Press Release
August 7, 2006

Transcript of interview with
Liberal Party President Sen. Franklin M. Drilon

Q: On the supplemental budget

SFMD: We will have a caucus on Wednesday at 1 pm, where we have invited Secretary Andaya and the secretaries whose budgets will be increased by the supplemental budget to brief the senators. Subsequently, we will call a committee hearing the moment we receive the approved supplemental budget by the House. But pending receipt, we will have a briefing. Secretary Andaya has expressed willingness to brief the committee. It's a caucus where a briefing will be conducted. We simply could not have a formal hearing because technically, we have not received the supplemental budget as approved by the House.

Q: Ano pa ba ang issue sa supplemental budget?

SFMD: Number one; we need a certification from the National Treasurer as to the availability of funds because that is required under the Constitution. I assume that they have submitted this to the House and we will just have to look at it. Number two, my impression is that many of the items are mandatory appropriations. For example, the internal revenue allotment, the salary increase of the firemen and the jail guards; and the teachers' salaries. Now, beyond these mandatory appropriations, are there other appropriations there? And given the fact that this will only be for four months, what are these appropriations? They have also a supplemental budget of P500 million as standby repatriation fund. It is a separate item but it is also part of the supplemental budget. This is in addition to the P46.4 billion. Necessarily, this will entail clarification as to the utilization of the OWWA funds for repatriation.

Q: You are not initially inclined to approve that P500 million?

SFMD: We want to hear them. I don't want to make any conclusion. We want precisely a briefing on all of these.

Q: Saan manggagaling ang OWWA repatriation funds under the proposal?

SFMD: The P500 million is part of the supplemental budget under the national treasury.

Q: And they will source it from

SFMD: From the national treasury, not the OWWA funds.

Q: Do you have an issue with that?

SFMD: We need an explanation why it cannot be sourced from OWWA.

Q: The Senate investigation revealed that OWWA has about P6.4 billion in banks. Would that be a factor in your consideration of approving the P500 million additional funds for repatriation?

SFMD: All of these, we would like to listen to. The policy issue is, should repatriation be sourced from OWWA funds or from the general fund? Because the OWWA funds are contributed by documented workers. These are sourced from funds contributed by the employers of documented workers. Necessarily, there is no contribution to the OWWA fund from the undocumented workers. Question; can you use the OWWA funds for repatriation?

Q: Ano po ang opinion ninyo dito?

SFMD: I don't want to express an opinion. I want precisely to listen to the justification of the executive on that.

Q: The former commissioner of OWWA said as a rule, the OWWA should repatriate or be in the assistance of any Filipino in distress. Do you find that statement as any ground?

SFMD: Precisely, that is an issue. Because under the Migrant Workers' Act, Section 15, only the initial fund of P100 million as repatriation fund will be sourced from the OWWA. Subsequent to that, after the exhaustion of the P100 million, it is supposed to be sourced from the General Appropriations Act. Question; does that imply, as a matter of policy, it should be the GAA which should cover repatriation cost or can it be justified under the OWWA charter?

Q: Should the undocumented Filipinos in Lebanon be evacuated also? Would that justify the supplemental budget they may not be covered by the OWWA fund?

SFMD: Precisely, the implied policy under the Migrant Workers' Act is that repatriation should be sourced out of the GAA, covering both documented and undocumented. On the other hand, the OWWA fund was precisely put up as a fund for the benefit of the overseas Filipino workers. The contribution, however, is only from the documented workers. So these are policy issues, which must be threshed out.

Q: What is your sense right now?

SFMD: I will listen. What is the use of hearing this if we already have a stand?

Q: But the Senate policy will still be to bring back Filipinos?

SFMD: Certainly to bring them back; where you will source the funds is precisely the issue that we would have to tackle during the hearings. (end)

News Latest News Feed