Press Release
May 17, 2006

Transcript of ANC interview with Senate President Franklin M. Drilon Tuesday night, May 16, 2006 with Pinky Webb

Q: I was not surprised that you attended the LEDAC meeting because last year, you also attended that meeting the last time

SPFMD: That's right. It was September last year when the last LEDAC meeting was held. I was there. It is my duty as President of the Senate. By law, we are designated as members of the LEDAC. We were there last year. We were there this morning.

Q: There were supporters and critics of GMA in the LEDAC, didn't you feel that there could have been some softening on any side there?

SPFMD: At least, there was openness, there was a dialogue. It doesn't mean though, that there were already changes in position. The proposal was that the two committee chairs, Sen. Gordon and Cong. Jaraula, together with the members of their committee, sit down and discuss and see if there was any point we can agree on. We are reasonable men; we said having a dialogue between two committee of both houses is not unusual. It is done in ordinary course of legislation. Certainly, a dialogue between Sen. Gordon and Cong. Jaraula on the Con-Ass is not objectionable. The Senate maintains its position as we have approved in Resolution No. 75, 22 of us, out of 23, excluding Sen. Magsaysay, took the position that in any Constituent Assembly, the Senate must vote separately. This is the position of the Senate as an institution.

Q: Sen. Magsaysay did not sign that because he was on leave?

SPFMD: Correct. I'm certain, if given the opportunity, he would sign. Therefore, it would be unanimous Senate taking that position. We have another resolution; it's Resolution No. 77, which stated that it is the sense of the Senate that the people's initiative is patently illegal for lack of any legal basis and the fact that what is being proposed, a change in government, is a revision of the Constitution, which cannot be done through a people's initiative. Again, this is a Senate resolution adopted by the body. It is not only the view of the individual members, but the view of the entire Senate as an institution. Only Sen. Angara and Sen. Lapid did not sign that resolution.

Q: This means, though, that the senators are never against charter change?

SPFMD: Some senators, one or two or three, who may maintain that 'no, we do not touch the charter.' But on various levels, senators by and large, are amenable to looking at certain provisions of the Constitution. It is in the manner of the amendment that very strong disagreements came about. That is why we have these two resolutions.

Q: You were more inclined to a Constitutional Convention

SPFMD: That's a correct recollection. That is what I said. That is what I continue to believe in. But we are a collegial body. Therefore, at a certain point in time, we will be voting on this. Incidentally, these matters are pending before the committee of Sen. Gordon. We respect the committee system in the Senate. There were suggestions at the LEDAC meeting today that this proposed dialogue be undertaken by the leadership of both the Senate and the House. We said no, we respect our committee system. Sen. Gordon will lead our Senate contingent and Cong. Jaraula should lead the House contingent. And that was followed.

Q: Do you think the plan to revise the charter through Constitutional Convention may be impossible at this point?

SPFMD: Again, I don't want to preempt how our committee will decide. As I said, there are a number of us who believe that a Constitutional Convention is the proper mode. But it's difficult to say. But going back to the LEDAC, what I noticed is that it would appear that the President is now inclined to adopt the Con-Ass as the mode of trying to amend the Constitution. I think the matter of the people's initiative, which is really problematic, is being abandoned by Malacañang . This is a conclusion that I can draw from the meeting this morning. Because the President didn't even mention about the people's initiative. Because of the problem; you have no enabling law. A change in the form of government is clearly a revision, which is not proper in a people's initiative. Only an amendment. I can see that they have some problems in gathering three percent from all congressional districts. Maybe because of these problems, I am of the view that the President is inclined to abandon the cha cha-people's initiative train. Mind you, a very close adviser of the President gave me this conclusion two or three weeks ago and said the President may no longer push for the people's initiative. I think today's proceedings at the LEDAC, more or less validates that observation. Therefore, some local mayors and national officials who spent public funds for the people's initiative may have to start thinking of how they will liquidate these funds.

Q: Senators are against people's initiative

SPFMD: In the same way that we have taken the position that any Constituent Assembly which is done solely by the House will be opposed vehemently by the Senate as an institution.

Q: 23 of you said, 'no way to people's initiative,' 22 of you said, 'alright, we can do Constituent Assembly but we need to vote separately.' That is why Con-Ass was put forward on the table

SPFMD: These are conclusions that we draw from the events. It's speculative at this point. I draw my own conclusion. It may or may not be true but that is how I read the situation this morning.

Q: There is a concurrent resolution convening Congress into a Constituent Assembly, should the talks begin from there?

SPFMD: Logically the talks will begin from there. The House passed this late last year. It was referred to the Senate for our concurrence. This indicates that the House recognizes that indeed, the Senate would have to act on this as a body. Therefore, the process that they have followed or intend to follow until this morning of securing the signatures of 195 congressmen in total disregard of the Senate would have no legal basis.

Q: There was no timetable set for the meeting of the two committees?

SPFMD: We left it to the committees. As Cong. Villafuerte and Butch Aquino said, let's see what it is doable. We were open to that dialogue. We will ask Senator Gordon to sit down with them and craft a committee report when your committee feels it's proper and submit it to the Senate for our concurrence.

Q: Cong. Cagas said one of the things that came out in the LEDAC meeting was this: there were 33 bills of national importance that was passed by the lower house but the senators have not acted upon

SPFMD: Firstly, on the local bills, these bills would sometimes like to change the names of the road, or convert a local road into a national road. Today we received 59 bills which would convert local high schools into national high schools and put the budget in the national budget. Point number one, if such a local bill would require Senate concurrence, certainly, a more important measure like amending the Constitution would certainly have more reason to require the Senate's concurrence. Number 2, these local bills require funding. Last year, the estimate is that there are about P650 billion in unfunded laws. You add to this all of these conversion of high schools into national high schools, which would put the funding in the national budget. Then, where will we get the funding? We have to ask the Department of Education where they propose to secure the funding. Certainly, they could not point to any.

Q: He said 33 bills of national importance, they always hit the senators with that.

SPFMD: This is part of the choir of Senate bashers orchestrated somewhere in the Pasig river. Today, Secretary Neri made a rosy presentation of the economy. The economy could not have been rosy without the bills we have passed in Congress, the bills which improves the tax collection, the value added tax, the sin taxes, the tax on luxury vehicles the attrition law, the special purpose assets vehicle, etc. Yes, there are still 33 bills of national application. During our session yesterday in the Senate, in our caucus, we identified, other than the budget, 6 or 7 other measures which we thought is worth considering before the session is over. Many of the bills, a number of them require funding, and this is of which the reason why we are adamant in looking at it. Again, even if it involves funding, there could be differences in policy. This is precisely the reason for a bicameral congress. We debate on policy; it doesn't mean if it is passed by one house then it should be passed by the other, otherwise what do we have a bicameral system for? The check and balance is the essence of a bicameral system.

Q: Does it matter that they say they you don't pass these bills and you're all concerned about inquiries in aid of legislation?

SPFMD: First, it is not just we are involve in inquiries in aid of legislation because this is part of the function in a working democracy, the check and balance, the inquiry into what we perceive as anomalies in government. I would repeat: if you believe the presentation of Sec. Neri in the LEDAC meeting today, the economy is working well, there seems to be nothing wrong with this government and so I do not know if we need that many legislation that are being mentioned. Critical last year was the value added tax because of the budget deficit and that is the single most important piece of legislation that we have a considered and it caused a reduction in the budget deficit by a very substantial amount and a number of other measures I have mentioned earlier.

Q: What is the most important for the Senate in the next 11 session days that you have before you adjourn sine die on June 8?

SPFMD: First, we will pass the 2006 budget. In the caucus yesterday of the senators, we agreed to start the debate on Monday, May 22. We will finish the budget in the Senate on May 26. This budget stayed in the House for nine months and they approved exactly the same budget as presented to the body. We agreed to pass the credit information bureau which would allow access to credit information in order to aid in the transactions in our financial system. We also agreed to amendments to EPIRA or the Electric Power Industry Reform Act is in order; the matter of the biofuels which will provide incentive to the development of indigenous sources of energy because of the spiraling cost of fuel in the world today; the anti terror bill is being worked upon; the automation of the election which has been snagged because of the implementation problems as we all know, the present law would not be technology neutral that is why we are trying to amend it under the sponsorship of Sen. Gordon; the simplified net income tax, which would provide income tax relief to our minimum wage workers.

Q: You were inclined to pass the P1.053 T budget?

SPFMD: The total budget is P1.053 T. There are a number of items there which has raised eyebrows on the part of the senators. For example, there is the Kilos Asenso, a P5 billion one-line item in the budget which we view as a pork barrel on the part of the President; the Kalayaan fund, another P3 B. That's a total of P8B. There is another P10 B for, I think, separation of benefits for an intended reorganization of government which apparently would not happen this year. All of these we will scrutinize carefully. That is why in the DOTC suddenly we discovered that they were given a couple of billion pesos to spend and they suddenly had all kinds of repairs and all kinds of airports. All of these, we discovered these in the course of our hearings of the Committee of the Whole and that is what Sen. Gordon is referring to.

Q: I understand--during the deliberations at the Lower House, you were already also looking into the budget independently.

SPFMD: That's right. In fact, one of the objectives of the Senate in this budget is to further reduce the deficit that we have suffered for a number of years. In the presentation of Romulo Neri today, he was encouraging that this deficit be reduced and certain reduction on the expenditure side which again reduce the deficit and have a more robust economy.

Q: Villar needs thirteen votes. He said I only need 11 more because I have Senate President Drilon's signature and mine.

SPFMD: I confirm that. I said I will honor our commitment. I will sign the resolution that will be passed around. Manny and I will be working on our colleagues. At this point, we leave it at that because the agreement is on July. By the way, it is a personal commitment on my part. Therefore, the criticisms that we have made a deal on a public office is not totally accurate because obviously it needs the support of 13 senators.

Q: Do you think anybody else would be supporting Sen. Santiago's statements?

SPFMD: Miriam said if the Supreme Court will sustain the question of the people's initiative or the Con-Ass being implemented in a manner that it is implemented now, and No. 2, of course if the people will approve the same in a plebiscite. I don't think that these can happen in July. We do not know how the Supreme Court will react to these cases, to these questions. We do not how the people would react. I think it is premature at this point. (end)

News Latest News Feed