Press Release
May 29, 2017

Transcript of Sen. Grace Poe's ANC interview Headstart with Karen Davila

On martial law

Davila: The President gives out a message that he can choose to ignore the Supreme Court and Congress when it comes to martial law. Can he do that under the Constitution?

Poe: Under the Constitution, he cannot do that, but again, knowing the President, he's been there for almost a year now, we have to realize that he speaks depending on who he's addressing, who his audience is. I know the President still has to realize that whatever he utters, whether in a small, intimate gathering or a huge gathering, will have an impact on the country. Of course, us in Congress, we're not there ourselves, but we listen to feedback from the ones--from the intelligence we gather, in fact, this afternoon we're having a briefing with the military. We have to be able to weigh also the interest and the goals of both--what we see on the ground, what is reported to us by ordinary citizens from the ground and what is also reported to us by the military to make informed judgments and the President can be assured that we will do that.

Davila: Maybe you can clarify this, does the President really need approval from Congress to declare martial law because the international media is saying that he needs approval and yet you talk to local elected officials, especially Congressman Farinas, saying 'no, he doesn't need approval from Congress.' What does he need?

Poe: He needs approval from Congress. Congress has to be able to agree that martial law is indeed warranted in this case, but Congress does not have to convene jointly, unless, for example, it will reject martial law. But I think for students of history, it's good that every senator and every congressman, or at least those who have an interest to manifest, should manifest why they voted as such.

Davila: When you say he needs permission from Congress, let's say in the Senate, do you have to take a vote?

Poe: Not necessarily, well, yes, we should be able to convey whether we agree with it or not. I'm telling you now, Karen, speaking informally with my colleagues, I think most of us agree, but we still have to be able to listen to the briefing that will be given to us this afternoon by the AFP and PNP.

Davila: Pres. Duterte, making other statements, saying 'I will ignore Congress and the Supreme Court, I'll only listen to you, the soldiers.' The other one is 'I'll take the hit if you rape three women' and what does this convey?

Poe: First of all, under any circumstance, rape is never a funny joke and it should never be a joke. We've done so much in the past years to elevate the stature of women and our role in society and nothing should undermine that. The President having spoken that way made me realize that the President chooses to utter certain statements depending on the crowd that is surrounding him, so he feels that with the soldiers, it will be funny. But I think even soldiers now should learn what is acceptable and what is not, so the President uttered this--it's unacceptable, I don't think the President should be saying such jokes, but on the other hand when we think of what needs to be done, at least in Marawi, the President first has to secure the safety of our citizens there and that is a judgment call on his part, but he still needs approval of Congress, that's why within 48 hours, he needed to transmit a report.

Davila: Have you seen the report?

Poe: I have seen the report just last night.

Davila: What was their justification?

Poe: The report just stated all the incidents that happened in Marawi, the Maute group having taken over certain government and private facilities, as well as religious facilities. Karen, even the Bishop of Cotabato has said that perhaps at this point, martial law is warranted, at least in those areas.

Davila: That's part of the report?

Poe: No, it is not, but through media statements. In the report, all the incidents were listed, now around 100 individuals lost their lives, about 61 are from the Maute group and the rest are soldiers and civilians. Now it says in the declaration of martial law the state has a right to defend itself and safety should always be the basis. At least in the meantime, if the government, giving the President that judgment call, thinks that the way to secure the safety of individuals is to declare martial law, then I think that the Senate and House should be able to deliberate if it's warranted.

Davila: Can the Senate and the House, other than a complete revocation, can you be able to choose, martial law today is in the whole of Mindanao, will Congress have the power to say the whole of Mindanao is too much, maybe just Lanao del Sur.

Poe: I think Karen, yes, we should be able to express to what extent martial law should be declared. On the other hand, we have 60 days for the government to be able to prove whether or not martial law is effective in those areas, in my personal opinion, I know that Mindanao and different localities there are joined at the hip. For example, in Bukidnon, it is very close to Wao in Lanao del Sur, so you need to prevent these lawless elements from going all the way to Bukidon. On the other hand, if you have a sick child, you give a different treatment for a child who is critical; you don't administer the same medication to all. You may put on quarantine children who may be showing symptoms, but under our Constitution, you cannot declare martial law just because there is a threat, there should be rebellion, there should be invasion, so in areas where those things haven't happened yet, Constitutionally, there may be a question with regard to the legality of that. And I think that we might make the Maute group a little bit more successful in their goals, as one article says, if we impose Draconian measures. Maybe that's what they want--the government to impose these things because it will affect us economically, it will affect us also politically. I think the US embassy has already sent notice that the Philippines is one of those areas, you need to take caution before you travel to the Philippines. We are already in that upward goal of reaching a better per capita income for our citizens, but with that happening in Mindanao, and in other areas of Mindanao where there is relative peace, we subject them to martial law, then the perception it creates may not be, for the long term, beneficial to us.

Davila: That's interesting. Some areas are joined at the hip, but you have areas like Davao City or General Santos City that are a bit farther from Lanao, there is a debate whether Congress can choose the areas that the President can declare martial law in, so the Lower House says 'no, we can't choose, we either revoke it in full or extend.' What do you think?

Poe: The Constitution is very clear, you either accept or revoke martial law, but I think this is where debate in Congress is very important. Perhaps, we might not have the mandate to call on certain areas, but we can appeal to the reasoning of the President, so for students of history, for them to be able to realize the real situation of what's happening now. Remember that martial law during the time of Marcos has left us such a traumatic experience. Many people were tortured, many were killed, but then, they're saying that the 1987 Constitution exactly prevents that. I agree, there are more safeguards now in the Constitution, on the other hand, martial law is still martial law in the minds of many, so we need to be very careful, and I think it is the responsibility of every congressman and senator to be able to put in record their manifestation as to why they voted to uphold this or reject this in the first place.

Davila: Later you'll be meeting with military officials, technically, there's 22 of you, do you register a vote today or tomorrow? How does that work?

Poe: I don't know what will happen in plenary, somebody can raise an issue for us to manifest our votes, but I think a joint session, the debate now is that we should only convene together if we will reject it, but so far, I think the consensus in the Senate, having heard only what's reported in media, is that we need to be able to secure immediately the safety, at least in Marawi.

Davila: Congressman Harry Roque said his biggest concern was the fact the Maute group was able to penetrate and invade Marawi City in this manner, do you think there is a failure of intelligence with the AFP?

Poe: Absolutely, Karen. Alam mo yung budget ng gobyerno para sa intelligence, kung hindi ako nagkakamali ay malaki, mga limang bilyon yata.

Davila: What do they do with it?

Poe: So gusto nating tanungin papaano nila ginamit yun, bakit hindi nila natukoy ito kaagad-agad. Ngayon siyempre, iba naman ang istilo ng digmaan ngayon, nakatago sila sa mga bahay ng sibilyan, hindi na sila isang batalyon na lumulusob sa atin, so surgical strike is very important. I think that those are the things that we will ask not only in the briefing today but later on when we have our budget hearing. What did you do with the intelligence funds that were given to you? You weren't able to determine this one, no warning whatsoever, well the President, you may say, was caught off guard because he was in a state visit, unless, of course, I don't know the plan, what's going on inside the Palace, but it seems to me that they had no inkling that this was going to happen.

Davila: Former Pres. Ramos said that he was on a junket, 200-man delegation to Russia, do you agree with that?

Poe: Karen, alam mo pinapangalagaan natin sa Senado ay kung papaano din ginagastos ang pera ng ating mga kababayan, kapag nakikita natin ang mga litrato na pinopost sa social media, nakikita natin na kasama ang kanilang pamilya o ang kanilang maybahay, nagiikot-ikot sila. Gusto nating malaman, dapat hiwalay ang bayad ng mga kasama nila. Naintindihan ko, they want to spend some quality time with their family, even on an official trip. But who paid for them? Did they stay in luxurious hotels? Parang yung isang kuha ng isa, nasa Four Seasons (hotel) pa. Okay lang yun, kung mayaman kang Cabinet member at gusto mong bayaran ang diperensya na hindi nabayaran ng gobyerno, pwede naman yun, if 'I want to stay in a better hotel, and I can afford it and pay for it myself without having to depend on what's allotted to us.' Another thing, I don't think it's a good signal also to our countrymen that they're all there. When this thing happened, I think Sec. Diokno was left here. I respect Sec. Diokno, and he's highly capable but his expertise is different. All of them were there, the chief of police was there.

Davila: The Defense secretary was there.

Poe: Defense secretary was there, almost everybody was there. In fact in social media, I think that government officials should be a little bit careful. The chief of police had photos being shown, when he was travelling at that time. But I think that it doesn't give a good signal to our countrymen, when now, change is supposed to have come.

Davila: Actually that's quite interesting that you mentioned it because when Pres. Duterte first took office in Davao City, I remembered he ordered everybody to take economy class, take the cheapest hotels, actually go down, spend less in government. Do you see that happening in the last few trips that was done?

Poe: I haven't seen their expense reports perhaps when we have our budget hearing, I can look into that, we will look into that. Now, they can always say that 'we paid for it ourselves,' that's fine. But I think that also the message that comes out, that government has to be very conservative when it comes to expenses. I know that President Aquino was very conscious about that. Now of course, every president will have his own shortcomings or the cabinet will have, but I think that we should be able to correct this at this point because our country now, our citizens are very conscious on the lifestyle of our leader.

Davila: Before we take a break and move on to another issue, there's been a breakdown in talks with the New People's Army, and this is the 5thround of talks already, how do you see this affecting martial law declared in Mindanao, because we're talking about the NPA which is actually a rebel group. If talks breakdown, do you see it as within the Constitution to actually arrest members of NPA, even if martial law was declared for something else?

Poe: Any lawless elements, or anyone who goes against the government or existence of the state, can be justified under martial law. Now, with the NPA, we know for a fact, from the very beginning that a lot of their members are against martial law, and I think they actually increased their ranks during that time because they protested against the principle of martial law so it's no surprise that they're against the government in this particular declaration. But of course, I hope that in many parts of the country where the presence of the NPA is very much felt, the situation won't be aggravated by skirmishes in those areas that might even give the president reason to declare martial law in those areas.

Davila: Before we go on break, if I were to ask you, your top concerns with the declaration of martial law, what would it be? Some have said suspending the writ of habeas corpus was their own concern, what would be yours?

Poe: That would be it also and the torturing of our citizens, and seeing no end in sight is probably one of my biggest concerns because as they say, power corrupts and corrupts absolutely, and if you have that much power to wield and you find it so convenient and easy to use because certain rights are suspended, I hope that you don't get used to that and bypass the actual Constitutional safeguards that are in place.

Davila: There's a connection between drugs and supposedly the Maute group. In an interview we had with Gen. Padilla, he claims that the AFP discovered drug paraphernalia in homes and areas in Marawi where the Maute group had passed or stayed. Lanao in a way, without taking anything away from the government officials there, it's one of the provinces that's known to have problems with drugs. Would you see this as a problem? Would you discuss this in the Senate?

Poe: Let's not anymore fool ourselves, of course these lawless elements have to fund their operation. So not only drugs, there's kidnapping, extortion, and many other things that they do, revolutionary tax for others. What I'm trying to say is this, I hope they're not appealing to the President's sense of closeness to this advocacy on drugs that's why they're citing it. There are many other crimes that they have committed, murder for example, and the focus should also be on that. The President, as they know, his soft spot is always on drugs so maybe they are highlighting--

Davila: But clearly you want to give him a chance, you're open to martial law for a certain period?

Poe: Right now, hearing the reports of media without having had the briefing yet, I believe that you need to guarantee the safety of our countrymen in those areas. If martial law is it, because you would have to (inaudible) certain people so that they may not be able to continue with their operation, I think that we should be able to support it but we need to listen to the briefing and I believe that if it's 60 days we should be very strict as to what their game plan is so that they don't have to extend beyond that.


Davila: In the next hearing you said that you plan to invite former Sec. Mar Roxas?

Poe: Anybody whose name is mentioned in the hearing is either given the opportunity to explain himself, or we would actually want to know further that person's involvement whether or not it is justified that his name is mentioned or not, to what extent is his responsibility. This is actually an opportunity for whoever. I think more than anything else, it's more of accountability to the people. That's my guiding principle. Kung sasabihin na pulitika, hindi ako natatakot na sabihin nila iyon, mas takot ako na sinasabi ng tao na hindi ko ginagawa ang trabaho ko.

Davila: In the last hearing you had former Sec. Abaya and he claims that maintenance was the big issue you had in the hearing. So you had PH Trams and then moved to APT Global and then Busan Universal Rail. You were very disturbed at how a certain personality, a Marlo Dela Cruz, was tied up in all these companies.

Poe: He is very ubiquitous, he is in every deal. Gusto kong maipaliwanag ito. In 2010, the contract of Sumitomo was already about to end and it did end. Now it took them more than almost two years before they decided that there should be an emergency procurement because of the failed biddings. Sumitomo at that point was already saying, 'you know from 2010 you've been renewing our contract on an interim basis,' any company would not want to invest on parts if they know that there is no certainty in their contract.

Davila: Sumitomo was the original, right?

Poe: I am not saying that they are perfect but they already know, and so far, the track record is better than the others. Now, when Sec. Roxas was there for a year and a half, nothing was done. He made the contract of Sumitomo lapse. By the time he left, there was not enough time for Sec. Abaya to choose anyone else but to uphold whoever they decided to choose at that time. Remember, the one they chose, which was PH Trams, was newly incorporated just about two months. It was under-capitalized at P600,000, no track record.

Davila: Closing a contract of P54 million a month.

Poe: And their paid-up capital is just about P600,000 and you're giving them P54 million a month. Not only that, after that expired, they renewed it with another company, APT Global, again with the name Marlo Dela Cruz somehow linked to it. What is their track record? After that, there was another failed bidding. They divided the contract into several providers so there's no single point of responsibility. The rails were different, the maintenance of the trains was provided by somebody else--chop-chop. Then finally, they gave it to Busan, who supposedly has a reputation.

Davila: It's a local firm?

Poe: A local firm owns the majority, and Busan, the one that has the reputation and the track record only owns about 4 percent. When was it awarded? December 24, usually government offices are already closed at that time. So you think that there's something a little bit doubtful about when it was awarded to them. Now Busan, if you look at their contract, they were paid about P3.8 billion, that's their contract. But when we gave the contract to Dalian, that's another P3.8 billion, parang mahilig sila sa figure na iyon, hindi natin malaman kung bakit. And Karen, ito pa ang nakakalungkot, binigay nila yung contract sa Busan to be able to fix the signalling system para hindi magbanggaan ang trains, that's about P800 million. But they also paid Dalian about as much for a signalling system that is incompatible with what we already have. So as you see, you don't know if they are actually malicious or they are being negligent with their jobs. That's why the Bids and Awards Committee has a lot to answer for. They did not do their work and what they told us was they only relied on the technical advice of the people under them. That's not an excuse.

Davila: You lost your cool with the Bids and Awards Committee of the DOTC yun?

Poe: Yes

Davila: And she came in and said in effect I don't remember those numbers.

Poe: She is very arrogant. But Karen, I did not lose my cool. Hindi ako napikon contrary to what they said, galit ako sapagkat 2014 pa namin ito ini-imbestigahan, paulit-ulit nilang sinasabi iyon and I think that they are already losing respect for the institution, of course they're lying, they didn't come prepared. If only to express what the hundreds of thousands of individuals feel whenever they line up and the train breaks down. I don't regret having called on them or scolded them in the hearing. They should realize the gravity of their mistakes.

Davila: I'm curious, did Sec. Abaya know that PH Trams, APT Global and Busan Universal Rail have one common incorporator?

Poe: We didn't exactly ask him if he knows that there was one common incorporator but we asked him if he knows Marlo Dela Cruz, I have to go back to the records, but he said he knows Marlo Dela Cruz because of the LP association but not only he mentioned that, even the owner of CB&T, who is the only one with the track record in this consortium with PH Trams said that the LP people were really throwing their weight around. They were the ones that were saying 'we have this in the bag, we will take care of this and don't worry we will be ordering the spare parts' which they did not fulfil that's why these problems occurred.

Davila: Do you think, honestly speaking that there was preferential treatment given to these companies because of Marlo Dela Cruz's relationship or his connection with the Liberal Party?

Poe: Karen, I am not sure if it's preferential treatment or creating a climate that will justify the awarding to those individuals because as you know, it was already an emergency procurement. There was not enough time. At that point who were the only ones left? It was them.

Davila: If it was PH Trams, maybe you can justify that. I remember Sec. Abaya told you, I didn't want to be a doubting Thomas. But then the other two companies, how could they justify lack of time?

Poe: Well, see, it has become cyclical in the DOTC because they were not called to explain all of these things at that time. We had no idea because with the emergency procurement, it was also very difficult for documents to come by.

Davila: You are inviting former Sec. Mar Roxas

Poe: I haven't invited him. I will invite Marlo Dela Cruz first. Now with Sec. Roxas, with all due respect, it's a chance for him to come out. I am sure, knowing him, he will want to explain. But this time we have an in-depth understanding already of what may have been done that he didn't do.

Davila: Did Sec. Abaya categorically say that Sec. Mar Roxas was then leaving or left, recommended the approval of PH Trams.

Poe: He didn't categorically say that. We have to look at the background of Sec. Abaya, he is a soldier. Soldiers will take the fall. Somebody talked to him and said, 'hindi mo naman kailangang akuin ang lahat.' That's why at least he said something at the beginning by saying that, 'you know when I came in there, it was already done and I didn't want to be a doubting Thomas' but it's his job to be suspicious of everything that the country will enter into, specially billions of pesos worth.

Davila: Now what is the state of the MRT? Is the maintenance provider, we're talking about Busan Universal Rail as the provider? Will it end soon?

Poe: Sa ating mga kababayan, ang gustong gawin ng DOTr ngayon, and I agree, kapag hindi nila nagawa ang kanilang trabaho, yung ibang rehabilitasyon ng ibang bagon, hindi sila dapat bayaran. Sa mga ibang bagay katulad ng signalling system na hindi naman tugma sa mga bagong tren na in-order natin, i-cancel yung order na iyan. That's about P800 million that the government can spend. Remember we were throwing a stink on the common station which was going to cost P2.8 billion pesos, but that's the common station that would benefit thousands of individuals that would be more convenient. This one is P800 million that will just be thrown away so I think that the DOTr is on the right track. You should be able to cancel out the things that they are not able to deliver on. But I think that those who entered into this agreement and who advised us to enter into this should be legally accountable. Pero Karen, baka naman pwedeng may kaunting good news din, sa ating mga kababayan, ang sinasabi ng ating gobyerno ngayon ay magkakaroon na ng kaunting kaluwagan pagdating ng December dahil mas madadagdagan na ang ibang trains na in-order nila. So tingnan natin kung magiging totoo ito.

Davila: Would you recommend charges be filed against former Sec. Abaya at the end of the hearing?

Poe: Our hearing now is suspended. I think it would be more prudent for me to actually submit the committee report. Everything points to people not having performed that responsibility as the leaders of their department. So of course there should be some liability at that point.

On driver's license

Davila: Some good news on the driver's license validity which will last for five years?

Poe: Kung mananaig ang bersyon ng Senado, five years ang validity, pero kung wala kang masamang traffic infraction o mga ginawang kasalanan sa trapiko, yan ay extendable to another five years, so it's 10 years. Hindi lamang iyon, ang sinasabi natin na ang DOTr ngayon, papayagan na ang online application ng renewal ng license. Hindi lang naman puro pag-iimbestiga ang ginagawa natin, ipapasa na natin on third reading ang batas na ito sa Senado para hindi na tayo kailangang pumunta ng LTO tapos problema pa, maglalagay ka pa sa kung sinu-sino. In short, we are streamlining the process, cutting bureaucracy and also corruption. I hope this initiative will be felt by ordinary citizens.

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