Press Release
January 17, 2011

Transcript of Kapihan sa Diamond Hotel

On Senate coup rumors

SP: You know in life, I've learned to be very circumspect. That's how you proceed in life. I already wait for events to happen. But actually, while this issue might be very important to the nation, our people and the members of the Senate to know what is the truth, the fact is, modesty aside, I have not said anything about it because it has not bothered me as a concern. When they are looking for a Senate president at the beginning of the onset of the 15th Congress, before the SONA of President Aquino, I was not vying for it. No one was able to muster the necessary numbers to be elected as a Senate president and the principal players at that time went to see me and ask me if I would be available to ascend for a group. And so I did. I was fortunate enough that I got the support of almost all the senators. Well, Senator Sotto here was witness for that time because he was the one who really talked to the others. He, Greg Honasan and Jinggoy (Estrada), the three of them, were the ones who talked to the others. The result was that I was almost unanimously elected as a Senate president. Senator Sotto was witness to this that I told the members of the Senate that I will hold the position at their pleasure, that anytime anyone of them can aspire and can get the numbers, then all I have to do is tell them that I will relinquish the position immediately. That is still my position today that's why it doesn't bother me whether there is going to be a change of leadership. I will be happy to support anybody among my colleagues to handle the job of the Senate president.

On other senators aspiring for the Senate presidency

SP: Well, I must tell you that each senator is entitled to aspire. I'm sure that given the chance, Senator Sotto will aspire for it and is qualified for it. To be fair to Frank (Drilon), he was the first one to see me and told me that he could not muster the votes. In fact, when he was the first one to approach me because he wanted to aspire for the position, I said, I'll support him. But I said, to be fair to the others, I will not actively ask the other senators, you go ahead and talk to them. Later on, Kiko Pangilinan also approached me and I told him that I already told Frank (Drilon) that I will support him, I will also help you if you get the numbers. This is still a numbers game. To be fair to Manny, he never approached me. He worked on his own but later on, he went to the house and we talked. He told me that after Tito (Sotto) and Greg (Honasan) talked to him, they agreed that Manny will support me. After that, I talked to the members of the Liberal Party. When I got the consensus of all the members of the Senate, I had a meeting with the President and told him that I might be the Senate President and I would like to find out what he had in mind about the Senate. So, there is a matter of courtesy and cooperation with the Executive department. In fairness to the President, he never imposed anything on me or any condition or any suggestion that he wanted this or that. He left the whole thing to the Senate.

On Senator Manny Villar

SP: Manny is very busy with his business. You know, to tell you the truth, Manny is not really concentrated on politics. He's more of an entrepreneur. I found out that during that period, Manny is a person different from the impression I originally had. He was so helpful in ironing out many of the problems in the Senate. He never asked for any committee. He never imposed any committee. He allowed the members of his party to obtain the committees that they wanted.

Sotto: In fairness to Senator Villar, when we were ironing out the leadership in the Senate, Senator Villar was instrumental in helping us talk to some of the little kinks that we were having. He helped in ironing out the committee chairmanships and memberships in the Commission on Appointments.

On the Senate leadership

Sotto: As a matter of fact, the minority in the Senate almost voted for the Senate President, for Senator Enrile. It was almost a company union at the start because there has to be a minority. At first, Alan was the only minority but eventually things turned out the way it is now.

SP: Actually, when we were discussing the Senate leadership, the group that will support the Senate President, everybody agreed that I would be the Senate President. Even in the distribution of the committees, we were all together. There was no majority and no minority. There was only one senator who did not want any committees and that was Joker (Arroyo).

On Senator Trillanes saying that Senator Arroyo has not filed a single bill

SP: Well, Joker doesn't want to have a big staff. In fairness to him, he wouldn't need a big staff. He's an experienced person. He can pick up an issue in the Senate and debate with you. He can handle a bill that has been presented in deliberation and he can ask the relevant and material questions that should be asked. I don't think he needs much research to do his job as a senator. A senator is elected to represent the people principally to make laws. In making laws, that does not necessarily mean that he will have to file so many bills. The work of the senator is scrutinized by the legislation that will come through the Chamber. To scrutinize it such that the laws will come out of the Senate would be wise laws for the people. Second is for him to actively participate in the proceedings of the Senate, to participate in debating national issues in order to impart information, possibly knowledge, to the general public. Third, to be the guardian of liberty of the people. If there is an abuse of power, the senator of the Republic is expected to rise and raise his voice to question the abuse of that power, whoever maybe abusing that power of government to the prejudice of the people. Especially in the field of international relations, a senator must have the acumen, ability, knowledge and experience to participate in directing the evolution of a sound, foreign policy of the country because we are the treaty-ratifying authority of the Republic. No treaty that creates a relationship of the country with other countries can exist and be a force in this country without the approval of the Senate even if they are signed or approved by the Executive who is the formulator and creator of foreign policies in the country.

Sotto: Hindi po ito nagkakatalo sa dami ng bills na nai-file or naipasa mo. Other factors are important in being a good senator like participation in debates, interpellations, legislative voting record.

On the office of Senator Trillanes' expenses

SP: Every senator is given a budget allocation out of the general budget of the Senate. He has a core staff to work with him and moreso because he was actually not actively participating in the Senate, he needed people to attend committee hearings in various committees of the Senate so that he would have a flow of information as a senator while he was inside his custodial area. I would not judge him just by the figure spent by his office because he must have a lot of people for that purpose.

On Senator Lacson

SP: We stopped the release of budget of the office of Senator Lacson not because we wanted it but because our attention was called by the Commission on Audit (COA). And so, in order not to involve the Senate into any problem of the auditing procedures of the national government, I, as the Senate President, decided to stop with the consent of the other members of the Senate. I called a caucus on this issue. We better stop the budget but must retain the staff of Senator Lacson because there's a possibility that he may come back anytime and so he may need the staff support needed for him to operate as a senator. For as long as you're a senator and the Courts will not stop the payment of your salary, that's the accountability of the senator involved. It is not for me or for the Senate, as long as he's a member of the Senate and we have not expelled or suspended him. Even if we suspend him, his salary will continue. Unless we expel him, he's a senator of the Republic entitled to all the privileges of a senator.

On the Legislative Agenda

Sotto: We each have our own priorities but the Senate President calls a caucus every now and then to determine the main priorities but right now we are constrained to wait for the legislative agenda and priorities of the Executive department. Although, we make sure that the Senate is still working as we resume the session this afternoon, we shall be discussing the Anti-Human Trafficking Law that is pending in the Senate, a bill on foster care and the continuing interpellations on media killings. At the moment, these are the priority measures that are pending in the Senate. But again, we will consolidate these with the legislative agenda presented by the President, hopefully, in a LEDAC that will be called soon or a communication to the Senate President for us to be able to sit down and discuss it with the leadership and entire membership of the Senate.


JPE: The program of the government is upon the instruction of the Executive Department. The President is the one tasked by the people to manage the country. The Executive Department is the one that must adopt a program of government based on the vision and thrust of that administration which was elected by the people to manage the country. That is what starts the budget that would support the program of government. That program of government is translated into legislations that are needed, and that is to be referred also by the Executive Department to Congress. Of course, the legislators have their own individual interests for their constituents, as in the House of Representatives. In the national level, senators have their own notions of what is good for the country. They present their own bills to solve specific problems that they encounter along the way, and each one of us has his own priority bills. We file bills to address specific problems, but these are not programs of the government. These are ready solutions to what we see as problems that have to be addressed. We have our own hierarchy of priorities in these bills. It is important to file many bills but it is the quality of the bills that matters.

On his priority bills

JPE: My priorities are the following: Anti- Trust Law Power Reduction Bill (includes the EPIRA Law) Revoke Vat for the transmission and distribution of power Review and revisions of the National Telecommunication Commission statute Cyber Crime Law Revision of the Tax Incentives Law

On cutting tax incentives

JPE: We have to look into these things and revise tax-exemption policies of the government. Different brackets of granting tax privileges to people will be given. But the present government has a lot of work to do to address these problems that were left behind.

On the Cha-cha issue

JPE: Hindi natin priority 'yang Cha-cha. Sa aking paningin ay kailangan natin 'yan sa pagkat marami ang dapat ayusin sa ating Saligang Batas. Pero, hindi ko sinasabi na priority natin sa Senado 'yan. Hindi 'yan kailangan na biglaan at madalian. Masalimuut 'yan at kailangang pag- aralan nang mabuti. I will suggest for the amendments of the economic provisions to solve the problems and the rights of the people. The kind of the government that we have is not perfect. We cannot have a perfect government. Pero 'yung economic provisions ang gamot sa kahirapan ng ating bansa. Kailangan harapin natin 'yan. Pangatawanan natin.

About the rumored coup at the Senate

JPE: I have no interest in dealing with that problem. If it's a rumor, let it be a rumor. If it is not a rumor, let it be done. It's not important to have a loyalty check.

On the human rights victims during Marcos' regime

JPE: I am not against paying compensation to "victims" of martial law years. There's no question that some people abused their power during martial law period. Some people got hurt because of that abuse of power. A decision of a foreign court is not binding with the Philippines. That decision in Hawaii cannot be enforced here in the Philippines unless the winners file their case here using that decision as a cause of action, and a judge here will move that there is indeed a basis for the claimants to be paid. If there are people who were victimized by the martial law, then they can go to court and file a claim against the government, or let Congress, and not an enabling law, to allow these people to go to court and file their claim. But these persons must prove that indeed they were victims of oppression. The claimants have to overturn and question the power of the President because the Constitution had vested the President with the power to declare martial law where in his judgment that was necessary.

On the rumored change in Senate leadership

SP: Wala akong sama ng loob, I'm telling you. Some people may think na I am unhappy about this rumors. It didn't bother me. It doesn't bother me at all. I do not lose sleep on it. I'm ready to move out of the office if they have the numbers.

On the ethics case against Senator Lacson

SP: Let the committee do that. I'm not sure about the ethical charges filed against him but if it's based on the crime filed against him, it was done when he was not a member of the Senate. Now, if it was because he has not come out because there is a warrant of arrest against him, he has a defense. If you are in his place, what are you going to do? Run immediately and embrace the government. It is a human condition. There's an existing rule unless it's overturned. We cannot punish a member of any legislative body for a conduct committed prior to his election to that body for ethical conduct.

Sotto: When you convene a Senate committee, the first thing you do is approve your rules. The committee on ethics has not met yet. We will leave it to the members of the committee on what proposals they would want.

On Brillantes appointment in Comelec

SP: I go along with the appointment. I know the guy. I have dealt with him. I have not heard any derogatory information about him. I think, I will presume good faith in the appointing power. If you are going to base it on the associations of a person appointed in any position in the government, you cannot find somebody who exercises his profession and has no contact with the public.

On the compensation of Marcos' victims

SP: May pera ata sa Amerika na within the jurisdiction of the Court na pwede niyang disponohin. Dito, 'yung decision niya will not apply as is. They have to file a case here again and prove what they said in that case and which was believed by the US Court will also be believed by the Courts here.

On Senators Lapid and Santiago

SP: Papasok siguro sila. In the case of Miriam, may sakit. I only suspect that Senator Lapid was sick, only he did not want the people to know.

On the pending appointments

SP: Lahat sila na hindi pa nacoconfirm, itatackle ng Commission on Appointments including the new Comelec chairman.

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