Press Release
November 27, 2006

Transcript of interview with Sen. Franklin M. Drilon

Q: On the President's health

SFMD: Karapatan ng taong-bayan na malaman kung ano ang kalagayan ng kalusugan ng kanilang Pangulo. Iyan po ay kailangang malaman ng taong-bayan dahil ang Pangulo ng bansa ay kailangang malaman natin ang kalagayan para sa kapakanan ng sambayanan.

Q: The doctors are predictably not talking about the real condition of the President, should it be incumbent on Malacañang to

SFMD: Certainly, it is the duty of Malacañang to disclose the state of health of the President. The President is not an ordinary citizen. The affairs of the country would depend upon the state of the President's health. Iyong kapakanan po ng sambayan ay nakasalalay sa kalagayan ng Pangulo. Kaya tungkulin ng Pangulo na sabihin at ibunyag sa sambayan kung ano ang kanyang karamdaman at ano ang kanyang state of health. Hindi lang po dito sa ating bansa, kahit saan ka man pumunta, ang kalagayan ng Pangulo ay isang topic na dapat malaman ng sambayanan.

Q: Malacañang and the doctors are saying there is nothing seriously wrong about the President's health, but she has been to the hospital three times in five months. Doesn't that justify some clarificatory statement?

SFMD: I am not a physician. But certainly, the President, Malacañang must state the true state of health of the President.

Q: Ano po ang epekto kung patuloy pa ring itinatago ng palasyo?

SFMD: Iyan ay obligasyon ng Pangulo sa sambayanan. Mailalagay sa alanganin ang taong-bayan kung hindi nila alam kung ano ang tunay na kalagayan ng kalusugan ng Pangulo.

Q: May epekto din ba iyan sa ekonomiya?

SFMD: Certainly, may effect sa ekonomiya kung ang Pangulo ng bansa ay hindi maayos ang kalusugan. Hindi lang dito, kung hindi kahit saan ka man pumunta, ang kalusugan ng Pangulo ay nakakaapekto sa ekonomiya ng isang bansa at sa istabilidad ng isang bansa.

Q: Malacañang said the state of the President is the same as the state of the economy. Is that encouraging?

SFMD: I am not a physician. We are still suffering from budget deficits. I do not know whether that is a good comparison.

Q: Is it about time to abolish the pork barrel since hindi naman nari-release?

SFMD: I don't want to defend the pork barrel utilization because indeed, there are some questions raised on the utilization of these funds. Per se, the pork barrel is not that reprehensible as pictured by certain quarters. In fact, the University of the Philippines should be the first one to tell you that they received a lot of pork barrel. Pork barrel per se is not that reprehensible if properly used. And I underscore that. If properly utilized, it can serve its purpose. I cite PGH. I cite my school building program. I cite the National Kidney Institute. These are some of the beneficiaries of our programs. I would repeat, the pork barrel is not reprehensible per se. The problem, however, also is that, let's face it, Malacañang uses this as a political tool for its allies. That is a fact that cannot be denied by Malacañang .

Q: In that case, shouldn't it be abolished? Some senators are calling for its abolition.

SFMD: Personally, I have no problem with its abolition. On a personal basis. But I am only one of the 23.And I have not misused my pork barrel. And I have not used it for any political purpose.

Q: Ang statement ng Malacañang , make sispsip muna for your pork barrel to be released

SFMD: I will not make sipsip. Hindi po ako magsisipsip dahilan sa hindi naman sa personal kong kapakanan itong alokasyon ng pork barrel. Sa aking paggamit ng pork barrel, malinis po ang aking kunsensya at hindi ko ginagamit sa sariling kapakanan kung hindi sa kapakanan n gating kabataan sa pamamagitan ng pagpapatayo ko ng mga silid-paaralan o doon sa mga may sakit sa kidney sa NKI. I can hold my head high insofar as the pork barrel allocation.

Q: Magkano ang pork barrel ni GMA?

SFMD: It's difficult to determine that at this stage. I will look into it more closely in the next few days as I prepare for the committee's final recommendation to the Senate.

Q: But you will stick to the President's budget level of P6.2 billion for pork? The House approved P9.1 billion.

SFMD: Insofar as the PDAF is concerned, we will stick to the President's budget.

Q: It's like you cut the pork approved by the House?

SFMD: Because of the views expressed by no less than Secretary Andaya, Secretary Teves and Secretary Neri that this is constitutionally infirm and fiscally undesirable to increase the President's budget by reducing the budget for interest payments.

Q: They said wala naman daw increase so there is nothing unconstitutional?

SFMD: The interest rates is automatically appropriated so that if the assumptions in the National Expenditure Program would be validated in 2007, you would have a budget higher than what is submitted by the President because the interest payments are automatically appropriated. And that is where the House reduced it. In other words, even if the House abolished the entire P328 billion as debt service, the government is still authorized to spend P328 billion for debt service. The fact is, P328 billion for interest payments is automatically appropriated. So even if Congress reduces this to only P1, even if there is none, government will still have to spend P328 billion for interest payments. So your expenditure program would increase to the extent that the assumptions in the debt service would be fulfilled in 2007.

Q: Kung in-increase lang nila ang new appropriations, that is considered increasing the budget?

SFMD: No, because if it's new appropriation, then what they are doing is to realign the items in the new appropriation. But if you start tinkering around with the budget for debt service, then effectively, you are increasing the new appropriations portion of the budget. That is what they did. Precisely I am saying, if you are going to pursue their theory to its logical conclusion, then you can reduce to P1 the debt service but that does not prevent the President from servicing our debt because it's automatically appropriated. That is why in all of these budget cycles, the discretion of the legislature in approving or disapproving or reducing the budget is limited to the new appropriations potion of the budget.

Q: Going back to the health of the President, hindi na daw dapat ukilkilin pa ito sabi ni Senator Lacson

SFMD: As I said earlier, the health of the President is the concern of the entire nation; not only in the Philippines , but in every country. In fact, the Constitution has provided for a process where the illness has become so serious and there are certain processes that must be followed. This is borne out by the experience during the Marcos regime that the health of President Marcos was withheld from the nation. Therefore, our Constitution has provided that if by reason of illness, the President can no longer discharge its function, I think members of the Cabinet must inform the Congress of such condition of the President. This only validates the theory that the health of the President is a matter of public concern.

Q: Even if speculations are unhealthy?

SFMD: Certainly, the speculations are unhealthy. That is why it is the duty of Malacañang to rectify these speculations because the health of the nation affects not only the economic and social stability but the political stability, principally.

Q: Joe de Venecia is offering regional process for senators para pumayag sa Con-Ass

SFMD: The first issue to be resolved is whether we vote separately or not. (end)

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