claim that raising the minimum wage will only benefit 10 percent of the total number of workers in the Philippines to the detriment of the remaining 90 percent. So what do you think of that statement?

SP ZUBIRI: Well, why do you think the Filipinos leaving from the Philippines? Umaalis sila. I saw a video online. Facebook just happened to chance upon it and ang title nun "why Filipinos are leaving their own country?" number one reason pag na-interview sa lahat ng bansa na pinupuntahan nila, ang dahilan ay napakababa ng minimum wage and that's the whole truth. That's why we have how many million Filipinos 12 point 12 million Filipinos abroad is because we don't pay the price or at least decent wages here in the Philippines. We have to address that Karen if we don't address that we will have a brain drain, mawawalan tayo ng workers. Kasi anong gusto nila, pag graduate ng college gusto mag abroad ka agad. Yun makakuha lang ng passport kahit hindi naman graduate gusto makapag abroad agad, bakit?

kung dito sila magtatrabaho sa ating bansa, ang matatanggap nila, imagine $10 A day, which is $10 an hour in the United States. Eventually mawawalan din tayo ng manggagawa. I'm also asking the ECOP, what is your solution? We're losing our workers. They're going abroad, they'd rather go abroad because nobody wants to share the blessings, nobody. So I mean, I mean your husband work in Aboitiz, I know they can afford they can afford this. Many other companies the Aboitis, the Lucio Tan, the Gokongwei and all major players can afford this. I'm sure they can afford this because I've seen their bottom line every time I watch the news.

KD: So that's a ECOP argument that only 10% can afford this. The MSMEs will be affected but okay, let's move on because you make a good argument there is in effect with 500 plus plus 150 It evens out to something like 750. Tama po ba that's your calculation, para magiging 750 a day ang minimum wage, which becomes a decent living wage. So my question now is political. This is where horse trading begins in some way. Right? You may have the support of your colleagues with your bill. But then in the Lower House, the majority isn't actually touching that yet. So what happens now for this to become law? You would need your colleagues in the lower house and what if they ask looks and a president we're asking at least even considered before we even touch the increase in minimum wage, so paano ito?

SP ZUBIRI: Ang kukulit na nga nila sa amin sa Maharlika pa lang eh, hindi pa naming natatackle yung Maharlika so maybe we should tackle maharlika first before we tackle the Cha-cha. Again, I'm going into the reasons why we're doing this you want to help uplift people's lives. You want to pass my liquor okay? Why because you want to invest in strategic industries Okay, and be able to help make income additional income for the country. What bottom line is to help our country move up not from the economic (inaudible) we came in from the pandemic. And so, that's the bottom line. We have to work together the House of Representatives Speaker Martin is a dear friend of mine. Whenever we call each other each other brothers, brother Martin.

KD: Does the speaker called you yet?

SP Zubiri: No, because he already knows my position already. I had this discussion with the President and the speaker privately in the home of the president in Malacañang and the president said, "oo nga Martin, hindi ko priority ito. I'm busy going around selling the country to be able to fix the problems of our country." Right there and then, I heard the president tell him magulo yan and because of that.. he's a senator.. he is a former congressman and a former senator. He sees the charter change wars unfold. It could be very divisive. Very divisive as an issue. So, nakita ko po yung stand ni presidente doon. And I told the president and I called the speaker, this could be very divisive. I don't have the numbers in the Senate. We will just focus on the bills at hand. The priorities. Allow me to finish this priorities, including the Maharlika so that we can discuss and debate on it on the floor. So, they know my position on that. In fairness to my dear friend, speaker Martin, hindi niya siguro ako kinukulit na araw-araw. Ang punto ko dyan is, we are not ignoring them. Si Sen. Padilla is going around and he'll come up with this committee report. The thing is, will we be able to get enough signatures to be able to tackle the committee report in plenary? So, the process is on-going in the senate, we are not ignoring the House of Representatives. At this point in time, allow me to pass the LEDAC approved measures that would be able to help the people.

Karen, kunwari pinasa namin ang Legislative wage hike sa senate at hihingi sila ng horse trading or compromise, I will leave it at that. I will tell them that this is good for the country, I leave it to the House of Representatives. At the end of the day Karen, alam mo lalo na sa probinsya iyong minimum wage nila doon ay P300. What can you buy with P300? Inflation is not just in Metro Manila. Inflation has reached Northern Mindanao. Inflation has reached the central Visayas. Inflation has reached everywhere. I think we have to address the problem of inflation. I put P150 as a number. We can increase or decrease P150. But the ECOP and all the business organizations should know that the people are suffering. They should talk to their workers. Talk to your workers. Ask them, kaya niyo ba ito na ganito ang presyo... if you increase the salaries, you will increase the productivity of your workforce.

KD: There must be a science to the P750 number. Even if you present it differently from Makabayan bloc, it all ends up with P750 a day.

SP Zubiri: Mine is different from the Makabayan bloc. Makabayan bloc wants P750 across the board. Hindi naman pwede na sa mga lugar na P300 ang minimum wage gagawin mong P750, totoo ang sabi ng ECOP, magkakagulo dyan. This businesses cannot pay double to what they're paying now. They can't absorb that.

Mine is P150 across the board. Basically, if it is P300 in Samar, it will become P450. I think what they need is that additional cushion. They can pay bills and buy food for their children. Nagtaasan ang presyo ng bilihin. Nagtaasan ang presyo ng basic utilities. So at least, it is a cushion.

KD: Last question on that particular issue, where are you now in this particular bill?

SP Zubiri: We just filed the measure. It will go to the committee of Sen. Jinggoy Estrada. I've been filing this bill for quite a while now. I filed this in Congress. I filed this in the Senate in my first term. I'm also one of the proponents of the bill na na-veto ni President Duterte, Security of Tenure Act. You know we passed that in the Senate.. the Security of Tenure Act... So, I really believe that to have a strong economy, you really need to have a strong and happy workforce.

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