May 18, 2012
TRANSCRIPT OF INTERVIEW OF SEN. SERGE OSMENA
ON DOMINGO LEE
Q: Alam daw niya 'yung spelling ng Scarborough Shoal? Hindi ba kayo pinaikutan lang ng Palace?
Serge: That's not true. You have to realize that the reason the Constitution provides that certain officials have to be vetted and approved or declined, whose nominations have to be approved or declined by the Commission on Appointments, is that because these positions are critical positions, some are more critical than others. For example, colonels, kailangan. Generals, advancement in war, general 1 star, general 2 stars, you have to approve all of that. Consuls, you have to approve. The most important and highest would be Cabinet members, the members of constitutional institutions like the Comelec, the Civil Service Commission, the Commission on Audit, Ombudsman, etc. But then, we have in our judgment, we know that certain positions have to be looked at more closely. 'Yung mga colonels, mga a dime a dozen ang pag-confirm namin diyan. But I even pick among the ambassadorship positions that have to be looked at closely. 'Yung mga minister, 'yung mga consul general, I don't bother, we don't have the time. We leave it up to the committee. But certain positions like Ambassador to the United Nations, the USA, the European Union, mga ganun, Ambassador to China. Those I look at very closely. Because if we make a mistake, it's our fault also. Sure the president picked him but I am not giving the president the green-light there because the Constitution mandates that I have to look at them also. Hindi ko pwedeng sabihin na pinili na ng presidente, dapat we should give him the benefit of the doubt. No, I am not giving him the benefit of the doubt. I am going to look at it. And if I see something wrong, I need to stand up no matter how much time it takes.
But special envoy is nothing. He's not in the plantilla, I think he's paid P1 a year. They're limited to 6 months. You don't have what is known as extraordinary and plenipotentiary powers. That is a key phrase. That means that the person who has extraordinary and plenipotentiary powers to a particular country can sign on behalf of his country, can commit on behalf of his country. So whoever is our ambassador to China approved by the Commission on Appointments and accepted by the host country can sign and commit on our behalf.
Q: Ano ito, pampalubag-loob?
Serge: Well, that's okay. I am sure that he has many friends, he has many contacts. And it seems that the Palace has assigned him the task of ramping up commercial ties, trade ties, promoting our tourism program, so that's fine by me.
Q: Pasado na?
Serge: Hindi pasado kasi hindi dadaan, hindi isa-submit iyan sa Commission on Appointments. It is an honorary position really. It is not a line function, he has no staff, no office, he gets P1 a year.
Q: Dagdag credential lang sa kanya, wala naman siyang gagawin dun?
Serge: Remember he had that also under Cory when he was named by President Cory as ambassador at large in the Asian region. P1 a year, no salary, no office. It's just like the president can now tell him, you talk to the mayor of Shanghai, request the mayor of Shanghai, and tell him to host so and so. At least, I can say, 'by the way, I represent the President. I am the special envoy to China.' So mas mabigat ang dating niya ngayon. But it cannot commit the country. He is the special high-level messenger from the president of the republic. And it is the prerogative of President Noynoy Aquino to name those high-level messengers. I will not question that.
Q: Speaking of China, willing na daw ang Malacanang sa isang win-win solution dun sa Scarborough Shoal, willing na daw silang i-share kung anong meron doon sa China and other countries?
Serge: Is that a win-win for us or is it a win-win for China?
Q: Willing na daw silang i-share...
Serge: Well, that's no theirs. Can I go to Shanghai and tell them, I have a claim to Shanghai and therefore can I get 50% share from whatever they get there? I don't think there's a win-win solution for us. Because 2 klase ang income diyan eh. 'Yung isa, 'yung operating income. Let's say, pumasok ang Shell oil at nakadiskubre ng oilfield or gas field, magpa-pump out ngayon ng gas at magkakaroon ng net profit iyan Ano hati-hati? Kung ka-partner 'yung China National Oil Company, sige maghati sila, walang problema 'yun, they can partner with any operator they want. But, 'yung royalty? Akin akin iyon eh, bakit ko hahatiin sa iyo? Atin iyon eh. It's in our property. Why would we give half of my royalty? That belongs to the Filipino people, they do not have a right to get any of that. That's my take on it. I am formulating my answer based on your question.
Q: Ano po sa tingin ninyo ang kailangang baguhin sa Ombudsman Act?
Serge: Sa lahat po ng bansa, lalo na dito sa atin because sometimes we are careless with the way we formulate and pass our laws, there are several overlaps eh. May big gap, may small gap, like for example the Foreign Currency law, the banking secrecy law, the Anti-Money laundering law 1 and 2, the Ombudsman Act, ang dami eh. And sometimes we don't do our homework, we don't have our staff research on all possible overlaps. Ang nangyari po dito, the 1987 Constitution itself said the Ombudsman is given the power to demand from any agency information in the pursuit of its mandate to investigate cases of graft and corruption. Saligang Batas na 'yun and there is no law that can overturn that. Eto ngayon ang Anti-Money Laundering Act, which we passed in 2001, amended in 2003, and there are 2 current bills amending it further. At lumabas during the debates in the Senate na, may nagsabi and I think its Sen. Tito Sotto and Sen. Joker Arroyo, sabi nila, when we passed the Anti-Money Laundering Act, we said that the information will only be divulged upon a court order and upon showing of probable cause that a predicate crime had been violated. Dito walang court order pero bakit binigay ng Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) ang information sa Ombudsman. Eh ang sagot dun, ang Saligang Batas ang nagsasabi, nakasulat sa Saligang Batas, na she had the right to ask any government agency to provide her information. The law cannot supersede a provision of the Constitution.
Q: Kailangan i-harmonize?
Serge: You cannot harmonize it really with the Constitution in the sense that it will water down the Constitution. Hindi puwede i-water down ang Constitution. If you want to do that, you call a con-con. What we can do is try to understand if in the Ombudsman law or in the Anti-Money Laundering Act we can consider, if we wish, and approve a provision that says, 'Oops wait. Only in cases of impeachable officials can the AMLC freely give information to the Ombudsman. In cases of other officials, they must obtain a court order." We have to specific state that. Ngayon, icha-challenge din 'yan. They will say, no, this conflicts with the Ombudsman provision of the Constitution. So, let the future Supreme Court decide that ngunit sa ngayon po, may base din si Sen. Tito Sotto when he claimed on the floor, 'okay, ako gobernador, may nagcha-challenge sa akin. 1 year before election, susulatan 'yung Ombudsman, sasabihin alam mo si governor may hidden wealth 'yan.' So ngayon, the Ombudsman will take cognizance of the case, start an investigation and ask the AMLC for information. Meron akong isang dollar account, wala pa akong chance to explain it, election time na, paano na ako, ginamit na against me, the whole process had not yet been completed, and eventually maybe, I will be exonerated or exculpated, or cleared. So I told Sen. Tito Sotto, yes, I see your point. Kung sinuman ang makakasulat sa Ombudsman, and yung Ombudsman naman susulat sa AMLC to ask for information, I don't even have the time to explain that's not my dollar account, it belongs to my mother in-law and she asked me to put it there because she lives in San Francisco at hindi siya makakapirma. I mean, there are many explanations for it that are real and valid. Pero wala na akong chance kasi election time na, campaign time na, this guy painted me to have accumulated illegal wealth. So I told Sen. Sotto there are ways to cure this, let's not just block the amendment to the Anti-Money Laundering Act just because we don't like how it has been handled in the past. If we don't like it, we are in a position to cure it. So let's do that.
ON ANNABELLE RAMA RUNNING IN CEBU
Serge: She will run either against my brother, who is now congressman, or against Cutie del Mar, anak ni Raul del Mar. So, where is she running? Baka against my brother, okay iyon. That will be fun. Like having Miriam run...
Q: Ganun po ang comparison?
Serge: No, no. (Laughs). You know, they have very colorful personalities. They are very outspoken, very beautiful. It will be fun.
Q: Threat ba si Annabelle Rama?
Serge: Threat to whom?
Q: To the Osmenas?
Serge: No. She has a right to present herself for public office. And I wish her well. I hope ituloy niya.
Q: Knowing mga Cebuanos, mahilig ba sila sa taga-showbiz?
Serge: I'll tell you something. In the last elections, I was only no. 2 in the entire province of Cebu. Bong Revilla was number 1. So that answers your question. That shows their choice for showbiz personalities.
Q: So may chance si Annabelle Rama?
Serge: Maybe she should run for governor pa eh.
Q: Si Gwen Garcia will run for senator under UNA? Do you approve of that?
Serge: It's not for me to approve or disapprove. But I welcome her offering herself nationally.
ON JESSICA SANCHEZ ENTERING TOP 2 IN AMERICAN IDOL
Serge: We should be proud of her. Of course, I am proud of Manny Pacquiao, of Jessica Sanchez, of Charice. I mean, anybody who makes a mark at that level really brings up the pride of the entire country. It's not only Serge Osmena, but the entire Filipino people. And it also makes us able to aspire to something bigger than we are. So, there's this young kid from a barangay in Leyte can now be able to say, 'If Jessica Sanchez can make, Manny Pacquiao can make it, Arnel Pineda can make it, maybe I can make it also.'
It's a very inspiring story. And we need more stories like that. We commend them for making the effort, we commend them for the hard work they have done in achieving what they have, and we're certainly elated that they have made a mark for our country.
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