Press Release
March 18, 2014

Transcript of Sen. Grace Poe's interview
at the Bulong Pulungan Media Forum

Sen. Grace Poe: I think the best support groups are women's groups, that's why I enjoy being with my mom's group, although most of them are decades older than I am. One of the first groups I visited was Bulong Pulungan precisely because it's mostly women in this group. That's why I would like to thank you for being one of the first that supported me when I was in the MTRCB because I was relatively new in government service then, and encouraged me to tread on the path that I started for intelligent media viewership and self-regulation. It is a privilege to be invited, once again, and I think that it is a great year to be a woman. The Philippines having been rated by the World Economic Forum as the top 5 best place to be a woman. And I think when you just look around, women are on a crusade: Henares is on BIR, De Lima, we have Carpio Morales, Sereno, Soliman, Deles, and Grace Pulido Tan. I guess there's truth in the saying of Margaret Thatcher that "If you want something said, you tell a man; if you want something done, ask a woman." (laughs) But not to undermine, men always inspire women and it's always a partnership. I am inspired by my Father's memory and my father's legacy and what he has done for his countrymen. So I think that balance is important but it is important to allow women to play important role in all aspect of society, in different categories. And, I am happy to report to you that the Senate has passed the FOI bill. So, it has been 7 months in the making, when I first started in the Senate, Sen. Serge (Osmena) told me, "Don't worry, you'll probably have your sponsorship speech in maybe a year" but because of the time, and what had happened to the PDAF scam, we have to fast track the FOI, which is also a way to restore trust in the institution. Another thing that we are on third reading, which I authored, is "Mandating the telecommunications service providers to send free mobile alerts in the event of natural and manmade disaster and calamities." It is now on third reading, and if that will be subject to law, it will give all telcos to directly send free alerts in terms of tsunami, earthquake, or a typhoon. So those are the two things, of course I have other bills that are pending which I intend to focus on now that we already passed the two bills, almost.

So if you have questions regarding whatever we do in the Senate or anything beyond that, please feel free to ask.

Q: Senator Miriam said that the next president is a woman, what's your comment?

Poe: Well there's always a fifty-fifty percent chance because of the ratio of men to women, and Sen. Miriam said it in response to women's month, that all women should take active role in the fight for good governance. But it is heart warming to have that encounter with Senator Miriam during the FOI debate. Finally, when the day came, she was so nice and it was almost like she was a mentor to me and she was saying "I don't know why I feel very maternal towards you" and I was like "thank you God." It was a wonderful debate, it was more like the constitutionalist of the senate--that's what they call her--will point out the provisions of the FOI that needed strengthening and also for emphasis particularly, it's good to have her rally for the retention of the presidential communication's privilege. It's the term that I heard, I am not a lawyer, but of course for the frank expression of the president to his cabinet. This is an exception to the FOI which is upheld in all countries that have FOI particularly the US, Canada, Australia Germany, etc.

Q: Does any political party or political personality send feelers to you for 2016?

Poe: Not one, not from any political party or any political individual actually.

Poe pushes for free lunch program for children in public schools

Poe: Perhaps, I'll be in a better position to answer what I am doing now in the Senate. And I'm sorry I have to do it this way, because I think this more real, what I'm doing in the Senate and whether or not I'm in the position, this is my advocacy: I filed the Sustansya ng Bayan bill which will institute the free lunch program for children in the public elementary and preschools. This is very important to me because 25% of our population are 17 years old and below. Another thing is that the development of the brain of the child is very important at the primary stages, and I think that malnutrition and the lack of support that we give them during their early stages will play a predetermined role for them when their adults. So how much is this lunch program, it's about P11 to P10 per child for lunch. Jollibee's busog lusog program, and I've met with them, the Ateneo's blue plate group, I've also met with them, so it can be done at that price in partnership with the parents, so now what's the menu? Lumpiang malunggay, meatballs malunggay, champorado with dilis. During the past administration, we have nutribans, which they gave to the students. I think that it's about time that we have a program like this again that is standardized because if we are to rely on our children in the next 20 or 30 years forward, then we should have really smart kids. And if they are not fed properly, they're not going to be reaching their full potential. So that's number one, that I would like to focus on, I hope to pass it. We have a lot of allies in the Senate and also in the Lower House who are mothers and fathers.

Poe's Film Tourism bill to promote PH, generate jobs

Poe: I have the Film Tourism bill. We can be able to promote the Philippines as a tourist destination, why? Because how many millions watch movies and this is our way to advertise for free ,just with the coming influx of tourist and also people from the movie industry from the US making their movies here. So why did we focus on this? You know Jun Juban right? The guy who brought in Survivor, Bourne Legacy, Born on the Fourth of July, etc. He's been in the industry for so long that was so kalat and dispersed. For example, I want to shoot in Pangasinan, not only will I have to call the national government, but I have to deal with the barangay captains in each particular town that I have to shoot. We should have one desk under the DOT that will give you an ID that wherever you go "this is like my passes" so that hindi na sila mahirapan to get permits. Even the tax exemptions for the equipment that they will bring in. Can you imagine kung ano na ang nakakalusot sa Customs? Samantalang their equipment will take forever to be released so these are the things that we are trying to expedite, and I am happy to report to you that I've met already with Jun Juban and other members of the industry and with the DOT so that we can fast track this bill. I have the support of Sen. Angara and those that love show business. So now when you google the Philippines, shoot in the Philippines, it will come out this one desk to call. We're already in the technical working group and I think that it will get the support in the Senate.

Q: How much revenue? Billions?

Poe: I think so, with the tourist arrivals and also with the exposure of our country, just think about it, just the advertisement that we will save. How much is a 30-second ad in the US? 30 second is about $200,000 per primetime. Imagine how many people will witness this movie if it is such a hit? As long as they show the good parts of the Philippines. They are not even concerned with tax rebates; they just want ease of doing business. Again we're number 140 out of 170 (in ease of doing business), well at least it's higher than 130 but we should really make it easier for them. One thing also that I am trying to do is to have a standard emergency number that we can call like 911 in the US. Kasi here it depends where you are, if you're in Davao 911 works but here in Manila you have to dial 117.

On the PDAF probe

Q: Good afternoon madam senator! During the last blue ribbon committee hearing on PDAF, you were perceived to be hard on Dennis Cunanan, what is your take on Cunanan? And why?

Poe: It's not being hard, it's just doing my job. I think that when you appear in front of the Senate hearing, you should appear in all honesty and humility, not because we're senators but you're appearing before the public, representative of the public in a way. So Dennis Cunanan sworn to tell the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, I did not do any witch hunt. All I did was read thru references that were already published by some newspapers. For example his educational attainment, mansion, and what Benhur Luy said in contrast about it. Lahat ng tinanong ko sa kaniya, hindi ako nag-hire ng private investigator. Lahat yan nakalagay sa diyaryo. But I wanted him to answer and see his reactions also and I think that the hesitance that he made for my first question was, "so nagpunta ka ba sa Discovery?" and he said that he can't remember. Then I said, "so nagsisinungaling ba si ano, hindi mo ba natanggap yun pera?" So he was not very convinced even with his own answers. Number two, when you apply for a job, your main qualification in this country is your educational attainment. So when he got in to CHED, there was an issue about that, he didn't finish, supposedly, he quit out of delicadeza. But then a few months later, he was already in the TRC. When I checked the website of the TRC, after it came up in the television that he didn't finish from UP, when I checked the TRC website, there were still references that he graduated from UP. If you're the head of TRC, you should say na "Palitan niyo yan, mali yan write up ko na yan" but if you go to Dennis Cunanan website, wala na dun yun UP. So in short he still had the ability to change his website, but from the TRC, from the time he was there until the time he left, he didn't make an effort to change it, and I think that determines the character of the person. Bata ka pa lang kung medyo hindi ka na honest, ako I want this thing to end. I want strong witnesses to be able to pin down those who are responsible for stealing from us. But Dennis Cunanan should be held in a higher standard because he is government official. He has more to serve the people. So ano na lang mangyayari? Anybody in government will say "Sige I can steal, and then I can point it to other people, and I don't have to return anything?" So that's my take on it.

Now, with Sec. De Lima, I sympathize with her. I can imagine how difficult her job is. And PDAF is just one portion of the pie. And there are other things she deals with. Sometimes I'm just hoping that this is the guy that will finally throw 'em up all in jail. But then again I'm just doing my job, I just want to make sure that we ask all the questions expected to be asked for the witnesses.

Q: When will all these end? How will these end? The PDAF, Napoles, Enrile, Revilla Estrada, Ruby, Cunanan?

Poe: Well I hope that for the sake of our institution, there will be really an indictment. I'm not saying that for those who are allegedly involved now. I mean, I'm saying that we could finally solve the puzzle to this. And I think that, even if they say that Senate hearings are like telenovelas, the truth of the matter is because of our slow judicial process. It's better that they come out there, so people can make informed judgment on what is happening. Who would think that PDAF would be abolished? And I think this is brought about by citizen's participation, social media pressure, and without the Senate hearings I don't think we could have reached this point. Somehow, in aid of legislation, it is also working. I just hope that we could finally indict someone; otherwise nobody would take the processes of government seriously.

Q: Before 2016 you think?

Poe: I think that some will be in prison. Now for cases to actually be tried and resolved by 2016, it might be difficult because we have lots of respondents, so it might take long

On amending the Constitution

Q: Are you in favor of amending the Constitution and if so, which particular part will you like to amend?

Poe: You know I admire Ms. Sevilla because she is like a woman pioneer, a writer for automobiles, usually regarded as a man's world, and it reinforces what they say about women, women are meticulous. And if there's somebody who could scrutinize an engine like that it would be a woman. Am I for amending certain parts of the Constitution? At this point I think that we should really open, why? To have peace of mind and a stake, a feeling of ownership to invest in our country.

Q: Good afternoon, Senator. What is your stand on the US Bases Treaty, I believe that they are planning to stay temporarily.

Poe: Let's be realistic, I think we really need assistance from the international or foreign allies. Now for them to say, that perhaps we don't need ratification from the Senate for the amendments, I haven't really seen it so I can't say. We have, in the 1950's, our Mutual Defense Treaty and then in 1999, we have the visiting forces agreement. So if it falls within the categories allowed in the treaty then perhaps, yes, we don't need ratification from the Senate. We need to be able to see for ourselves if indeed we are not violating our constitution or else it will be questioned in the Supreme Court, it will take longer for us to implement, but I am for it as long as our sovereignty is not violated.

Q: Are you supportive of CHED's PHICARI Program? PHICARI- Philippine California...Are you familiar with it? Briefly it's a program headed by Dado Banatao, and it's a cross technology program between CHED and University of California Berkely and Davis. But it undermines the DOST because there's a lot of duplication so that's why I am asking if you are supportive of it or would it be better just to channel the P8-billion budget to the DOST since the institution needs the means to forward their research.

Poe: Thank you for that. We need a lot of cleaning up to do first with our departments here and I think that we should limit those that we'd like to give financial support, especially if we'd like to have certain preconditions. I think that's their prerogative and I was lucky enough to sit right beside Dado Banatao yesterday and I said, "Sir, you're quite a phenomenon. In your own words, how did you make it big in Silicone Valley?" So he started out in the 70s. He saw the IT design and he said, wow the chips are so kalat-kalat so I said, you know, he wants to make it like a smaller design, a more efficient and more powered, etcetera. He was still explaining it to me. Anyway, so this guy, what struck me about him was that he was from Cagayan, his father is a farmer. He was able to get a scholarship from Mapua and he was even able to move and work in Silicone Valley. He didn't even work for IBM, it was his own company. That's why he owns the rights to it. And then now if you enjoy higher capacity for your graphics in your computer, it's because of the design of Dado Banatao. So what does he want, maybe he doesn't want to undermine the DOST but he would like to give the same opportunity to the kids here to be able to study abroad and also to further their exposure abroad. Because it's a really different mindset how they live in a different country, iba kasi when you are there. The P8 billion by PhilDev is a lot considering the total R&D budget is about P12 billion last year. So imagine a private institution giving P8 billion, I wouldn't complain anymore. Magbigay na kayo ng condition as long as it's for the kids.

On national defense

Q: I get worried reading all these stories about the NPA attacking soldiers and policemen with landmines. This has been going on and escalating. What is your agenda in summer? Tapos na ang anniversary nila. And the Bangsamoro framework might even exacerbate the situation because of the MNLF and all the groups in the south.

Poe: I think that there hasn't been much emphasis but it is quite alarming, with the refugees in Zamboanga dying. I think that we are too distracted now because of all the issues that have come up because of the last national calamity but truly if there was no other news, everyday it would be featured that soldiers are being ambushed lahat. We don't want to be another Cambodia where everything is full of land mines.

On PMA Cadet Cudia

Q: What is your take with the case of the dismissed PMA cadet? Will it ever be investigated in the Senate

Poe: Well, I am curious to know. I think the mother instincts kicked in when I saw the situation of Cudia. I don't really know the intricacies of the inner workings of the PMA and the military. I respect whatever rules they have there but on the other hand there's also such a thing as humanity.

Q: Can a woman commander-in-chief handle the present peace and order situation?

Poe: I don't know, maybe what's lacking is like, from a maternal point of view, I don't really know, we really have to look at the welfare also of our police and military if they are given the proper support but it is a daunting task, for a man and a woman, there's a lot to be done.

On women that Poe admire most

Q: Because it's women's month, aside from your Mom who are the other women who you could see as models and how did they influence your life?

Poe: You know the ones that I really admire, those that are worthy, I mean you can always say that they are famous, but it's always nice to cite somebody you are really familiar with. One woman I really admire is the one who took care of me, not my yaya, but somebody who's been there like a manang who's still with my mom until now, her name is Lydia Presvitero, and why do I admire her? She's basically all around, she's my mom's trusted friend, she's the one who assists her with everything, she can cook, she can screen calls, she takes care of her husband who's not exactly healthy, she's able to invest in some small property. I mean you can tell the strength of a woman without any recognition from anyone or any extra favors, she's able to survive, and she's able to gain the trust of the people she served as a family, and I'm very grateful for that.

Q: How old is she?

Poe: She's nearly 60. This is like a private joke in my mom's house, I always say mom everytime I come in here at like 7 p.m., and it smells like liniment. She has people working there who's been with her for 40 years. Mom you're travelling with people who are the same age as you, so if you fall they'll fall with you. She says mas komportable na ako, so this is a woman I really admire, of course there are a lot of women in government that I also admire, President Cory Aquino, you know why? Because of her being patient, being prayerful and then even during the time when they doubted her popularity she just forged on whatever advocacy she believes in, in fact she had the last laugh.

Q: In the government, who are the women that you look up to?

Poe: Well, you have Grace Pulido Tan, she's been doing a very difficult job, and I salute her for that. Senator Miriam, of course, I admire her because she really can raise an issue and she will have the attention and the ears of the public. She knows the law, and she'll go against the challenge without fear, I mean there are those in the Senate that wouldn't really question their colleagues but she doesn't fear doing that.

Q: Do you agree that the present Senate has been damaged beyond repair? That only the new ones like you are safe from that taint?

Poe: I think it's not naman beyond repair, that's why they made an effort to pass the FOI. It's a little bit glimmer of hope, but I think as an institution we have to work on in the Senate to bring up its public image again. For me, I consider it still an honor to have the opportunity to be in the Senate, it's such an honor especially with the mandate that I received. So I really would like to save the institution, but of course like a basket of fruits, my Dad always used this dialogue, pag may isang bulok na mansanas lahat mahahawahan kung hindi alisin agad iyan, so I think that a speedy resolution of issues would certainly help the institution.

Q: Where does the FOI bill go next? To Congress or bicameral?

Poe: The FOI is still at the first reading in the Lower House, nasa consolidation of bills pa lang sila. Remember this consolidation and then first reading, second reading, third reading tapos, tapos na, it was hard. It was how many months of debates in between the PDAF issue, I had the opportunity, a rare opportunity to be able debate Senator Enrile in the FOI, that was quite a learning experience, that was an hour and a half.

Q: What was he objected to? Mostly? What does he like about the bill?

Poe: Exceptions. He was raising the issue on the exceptions and he was saying that maybe national security is a term too broad to use and then I said "Sir this is almost the same FOI version that you passed in the 15th congress, when it comes to the exemption. Secondly, sir I am sure that you will appreciate this having been Defense Minister." So it was good, it ended well.

On family

Q: I would like to ask you about your husband, he was so low key? What makes you so happy about your husband?

Poe: My husband is my biggest supporter, you're right he is very low key. In fact even if when it is socials, he feels like uneasy. First of all, he has a full time job, so when he comes home, he is tired. He doesn't really socialize, I guess because he is in the corporate sector so he's not used to the politics, but he was the one who designed my campaign strategy for my ads. He was the one doing the purchasing in the sense that he would say dito lang tayo sa primetime, this is just how much. What I like about my husband is that he is really funny, he gives me the funniest and meanest comments. He is such a good father to my kids, he is really understanding, and I think what's really important in our relationship is he's confident with himself. I think that it would be difficult to forge on in your career if you feel that your husband is insecure and is demanding of your time so he is okay.

Q: How many children do you have?

Poe: I have three ma'am, one is 21 years old, my only boy, and then I have two girls one is 15 one 9 years old.

Q: What is he going to do (Brian Poe)?

Poe: He is in Star Magic, he is trying his luck, he has extra roles and he's doing workshop. He helps me in my office because he is a Political Science graduate and he helped me during my campaign, he represented me with different youth groups.

Q: Do you do any household chores?

Poe: Of course, that is my therapy and in fact during the Christmas break that's what I enjoyed the most--fixing my closet, arranging my cupboard, you know cooking a little bit but not so much. Cleaning I did it in the US. My battles are still very ordinary, it's trying to keep my house in order, always debating with my daughter about the length of her skirt, my 15 year old. So I guess it's important also to have a young family, not that very young but to have a different age group representation because you're kept in touch with the needs of a household. For example how much my electric bill is, that's why that was the question I asked Dennis Cunanan because I am conscious about my electric bill.

Q: How long were you in the States and what did you take up in Boston University?

Poe: I took up Political Science. I lived in the States for about 12 years.

Q: What state?

Poe: Virginia, but I studied in Massachusetts in Boston

Q: What was your status there? Immigrant?

Poe: My husband is a dual citizen so he is a US citizen then. I was an immigrant to the US. So I tell you this so that it will finally resolve the issue, then I became a US citizen, and a dual citizen at that but when I took the role as the MTRCB chair, I had to renounce it because I am a government official and when I did so, I had to go to the US Embassy and they didn't want to revoke my citizenship. They were saying, don't worry, your job is not short the MTRCB for them is just like a secretary level, not policy. So they said that I should go ahead and keep it but I said, No. I can get in trouble with the law so I had to give it up. So it was perfect, so when I ran for the Senate I had to present to the COMELEC all of these documents. My renunciation etcetera.

Q: Why did you choose politics instead of showbiz?

Poe: Because I don't have the face for showbiz? (laughs) I was more interested in social issues and process. My parents had that exposure but they felt frustrated because they couldn't really do much, in government you can do more.

Q: Is that one of your satisfactions, that what you are doing, you can see. Like you go out and meet people and they are inspired by you.

Poe: You know, I think that politicians now or public servants enjoy a different status of recognition because of social media, because people want to be inspired, I think. And they know they like showbiz but they also see the importance of having good leaders in the country. And me, growing up, I was inspired by public servants. In fact, many years back when I was in high school, I remember approaching Miriam Santiago when she was in Mary the Queen and I said "Ma'am, I admire what you are doing I admire your courage." I don't know if she remembers but she is very young then. I distinctly remember she was probably the only one I approached.

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