Press Release
September 13, 2023

Transcript of Q&A: Senator Risa Hontiveros with DND Secretary Gibo Teodoro during the Commission on Appointments hearing

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Senator Risa Hontiveros (SRH): Narinig ko po yung mga manipestasyon tungkol sa courtesy at saka support at nirerespeto ko iyon at sa parehong pakiramdam na iyon ng courtesy, I had the opportunity to speak briefly with Sec. Teodoro a week or a couple of weeks ago when I told the good secretary I would ask some policy questions at this hearing, and he very kindly expressed his openness to them.

Dahil nila live stream po itong confirmation hearing, pagkakataon din po sa good Secretary to continue to inform and educate yung mga kababayan tungkol sa ano ang kaisipan ng national defense department ng ating bansa ngayong 2023. At alang-alang sa hiniling sa akin ni Senate National Defense Committee chair Jinggoy Estrada, bagamat meron po akong 11 tanong, iiksi-an ko nalang sa pito sa pinaka-importanteng policy questions and just submit the remaining questions through our chair to the good secretary, if he would kindly care to advise me about those questions as well.

Secretary, 16 years ago, you were named as the Philippines' youngest Secretary of Defense at 43. Now, you are back to serve an ika nga 2nd tour of duty. Paano po yung military affairs at yung DND mismo nag-evolve over those years?

Sec. Gibo Teodoro: I think there has been really a shift really in evolution. Number one from focus. Focus right now is straddling the balance between maintaining internal security and with an emphasis definitely given ang mga pangyayari sa outside environment natin. Pinapatatag po natin ang defense posture natin. Ngayon po ang capabilities po ng AFP ay dahan-dahan po nating hinahabol.

Nile-leverage po natin ang ating mga alyansa, ngunit ang department proper at ibang mga support agencies po kailangan din po ihabol po natin upang sa ganon mamanage ang mga proseso at mga imprastraktura at mga programa, properly. Kaya po kailangan na maghabol po tayo sa managerial aspect and we will try po to introduce management solutions to managerial problems, and not military solutions to managerial problems. That is the transformation that we are trying to make, your honor. We are also deeply re-strategizing what we intend to do at least in the next five years in order not only to make the defense department more responsive to the outside and internal environments but also to make more efficient our use of resources, and to use information technology to the highest extent possible.

SRH: Mr. Secretary, last June during your first press briefing after you were appointed, you said that the priorities of "National defense should transition — without sacrificing the gains in internal security — to external defense." Bakit po sinasabi ng defense establishment na yung external threats now outweigh internal threats?

Teodoro: Kasi po that follows the position of the national security cluster that internal threats have waned significantly but nevertheless your honor the intensity of the need to focus on protecting our sovereignty, our sovereign rights, in the Exclusive Economic Zone and other jurisdictions of the country become more paramount now, as the whole world is in a raise for resources. Hindi po tayo pwedeng maging laidback dito. Kailangan maging cognizant po dito dahil po we can and principally use diplomacy. However, if diplomacy is not backed up by a strong spinal cord, then we will just be stymied by a greater force.

SRH: Gustong gusto ko po yung sinabi niyo na we must principally use diplomacy. We must principally use politics. I would always put political and diplomatic action by government on the front burner and backed up by that strong spinal cord nung sinabi niyo rin kanina yung strategic defense capacity at posture natin.

It's been said, Secretary, that generals who know all possible adaptations to take advantage of the ground know how to use military forces.

After decades of our armed forces being configured primarily for land warfare and counter-insurgency, as you also referred to it, our National Security Policy Manual emphasizes that we are an archipelagic and maritime nation.

So I was glad secretary binanggit niyo kanina yung looking forward the next five years. Kasi ang tanong ko po ngayon, ano po yung vision niyo para sa kinabukasan ng ating militar, specifically paano niyo irere-orient yung ating Armed Forces papunta dun sa pag-secure ng bansa natin laban dun sa mga external threats, Mr. Chair?

Teodoro: In general, without divulging sensitive information, the mandate now that we wish the armed forces to concentrate on is not only to guard against the islands of the archipelago and its internal waters, but to secure the peaceful and unimpeded and unobstructed exploitation, exploration of our sovereign rights over the 200 nautical mile EEZ of the republic and in all areas of the Philippines, to secure our baselines, because that is the basis of an archipelagic country, and thirdly, your honor, even in the modernization plans, even in our strategic basing, even in our alliances, leveraging our alliances, consistent with the independent foreign policy stand of the Philippines, we will have to rethink where we are. And that will involve also the restructuring of our Force mix and our resource mix, your Honor.

SRH: I have to say so far isa po ito sa pinaka-interesante at fulfilling na or satisfying pagtatanong sa mga opisyal na humarap sa atin. I'll return to some of the other points that you mentioned doon sa later and last questions ko.

In yesterday's hearing of the Senate Committee on National Defense and Security, Peace, Unification and Reconciliation, Commodore Jay Tarriela of the Philippine Coast Guard stated that foreign state actors could be behind a disinformation campaign aimed at downplaying the aggressive behavior of the Chinese government vessels in the West Philippine Sea.

An article published May of this year by the Jamestown Foundation said that these Foreign Influence Operations - allegedly under the guidance of the Chinese Communist Party's United Front Work Department - seek to achieve information dominance, win the hearts and minds of target communities, and unite them in supporting the CCP's goals while neutralizing critics.

It is said that the mantra of the CCP's United Front Work Department comes directly from Mao Zedong, "to rally our true friends to attack our true enemies." I hope we are keeping tabs on those hostile state actors and doing what we can to minimize their ability to influence public opinion in the Philippines.

Recently, you also stated that the Chinese government's 10-dash line map is the best evidence of China's expansionist agenda: "to dominate the whole South China Sea and perhaps beyond."

Kaugnay ng mga ganitong realidad, ano po yung mga national national security implications ng mga Chinese state-owned enterprises nag-ooperate sa ating national electricity, nag-ooperate ng telecommunications equipment sa AFP camps, at pagpapasok ng kanilang mga manggagawa para magsagawa ng large-scale infrastructure projects sa Pilipinas?

Teodoro: I'll divide the question into two. First, the state-owned enterprises and overt infrastructure. That's not so much a problem because we can monitor it and we have default control over it. It's the activities that we cannot see, like yung pagpasok ng mga workers dito na dapat gawin ang trabaho po ng ating mga kababayan. Yan po ang nakakabahala. Hindi lang po hindi makatarungan para sa ating mga kababayan, ito po ay security risk dahil may problema ho tayong momonitorin ang mga ito lalo na po kung labas pasok. Ang aking mas gustong malaman po at pinag-iigtingan po namin ang mga covert economic activities and information activities na hindi po litaw na nangyayari.

SRH: Salamat, Secretary. Sapat na po sakin that you and the department are aware of these and with the whole committee I look forward to you taking the necessary and appropriate actions in the next half decade.

Also, as we pivot towards external defense, perhaps we should also readjust the manner in which we allocate scarce intelligence resources.

The rules require that civilian agencies utilize their confidential funds in support of their mandate and operations; for the most part, an orientation towards internal defense. Thus, it has been suggested that these resources be realigned towards external defense by reallocating them to agencies like the DND, PCG, and NICA with the mandate and capability to utilize them effectively.

Sa halip na i-disburse itong scarce intelligence resource sa ibang mga civilian agencies. Hindi kaya better utilized sila gamit yung expertise ng mga intelligence agencies at nakatungo, naka-target towards external threats? Ano po ang opinyon ninyo sa mga ganitong panukala?

Teodoro: Sa civilian agencies na may intelligence and confidential funds, dalawa po ang purpose. First po is for the internal, anti-criminal security ng agency. Anti-scam, pagbibili po of course like biometric equipment and the like. Ang dapat natin malaman siguro po ngayon meron pong fusion ng external threats through internal activities na nakadisperse po uhh at vinavalidate pa po natin hindi pa po validated ito through different activities of society under the jurisdiction of different departments. Because the best way how to probably uhhh weaken a country is rather than an overt warlike function or disruption of your facilities is really to take control of your internal economy, internal processes, and the like. Yun po kinakailangan din po ng intelligence and confidential funds ng different agencies para ho mabantayan at masugpo ito.

SRH: Salamat, Secretary. Na-a-appreciate ko naman na baka may ilang mga civilian agencies na nasa mandate nila pati yung anti-crime at pati nung pag-fusion nga dun sa mga department tulad ng sa inyo na may mandate at capacity talaga to work against external threats, kasama yung mga totoong intelligence agencies na ganun din may mandate at expertise.

I just have the feeling po na right now masyado pong dispersed at yun naman ang ginagawa namin dito sa Kongreso pati sa budget debates na may i-focus sila that yung mga civilian agencies na makatatanggap ng confidential funds ay yung talagang may mandate na gamitin iyon and more of these funds ibigay hindi lang sa ibang mga civilian agencies na meron talagang mandate to use these confidential funds pero mas dun sa mga national defense, internal security, public safety, and of course intelligence mandates. Kumbaga, nasa shop niyo talaga yung ganyang trabaho so karapat-dapat lang na mas marami sa resources na ito, limited as they are, ang ma-appropriate po sa inyo. I'll leave it at that for now.

In a previous hearing, the DND assured us that the Philippines would retain sovereignty and control over the so-called "agreed locations" under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement. Our relationship with US bases before or facilities now in this country is perhaps best described as complicated.

Paano po natin masisiguro na sa pamamagitan ng EDCA, mapupursue natin yung ating sariling national security interests kasabay nung pagpursue ng US sa kanyang national security interests. At paano po natin maiiwasan o mamimitigate yung mga posibleng social harms na involved dito?

Naalala ko po kasi Sec yung Jennifer Laude incident where it appeared to many Filipinos that the American serviceman involved in her death was given special treatment. Paano po natin masisiguro hindi ito mauulit at yung ating national interest mangingibabaw at maiiwasan ang social harms?

Teodoro: It's really a two-way street. We provide logistical support to the US government, the US armed forces, but their obligation is to capacitate us with our capability upgrade. As a matter of fact, we are undergoing now a vetting process for that. It's called the General Secrecy of Military Information Agreement, where our processes will be vetted to enable us to be a recipient of that and it's a quid pro quo. We will make sure that the deal is to the best interest of both countries and not lopsided. We have to be very vigilant also and to be very aggressive in enforcing Philippine interests, first and foremost. That's why it's a matter of calibration, judgment, and arm's length negotiations.

SRH: I noted also in today's news na makakadalaw na si US Ambassador Carlson, a fellow woman leader of many of us, dun sa ilang bagong EDCA Sites. Nakakainggit lang eh, nauna pang makadalaw po kami sa Kongreso makatanggap ng anything in writing about the features nitong additional EDCA sites. I hope ma-cocorrect yung sitwasyong iyon sooner than later.

Teodoro: Duly noted, your honor.

SRH: As we all know, there has been some reluctance from our uniformed personnel vis-à-vis various proposals to reform their pension system. Paano niyo po nakikita na kami sa Kongreso, ang Senado, ang House of Representatives, ay pinakamahusay naming ma-address itong mga concerns at mapagaan yung pag-aalinlangan nila, pag-aalala nila, yung ating men and women in uniform?

Teodoro: Sa ngayon po, lagay na po ang loob nila kasi nakinig po ang Kongreso at alam po nila ang suporta ng House. Hindi naman po tayo nagrerecognize na kailangan natin ng fiscal prudence kaya nga po kami po'y magsisikap, sa ilalim po ng batas sana na ma-dissolve na ang RSBS by law para mailagay na ito sa AFP retirement trust fund, marealign ang BCDA share ng armed forces from modernization dahil ito'y napaka modest, ilagay nalang po sa retirement trust fund, at nagsisikap din po kami ng DENR na malinis na po ang lahat ng titulo ng lupain na hindi lang po armed forces pero DND properties narin po para sa ganon maiseed capital po ito sa separate trust fund.

Matagal po ito na magiging mature. Ngunit, pag ito'y nagmature, ano po ang benepisyo? Ang benepisyo po natin ay may separate trust fund na na pwedeng pagkunan ng pondo para sa retirement nila na hindi na po subject to the financial position totally of the government sa regular GAA. Kasi ngayon po pwede naman po talagang hatiin or bawasan ang pension depending on the financial situation of the government, kaya nga po may arrearages may utang po na binabayaran at naghahabol.

Matagal po na proseso ito dahil matagal din po naman na nahinog itong sitwasyon po na ito at sa ngayon po kailangan pong balansehin natin ang moral and welfare ng ating pong mga kasundaluhan at ang pinag-uusapan dito sana hindi percentages kundi magkano ang net take homepay na iuuwi ng ating sundalo. Ngayon po sila po ay lagay sa mga posisyon ng House at sa Kongreso ang retirees ay wala pong galawan ang kanilang benepisyo at ang mga naninilbihan po ngayon ay hindi po rin gagalawin ang kanilang mga benepisyo at ang kanilang mga karapatan sa ilalim po ng kanilang tinatanggap ngayon.

Sa mga bagong entries po, pwede natin po pagusapan. Hindi naman ako nag-object sa contributions na gagawin nila kasi kailangan din po sa mga bagong recruit turuan din po natin ng financial literacy at financial saving habits, ngunit po kung ipagkakaloob po ng Kongreso ang noncontribution narin po nila, malaki pong tulong ito sa morale and welfare ng ating kasundaluhan. Ang current pensioners po natin ay 138,000 lamang at hindi na tataas na po ito dahil ang Armed Forces of the Philippines hindi na po lalaki. Hindi po tulad ng kapulisan at ibang mga services na may ratio of policeman or fireman to population, ito po'y nandiyan nalang po sila.

On the other hand, we will be entrusting them with more and more responsibilities and more and more secure capabilities and more expensive capabilities. So kung hindi po natin i-secure din ang retirement din nila. Ready, willing, and able po ang private sector na kunin sila sa special skills po na kanilang nalalaman. So those are the practical arguments. I will not go into the sentimental arguments that everybody knows already, particularly those who have seen their comrades fall. It is a highly charged, emotional environment.

So this is my proposal po: Ang proposal ko let us go very deliberately on pension reform and then when passions subside because the atmosphere, the exchanges have been quite emotional, and too fiery. Like Sen. Imee said, let's cool down passions, so we can really talk numbers in a less volatile environment and not right now where we need each and everyone to be at the top of his or her game. Yun po ang aking pakiusap.

SRH: I hear you. I believe the whole committee hears you loud and clear, Secretary, sa sagot niyo dito sa huling tanong ko. Nakikita ko na yung sinasabi niyong searching for managerial solutions, not military solutions, to managerial problems. Pero ang maganda ay if we can pull it off, with Congress's policy support, kayo sa Executive then it will also enable yung achievement ng some of our other national interests, including po yung national defense and military interests ng ating bansa.

Salamat dun sa inputs niyo regarding sa MUP. Isa po ako sa naglo-look forward sa aming deliberations on that dito rin po sa Senado. Two of the important elements na narinig ko na na I think are very sound na binanggit niyo ay wala pong galawan sa current benefits na ibinibigay sa current pensioners and then exploration nung anong contribution system ang pwede sa mga bagong entrants sa ating armed forces.

Wala pong tatawad dun sa emotions around this issue. Ako rin po, my late husband was a PMA graduate, my brother is a PMAer, with the Philippine Navy Marines, and so very well felt and respected namin dito sa Senado and I believe sa House those feelings and we will work with you to find a solution in law.

Yun lang po mga tanong ko. Maraming salamat, daghang salamat, Mr. Chair. I look forward to Congress being able to engage with you over the next half decade to achieve these different objectives, pati po yung pagbantay dun sa transition na tinitignan niyo for RSPS towards the trust fund, yung AFP modernization, kaya importante sa amin yung BCDA na yung tamang proceeds mapunta sa AFP because we want all sources of resources para sa AFP modernization hanggang pa makumpleto niyo ang horizon 3 will really be realized or achieved at yung pag-monetize niyo pati ng mga properties for all of these needs.

Maraming salamat po and advanced congratulations. Mabuhay po kayo.

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