Press Release
June 9, 2006

Transcript of Senate President Franklin M. Drilon's interview
with Ricky Carandang (The Big Picture, ANC), June 8, 2006

Q: During the press conference this afternoon, you said it twice, you are not turning it over with a heavy heart

SPFMD: No regrets. Firstly, by July 24, I would have been Senate president for five years and seven months, including the time that I was Senate president in 2000. That's the longest time that any senator has held the position since Edsa Revolution in 1986. Of course, the longest one is Amang Rodriguez, who held it I think, for 10 years. It's not an easy job managing the ego of 23 republics. I recall my good friend, Rene Saguisag saying whenever he mentioned the term President to the senators, he see moist eyes. It's a very challenging job. I thought that I have done my share in leading this institution, in preserving democracy, in pushing legislation necessary at that point. I am very satisfied with the past five years and a half that I have been able to contribute to almost every aspect of our political, social, economic life.

Q: During the press conference, much of the question that came your and Sen. Villar's way is, what does this mean for the Senate? Will there be a lot of changes in the committees?

SPFMD: Firstly, as a matter of tradition, the Senate president is given a certain leeway in nominating committee chairs. But from the way Sen. Villar answered the questions this afternoon, it would appear that he is not inclined to make any radical change; with reason. We have barely six months of this Congress-- starting July 24, up to December 31, two weeks in January, and one week in February and after that, the 2007 election. When you change committee chairs in the Senate, you would have a period of a certain degree of instability. You cannot avoid rancor, dissatisfaction in the organization, that's natural. The moment you do that, you at least consume two months. You have barely three months left. As Manny said, I'm trying to read his mind, for the good of the Senate and in order to be able to continue working smoothly, that he would minimize any changes in the committees. As I said, I do not know this for a fact. I'm trying to read between the lines of what he said during the press conference this afternoon. Because honestly, we haven't discussed this.

Q: The chairmanship of the Committee on Finance, public order will be relinquished by Villar

SPFMD: That's correct. It's natural in the organization because as Senate president, he cannot hold committees.

Q: When I talked to senators, nobody said categorically that there will be no changes

SPFMD: Because that is a consensus in the majority as would be suggested by the new head of the Senate. As head of the Senate, we try to negotiate and get a consensus that Senator X would head this committee, etc. We are used to that. That is why these guys gave you those answers. For example, Sen. Ponce Enrile, I asked him a year ago to join the majority. He was so pleased and then I asked him what committee would you prefer to head. Right now, Senator Enrile has no committee. He must be given a committee, he is a very competent legislator. As Serge said, the Committee on Finance and the Committee on Public Order and Illegal Drugs must be given up by Manny. There will be some changes. But there will be no reorganization of the entire Senate.

Q: And those who voted for Manny would deserve some 'reward'?

SPFMD: Really it depends on whether or not those signatures were secured on the basis of certain commitments that Manny Villar had to make. I don't know that for a fact. I am not aware that such concessions were requested.

Q: Where is Frank going to go?

SPFMD: I have been in the Senate for the past 11 years, being the President for the last five years and a half, majority leader for another two or three years. I can say that I have enough working knowledge, expertise in some areas to be able to handle most of the substantial committees in the Senate, except probably for some specialized committees like health. I don't really know much about health exactly. I think the incoming Senate president would ask for my help in many areas, I would like to think, for a good working relationship. I would like to think that he would have some use for whatever talent I have.

Q: And given the breadth of your experience, I was wondering what committees would you find interesting?

SPFMD: I don't want to preempt Manny, in fairness to him. We know what are the major committees in the Senate. From experience, we know which committees would have the most referrals insofar as legislation is concerned. I would leave it to Manny to make his own judgment as to where I can fit most in his scheme of things in his administration.

Q: If you look at the votes Villar got, it shows that the Senate doesn't really vote on party lines.

SPFMD: None at all. There are 23 political parties in the Senate. By that, I am just trying to highlight the fact that each of the senator feel that they have their own mandate. And they do. And that they have the same constituency as the President. And they do. On that alone, you must give due recognition and the failure to give it proper recognition could sometimes be the cause of problems, like what you saw today between my good friend Dick Gordon and Serge Osmea. In the course of pressure at work, sometimes you lose your temper. Ganoon talaga ang buhay. Nothing personal.

Q: The fact that you made the announcement today, means he has at least 13 votes

SPFMD: Let us put it this way. I committed to him two years ago that I will support him. And I did sign the resolution, which would support his bid for the presidency. How many signatures he has, only he knows. Insofar as I am concerned, I am supporting him. Those who doubt that he has the majority support may challenge him. I am not that one. I will not challenge him. In effect, I just endorsed him.

Q: The outgoing Senate president, are you having a hard time getting used to that?

SPFMD: No, I'm not having a hard time. You can see I am very relaxed. I really meant it when I said it is not hard on my part. I honored my word.

Q: The Estradas apparently voted for Villar as well as pro-administration senators, how did that happen?

SPFMD: Honestly, I do not know. Some natural signatories like the Wednesday Group it's not surprising Kiko, Joker, Ralph. Pia Cayetano is with the Nacionalista Party. Johnny Flavier, was with me when we made this commitment to stabilize the Senate by agreeing to support Manny's bid in 2006. The rest, it's difficult for me to confirm or deny there were in the list because I don't have an idea. I am just making conclusion on the basis of general perceptions in the Senate.

Q: You and Kiko voted for Manny Villar. Mar Roxas and Pong Biazon did not.

SPFMD: Firstly, I don't know that the two did not sign. Assuming that they did not, like what you are saying, did I promise to bring anyone in the Liberal party? No. Because at that time, in 2004, when we agreed to this it was a personal matter between me and Manny. I was not even the President of the party at that time. Therefore, insofar as the party is concerned, they were not involved. Moreover, Francis helped together with Johnny Flavier come up with this kind of compromise agreement. Francis was bound not because of party affiliation but because of the fact that he was part of the whole process of trying to put stability in the Senate for the 13 th Congress.

Q: Your stepping down from the Senate presidency, does that have any impact on your position in the Liberal party?

SPFMD: I don't think so. My term of three years is ending next year.

Q: And Lito Atienza will continue to challenge you

SPFMD: The case is now before the Comelec.

Q: What is the latest development?

SPFMD: There was a hearing this morning. I think the parties were required to submit their memoranda three weeks from now.

Q: Will you be spending more time in LP matters now?

SPFMD: I will certainly be spending more time in LP matters. I will be spending more time in matters that will involve threats to democracy, making sure that we can strengthen our political party, strengthen people's belief in our democratic system of government.

Q: Do you really believe democracy is under threat?

SPFMD: Yes. Look, 464, CPR, 1017. No matter how you look at it, as long as you have a certain degree of objectivity, you cannot resist the thought that these are threats to our democratic system of government. After the Supreme Court has struck down these three issuances as unconstitutional, including the CPR, you thought everything was settled. Then suddenly, you see the Erap 5 being arrested by ISAFP agents, signs of torture. Up to now, we don't even know who are the members of the arresting team. To me this is a very dangerous episode that you can enter one's place under the excuse of a hot pursuit without a warrant of arrest, without a search warrant, just grab five persons, subjected allegedly to torture, not even revealing who the arresting officers are. That is why I said, these are continuing threats to our democratic system of government. I will continue opposing and criticizing incidents such as these.

Q: Now that you are not going to be Senate president, and because Manny Villar is perceived to be a little friendlier to the administration, do you think the Senate is going to be easier on Malacañang ?

SPFMD: I don't want to describe it as easy or harsh. I don't think that's a proper description or labeling of the Senate. The senators take a position on the basis of what their conscience tells them. There is unanimity in opinion in many instances where it involves basic freedoms. When it involves basic freedoms, the senators almost single-handedly would unite consciously or unconsciously. When it involves constitutional principles, you can hardly find divergence in opinion. The fact that in the past one year, the defense of the Constitution is oftentimes equated with opposition to certain policies of the administration, may have given the impression that the Senate opposed the administration. But more accurately, it was in these instances when the Senate saw that there were attacks on the basic freedoms. We just all said we stand for the Cosntitution.

Q: Are you saying that the Senate under Villar is not going to do the same thing?

SPFMD: No, I'm not saying that. What I am saying is regardless of who is the head of the Senate, the senators would take a position and would be united when it comes to basic freedoms, basic defense of Constitution and democracy.

Q: The Palace is not going to get any breaks from Manny Villar?

SPFMD: I don't want to get into that kind of assessment. All I'm saying is that I don't think the senators would change their basic principles, their basic beliefs with Manny Villar or with Drilon on top.

Q: What's is going to happen in 2007? Are we going to elect new members of the Senate or new members of the parliament?

SPFMD: We will have an election in 2007 under the 1987 Constitution as it is presently worded. I don't believe that we will have a parliament by 2007. As of now, notwithstanding all the noise, I have not seen Sigaw ng Bayan moving forward their so-called how many million signatures. But even assuming that they have that, it is the legal process, up to the Supreme Court and these are valid legal questions, should push the process towards the end of the year. Mind you, that does not even include the plebiscite. On the Constituent Assembly, up to this point, notwithstanding the announcements in the past, we have not seen any signature. The legal issues to be resolved are real issues, novel questions never before raised in the Supreme Court. Therefore, we will end up in the Supreme Court. Therefore, the 2007 election will take place.

Q: The leadership tells me that they are close to 190 signatures, does that matter?

SPFMD: It doesn't matter because the basic issue of whether or not in a bicameral legislature, the House can disregard the Senate in this very basic work of performing a constituent function, meaning amending the Constitution --can we be disregarded by the simple vote all coming from the House. Number two, the issue was resolved by the Supreme Court and plebiscite must take place talking about 2007 elections. Yes, there will be an election under the 1987 Constitution and a presidential system of government.

Q: Either way, whether it is a signature campaign or the ConAss, it has to go to the Supreme Court.

SPFMD: That's right.

Q: What confidence do you have in your part that the Supreme Court is going to put down those attempts?

SPFMD: Because as a lawyer, as former secretary of Justice, I'm in the view that Pirma or the people's initiative doesn't stand on any solid constitutional basis.

Q: Because of Comelec vs. Santiago?

SPFMD: Because of Santiago vs. Comelec, and number 2 the proposed amendment is a revision and the Constitution does not allow a revision to the Constitution (by people's initiative).

Q: So you don't think that legally any way the Supreme Court can rule in favor of either the signature campaign or the .

SPFMD: In my view, the Supreme Court would be hard put in being convinced otherwise.

Q: How many times did we have a reenacted budget and the blame goes to the Senate?

SPFMD: Firstly, it was during the last one year when there was so much political turmoil in the Philippines that indeed it was a very difficult time for us in the Senate because of the constant attack to undermine us, because of the constant barrage of propaganda. It was not easy but we stood our ground, fought hard, we went to he Supreme Court and we led the petitioners in questioning EO464. But I am proud to say that a year ago, we were an active participant in crafting policies for the economy, for the social and political life of our country. The administration claims a strong economy because of good revenue collection. Who led this government in crafting the value added tax? Sen. Ralph Recto and the Senate. The President knows the kind of work that I did as Senate President in order to have this legislation that is important to our economy to push through. The other bills like the Anti-Money laundering, that was a very difficult piece of policy that we have to push through. But the past year forced the Senate to take a position that democracy was at stake and therefore we did take action which we thought was necessary in order that we can preserve our democratic system. Apparently it was in danger by the events that we all know of.

Q: Because it looks like we will going to have a reenacted budget this year?

SPFMD: Reenacted budget this year. First it got to the Senate about March after 8 months or 9 months and we worked hard. We have the Committee of the Whole. Unfortunately the Senate thought there should be certain cuts made. It is a P1.053 T budget. The cut on the programmed portion was about P26 B and these were cuts which after analyzing the expenditure program, maybe could be set aside and reduce the deficit by P26 B. We talk about reorganization of the government which would not take place this year of which P10 B was allocated. We removed that. We removed the P5 B Kilos Asenso fund which was a lump sum appropriation in addition to the internal revenue allotment (IRA) of the local gov't. units. The local gov't units with P88 B, another P5 B was added without any indication how this will be used. During the committee hearings in the Senate, I personally asked NEDA and DILG to submit to us a set of criteria which will assure us that these funds will be used not for political patronage but really judiciously. For example I suggested to them why don't we make it performance- based. If the LGU would be able to increase its revenue collection of local taxes, let us put counterpart funds in order to encourage them to lower their dependence on the internal revenue allotment, build up the capacity by encouraging them to collect local taxes and we will put in counterpart funds from the Kilos Asenso funds. We were ignored. They just said, 'no, we have our own rules.' We just couldn't agree. You have a P3 B Kalayaan fund which again is a one liner. We have a P2.5 B repair of airports all over the country which the DOTC Secretary himself said this was not in our original plan but NEDA said we have an available funds to pump prime, P 2.3B. We can put this instead of here in airports, which you don't really need, let us put this in the school building programs.

Q: There are questions and points raised that if the Senate were not there, would ever be raised?

SPFMD: That's right, yes. These would never be raised. We raised these, we made it public. Unfortunately the President said you cut it by P1, I will veto the budget.

Q: So there is no 2006 national budget?

SPFMD: Chances are there would be none. We adjourned sine die today. I consulted Manny Villar before we decided to adjourn. He said there is simply no way that we can submit the bicameral conference committee report within today so even if we extend our session tomorrow, there will be no report. He said we will continue looking for ways by which we can come up with the budget. But if come July 24 there is no budget, then we just have to live with 2006 on the basis of 2005 budget.

Q: What about the criticism of Pres. Arroyo and Pres. Ramos that the Senate under Drilon has spent too much time investigating and not enough time on legislation.

SPFMD: The investigation took place for the past one year where we said that there's a lot of political events that led people to get disenchanted with what was happening.. Then we thought that we should use the Senate as a venue through which the people can ventilate their views and seek the truth. Seeking the truth is part of legislation. That is part of our job to provide the venue through which the people can ventilate and know what is happening in government.

Q: I wonder if you didn't do that

SPFMD: I don't know. The fertilizer scam was done by Sen. Jun Magsaysay. If he didn't do that, I don't know if it will ever surface.

Q: How would the country belike without a Senate?

SPFMD: The most basic example is the wage increase, across the board. Move faster? What did the employers suddenly realized? I heard Mr. Donald Dee who is an avid supporter of this administration saying, 'look we have to think twice about this unicameral parliamentary system.' Suddenly they come up with a P125 across the board increase. Suddenly they realized that sometimes there is need for a check and balance.

Q: 2007 is your last term. What happens to Senator Drilon after 2007?

SPFMD: I have not given it much thought but not being in the Senate is not the end of life. I have been in public service for the past 20 years.

Q: I was about to say. You have been in public service 1986. This is not going to be the first timeprivate citizen.

SPFMD: We will be continuously involved in public issues. I will get involved with the NGOs and I'd like to continue for example the school building program that I started with the Filipino Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry. We build classrooms at half the price. We have already built 1500 public classrooms. I would like to see if I can continue this as an NGO given the track record that we have done with the Chinese Chamber. It would be a good way to keep you busy to get involved in public discussion of issues for the next several years. I think I deserve also a few weeks, few months rest after 2007.

Q: You didn't say I am going back to private practice

SPFMD: It's just really that I haven't given it that much thought. I'd been so involved with so many issues I'll have time to think once maybe after July 24, when my schedule will allow me. I should be able to figure out more clearly what happens next.

Q: You are not shutting the door for another run for public office

SPFMD: For the past 20 years, it has been a pressure cooker on a daily basis. Labor Secretary immediately after EDSA revolution when labor was trying to test the limits of their freedoms under the Freedom Constitution, terrible job. Department of Justice at the time when my good friend Gringo Honasan was trying to bring down Cory Aquino with all those coup . A friend or a foe would have different perception of what we have done but in my conscience, I believe I have done something for our country. Looking back, I think I have done my share. (end)

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