Press Release
March 1, 2017

Interview with CNN Philippines' Pinky Webb

WEBB: Thank you for joining us. I'm Pinky Webb. In what could be a show of support to the embattled fellow Liberal Party members both former President Benigno Aquino and Vice President Leni Robredo attended a closed-door meeting for the Liberal Party yesterday. This came after three LP Senators and one of its staunch allies in the Senate were expelled from leadership and committee chairmanships. Senate President Koko Pimentel calls it a part of the Senate re-organization but some LP members called it a move to silence the opposition. Let's go straight to the source of the story, Liberal Party President and Senator Francis Kiko Pangilinan. Senator, good to have you. Good morning.

SEN PANGILINAN: Thank you for having me here.

WEBB: This all happened at Monday. Were you surprised it happened that day?

SEN PANGILINAN: I sort of expected it. After12 years in the Senate, going on my 13th year, we've seen everythin, ika nga. As early as two weeks ago, I was already feeling the shift in the posturing and positioning. So when it happened, I said, well, I am not surprised.

WEBB: Do you mean you felt that your fellow Senators, iba na yung galaw? Iba na ba yung tingin sa inyo?

SEN PANGILINAN: Well, you know, mapapansin mo rin. And then you'll notice there were-- you'll hear about information about meetings. Yung body language, dun pa lang. These people, I've worked with them for years. So after a while, yung mararamdaman mo na, mapapansin mo na--

WEBB: Na medyo iba na ang galaw.

SEN PANGILINAN: Well, kung araw-araw mo na nakikita sa usapin ng napakaraming taon.

WEBB: So what is it? They were a little less friendly than they used to be?


WEBB: O hindi ka nila tinitingnan nang diretso sa mata?

SEN PANGILINAN: Hindi naman. Kasama na rin 'yan. Yung mga events for example, the Lascañas testimony. We could see tension. So that was really heightened--nagkataasan pa nga ng boses dun sa loob ng-- Doon makikita mo may mga rumblings. Before that yung Marcos burial issue, nagkabotohan din doon. So the other area na--of course, the extrajudicial killings, the arrest of Senator De Lima and before that the skirmishes. So you could see there were these series of events that led to this.

WEBB: But Senator Pacquiao declared the position first, from what I remember, the position of Senate President Pro-Tempore vacant. And that was held by Senator Drilon and it was Senator Drilon who seconded the motion?


WEBB: Bakit? Why would he do that?

SEN PANGILINAN: Well, it was an acknowledgement that the majority would have its way and so we didn't resist. Just accepted it and--

WEBB: Because you knew you were going to lose all this, ganun po ba? Para to save face, sige na, I will second the motion.

SEN PANGILINAN: Hindi naman to save--not naman to save face but, you know, what's the point of having to vote for a matter that is already forthcoming. So, let's not waste time in the Senate. Let's just--

WEBB: Sinuportahan niyo na yung plano nila.

SEN PANGILINAN: Let's just do it. Let's get it done.

WEBB: But when there are meetings, there was a meeting last Sunday according to Senator Pacquiao, some of the people were there. Some of your co-Senators were there. Did you hear about that prior to what happened?

SEN PANGILINAN: I learned about it Monday morning. Pero halos tanghali na. But let me just clarify also. There was a statement to the effect that the legislative agenda was being hampered. This is definitely, clearly erroneous. Of the 29 committee reports being defended on the floor, 20 were being defended by the LP. In yesterday's session, Senator Drilon was still defending a measure because there was an agreement that those that we started out, just so that it does not derail. We can always say, bahala na kayo sa buhay niyo. But of course, the interest there is to get things done. I also was defending the coco levy measure yesterday, answered questions from Senator Gordon. Of the 29 bills that are on second reading, being tackled on the floor, 20 were from the LP and Akbayan. So hindi tama na sabihing there was hampering of the agenda of the Senate.

WEBB: Let's listen to some of the statements made by, one, Senator Manny Pacquiao on why this had to happened and the other, Senator Cynthia Villar:

SEN PACQUIAO (Soundbite): Feeling naming napapaikutan kami sa ulo at feeling naming binabaril lang yung kalaban sa harapan. Hindi naming alam na yung kalaban naming binabaril kami sa likod na kasama namin sa, so ganun ang feeling namin.

SEN VILLAR (Soundbite): Minsan kasi kahit na tingin mo may problema kung kaya pa, kinakaya, di ba para wala na lang gulo. But may tipping point 'yan eh.

SEN PANGILINAN: Ang sa akin, ano ba yung mga--saan kami hindi nagkakasundo? Sa extrajudicial killings, eh sino naman ang--well, from my point of view, it's a serious cause for concern. 7,000 have been killed, limang libo doon, may vigilante murders. These are murders na walang solusyon. These are unsolved murders. So hindi tama ito. So we spoke out and we wanted more hearings doon sa EJKs but of course that didn't happen. The other issue was the Marcos burial, nagkabotohan din nun. Ayaw naming ilibing si Marcos sa Libingan ng mga Bayani. Gusto nila. So, ito ba ay hampering the legislative agenda? Pangatlo, yung Lascañas testimony. Marami sa kanila, ayaw. Siguro nasorpresa sila. Kami din nasorpresa na mayroon pala kaming sampu. So dito kami hindi nagkakasundo. Pero sa amin, we were asserting the independence of the Senate that these are matters that should be--sa history, sa kasaysayan ng Senado, pagka kinakailangang tumindig at manindigan para sa independence ng Senado to serve as a check and balance, nangyayari yan. Nung panahon ni Cory, the Senate rejected the US bases, the treaty extension. Nung panahon ni Ramos, dun nag-eexpose yung PEA-Amari na bilyun-bilyon, natigil 'yon. Nung panahon ni Estrada, yung Jueteng-gate scandal, nung panahon ni Arroyo, yung ZTE, EO 464--

WEBB: So what about now?

SEN PANGILINAN: Nung panahon ni Aquino, Mamasapano. And that's why sa amin, this is a tradition of the Senate na maging check. Walang gobyernong, walang administrasyon na perpekto.

WEBB: Yes, my question is, if that was happening before, there were investigations made or there were dissent on a sitting president or the government, why is this happening now? Let me bring this in, Vice President Leni Robredo was saying that somehow it seems that this government is intolerant of dissent.

SEN PANGILINAN: Well, nakulong na yung isa sa pinaka-vocal na kritiko, so yan--sa aming palagay, yung sistema ng ating katarungan, hopefully pagdating sa Supreme Court ay magkaroon ng--makita yung argumento na manipis yung ebidensiya at dapat sa Sandiganbayan o Ombudsman at hindi sa RTC. But that's already a matter-- So tama, we want to ensure that the Senate remains independent because yan ang tungkulin namin. Walang perpektong administrasyon. Kaya nga tatlong branches yan eh. Ang Executive, ang Legislative, at yung Judiciary. And they check on each other. Pag masyadong may excess yung executive, nandiyan yung legislative. Pagka yung Legislative gumawa ng batas na hindi tama, nandiyan yung Judiciary.

WEBB: Will the legislative composition right now still check on the executive, Senator?

SEN PANGILINAN: Well, I'm sure many of those--a number of those in the majority would also agree with us. I mean not everyone but a number of those in the majority would also agree with us that we need an independent Senate. And we will work with then even if they are not in the minority, for as long as the independence of the Senate is a matter that has to be asserted and there are those in the majority who are willing to join us, we will work with them.

WEBB: Does something like this happen without the consent or nod of the Senate President Koko Pimentel?

SEN PANGILINAN: In this case, siyempre, may go signal ni Koko yan. Kung walang go signal ni Koko yan, baka hindi na siya Senate President.

WEBB: Papaano ho nangyari ito if you had the go signal of Senate President Koko Pimentel as you say and six of you way back, Sir, voted for Senator Pimentel to be Senate President. Anim na boto binigay niyo sa kanya kaya siya naging Senate President because medyo may turf war noon between him and Senator Allan Peter Cayetano. You gave them six but he took away your positions now.

SEN PANGILINAN: That's after eight months. Ganun talaga. There are interests--diverging or differences in interests but at some point and so will-- and that's what happened.

WEBB: Is that okay?

SEN PANGILINAN: I disagree with it. But you know, sabi ng--may Buddhist saying eh: A key to happiness is acceptance. So we will take this at that for what it is. And I think it will be good in the long run. Because many are saying we need a strong--a stronger opposition. And I'd like to clarify that just because we are in the opposition, but we do not oppose for the sake of opposing. In fact, we will continue to support measure that we believe will be best for the nation. But there are certain lines you shouldn't cross and certain issues that you just have to raise dissent because this is a democracy.

SEN PANGILINAN: There is this obsession focus on war on drugs. Tama 'yan, malaki ang problema ng droga sa ating bansa. But there are 11 million jobless. Poverty is at 21%, extreme poverty. That's 20 million people impoverished. I'd like to think that even the issue of drugs is an issue of poverty primarily. Of the 7,000 dead, we don't have the figures but perhaps 99% are poor. And they're going into drugs, part of them, because...

WEBB: Dahil na rin sa kahirapan

SEN PANGILINAN: Na kung bibigyan mo sila ng disenteng trabaho, bakit ka makikipagsapalaran dun, kapit sa patalim ang marami diyan. So dapat, bilang oposisyon halimbawa, mali bang sabihin natin na "Sige, ayusin natin ang problema ng droga, pero wag naman natin kalimutan ang problema ng kawalan ng trabaho. 'Wag naman nating kalimutan itong problemang tumataas ang presyo ng mga bilihin. Bigyan din natin ito ng kahalagahan.

WEBB: That's something you were saying that the minority should look into. Just a couple of questions before we go on a break. Senator, I'm just interested to find out because during the campaign, there were Senator Angara, Senator Joel Villanueva, Senator Ralph Recto who form part of the LP. Why are they not with you now?

SEN PANGILINAN: Maybe you should ask them. No, but. Sonny Angara was 2013. In fact, Allan Cayetano in 2013 was with the Aquino Administration ticket. Allan, Sonny, Grace.

WEBB: Pero ang sinasabi ko po kasi si Allan Peter Cayetano napunta na po siya kay Duterte during the campaign. But for example, Senator Joel Villanueva, hindi po ba he was No.2 at the Senate, he ran under the ticket of President Aquino then. Hindi ho ba? Nasaanho sila in all of these? And why is Senator Recto now the Senate Pro Tempore? Because he is LP. Or is he not?

SEN PANGILINAN: Well, yes. He is LP. This is a matter that we will be discussing with him. You know it's been two days. Sabi ko nga "Dalawang araw pa lang pala ang reorganization? Lunes pa lang ba yun? Kasi parang isang linggo na sa dami ng nangyari." So these are matters that we will still thresh out. I guess in the end, it's better for you the ask Senator Joel and Senator Ralph.

WEBB: I will rephrase my question. Mayroon ho bang sama ng loob among the LP senators that these people were once with you and now they're not with you?

SEN PANGILINAN: Wala sa akin.I don't think mayroon kay Frank. Or kay Risa. Siguro yung kay Senator Joel, may issue kay Senator De Lima noon when she was Secretary of Justice. Kay Ralph, I don't know. I know he was interested in the Committee on Finance. But Senator Loren was voted into--but I don't think it was a...

WEBB: Are you disappointed that you lost them? For now.

SEN PANGILINAN: Well, you know how we wish we were a stronger--it's a numbers game ika nga. So the more, sabi nila, the more, the mannier.

WEBB: Yesterday, you were in a restaurant in Quezon City. Former President was there, Vice President was there. Si PNoy po said that I will leave it up to the Liberal Party President to speak on behalf of the Liberal Party. What was the most important discussion there?

SEN PANGILINAN: There were two important issues that we had to tackle, first was the death penalty vote in the house because if I'm not mistaken, that's today. So we reiterated the party position which has always been the position since the death penalty was abolished in 2006, I was majority in the Senate then. We helped marshal the passage of the bill in the Senate which abolished the death penalty. So as Liberal Party, we're just being consistent with our position.

WEBB: So you are against the death penalty.

SEN PANGILINAN: Yes. Although we realized, after taking a poll that there are a number in favor of the death penalty for specific reasons. We decided that, yes, this is the party position but being liberal democrats we will have to give some of our members the option to undertake a conscience vote.

WEBB: And they're gonna wait for the vote. That's supposed to happen today--

SEN PANGILINAN: That's what I hear.

WEBB: At the House of Representatives, Speaker Alvarez told us that it should happen today. Why wait? Why are you waiting for the vote to happen?

SEN PANGILINAN: Well, because there might be a re-alignment after the vote.

WEBB: Baka dumami kayo.

SEN PANGILINAN: Sana. So there might be. We don't know that it's possible. But also because we want them to focus on the debates of the death penalty vote first. The second item that we discussed was whether or not the House LPs will now join the minority in the same way that the Senators are now in the minority. And that's why we said we will postpone the discussions on this so that you in the House can focus on the death penalty debates and the vote and then after the vote, let us sit down again.

WEBB: Are you comfortable where the minority in the House of Representatives because apparently there's a genuine minority and a minority?

SEN PANGILINAN: You know, that's internal to them. But of course, from an outsider, it would be better if you really have a minority that is clearly defined. And in our case now, the minority in the senate used to be three, now it's six. 100% ang tinaas namin.

WEBB: Dumoble kasi.

WEBB: There are 32 members of the LP at the House of Representatives, is there any threat that you might lose some of them?

SEN PANGILINAN: That is always a possibility. We lost already. 115 were elected down to 33. Sabi ko nga, kasya na naman kami sa loob ng Volkswagen.

WEBB: We were talking about Oplan Tokhang a while ago, Senator, the President was open to reviving this. The PNP is saying that they seem to be ready to revive the Oplan Tokahang although wala pang exact date. Your thoughts on this.

SEN PANGILINAN: Well, there are cases filed before the Supreme Court, if I'm not mistaken, questioning the legality of the Oplan Tokhang so I hope, maybe we should urge the Supreme Court to act on this and every moment we do not act is another kababayan maybe killed and those killed may be actually innocent. And even if they are guilty, they have to go through a process in our courts. And I think ultimately, we have to modernize our judiciary. The EJK is a product of judiciary--a system of justice that has been failing us. It's six years before you can complete one case--before a case is finally resolved on average.

WEBB: Mabilis pa ata yung six years.

SEN PANGILINAN: On average nga eh. I've seen cases na 10-15 years hindi pa tapos. That has to end. This is unacceptable. You have judges' positions in the judiciary, 25% ang vacant. That is unacceptable. Your fiscal, your prosecutors, akmost 40% of your positions on the fiscal's office is vacant You have a justice system that is dysfunctional or practically not functional, pretty much. So this has to change. So we have to modernize the judiciary. And that's why; I think in the last LEDAC, they mentioned the JELAC. They call it another name, wherein the Supreme Court should sit in. We put that in 2008 precisely because we felt the justice when I was--

WEBB: Justice committee chair?

SEN PANGILINAN: Judicial and Bar Council representative. We did the pens for the pushing, we did the back-channeling and finally we were able to convene the JELAC twice. Judiciary, Executive, Legislative Advisory Council. There we discussed how do we modernize the justice system. The Chief Justice sat, the President, the vice president was an observer and we have the Speaker of the House and the Senate President. We were able to increase the budget of the judiciary by an additional 3 billion which at that point, and you'll be surprised, 1% became 1% of the entire budget. 1% of the budget goes to the judiciary. Now if you include the DOJ and the court, that's probably, we were not even 2% of the national budget goes to the system of justice. The system of justice, if the nation was a computer, the system of justice is your hard drive. That's your operating system. So if it's antiquated, how can we get things done and that's why you have criminality.

WEBB: And that's exactly one of the reasons why there are people opposed to the death penalty because of what is called a flawed justice system.

SEN PANGILINAN: And one last point. Our conviction rates are so low. Wala pang 30% or siguro--

WEBB: Well what does that mean if the conviction rate is low?

SEN PANGILINAN: Eh 'di lahat ng malalakas ang loob at sira-ulo ay sasabihin eh kakaunti lang naman ang napaparusahan at nacoconvict. Eh 'di okay lang. If you're like Japan, 90% ang conviction rate nila. Pag sinampahan ka ng kaso, 90% convicted. Ang Hongkong and their corruption cases is around 80%. Pagka ganun na ang labanan--

WEBB: Matatakot na ang mga tao.

SEN PANGILINAN: That's how you get respect for and fear of the law when it's functioning. When we're punishing more and we're punishing swiftly and the cases are disposed of quickly-- WEBB: Faster


WEBB: Kasi, one of the reasons also, Senator, is that nagkakaroon din ng, sorry for the word, tamaran na mag-attend pa ng mga hearing dahil nga sa tagal ng panahon.

SEN PANGILINAN: Precisely. Saka talagang--I practiced for five years. After a while, you get so tired because you go from, tapos na-traffic pa. You go from one court to the next tapos puro postponed. We need to change that and these are the solutions that we need to be talking about.

WEBB: What about Lascañas? I know the hearing is set for Tuesday.

SEN PANGILINAN: Monday. Tuesday is the Jee Ick Joo.

WEBB: Tama, originally Tuesday tapos ginawang Monday.

SEN PANGILINAN: Dalawa yan. Yung murder, Jee Ick Joo and then itong Lascañas, Monday. WEBB: My question there, isa lang po, Senator. Are you going to see a fair Senate or fair Senators looking into and hearing the testimony of Arthur Lascañas or palagay niyo kayo lang din po ang puwedeng magbigay ng fair judgment kay Lascañas?

SEN PANGILINAN: Hindi naman. The LP naman does not have a monopoly of love for country. Mayroon din namang mga Senador diyan na kahit di naman LP eh mahal din naman nila ang bansa. So we are hoping we will be able to get a number of other Senators to be able to ferret out the truth. These are serious allegations, very serious. And I'd like to think many of the senators who are not LP are also interested in the truth.

WEBB: How would you describe the Senate at the moment?

SEN PANGILINAN: I'd like to think that there is a threat to its independence. After Senator De Lima was arrested, there was a threat during the rally na ang isusunod ay si--

WEBB: Senator Trillanes.

SEN PANGILINAN: This is unacceptable.

WEBB: Do you still see an independent Senate?

SEN PANGILINAN: Well it could be as independent as we work it out to be so we're gonna work to help ensure that it happens.

WEBB: Has it been compromised?

SEN PANGILINAN: It may become compromised. The direction it is taking is towards what we feel. This is our view towards being compromised but it's not too late. I trust that the senators during critical moments, we will be able to rise above our differences and above the personal interest.

WEBB: Last question. Do you think that the Arthur Lascañas testimony will show if you still have an independent Senate?

SEN PANGILINAN: It may. His confession is, I'd rather call it a confession, para siyang nangungumpisal at naglalabas siya ng kanyang mga kasalanan so it may. It may be a defining moment, let's put it that way.

WEBB: Thank you Senator Kiko Pangilinan. Good to see you, sir.

SEN PANGILINAN: Thank you pero just one last point, I think finally, I'd like to see the Senate being defined as an institution that is actually addressing the concerns of the people: poverty, joblessness and of course, the search for the truth. But ultimately, all of that means: are the lives of our people better? I think that's what the minority in the Senate now would like to really push for.

WEBB: That's what can happen and that's what you're hoping will happen, Senator again, maraming salamat.

SEN PANGILINAN: Maraming salamat, Pinky.

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