Press Release
November 20, 2023

TRANSCRIPT OF INTERPELLATION
Senator Risa Hontiveros during the DND budget interpellation

November 20, 2023

Senator Risa Hontiveros (SRH): Maayong hapon, good Sponsor. And to the DND family, magandang hapon po.

Good Sponsor, tungkol muna sa "Preparing for Current & Future Defense Scenarios." The current conflict in Eastern Europe - while a tragedy for the peoples involved - provides many valuable insights into how a smaller country can stand up to a larger neighbor.

One key insight is air defense. An adversary must not be allowed to achieve air superiority. In Eastern Europe, road-mobile long-range Surface-to-Air Missile systems have helped prevent a quick Russian victory, and - air denial - not the traditional concept of air superiority, has been described as an important factor in Ukrainian successes.

Ito po bang budget na dinedebate natin sinusuportahan yung enhancement nung Air Defense Capability ng ating bansa?

Sen. Bato dela Rosa (SBR): Yes, the present budget is supporting it in two ways. Number one is aerial domain awareness, and surface to air missile systems.

SRH: So una yung aerial domain awareness na parang yung maritime domaine awareness na sinusulong ng Coast Guard at Philippine Navy, tapos yung surface-to-air missile systems.

At sa yugtong ito, sa taong 2024 na pinaguusapan natin ang budget, sapat na itong dalawang paraan o dalawang component para iusad ang ating bansa papunta sa air defense capability?

SBR: Your Honor, yun po ang magiging backbone ng ating air defense and by next year, we will witness the arrival of ground-based air defense systems, and we're going to have additional radars that would be integrated into the system.

SRH: Tapos good sponsor, kapag dumating na yang ground-based air defense tapos mga dagdag na radars next year, basically, nakalatag na po yung pundasyon ng ating air defense capability, yung skeleton nito?

SBR: Hindi pa, your Honor.

SRH: So mga ilang taon pa bago at least yung pundasyon o skeleten ng air defense capability ay mailatag natin o matatag natin?

SBR: Around five years, your Honor.

SRH: So pasok doon sa buong timeline ng AFP modernization program mula Horizons 1 hanggang 3.

SBR: Yes, your Honor.

SRH: To quote Defense News: "Ukraine's employment of vertical depth, layering the effects of air defenses, electromagnetic jamming, drones and missiles in increasing degrees of strength together with the advantages of dispersion and mobility, suggest the defender now has the advantage."

At sea, Storm Shadow long-range cruise missiles and un-manned air and naval vehicles have allowed Ukraine to disperse the Russian Fleet and effectively retake the Black Sea.

Tayo po ba, nasimulan na natin ang pagpopondo ng acquisition at saka training programs na kailangan natin para makapag-produce ng effective drone and missile units? Kanina po sa interpellation ni Minority Leader narinig ko po na may 7 projects doon sa AFP modernization programs na tungkol sa missile unites.

Ibig sabihin po ba sinimulan na natin ang pagpopondo at acquisition nito at training programs, both sa missile units, pagproduce missile units at pagproduce ng effective drone units?

Senate President Zubiri: Maybe in broad strokes, without giving the details. Kasi maraming nakikinig sa atin dito. We don't want to telegraph our punches or our defense capabilities.

So, maybe in broad strokes.

SRH: Yes, Mr. President. Certainly. If the good Sponsor would advise na isama na dun sa executive session kahit alin sa mga tanong ko, I will submit, Mr. President.

SBR: Thank you for that question, your Honor. That is a very enriching question. Siguro pwede natin idagdag mamaya sa executive session.

SPZ: We don't want to specify the specific technology. Although you can say we do have an air defense system that we're setting up without giving the exact items in public, maybe you can just divulge it to our dear colleagues in an executive session.

SBR: We just want to give them the impression na kung gusto niyong pumasok dito sa amin, dapat magdadalawang isip kayo, kahit na malaki kayong bansa, maliit lang kami, pero meron din kami capability na hindi niyo alam.

SPZ: For the record, the Senate is going to increase the budget of the DND particularly on that issue on air defense, di ko lang babanggitin magkano, pero considerable. It would be a Senate initiative and I'm sure the Defense chief will be happy, including Gen. Brawner, including the men and women of the Armed services.

SBR: The whole DND family is happy.

SRH: Conversely, ito pa bang budget na pinaguusapan natin ay tumutulong para i-enhance yung capability natin na dumepensa laban sa drone attacks at missile attacks. At huli, sa paksang, ito, ano ang ginagawa natin para i-incentivize ang development ng domestically produced unmanned vehicles?

SBR: Yes, your Honor, all efforts are going to that direction and we will really that new law about HRDP para ma-encourage ang ating local industries na pagandahin ang kanilang industriya at produkto para doon nalang tayo bibili sa local kung ito'y it will cater to our needs. Sabi nga ni Sec. Teodoro, perfect fit as far as our needs are concerned.

SRH: Salamat, good sponsor, sa pagbanggit ng self-reliant defense program kasi matatanong ko rin yan. Dako na ako doon, tungkol sa "Continuous Military Modernization."

Kung magproprocure tayo mula sa masyadong maraming suppliers, hindi ba niyan mas gagawing komplikado yung logistics at saka yung supply chain?

SBR: The answer is kung iisang supplier lang, mas hindi complicated, pero kung marami tayong supplier, hindi naman natin masasabi na complicated dahil meron naman specs na sinusunod sa bidding, but most likely, magkakaroon din ng kahit konting mismatches pagdating sa delivery, pagdating sa functioning ng mga gamit na yan, pero mas maganda kung isa lang, isang supplier.

SRH: In any case narinig ko narin po yung sagot niyo sa mga tanong ni Minority Leader kaugnay dito at pagbabalanse ng DND sa fit sa pangangailangan natin at yun na nga po ang viability nung supply chain. At huling followup dun sa interpellation ni Minority: tungkol sa technology transfer.

Sinasama po ba natin niyan sa ating procurement din?

SBR: Dapat isama talaga yan, your Honor because that is to our advantage. Isa yan sa consideratin sa pag-enter into a contract, kung mayroon ba silang transfer technology provision, so mas maganda talaga, kung matransfer satin, that would be the building blocks sa ating HRDP.

Kaya nga di pwedeng gawin yan kung bidding tayo ng bidding dahil nga it will discourage the suppliers dahil nga yung batas natin,yung procurement law natin,ay marami talagang dapat baguhin dito. Halimbawa isang kumpanya decided na siya na pumasok sa Pilipinas, kumpleto na yung package ng transfer technology naka-ready na, then the following year, magbibid nanaman tayo, tapos ang mangyayari ngayon natalo siya kasi iba ang nanalo, lowest bidder eh, mas mura ang binebenta ng isa, so yung nakahanda na niyang package, masasayang yan your honor, so discouragement on the part of the supplier.

SPZ: And anywhere in the world, in the military, cheapest is never the best. Cheapest can fall out of the sky. Ships can deteriorate. Your fire arms can jam, that's the cheapest eh. With the permission of this body, I was proposing that we put an amendment to the law, to the GAA, and I think the good Sec will agree with me, that when it comes to procurement for the Armed Services, dapat exempt na sila doon sa PhilGeps. Unang-una, ipopost mo sa PhilGeps, kailangan mo ng armas, alam na ng kalaban, bibili sila ng ganitong armas, so hindi tama yun. And also, for them to be able to acquire weapons that are not encessarily the cheapest but the most effective for our situation in an archipelagic setup like the Philippines.

I spoke to the DBM Sec., she frowned upon it na maglalagay kami ng special provision, exemption, in the GAA, because she wanted the DBM Sec wanted us to pass it in totality under the Procurement law. Pero problema Sec baka makausap mo si Sec. Mina, you're talking the whole ambit, the universal ambit of public service nandyan na yung procurement sa LGU, sa different departments, ang gulo nun. Madugo yan. Knowing the Sec., being a three-term member of Congress, napakadugo, napakamadugo yan pag nabati and all, baka di makalusot after one or two years. I've appealed to Sen. Angara to put a special provision because we need it.

We know what's going on around our territorial seas and skies so kailangan talaga nila bumili kaagad. Kailangan nila bumili.. They need the ships not tomorrow, but they needed it yesterday so we're going to support them with a special provision with the help of my dear colleagues particularly on the Armed Services, and if we have the support of the Minority, that would be wonderful.

SBR: We can limit that provision to defense procurement only, hindi na kasami na dapat ang local government units doon kapag sinabi nating defense procurement.

SPZ: Kasi may batas na. That would be the amendment for procurement act which is going to be heated in terms of debates kasi nga bubuksan natin lahat pati lapis, pati papel. When it comes to defense spending, I'm making a suggestion, as your leader in the Senate, na may special provision tayo sa GAA, para sa ganon ay with the budget they have now or next year, they are able to buy the best equipment possible.

SBR: I second the motion.

SRH: Salamat. Hindi ko alam kung gender divide ito, pero mas sumasang-ayon ako kay Sec. Minah, but very well taken po at pag-aaralan din namin I'm sure sa Minority yung mungkahi.

SPZ: You are a fellow patriot, Madame.

SRH: Walang debate po doon. Very well taken po ang mungkahi ninyo Mr President pagaaralan din po namin yung exemption sa PhilGeps sa 2024 GAA alongside yung pagaaral namin kasama ng iba pang mga kasama dito sa Senado dun sa amendments sa procurement law. So pagaaralan namin yung posibilidad ba ng immediate, na mungkahi ni Mr. President, exemption sa 2024 GAA, at yung longer or medium term na amendments sa procurement law.

Hindi ko pa lang masabi kaagad ngayon siguro tulad ni Sec. Minah na -- dahil siyempre gusto po natin na bigyan ng sapat at tamang suporta ang bawat Department, kasama ng DND, hindi lang sa West Philippine Sea, kundi sa buong arkipelago, at binabalanse yung exercise natin ng power of the purse and oversight function sa budget.

SPZ: Maybe you can convince that provision not be vetoed. Usually special provisions are vetoed by the President. Magrequest tayo na itong taon lang para kailangan niyo naman talaga.. at I'm sure the President will agree that that particular provision will not be vetoed, if we agree as a body to include it.

SRH: In any case, salamat sa good sponsor sa pagbanggit nga ng procurement law, baka yung isa pang maging useful satin, yung mga budget instruments, kahit ituloy man ang bidding process, hindi madidisrupt yung contract between DND at kung sinuman yung pumasa sa bidding nila.

Mga dagdag na tanong dun sa continuous military modiernization. So the original AFP Modernization Act had an implementation period of 15 years. I believe military modernization isn't a one-time thing. If you fail to continuously modernize, sabi ng iba, you will end up holding the knife in a gun fight. Although of course para sa akin parin ang pinakaimportanteng knife o gun ay yung political at saka diplomatic might natin. Pero siyempre kasabay niyan ay ang ating pagbuild up ng ating sariling self-defense capacity sa national defense.

Anong mangyayari pagkatapos natin makumpleto ang Horizon 3, may pangangailangan bang i-enact na isusustain yung ating defense modernization efforts at isang modernization plan na naka-angkla sa archipelagic nature ng ating bansa?

Umaasa ako na ang ating AFP Modernization Act, nakalatag sa tatlong Horizon, consistent siya sa SRDP.

SBR: We expect after the completion of this AFP modernization Act, darating din ang araw na magiging obsolete narin yang model na yan so we'll have to formulate another modernization law in the future because modernization doesn't stop. There's no end. It's infinite. We expect in the future na meron nanamang another modernization act na ifoformulate sa Senado in order to catch up with the latest strength, the latest technology, and everything as far as defense is concerned.

SRH: At para nga eventually maformulate natin itong another modernization law nakapagdevelop na ba ang DND ng road map lampas sa Horizon 3 para paunlarin natin, i-maintain natin ang isang AFP na kayang i-address yung security needs ng ating bayan.

SBR: As of now, wala pa. To be frank. But we expect na meron tayong gagawin dahil ang ating magong defense strategy is comprehensive, archipelagic defense concept. Itong Horizon 3 natin, pangbungad palang sa ating konsepto.

SRH: Magandang image yan na yung tatlong horizon isang pambungad and then lampas nun lay ididesenyo pa natin yung landscape, yung seascape, yung airscape para sa ating bansa.

Anong specific outcomes at capabilities ang inaasahan nating makamit o madevelop once yung current round of modernization ay nakumpleto na?

SBR: Upon the completion of Horizon 3, we expect that we will be fully mission capable for territorial defense for the whole Philippine territory and that is we term it as a credible defense posture. So yan ang ating inaasahan po, assuming current threats, but we don't know the threats it will emerge in the future so meron nanaman tayong susunod na kabanata ng modernization na ieexpect your Honor.

SRH: Salamat, good Sponsor. I suppose naman po na yung mga banta sa hinaharap na hinid pa natin alam sa ngayon ay iintindihin sila ng bagong defense strategy na post-post horizon 3 at nakikiisa din ako sa inyo good sponsor, sa DND, at sa lahat ng kasama dito na harinawa ay dapat talaga umabot tayo dun sa credible defense posture na hindi tayo nagbabanta sa iba, hindi tayo nangaapi sa ibang bansa, pero kaya natin sabihin sa ibang bansa na bumabanta sa atin na hindi niyo pwedeng gawin yun at sasabihin ng buong gubyerno yun.

Dako na po ako doon sa "External vs. Internal Defense."I al so noticed that the resources we are devoting to defense are still heavily skewed in favor of our land forces. 70% of our military personnel serve in the army, 18% in the Navy, and a mere 12% in the air force.

On the other hand, in Japan - an island country with a similar land area and population as that of the Philippines - the breakdown is 60% army, 20% Navy, 20% Air Force.

Even the government in Beijing, for whom numbers are truly not a problem, devotes 55% of its human resources to its Army, 21% Navy, and 22% Air Force.

This is also reflected in the budget, the Army has been allocated around 121 billion pesos next year, the Air Force 44.7 billion pesos and the Philippine Navy 40.9 billion.

Eh kung currently po nagfofocus tayo sa external defense kasama na ang depensa nating sa ating pambansang interes sa West Philippine Sea at kalakihan pa ng ating Exclusive Economic Zone - anong mga aspeto ng budget na ito ay sumasalamin sa pagshift sa ating mga prayoridad?

SBR: We expect as of now yung ating capabilities ay sabi mo nga yung configuration ng ating armed forces is heavily land-based, but we expect that slowly we are going to reconfigure our armed forces to address the external threat.

Nangyari lang yan kasi masyadong heavy ang ating internal threat, yung ISO natin, kaya yung army talaga nafofocusan ng pondo, nafofocusan ng manpower, ng lahat-lahat.

Pero ngayon magshishift tayo your honor we expect that to happen.

SRH: Yung slowly reconfiguring, how slow is slow? Over how many years po?

SBR: That would be depend largely on the ability of the PNP to pick up the slack. Kasi nga yung mga areas ngayon na consider natin na meron paring threat, kung iiwan yan ng AFP, dapat capable yung PNP to take over para magconcentrate na ang armed forces doon sa external threat. Yung internal threat dapat to be addressed na by the PNP. So depende yan sa development ng PNP.

SRH: I imagine yung relationship sa pagitan ng dalawang institusyon, ng AFP at PNP, ay mas dynamic pa. Hindi ko naman ma-imagine na yung AFP eh hihintayin para maisagawa o kumpletuhin ang AFP modernization program at magbuo ng post horizon 3 national defense strategy ay hihintayin muna ang PNP. Baka kailangan hamunin ng DND, AFP, ang DILG-PNP na mag-level up din kasabay ng DND-AFP.

SBR: We perfectly agree with you. Dapat ganoon talaga because law, according to RA551, the insurgency problem, the internal threat should be handled by the AFP. So dapat baguhin ang batas na i-transfer ito sa PNP. Kasi support lang ang AFP sa insurgency problem, sa anti-insurgency, support lang, by law. Maybe i-amend natin ang batas na yan. Itransfer na sa PNP fully. Bigyan din ng period.

SRH: Kahit yung National Security Council sinabihan tayo na yung greatest threat na securtiy-wise ay hindi na yung dating insurgency pero yung mga pressures laban sa atin sa West Philippine Sea at sa ating Exclusive Economic Zone. So kung pwedeng may wish ang DND, AFP yung slow reconfiguration within how many years mangyayari yun at given na nga na mas tinatake on na talaga by law o by operational capacity ng PNP yung dating nakaatang sa balikat ng AFP?

SBR: Within the lifespan of horizon 3.

SRH: So 10 years from now, so 2033. Medyo matagal-tagal pa po ito. At least kung alam natin ito sa Senado, alam natin, good Sponsor, pwede nating subaybayan at suportahan year on year. Magkakaroon ba ng resistance sa Philippine Army sa ganitong shift?

SBR: The Philippine Army is a professional organization and we expect them to follow orders. If the leadership says that Army you do this thing, they will follow, even up to the point of whatever. They're very professional. They can do whatever the leadership instructs them to do.

SRH: Huling paksa ko tungkol sa Foreign Investments in Critical Infrastructure. Ano pong opinyon ng ating Security Establishment kaugnay ng mga foreign investments sa critical infrastructure?

SBR: We have to vet these foreign investors and the default control should be with us. Technical default control should be with us, not with foreigners.

SRH: Ano naman yung mga pagsusubok ng foreign entities na impluwensyahan yung ilang mga government agencies natin o kahit yung ilang mga local government units sa pamamagitan ng foreign investments at iba pang financial investments? Dapat ba tayong maconcern sa mga bagay na ito?

SBR: We should always be vigilant. Kailangan natin talagang i-vet ito lahat because everything boils down to national security, kung pababayaan natin ito we might wake up one day na foreigns na may hawak ng ating critical infrastructure if we are not vigilant enough. So bantayan talaga natin.

SRH: Alam naman ng good sponsor na may mga concerns na nga dun ngayon pa lamang kaugnay ng ating national grid, kaugnay ng ating telecomms, kaugnay ng pagamit ng POGOs bilang entry point na makasecure ng Philippine government documents at magkunwaring mga Pilipino para mapakinabangan ang parehong karapatan ng ating mga mamamayan.

SBR: As far as national grid is concerned, it was already a very strong statement coming from them that we really have the full control of the national grid.

SRH: Who really has control?

SBR: We, the Filipinos.

SRH: Hmm, ahh dinedebate yun sa ngayon at tingin ko kaugnay ng energy reform agenda natin dito, may mga hakbang pa tayong pwedeng gawin mas ma-secure ang effective Philippine control lalo na ng ating national grid.

SBR: Thank you for that very vigilance your Honor.

SRH: Considering yung impormasyon na natanggap natin: meron bang pangangailangan mag-fund ng isang foreign investment review office na tatauhan ng mga Trade at Security experts para ma-address ang ganitong concerns?

SBR: Through the NEDA ICC your Honor. NEDA- Investment Coordinating Committee.

SRH: May NEDA ICC tayo at kung hindi man nila ginagawa na, ay pwedeng hilingin ng chief executive o ng SND na i-vet din po nila, bilang bahagi ng NEDA ICC criteria.

SBR: We agree. DND should be vigilant enough also to wake up NEDA, yung mandato nila sa NEDA ICC na-ivet, pati na ang mga eskwelahan your Honor.

SRH: May mga debate tayo diyan good Sponsor. Buti nalang hindi DepEd budget ang iniinterpellate.

SBR: Huwag natin pagdebatihan ito ngayon. [laughs]

SRH: Hindi ngayon, opo. [laughs]

SBR: Higher Education daw.

SRH: May debate parin diyan good Sponsor. [laughs] Pero may panahon po tayong linawin yan.

Huling tanong nalang po, a particular concern. It's been brought to our attention that the Supreme Court recently rendered judgement on a case between the Philippine Navy and Retired Officers, involving the Philippine Navy Golf Course. Ano po yung current status ng kasong ito?

SBR: May nanalong ibang indibidwal pero may motion for reconsideration pa na hindi pa final. Hindi pa talaga final yun. Nag-MR pa ang DND, through the OSG. Kasi kailangan natin yung lupa for the retirement fund para ma-ease ang financial burden dahil noncontributory ang gusto natin.

SRH: So tumatawid din po tayo sa kaugnay na importanteng isyu, yung MUP Pension at alam ko po na ang isyung iyon na noncontributory vis-a-vis contributory ay isa sa mga importanteng isyung dedebatihin natin tungkol diyan.

Mula doon sa mas malawak na isyu ng MUP Pension, kung pagbibigyan niyo, ilang followup questions lang dito sa mas focused na kasong ito.

So naiintidhan ko po na pending pa ang MR ng Department through the OSG. Meron na po bang plaintiffs na nag-move for execution? Kahit yung ilang mga indibidwal na nanalo na?

SBR: Meron na daw. Isa, but kinuwestiyon ng Navy yung writ of execution, so matalo, wala na talaga, surrender. Pero may MR pa.

SRH: Naiintidihan ko po yun. So isa lang pala ang nagmove for execution pero question din, pero I guess sakop ng motion for consideration. Ilang square meters po ba ang pinaguusapan natin dito?

SBR: Yung apat na claimants na nanalo sa Supreme Court, they won 500 sqm each, so times four, 2,000 sqm, which is inside the Navy Golf course.

SRH: Itatanong ko sana kung may compelling reasons para iretain yung Philippine Navy yung property pero I understand kaninang sagot ng good sponsor, hindi na pala ireretain ng Philippine Navy, gagamitin para sa retirement fund natin?

SBR: Yes, your Honor.

SRH: Hindi narin relevant itanong kung may available remedies under the law pa ang Philippine Navy. Nagaavail na ang buong DND ng motion of reconsideration sa pamamagitan ng OSG.

SBR: That's based on OSG's advise your Honor. Alam mo naman ang gubyerno it will fight to its last breath bago mabigay.. At saka marami pang pending cases of the same nature. May incoming pa so we expect a deluge of claimants, at malaking kawalan ito sa Armed Forces kapag ito'y nakuha.

SRH: Daghang salamat. May isa pang dimension ito na hindi ko pa alam bago ko itanong ito, yung aspeto na gagamitin pala sana ng DND o ng AFP para sa retirement fund, gayon pa man, in closing my question on this case, nagaappeal ako sa SND alam kong ineexercise niya yung moral suasion to find the best possible solution here dahil sabi nga ni good sponsor government will fight until its last breath, karamihan daw ng mga retired officers na ito ay matatanda na ay yung iba ay namatay narin so kasabay po ng karapatan ng Philippine Navy and then yung balak ng DND alang-alang sa ating retirement fund, sana dun sa solusyong maabot ay maisaalang-alang din itong mga retired officers, lalo na yung mga buhay pa pero matatanda na at umaasa ng something, hindi wala, sa pagresolba sa kasong ito.

SBR: Hahanapan talaga ng win-win solution yan because these retired officers were also part of the Armed Forces before na nagserbisyo rin at yung productive years of their lives were dedicated in serving this country, so hanapan talaga ng win-win solution yan.

SRH: I'm all for a win-win solution, your Honor. Salamat good sponsor, sa buong DND family, daghang salamat.

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