Press Release
April 26, 2017

Excerpts from the Kapihan sa Manila Bay Forum with Senate Minority Floor Leader Franklin M. Drilon

Drilon: There are a number of measures pending in the House and in the Senate. The most controversial would be the reinstatement of the death penalty. Number two is the postponement of the barangay elections. The tax reform package will be deliberated, although it's still in the House. These are very substantial and controversial pieces of legislation and I am not very optimistic that we could tackle them in the next four weeks substantially. For example, I do not see the death penalty bill as moving forward in the Senate. Right now it is stuck in the Committee on Justice. No hearing has been held, except for one. From my own reading, there are about 13 senators who will vote against the reinstatement of the death penalty. I don't see how it can pass for the next five weeks, or for that matter during this Congress, unless a number of senators will change their minds. There are six in the minority who will oppose the bill and our ally in the LP, Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto. I don't see the death penalty being approved by Congress.

On the matter of postponing the election, the schedule is very tight; there is no committee report in the Senate. The tax reform bill is still in the House.

On my part, I will be working on two important measures. This is the revision of the Revised Penal Code in order to update the monetary values upon which the penalty is based, because the monetary value today upon which the penalty is base is still premised on the 1932 peso. What we did is to update these money values so it becomes more realistic. We will approve it on third reading when we come back on Tuesday. Also, we are working on the amendments to the Corporation Code in order to make business easier to make in the Philippines.

Q: The LP already broke off from the coalition, is that the reason why the LP is taking a hard stance?

Drilon: Let me qualify that. It's not simply taking a hard stance. For example, the matter of reimposition of the death penalty, if you notice there is a bipartisan support in maintaining the present status quo. It's not simply because of the LP, but because individually or collectively the senators think we should not impose the death penalty. In fact, there are seven from the majority coalition today in the Senate who are against the reimposition of the death penalty and six from the minority.

Q: It's an individual's stand?

Drilon: That's correct. That is what the Senate is. We take our position on the basis of each bill that comes before us.

Q: There are certain bills that you also support?

Drilon: That's correct. The tax reform package, in general, the LP is in support of the tax reform measure. To me it is about time that we review our tax base.

Q: As you said, there are barely four weeks before you adjourn, how would LP try to separate the individual from the party stand?

Drilon: There are certain measures where we'll take a party position. For example, the reimposition of the death penalty, the postponement of the barangay elections; the tax reform package, as a party, we will support it.

Q: It is now very clear that the LP will be the chief fiscalizer?

Drilon: That's correct.

Q: How about the House?

Drilon: I cannot speak for them. We allow them to take their position because sometimes there are circumstances, which would dictate the position of the LP contingent in the House.

Q: The LP number in the Senate will be affected by Senator De Lima, who is now in jail?

Drilon: Yes, she cannot vote, but that does not preclude us from asking the Senate leadership or asking the court to allow her to come to the Senate floor to vote on critical issues. If Jinggoy Estrada was give furlough, also Bong Revilla who was allowed to visit his father, for the same reasoning the court should allow Senator De Lima to perform her task as a senator; not in all cases but in certain critical votes in the Senate such, for example, the death penalty and the postponement of the barangay elections. When there is a need we will ask the court to allow her to cast her vote.

Q: It doesn't have to be the move of the Senate?

Drilon: It can be the move of Senator De Lima by herself. It can be the move of the Senate minority or the Senate leadership. She is not suspended. She is only physical restrained from attending the session because she's under the custody of the court.

Q: Can we get your thoughts on Senator De Lima saying she feels disappointed with fellow LP at the House particularly Cong. Quimbo?

Drilon: I have not discussed this with Cong. Quimbo. I would rather not make any comment until I am able to sit down with my colleagues in the House and get a briefing with our LP President as to the situation there.

Q: Since you are the vice chair of the LP, can we just be clarified on the stand of the LP on the impeachment because Sen. Kiko said that is not the stand of the party?

Drilon: We have not discussed it in the party. There was a caucus on Saturday among LP congressmen, to my knowledge because I was not here and I'm just basing it from media reports. I would like to sit down with our President and find out what exactly is the status.

Q: Given the tight schedule that you are faced with, is there a move to make the postponement of the barangay elections a priority?

Drilon: but I do not know.

Q: Your stand on that?

Drilon: I am against the postponement. The essence of democracy is that we renew our mandate regularly through an open and honest election. If you keep on postponing the election is not consistent with the principle. We have already postponed the election. The LP is opposed to this postponement. The best way to judge the performance of an elected public official is through an election, especially in the barangay where the electorate would intimately know the performance of their local officials. The smallest unit in our system of government is the barangay, kilalang-kilala mo yung kapitan at tanod ay kung talagang involved sila sa drug ay hindi mo iboboto iyan. To me the cleansing process is the election.

Q: During the break, Cong. Alejano initiated an impeachment complaint against Duterte. Does the Senate have the time for that?

Drilon: Whether we have a time or not is immaterial. The House will impeach and our obligation is to try. So whether or not we have the time is beside the point. If the House dismisses it, that's it. If the House processes it and votes, we have to try it.

Q: On the LP house contingent position on the impeachment complainst vs Duterte and Robredo

Drilon: It cannot be denied that we are today polarized as a society. To tackle the impeachment in the House, the LP contingent in the House is of the view that it will not do us any good. That is why they have taken the position that they will not support the impeachment complaints against the President and the Vice President.

Q: Parang quid pro quo?

Drilon: There's no quid pro quo. They have taken the position they would not support any impeachment.

Q: What is the primary reason why you are against the restoring death penalty?

Drilon: As a former Secretary of Justice and as a lawyer, I shivered at the though of an imperfect justice system, where will be confronted with the situation where the death penalty would have to be imposed. I believe that our justice system is ineffective. Hindi po tayo pantay-pantay sa ilalim ng ating sistema kaya ayoko na magkamali ang isang huwes na i-impose ang death penalty, because a death penalty imposed cannot be corrected. It is basically, as a lawyer, I see a vey inefficient justice system and that is the principal basis of my opposition against death penalty.

Q: What's your thought on the filing of a case against Duterte at the ICC?

Drilon: I have not read the complaint and I am not familiar at all with the procedure in the ICC. Pag-aaralan ko muna and I will take a position.

Q: Being the executive secretary noon, ikaw ang taga-awat?

Drilon: The Executive Secretary should take a more active hand in resolving these disputes in the Cabinet. Today we see Gina Lopez vs. Secretary Dominguez then ES Medialdea; there are rumors of Secretary Evasco vs. Bong Go. Hindi po maganda yan. It's not a good projection. My suggestion is the executive secretary should crack the whip on behalf of the President. When I was ES, some cabinet member would say 'if it's not done, I would quit.' I called that secretary to ask for her resignation. The executive secretary must exercise his power for the good of the administration. They must express their views on in internal meetings, not in public. We must avoid quarrels that we today.

Q: There is a proposed legislation against the members of the cabinet bypassed thrice by the Commission on Appointments. Do you support that?

Drilon: It is inconsistent with the plenary power of the President to appoint. The CA should take a firm stand: we should vote after the third bypass. It is unconstitutional for Congress to pass a law that will prohibit the President from appointing members of his cabinet for a fourth time after being bypassed four times. The CA should either confirm or reject the appointment. I think that is the rule today in the CA.

Q: One of the Senate investigations that produced quite good results is the investigation on the Bangladesh money scam. Are you satisfied?

Drilon: Yes. The Senate did something beyond what it is supposed to do. That is to put pressure on the players to return $50 million. Enough pressure was placed on the players so that $50 million as returned. The remaining, if there is an opportunity, they must avail of the justice system now.

Q: Yung 13 senators, solid po ba yung opposition nila kahit na ang kasama lang sa bill ang high level drug trafficking?

Drilon: When I talk about the 13, they are basically against the reimposition of the death penalty and whether of not it is limited to drug related cases or high crimes, they are against the reimposition of the death penalty per se. There are 5 senators, to my recollection, who favor the death penalty, based on their media statements, among others because its application is limited to drug related cases. These are Senators Sotto, Pacquiao, Ejercito, Gatchalian and Villar.

Q: Since yung 13 na yun, solid naman. Is it right to say na patay na yung death penalty?

Drilon: In my view, yes. The death penalty is dead, at least for this Congress.

Q: Kasi very clear yung 6 from the minority, seven from the majority - including Recto, Escuedreo and Gordon -

Drilon: I don't want to identify them. Some of them told me in confidence.

Q: When you say they say it in confidence, you can say na may commitment na?

Drilon: Of course it's not written in stone. It's not a sworn statement, but certainly we are relying on their words.

Q: What will happen to the gov't low cost socialized housing program now that there are legitimate recipients who now refuse to pay their monthly amortization as a result of what happened?

Drilon: That is a challenge to this administration. That is a very serious precedent, which they now have to handle carefully. First of all, the Kadamay have taken over forcibly these housing units. What will happen if similar incidence takes place? Number two, now I read in the papers that those who legitimately were awarded and are paying for the housing units, and are now refusing to pay. If this spreads nationwide, what happens next? These are consequences that must be addressed by this administration, because of that policy allowing Kadamay members to occupy. There is a need for housing and that's a basic human right. The issue is tama ba itong nangyari at proseso?

Q: Would you support a joint resolution redistributing government houses to different sectors including Kadamay?

Drilon: I want to see the resolution first. But as I've said we must be prepared to accept the consequences of such act.

Q: There is no way to correct it?

Drilon: I do not know. You tell me because you have to enforce the law and enforcing the law means removing them from the units that they occupied without authority.

Q: Reaction ninyo sa decision ng SC to junk the petition on Torre de Manila?

Drilon: ...I think the decision speaks for itself.

Q: What are your expectations on the ASEAN?

Drilon: We must take this opportunity to reassert our sovereignty over the disputed island. We have a decision in our favor. We must continue to avail of every opportunity to assert that ruling by the arbitral court.

Q: Some nations are pushing for a code of conduct...

Drilon: I support that and the code of conduct should be based on the award by the arbitral tribunal.

Q: Some Duterte's allies are questioning the timing saying that the complaint is meant to put the president in bad light?

Drilon: The matter of the extra-judicial killings has been issue since the third quarter of last year, I do not know if there is anything in the timing. As I've said, I am not familiar with the procedure in the ICC or have I read the complaint, so I will leave it at that.

Q: What is the value of this case when you have already done your part - Senate investigation - and there are cases in the Ombudsman already?

Drilon: One of the basic principles in the rules of the ICC is that you must show that internal and domestic procedures have not been effective. That's an issue that the ICC prosecutors would have to tackle.

Q: On the CA appointment

Drilon: There is no rule that the President cannot reappoint. There is a proposal to enact a law that will disqualify a nominee bypassed three times. The proposal before is that if you are not confirmed after you are nominated three times, you can no longer be appointed by the President. I objected to that rule, because you are limiting the power of the President to appoint. Our role as CA is to pass upon the qualification of a nominee. That will encroach on the presidential prerogative to appoint. I Subject to verification, I think the rule today of the CA precisely would require a vote if confronted with such situation.

Q: On former Pres. Arroyo blaming former Pres. Aquino on South China Sea issue

Drilon: I would like to think that it is misplaced and absolutely has not basis. We should put the blame on China rather than on PNoy for asserting our rights. It's absolutely no basis to lay the blame on former President Aquino.

Q: On the plan to summon former President Aquino on the reopening of the Mamasapano incident

Drilon: The matter of who will summon is a prerogative of the chairman. I'm sure that President Aquino is not hiding anything. I have no doubt about the ability of President Aquino defending himself. This had been investigated, re-investigated. We keep on beating the dead horse.

Q: The economic managers have been pushing for the tax reform, what are the chances of it getting passed?

Drilon: We have not even seen the tax reform agenda. In taxation, the House takes the lead. Tax measure originates from the House and we have not seen the House version. I cannot make a comment on something that is still up in the air.

Q: A lot bills are still up in the air, what does this say of the President and his relationship with Congress?

Drilon: I leave that question to you.

Q: On the tax reform bill

Drilon: The tax system has to be revised. Conceptually, there is a need to review our tax system, including, by the way, a review of tax incentives granted to our businessmen, because this is one of the areas being abused.

Q: On labor contracting

Drilon: I call on the Senate leadership to come out with a position on this issue because this is a policy issue. The matter of a labor-only contracting is in the labor code. If we wish to revise this, this is a revision in the policy and in the implementation of the law. It is about time that Senate President Pimentel should take a close look at this and take a position. Hindi pwedeng we will just keep on sweeping this under the rug. As a policy-making body, we must come with the proposed policy change. We cannot leave it to the labor secretary. We should not come out with a policy decision on how to handle this.

Q: How would you describe the leadership of SP Pimentel?

Drilon: I would not comment on that. That is not proper. Thank you very much, Ichu, for your invitation.

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