Press Release
December 12, 2022


QUESTION: Sir, sino po 'yong mga hahabol sa CA?

SENATE PRESIDENT JUAN MIGUEL "MIGZ" ZUBIRI: Yes, first of all, good afternoon everybody at ang CA bukas mag-uumpisang muli and of course, on Wednesday...So bukas, hopefully we'll be able to tackle Sec. Jimmy Bautista of the DOTr, and we'll also have NEDA Sec. Balisacan, and of course, we have Sec. Pascual of [DTI] on Wednesday. And Sec. Acuzar, Jerry Acuzar, bukas din yata -- tatlo yata 'yong ite-take up namin.

And then we'll also have many of our members in the AFP, for promotion, on Wednesday. If I'm not mistaken, Wednesday afternoon.

'Yon na lang yata ang naiiwan namin secretaries so far, and who else ang nakalimutan ko...And the Comelec commissioners. We'll also be doing the two Comelec commissioners, hopefully this week. After that, wala na po tayong masyadong utang sa administrasyon when it comes to appointing their secretaries or confirming their secretaries under the Commission on Appointments.

Q: How about the DSWD Secretary, sir?

SP ZUBIRI: Ang DSWD Secretary is a bit more complicated, kasi nag-invite po kami ng mga justices to weigh in on two things: On his citizenship and of course, 'yong isyu ng kanyang conviction with finality sa Supreme Court.

I read a news article about the conviction and it said there, they're still appealing it to the Supreme Court, no. The accurate information is that it has already been [decided], a final decision by the Supreme Court. Final na po 'yon, this conviction was final. There were no jail sentences, it was a mere payment of fines.

Q: Sir, what is there to weigh on his citizenship? When he was not recognized by the US as a US citizen.

SP ZUBIRI: No, he that he was using a US passport until 2021.

Q: Sir, are the justices you're referring to retired justices or sitting justices?

SP ZUBIRI: Could be both, retired or sitting. We've invited a few. So when we get back, iyan po ang gagawin namin.

Q: So sir, ano 'yong indications na final na 'yong conviction?

SP ZUBIRI: The indication was the Commission on Appointments has never -- and I repeat -- the Commission on Appointments has never confirmed anyone that had a final conviction.

Q: So first time?

SP ZUBIRI: So not on my watch na hindi po natin pag-aralan nang mabuti. Pag-aralan muna natin 'yong legal implications niyan.

Q: Is there a stiff rule on that?

SP ZUBIRI: Because it's moral turpitude, eh. Now, there have been legal precedence by the Supreme Court on moral turpitude on the issue of libel. Apparently, libel is still considered a violation of...moral turpitude. May decided cases on moral turpitude.

Q: Kahit na appointed?

SP ZUBIRI: Oh yeah, kasi if you noticed may mga clerk, may mga clerk or let's say, teller ng munisipyo, or teacher, 'di ba, nagnanakaw, maski na maliit na halaga, the Supreme Court always says that it's an act violation of moral turpitude and therefore, they will be permanently disqualified from seeking or being in public office. So the same goes whether you are appointed or elected in any position of government.

That's why we want to weigh in with the legal luminaries. We did not outright defer him, we did not outright dismiss him. He's still a member of the Cabinet. And we will just continue with the hearings next year, kasi wala na, lack of material time. Baka isang araw lang 'yong pagtake up namin ng kanyang appointment dahil medyo mahabang usapin 'yan when it comes to legal issues.

Q: So bypassed siya?

SP ZUBIRI: Yes. He'll be bypassed this year, at least [for] the coming month and he'll have to be reappointed shortly after that.

Q: Just details, how many Cabinet members are still --

SP ZUBIRI: Konti na lang, tatlo na lang yatang Cabinet members, or apat: Acuzar of housing and urban development, si Balisacan of NEDA, Jimmy Bautista of DOTr, Fred Pascual of DTI, and the DSWD secretary.

Q: So mas delikado siya sa isyu ng conviction?

SP ZUBIRI: We'll weigh on that, we cannot comment on "mas delikado" or hindi, dahil hinihintay natin 'yong legal opinions. I'm not a lawyer, so I don't want to act like a lawyer, or pretend to be a lawyer. We will listen to the, of course, the opinions of the Friends of Court, ika nga, that will come. We'll invite them to the Commission on Appointments.

And we'll also look at legal precedents. Meron na silang jurisprudence na nilabas tungkol dyan.

Q: Pero sir ano ang report sa inyo, Sir....Kasama po ba sa SC decision 'yong permanent disqualification sa public office?

SP ZUBIRI: We will find out from the [legal luminaries]. I can't comment any further. That's as far as the information I have gotten, received, and until we get justices to weigh in on the issue, and of course, 'yong mga abogado namin sa Commission on Appointments, like for example, Congressman Marcoleta, siya talaga ang nagsabi na may mga Supreme Court rulings na on that issue of moral turpitude. That it is -- that's the word that he used -- a "violation", "act of moral turpitude". Legal terms, about that, maybe you can ask him. Disqualification due issues of moral turpitude. Merong jurisprudence on that.

Q: Why is it difficult for you to decide based on that final conviction by the SC, sir?

SP ZUBIRI: Well, you know, he is still given due process. Bigyan natin siya ng due process.

Q: Sir, tungkol sa citizenship, hindi, what is difficult about, sir? Kung nagrenounce naman siya before siya na-appoint?

SP ZUBIRI: We need to get certification that he is no longer an American citizen.

Q: And you have it? Was he able to present it?

SP ZUBIRI: Parang kulang. Kulang 'yong documentation. Remember that secretary -- he passed away -- Sec. Yasay, when he was also seeking confirmation during the time of President Duterte as Foreign Affairs secretary, hindi rin siya maka-prove na hindi na siya American citizen. So much so na nagamit niya pa 'yong passport in very recent months while he was applying or already appointed as Foreign Affairs Secretary. Kaya nagalit 'yong Commission, tinanggal na siya.

So we need -- and we're according Sec. Tulfo with more leeway -- if he could just give us documentary proof that he is no longer, a certification that he is no longer an American citizen, as he admitted to us that it was only in 2021 when he utilized his American, that he still had his American passport, so medyo conflicting 'yong information. Kaya hintayin natin 'yong next hearing and we'll just get more details from there.

Q: Sir, last on this. So, safe to say, kulang pa ng documentation si Sec. Tulfo proving he's not a US citizen anymore?


Q: Just briefly, what's the nature of the consultation, will it be an open hearing or just a private --

SP ZUBIRI: No, we'll have it on open hearing...We'll have to ask them on record, they have to submit their disposition on record.

Q: It will be part of the hearing?

SP ZUBIRI: Yes, definitely.

Q: Then, sir, paano ireresolve ng CA 'yong isyu, by voting? Magbobotohan ba kayo?

SP ZUBIRI: Eventually, magko-caucus kami then we'll make a decision, either way.

Q: Sir, will you be seeking the opinion of...(inaudible)...being a former CJ?

SP ZUBIRI: Yes, of course. I have already sought his opinion, but I'm not at liberty to tell you what his position was, but definitely we'll get legal advice from the Friends of Court, ika nga, poagdating po ng pangalawang hearing ni Sec. Tulfo.

Q: Can we mention names? Who are your invited justices?

SP ZUBIRI: Wala pa. We don't have the list yet. Kasi pinlano pa for next year.

Q: Pangalawang bypass niya na 'to, tama ba, sir?

SP ZUBIRI: Yes. Pangalawa, he gets appointed back again, to an ad interim appointment, and then what happens is, either we confirm him or not. If we don't confirm him, and then he gets bypassed the third time, then we'll have to vote. Boboto na kami. That's mga March, April, thereabout.

Q: Sir, is it true that he presented some questionable documents about his citizenship?

SP ZUBIRI: Kulang, kulang ang pinresent na documents.

Q: Pero sir, walang effort from the President para pakiusapan ang CA na i-confirm si Sec. Tulfo?

SP ZUBIRI: Well, it's all in the hands of our President now. He knows the issues, kaya binirifieng ko nga si ES Luke, so he knows the issues about Sec. Tulfo. You know, I like Sec. Tulfo, I'll be honest about it. And I want to put in on record, gusto ko siya, masipag siya. Sayang, nasasayangan ako sa kanya, to be honest. But we have to perform our constitutional mandate, our constitutionally-given mandate to make sure we vet out the members of the Cabinet that have no legal impediments.

So sayang, nasasayangan ako sa kanya, magaling siya, mabilis gumalaw. Pagkatapos ng bagyo, kinabukasan nandoon na siya. But unfortunately -- binabash nga kami sa social media for not confirming him -- but there are legal impediments. And there are legal issues that we still have to resolve. And it's not over yet, we still have hearings, and hopefully we'll be able to fix all these legal impediments. And if we can get a favorable opinion from the justices, it could look good in his favor. But of course, we'll have to weigh on what the justices will say, because may legal precedents na, may legal opinions na and Supreme Court decisions that have already come out.

And I'm not in the authority to come up with my own opinion, kasi we want to make sure that it is legal and correct, it is above board, it is transparent. So in the next hearing, we will have it on record, makikita niyo naman ang discussions.

Q: Kailan, sir, 'yong schedule?

SP ZUBIRI: 'Pag balik siguro namin, mga January na. Ah, Delgado-Ty vs HRET. That's the issue on moral turpitude. Libel din. Meron ah, Delgado-Ty vs House of Representative Electoral Tribunal. This is a Supreme Court decision already.

Q: Kung magre-recess na, pwedeng bang next year i-appoint siya ulit ni President, okay lang din until maconfirm?

SP ZUBIRI: Of course, that's the prerogative of the President. Prerogative niya 'yan.

Q: Sir, on another matter, the President has already spoken in support of the Maharlika Fund...Yet the same statement also said that he wants lawmakers to study the details well...(inaudible).

SP ZUBIRI: Well, ang general sentiment namin dito sa Senado is to wait for the final version of the House. Kaya wala pang nagfa-file dito. Hindi namin minadamadali ito, medyo matagal na usapin ito, at pag-aaralan namin ito nang mabuti.

I've already spoken to the President about it two Sundays ago, and kasama ko si Speaker Martin, and I even mentioned to him na "Mr. President, malaking friction sa amin 'yong pagpasok ng pension funds, which is the SSS and GSIS, sa aming members sa Senado." And I think, because of that, the week after, the House contingent, because Speaker Romualdez was there, the House contingent removed the SSS and the GSIS from their version of the Maharlika fund. Meaning, wala nang pension fund na gagamitin dito sa fund na ito. It's a step in the right direction.

So it's a step in the right direction, but nevertheless, we want to see the safeguards. We want to see if COA can actually access the reports para at least meron tayong transparency. Because, even if it comes from GOCCs, pera pa rin ng taong bayan 'yan, under the GOCC Act.

So we'll see. I already tasked Sen. Angara, who is the head of the Finance Committee, and Sen. Win Gatchalian, who's head of the Ways and Means. I already asked Sen. Mark Villar, who's head of the Committee on Banks, and even Alan Cayetano, because Sen Cayetano is chairman of the GOCCs committee, handling GOCCs.

Q: Is the President really interested in this? Who is asking for this?

SP ZUBIRI: Well there are certain assets that the president is interested to invest in that made it national security matters. For example, national grid. If it is being run by Chinese na lahat tayo hindi makapasok daw.. lahat ng instrumento Chinese hindi natin alam kung magkaproblema tayo sa China, one switch off lang at wala na tayong kuryente sa buong Pilipinas. It makes sense if we nationalize the state grid, that's my opinion. No one else's opinion. I heard Cong. Joey Salceda saying also in many interviews the distribution or the grid are components of the energy program of our country. So, things like that, I think that is work looking at and it is economically viable business, hindi matatalo yung gobyerno dyan. Kasi monopoly yung grid. That's a natural monopoly but at least it is safe. It is in Filipino hands. Investments like that is where the Maharlika funds can be utilized

Q: Was there a categorical statement from the President that he wants this law?

SP ZUBIRI: They want us to seriously take into consideration on the Maharlika Wealth Fund. Ang sabi ko naman kay Presidente, Mr. President, medyo alam mo naman matatagalan ito sa amin dahil we go through it like a fine toothcomb. We will look at the House version and of course, possibly, add amendments to allay the worries of our kababayans na magkaroon ng leakage, corruption. Let me reiterate that about 60 countries around the world and almost all of our ASEAN neighbors have the similar setup of wealth fund. Maraming nagsasabi na in surplus ang mga ito, pero tinignan ko naman all of them have slow growth rate. Many of them are in recession because of the global economic slowdown, because of the pandemic and yet they continue to have the wealth fund investing their excess fund.

Q: What is the President's response na matatagalan sa Senate?

SP ZUBIRI: Okay naman. Naiintindihan naman niya kasi Senador naman siya dati. Sabi ko sa kanya, Mr. President, alam mo naman ang debate ay hindi sa committee. Yung debate ay nasa plenaryo.

Q: Walang sinabi na 'hasten the process?'

SP ZUBIRI: Wala naman. In fairness to the President, he never instructed me to hasten the proceedings. Ang pangako ko lang sa kanya, magkakacaucus kami na hindi pa nangyayari, we are trying to come up with time to have a caucus and discuss it there. But initially, with talks with colleagues, yung pagtanggal ng SSS at GSIS is a step to the right direction.

Q: Matindi yung risk? Di ba dapat kapag may surplus lang?

SP ZUBIRI: Well, yung pera naman ng DBP at Landbank, nakatengga lang yun. That's in the banks' accounts not being utilized. They don't have to powere to reinvest it elsewhere under the charter. Nakatago lang yan, andun lang yun. So, you can get a portion of Landbank's stored wealth, together with DBP, and use that for investment purposes for the benefit of the government.

"I'll give you an example. Sabihin na natin yung wealth fund. I know I'll be hit for this. I'm just giving a personal example. What if the Wealth Fund decides to buy the Petron bank? And they will run Petron but discounted. Walang mark up. The people can buy their fuel without mark-up. So mas mura. Eh di mas maganda yun para sa mga tricycle drivers natin, jeepney drivers, and bus drivers. They can get discounted rates from there kasi G to G na yan. Government of the Philippines. And this is an example, Petron will discuss this with the Singapre government. Singapore is the largest trading country when it comes to oil in the region. So they can get it there, wala nang... alam mo kapag binenta sa public sector yan may patong na P5 to P10 yan, maniwala man kayo o hindi, I know because I have friends who own stations, ang lalaki ng kita nila. Tanggalin yun para direct selling na sa ating mga kababayan. Service fee na lang ibabayad natin per liter para kumite naman ang MWF. These are possible utilizations of the wealth fund. It can help benefit the people directly.

Q: Certify as urgent?

SP ZUBIRI: Hindi pa tapos sa House yung wealth fund.

Q: But during your conversations with the President?

SP ZUBIRI: Eventually, they come out with a certification but sabi ko nga wag natin madaliin ito. Kailangan pag-usapan ng maayos. An issue like the Maharlika Wealth Fund should be studied carefully, it should be vetted out carefully, we have to make sure that the safeguards are in place so there's no questions on trust issues. Kasi may katanungan ng trust. I believe the House removed the president na as the chairman of the board. Put an economic genius there as the head of the wealth fund. Marami naman. As a matter of fact, they are eyeing Ayala.. There's even a name of an Ayala executive that's head of their world class portfolio of Ayala to head the wealth fund. Kapag ganun, I think that would asway again the worries of our economists na mawawala at masasayang ang pera.

Q: May counterpart bill na ba?

SP ZUBIRI: Wala pa yata. We will wait for the final version, we will look at the final version muna. Hihintayin ko yung kanilang version and we will improve on it.

Q: Walang kapangyarihan ang DBP at Landbank to invest their money? Bibigyan niyo sila ng kapangyarihan?

SP ZUBIRI: No. Bale ipapahiram nila yung pera sa Maharlika Wealth Fund. I think Landbank is P50 billion. DBP is P50 billion as well. I think that's just a small portion. That's 20% of the reserve fund. Ganun kalaki ang pera nila sa bangko. Nakatiwang-wang lang doon at hindi napapakinabangan. I think it is only a small percentage of their reserve funds.

Q: (inaudible)

SP ZUBIRI: Bakit uutangin? It doesn't make sense na uutangin ang gagamiting pondo sa Maharlika Wealth Fund kasi magbabayad ka ng interes, tataas pa yung utang natin. Yung external debt tataas pa.

The concept of the wealth fund is surplus. Yung nakatiwangwang na pondo. Ang kailangan nating siguraduhin dyan na ligtas yan sa korapsyon. Dapat matignan din ng COA yan. Every company has an external auditor. I'm a businessman. All my companies have external audits. You can have the COA to do the external audit in behalf of the Philippine government. We can even have a second external auditor.

Q: Yung ibang pondo kukunin sa dividends ng Bangko Sentral?

SP ZUBIRI: Yes, kasama yung Bangko Sentral.

Q: Hindi ba dapat yung dividends ng Bangko Sentral straight sa National Treasury? Zubiri: Well the law, we will basically amend that portion. Pero at least hindi na gagalawin ang pension funds. Alam ko magreretire ka na estong. So pagretire mo, hindi gagalawin yung pension fund mo.

Q: Nakausap niyo na po ba si JV. I think he filed a similar bill.

SP ZUBIRI: I think he filed a similar bill but hindi pa kami nag-usap. But he is willing. Marami naman na willing na magfile pero dapat lagyan natin ng sapat na safeguards. Hindi dapat masyadong exposed ang ating mga agencies or hindi maexpose ang ating pension funds.

Again, maayos natin yung issue on trust, meaning transparency, dapat may accountability, at syempre yung liderato niyan ay talagang respetado ng buong bansa, lalo na ng mga economic leaders ng iba't ibang sector ng ating bansa.

Q: Biyahe ni President BBM

SP ZUBIRI: Actually yung biyahe ni Presidente ngayon. Yung pagpunta nga naming ng Brussels (Belgium) last month, was basically to lobby for the generalized scheme preferences (GSP+). May mga hundreds of products na nakalagay dyan na pwede natin itransact sa European Union na walang mga hadlang, walang mga taxation or tariffs para makapasok. For example, yung bananas naming sa Bukidnon, Piña na pwedeng i-export sa Europe. It is up for renewal in 2023. Up for renewal in 2023 yung GSP+. Nandun si Presidente ngayon para sana i-renew ang GSP+ ng ating bansa. I think they periodically review it for renewal. But what I would like to push for is the free trade agreement. Ang gusto sana naming ay FTA with the EU. Yan talaga ang pangarap namin lalo na sa Senado. Kaya pumupunta kami dun periodically para ma-entice sila. They have FTAs with three ASEAN countries: Vietnam, Thailand, and Singapore. Sabi nga namin, sama na nila ang Pilipinas anyway we've been complaint with the issues they've been raising, and I think it is about time that they look at the Philippines as a free trade partner.

Q: hindi kaya magkaproblema sa quorum kapag dumating sa plenary ang MWF

SP ZUBIRI: Wala naman tayong problema sa quorum. 2 in the morning, three in the morning may 16 pa na present. Basta, I will commit to the Senate minority leader. Nangako naman ako sa kanya na we would very much be transparent with the dealings on legislations on the floor. Hindi namin ire-railroad ang mga bills and proposed legislation. We have a great working relationship. Kung kami nga nagging maganda ang working relationship naming ni former Sen. Franklin Drilon, lalo na kami ni Koko na taga Mindanao, magkapitbahay kami. We'll make sure na no railroading or no isahan ba. We will make sure the minority will be able to debate and the minority will also be able to provide amendments. It is up to the chairperson whether to agree or not. Definitely, we will give due process.

News Latest News Feed