Press Release
July 27, 2023

Senator Risa Hontiveros with Karen Davila via ANC Headstart

Q: Let's talk about, what were your thoughts with Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano's opposing the filing of a resolution before the UNGA? Does this resolution mean we are anti-China or now it moves to us being pro-US? It seemed that during the interpellation the arguments moved to that realm.

SRH: The resolution, co-sponsored by SP Migz, Sen. Jinggoy, and Sen. Raffy, was not about the US or any other global power. It was about China, of course, because siya yung subject nung ating historic win sa the Hague. But most of all, it was about the Philippines.

Nung nakita kong tumayo si Sen. Cayetano. I wasn't completely surprised dahil hindi man ito yung unang pagkakataon that he did not support pressing the case against China. Napakasimple naman ng resolution namin. It is expressing the sense of the Senate to urge the Philippine government through the Dept. of Foreign Affairs to sponsor a resolution in the UNGA calling on China to respect and to comply with that Hague ruling, and to cease and desist from her harassment of Philippine vessels in the West Philippine Sea.

Simpleng expression ng Senado, bilang isang independent institution of what we feel the Executive may further do. At hindi po ito mutually sa any and all other political and diplomatic moves that the government should take. Yes, it was a bit surprising, but then again, given his history sort of easing the Philippine foot on the gas pedal vis-a-vis China, I have to confess I wasn't completely surprised.

Q: Why did you decide to give that privilege speech that particular moment in time? Why that time?

SRH: It was to really capture the growing international consensus that we are seeing, tha tthe Philippines is enjoying, of more and more countries, even more and more regional formations, getting behind us on this issue, of the Philippine national interest in the West Philippine Sea, vis-a-vis China's bullying. Kumbaga, may bwelong nabubuo kasunod ng historic win nga natin sa The Hague 7 years ago, we should really press the case, press our case, not just at The Hague, kung saan tagumpay na tayo and that stands for all time, but continuously in the court of international opinion, and therefore also, in any and all other international fora, including the United Nations. Kumbaga hindi dehado pero may advantage na tayo dito so let's take the ball and run with it.

Q: What difference will it make if the Philippines brings this to the UNGA?

SRH: The difference it could make is to really complement our victory at the Hague, which is complete in and of itself. Kumbaga perfect na siya bilang ruling ng kumbaga judiciary, isang judiciary sa global stage. But a UNGA resolution, if adopted and as sponsored by the Philippine government through the DFA, would, parang yung resolusyon namin sa Senado at the UN, if adopted, it would express the sense of the United Nations, of the community of nations, na dapat talagang kapag may tagumpay ang isang bansa, lalo na a weaker state vis-a-vis a stronger state, pag may tagumpay sa isang global court, it should be respected. It should be complied with. So what we're trying to do here is after that beautiful win at the Hague, to capture the sense of the states of the world that this is now an international norm.

At hindi ito magiging unang pagkakataon ha? NIcaragua has done this previously in the UNGA in 1985 if I remember the year correctly. May tagumpay din sila dun naman sa International Court of Justice against the United States, so again halimbawa ng isang asymmetry of power -- a weaker state vs a stronger state. Hindi sinusunod noon ng US ang ruling ng ICJ to cease and desist in her actions against Nicaragua around and inside that country. Limang beses pinagbotohan sa UN Security Council, finally it was brought to the UN General Assembly and there Nicaragua was upheld.

Meron ding isang kaso o resolusyon sa UN General Assembly, dinala ng mga dating colonies ng Portugal and again those smaller or weaker states were upheld by the UNGA.

Q: I guess it helps that once again the issue of the West PH Sea is put on a global platform. That's the difference there. At the end of the day, while there is a Senate resolution before the DFA can actually bring this forward, it would have to have the go signal of Pres. Marcos Jr. I believe that at one point you called Malacanang for what you described as its deafening silence on the anniversary of the country's arbitral victory last July 12 and yet the president has kept insisting even in the SONA that we will protect our territorial integrity, our sovereignty, not an inch will be given away. What else would you want to see the President do? He's taken quite a different stand, or at least in foreign policy, compared to the previous administration.

SRH: That's where I can agree with the President. Pinihit niya ang posisyon natin. He's made a good start in terms of the direction of our foreign policy, away from almost exclusively friendship with Beijing to a wider community to include not just the US but other global powers, other countries, and other regional formations in the world. Ito namang resolusyon kinikilala parin na siya ang architect of foreign policy ika nga at ang kanilang alter ego diyan ay ang DFA, in fact, in my sponsorship speech, I recognized that the final execution of this course of action, kung i-adopt ng Senado at kung mararapatin ng Executive, will of course be in the able hands of the DFA, but kailangan kasi mas may gawin tayo.

Nakukulangan pa talaga ako sa aksyon hindi lang ng DFA, ni Presidente mismo. He did

repeat in the SONA those words about upholding sovereignty. He had said he would not give up a square inch of Philippine territory. Pero yung upholding sovereignty sa SONA sabi niya through dialogue eh hindi na nga sumusunod ang Tsina kapag dayologo. Ito ngang Hague Tribunal ruling dinededma niya, so one thing the President could have said in the SONA, that he didn't, deafening silence, ni hindi niya sinambit yung mga matatamis na salita na West Philippine Sea o Hague Ruling.

Q: Very interesting that you noticed that.

SRH: Kasi I was hoping against hope na babanggitin niya. He did not. So that is something he still could do, with the DFA, he still could do. Any and all international platforms or fora are open to our country kasama na ang UNGA, kasama na sa pamamagitan ng isang resolusyon sa gubyerno.

Q: You believe in terms of symbolism and stressing a certain point, mentioning the words West Philippine Sea, would have made a difference in the SONA?

SRH: It certainly would have kasi magiging sinyales sa ating lahat na mga Pilipino na ok si Presidente, architect of foreign policy, panghahawakan talaga niya at gagamitin this single most powerful peaceful nonviolent political and diplomatic weapon in our government arsenal to uphold Philippine national interest in the West PH Sea. At magiging sinyales din siya sa Tsina na ops, for the first time in 7 years, the Philippines is going to really take the ball and run with it.

Q: Just recently, Gen. Centino was appointed as presidential adviser on the West PH Sea. What do you make of that appointment and. do you think it would help actually deal with China's aggression?

SRH: The point of view of the defense and armed forces establishment is always important in crafting our foreign policy lalo na sa mga ganitong areas na may tension o conflict pa nga kasi hindi lang hinaharass hindi lang ang ating Philippine Navy, yung ating coast guard, yung ating BFAR, pati at higit sa lahat ang ating mangingisda. So to have the former chief of staff of the AFP now the presidential adviser on the WPS, I think it's important not just symbolically, but again, in practical terms.

Halimbawa itong recent incident na ininterdict ng China yung ating resupply mission ng ating Philippine Marines sa BRP Sierra Madre sa Ayungin Shoal. I'm really looking forward to Gen. Centino's views on that, how they may be expressed by the National Task Force of the WPS at pati ni Presidente at pati ng DFA. Kasi ano yan? Nagbubuo ang Tsina ng blockade laban sa atin? Gusto nilang istarve out ang ating mga kababayan? Yung ating mga marine personnel sa Sierra Madre sa Ayungin. Hindi talaga. I'm hoping and I believe that the Philippine Navy would know best how to take care of its personnel, our personnel there, and I'm sure kami sa Senado at harinawa sa buong kongreso will give them full legislative support in the steps they will take. And I hope the President will be up to that task as well.

Q: How did you find the President's SONA overall and what do you think should he have focused on more? What kind of the state of the nation did you want to hear?

SRH: How did I find it? I could hardly find it. Yung sinabi niyang state of the nation hindi talaga kumpleto o makatotohanan. At yung state of the nation, yung Philippine nation ba ang nilalarawan niya sa SONA niya? There was only one hit among many misses at yun yung condonation yung utang ng ating mga agrarian reform beneficiaries pero ang daming misses talaga. There are so many other issues that he could have spoken on in the first place and spoken on more completely and truthfully.

Halimbawa, just to give examples, yung PUV modernization eh yung araw na yun mismo, our jeepney drivers held a strike so nasaan na yung roadmap ni Presidente diyan. Sinabi nila yung mga pagkain daw sa hapag kainan ng mga pamilyang Pilipino ay nagmura na. What country was he speaking about? Kasi kung tanungin natin lalo na yung ating mga mahihirap na pamilya, hinding hindi totoo pa iyon na mas abot kaya ang nutrisyon at pagkain sa atin.

Another deafening silence: anti-corruption, especially against agricultural smuggling and large-scale or economic sabotage, although sinabi ni Presidente bilang na daw yung mga araw ng mga smuggler, well he has to put his money where his mouth is. Unahin na niyang tugisin yung mga favored importers sa sugar fiasco number 2, sa sugar smuggling. And unfortunately kailangan niya rin singilin yung accountability ng mga matataas na opisyal nila sa Dept. of Agriculture at pati sa office of the Executive secretary sa handling ng sugar fiasco na iyan.

Of course binida ni presidente yung Maharlika fund but until now after his ill-advised signing of that bill into law, kahit nagsusumamo talaga yung ating dalawampung ekonomista mula sa UP at naghahanda yung ating mga mamamayan hamunin ang constitutionality niyan sa korte soprema, isang malaking sugal parin ang Maharlika Fund sa ating mga Pilipino. Tama ba yun? Na yung mga pondo natin at yung kinabukasan ng ating mga anak at apo ay gawing sugal ng ating gubyerno?

Inflation of course binida ni Presidente bumaba na daw. You know inflation even a drop in inflation is just words and numbers hangga't maranasan sa araw-araw sa sikmura ng ating mga kababayan at hindi parin dama na lumusog ulit yung kanilang mga sahod.

Inflation means salary cut and until now Filipino families will tell us hinid parin maramdaman na bumalik ang buying power para sa mga produkto at serbisyo na kailangan natin sa araw-araw.

Shocker yung employment numbers ni Presidente. I was taking notes of his SONA, napatingin ako, what?

Q: Wouldn't the President get that from the agencies?

SRH: Yes, but the OP would vet and of course work with him to finalize and perfect his SONA. Sen. Koko Pimentel reminded me that pag ang isang ekonomiya ay 95% employment that's already full employment, is the President telling us more than full employment tayo? Hinding-hindi. And yung kanilang underemployment figure that is only 11%, that is grossly understated. When we talk employment, kailangang pagusapan hindi lang ang bilang ng trabaho and even there 600,000 jobs shed in agricultural alone in the last year and we have to talk about the quality of the jobs.

Sa ngayon, jobs of last resort parin yung nagegenerate, mga low productivity and low wages jobs and hindi pa nagdedeliver yung sinasabi ng government economic managers na drivers of growth - manufacturing, mining, high-skilled services jobs, hindi parin. I really don't know which nation the President was describing the state of. Way off the mark siya, pati sa renewable energy. Sabi nila last year the use of renewable energy is at the top of our climate agenda so nasan na iyon? Sa panahon ngayon ni bagyong Egay.. Edukasyon and health way behind pa tayo at hindi tinalakay ng ganap at makatotohanan ni Presidente.

Q: What do you think should the President focus on? Would it really be inflation and the price of basic commodities?

SRH: Definitely, kahit sa mga surveys, yan ang lumalabas na top of mind, top of heart, top of sikmura concerns nating mga Pilipino, lalo na ng karamihang mahihirap, walang kapangyarihan, at overall, ang laki ng mandate niya eh, huwag niyang sayangin ang pangalawang taon niya. Let him ride that momentum and prove to us Filipinos that his administration is one that can keep its promises.

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