Press Release
February 4, 2016

Transcript of Kapihan sa Senado with Senate President Franklin M. Drilon

On the Senate accomplishment

SPFMD: Good morning to everybody. Yesterday was our last session day before we go on a campaign trail. I'm glad that I am able to maintain my perfect attendance. This 16th Congress witnessed many historic firsts. The 16th Congress witnessed one of the most ruckus cases and political storm. Never in the history of the Senate where three of its members were hailed before the court and jailed on charges of corruption: two are still in jail and one is on bail. The history of the Senate will show that it is the first time it happened. The history of the Senate showed how the chamber became the battleground of many political battles. The vice president was subjected to intense investigation. The pork barrel issue occupied our time. The Mamasapano hearing was very emotionally charged investigation. Insofar as this Congress is concerned, we can assert that one of the biggest reform achievements that we can claim is that we abolished the pork barrel even before the Supreme Court declared it as unconstitutional. That is on record. I think this is the first Congress where the senate president was invited to appear before the Blue Ribbon committee. Hinarap ko silang lahat dahil wala akong tinatago. In fact, the Ombudsman dismissed these charges as being baseless because it was based on Wikipedia and whispers. But nevertheless, hinara ko lahat iyan. All these indicated that the 16th Congress is fair and we followed the law, and that we are transparent.

Also, we note that this Senate has, probably for the first time, six of its members are running for president and vice president.

Notwithstanding all these controversies, the Senate was able to recover and regain the people's trust and confidence. We did not break or implode as some of our critics predicted. We heeded the people's clamor to have the pork barrel abolished. The Senate, in a number of surveys done by Pulse Asia and SWS, attained the highest ratings among the institutions. The Senate President himself, we were rated several times as among the most trusted officials. We also passed the most number of landmark laws in the recent history.

By the ways, the Senate passed on third reading a total of 284 bills and of which, 116 became laws, 59 were pending for President's approval, four bicam reports are pending in the House of Representatives for ratification, seven more in the bicam being discussed. We can really show that we did our share in opening up the economy to provide better environment for investment and create jobs. Many of the laws that we passed languished in the legislative mill for years. Among these are the Philippine Competition Act, which had been pending in Congress for many years, as well as the amendment to the Cabotage law, TIMTA, the law which allowed full entry of foreign banks. We also increased the tax exemption ceiling for the 13th month from P30,000 to P82,000. We passed the law that provided full medical care for senior citizens. We also passed the SK Reform Act, which, for the first time, provided an anti-dynasty provision. We also increased the number of courts from five to seven division in order to allow the faster resolution of graft cases. By and large, we would like to assert that we have achieved much for this Congress. SPFMD: Yesterday was not a very pleasant way of closing our session. Senator Enrile invoked Section 20 and as a result, the confirmation of a number of career officials, both in the Constitutional offices and the Department of Foreign Affairs, were deferred and derailed, I have directed the Secretary of the Commission on Appointments to conduct a review of Section 20 of our rules which allows a member to move for a deferment of nomination for no reason at all. As you saw yesterday, I have asked the Secretary to study how we can amend that rules so that the Section 20 cannot be used arbitrarily in order that we can shield career government officials from politics. Yesterday, you know, the career officials in the Commission on Audit - Commissioner Isabel Agito, she's a career official, and her confirmation was derailed by the invocation of Section 20. Commissioner of Civil Service Nieves Osorio, ganoon din, and the five ambassadors who were nominated were all career ambassadors, and their careers were derailed by the invocation of Section 20, and I am saddened by that development, so I have asked the Commission on Appointments Secretary to research on how we can amend the rules so that it cannot be used arbitrarily and so that we can shield career officials from politics.

Q: Sir, do you see a political motive in the invocation of Section 20?

SPFMD: I don't want to ascribe any motive, you can judge for yourself. There was absolutely no reason on the merits, on merits of the appointments. There is no question on the qualifications of the career people to be confirmed to the posts that they were nominated for.

Q: Sabi ni Senator Enrile, dapat daw po ipaubaya na po sa susunod na Pangulo yung pag-aappoint, idedeprive daw po yung next President.

SPFMD: The next President can always recall them. If he doesn't feel that these people are not qualified, they can always be recalled. And on top of this, some of these posts have been vacant for quite a while. The one in Chile has been vacant for quite a while.

Q: So was the reason not valid?

SPFMD: That is why I want this studied again. This rule has been there for the last 50 years, we discovered. And therefore it is time to review it.

Q: So para bang na-abuse yung paggamit ng Section 20?

SPFMD: That is why we have to review it so it can not be invoked arbitrarily so that we can shield our career officials from politics.

Q: Do they still have time to be confirmed when sessions resume from May to June?

SPFMD: Well there is still time but you know, whether or not there will be a quorum at that point is something that we have to contend with. But having said that, I don't see how the public interest would have been harmed with their confirmation. I could not see how public interest was served by the invocation of Section 20. And by the way, in the past there were also nominations on the last days before the election, and Section 20 was not invoked.

Q: Sir, the 16th Congress failed to pass the BBL, the SSL, the PPP. Are you satisfied with what you have accomplished or are you a little bit disappointed?

SPFMD: Well I hope you don't highlight the negative, and that's the nature of media but we are willing to confront that. The BBL, you know, you are here everyday. If it were not for the Mamasapano incident, we would have passed it. Unfortunately, that incident intervened and at a certain point Senator Enrile availed of the period of interpellation and Senator Marcos could not be at the floor everyday, so there was a delay.

But you know, the BBL is not the be-all and end-all of the peace process. The Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro is still there, and there is a roadmap that is outlined on the comprehensive agreement that the government signed. We should pursue it, we should pursue the peace process even if the BBL has been temporarily side-tracked. It can be presented again in the next Congress.

The SSL IV, there are competing considerations. And what are those? The issue of unfunded pension payments to our retired military personnel. Just to refresh your memory, when we passed the 2016 budget, in the 2016 budget there is a P57.9 billion as salary increase for those in active service, including the military and the police. However, it did not include the payments to our pensioners in the armed forces and the Philippine National Police.

The pension of our colleagues, of retired police and military officers, their pension is pegged on the salary of those in the active service. Meaning, if those in the active service will get an increase of say, P500 automatically this P500 is indexed to the pension payments and the pension payments will be increased.

Overall according to the Department of Budget and Management this would necessitate another P19 billion in addition to the P57 billion in the GAA. Unfortunately, this was not anticipated in the GAA and therefore there was a problem because even if we pass the SSL IV, and there was indexation because of the existing law, we could not fund it, we could be giving false hopes. We could not fund the pension payments because it is not in the General Appropriations Act.

My suggestion is that the President exercises his authority to grant increases in the salary because there is already authority under the General Appropriations Act. I think in the past, I think during the time of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, salary standardization were effected through executive orders. My suggestion is that the President issues an executive order which would mandate the payment of salary increases for 2016, because that is only where the appropriation is available and study how we can fund the indexation of the payments for our retired pensioners.

Q: Is there an assurance from the Palace that the President will issue an executive order for the salary increase of government workers?

SPFMD: Obviously I can't respond, I do not answer for the Palace. Maybe you ask your respective news organizations to raise that issue to the president. I cannot answer for the president. I am just proposing a way out of this very difficult problem.

Q: Are you confident that the president will issue an executive order given that there is already a budget?

SPFMD: There is an available budget, and there is an available authority under the 2016 budget.

Q: With the death of the BBL in the 16th Congress, Professor Ferrer said that inaction dawn g 16th Congress ang pumatay sa BBL, and dito daw sa Senate yung absences nung sponsor at pagcha-change ng procedure yung nakadelay sa proseso.

SPFMD: I would suggest to Professor Ferrer that you know, she should pursue the peace process. As I said, there is an existing Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, and we should pursue this. The BBL is just one of the items in this Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro.

Insofar as the change of procedure is concerned, Professor Ferrer, I am sorry, is misinformed. She says, "Why did we have to wait for the House?" That's what she says. Now I can show to her our legislative history which would indicate that as a matter of practice and as a matter of the interpretation of the Constitution laws pertaining to the ARMM are always considered as bills of local application which is tackled by the House first and referred to the Senate after they pass it and that is when we pass our own version. I regret that Professor Ferrer is misinformed on this, the records will show that we did not change any procedure.

Q: Is the next administration required to honor the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro? Is the next administration obligated to pursue the Bangsamoro Basic Law?

SPFMD: Of course not. That is the judgment call that they have to make, because there are portions there which may depend on executive action. But it is foolhardy for the next administration not to pursue the peace process, and that includes honoring the peace agreement. They may tweak it in some areas, but in general the peace process should be pursued, I would recommend that to the next president.

Q: Sir isn't there fear on the part of lawmakers that violence would erupt if the BBL dies, the way violence erupted before?

SPFMD: I have confidence in the maturity of our Muslim brothers that this is democracy, we have to go through a process, and maybe this failure to pass the BBL this time would provide us and allow us more maturity to reexamine everything.

Q: Sabi po ng MILF indication daw ito na hindi pa ready ang Filipinos for reconciliation, yung hindi pagpapaaprub ng BBL.

SPFMD: I don't think that conclusion is warranted. I do not agree. Filipinos on general are peaceful people, and I don't think that conclusion is warranted.

Q: With the adjournment of the sessions, what will happen doon sa Mamasapano committee report? Hindi muna ia-approve sa plenary?

SPFMD: Well it has never been presented in plenary so it remains a committee report.

Q: So ano yun, useless? Pupunta sa archives?

SPFMD: Well after the elections, after we adjourn on sine die, in June and if it is not acted upon, then it goes to the archives, Because it is not a Senate report, it is a committee report. It has not been calendared for debates.

Q: Senator Poe said that President Aquno's liability in the Mamasapano incident is more political than legal.

SPFMD: I leave it at that.

Q: May deliberate attempt bang hindi ibigay yung Mamasapano report sa plenary para ma--archive lang?

SPFMD: That is a matter within the prerogative of the chairman. In the Senate, it is the chairman who requests that the report be calendared. It is not the Senate leadership who determines what is calendared, given the fact that we are just 24, we would respect the author of the committee report to calendar for plenary debates any committee report. It is the call of Senator Poe when the Mamasapano report will be placed in the plenary.

In fact, if you will recall, Senator Enrile initially wanted that the committee report already be calendared for debates, but Senator Poe did not want it calendared until Senator Enrile said, "Let's re-open."

Q: Walang request si Senator Poe na i-calendar?

SPFMD: No there is no request.

Q: It is still part pa rin po ng official records naman po, kahit hindi tinackle sa plenary?

SPFMD: It is part of the official records of the committee. The Senate plenary has not taken it up.

Q: Kung sa archives lang bumagsak yung committee report, para bang useless yung hearings?

SPFMD: Well as I said, that is the call of the chairperson of the committee who drafted the report. Because Senator Poe is the one who will defend it in the floor.

Q: Pero kung nadala sa plenary, will you argue doon?

SPFMD: We will debate on it, we will debate on it at the floor. That's the beauty of the system of democracy. The committee has its own conclusion, you present it at the plenary, and all senators will have the opportunity to debate on the report.

Q: Can we ay na naging walang kwenta yung report?

SPFMD: I just state the facts. It remains a committee report, it is not a Senate report until approved in plenary. It's just a committee report, not a Senate action.

Q: Sir doon sa inquiry on the Vice President, is it a Senate report, because it has been presented in plenary?

SPFMD: Senator Koko Pimentel presented his report in plenary. If we had time, we would have debated on it, but we had to take up so many other items in the last three days.

Q: In the plenary but not yet approved?

SPFMD: Not yet approved, he sponsored already the committee report. The Mamasapano report has not been even sponsored, it has not been even calendared for plenary debates, whereas the report by the subcommittee chaired by Senator Koko has been presented to the Senate. They were sponsored, and therefore we can process it.

Q: Kapag hindi na-sponsor sa plenary, hindi kasama sa Senate records?

SPFMD: It is not a Senate report. It is a committee report.

Q: Paano po yung draft committee report sa MRT-3, may recommendation kasi for the appropriate offices to file charges against certain officials?

SPFMD: Can I have a copy of the committee report? Because I have not seen it. It has not been filed to my knowledge. I would like to see the committee report because it has not been filed. Therefore, insofar as Senate is considered, it's not yet in existence. There is no recommendation yet that I know of. I maybe wrong but I have not been informed that there was a committee report filed. Right or wrong? I can be corrected.

Q: But submitted na sa mother committee to Senator Serge Osmeña...

SPFMD: What was submitted there? Is there a signed report?

Q: Signed by Senator Poe submitted to...

SPFMD: The committee report must be signed by a majority of the members of the committee. So, it's a draft committee report. I'm not going to comment on draft committee reports. I want to see the committee report.

Q: Sir, sino mag-circulate noon, 'yung mother committee?

SPFMD: It must be circulated by the mother committee with the signatures of the member of the committee. As far as I recall, there was no sub-committee created. If you recall, the sub-committee on the Binay investigation, I'm just making a comparison. It must be circulated and signed by a majority of the committee members.

Q: Sir, as presented by the chair of the sub-committee...

SPFMD: It was sponsored by the chair of the sub-committee but the committee report itself was signed by the chairman, one of those who signed it. I saw the committee report which was filed in the Senate.

Q: Sir, the draft committee report, once makakuha na ng signature ng majority, isa sa recommendation doon ay i-submit sa DOJ and Ombudsman for the determination of appropriate action for the case to be filed sa mga DOTC officials.

SPFMD: I don't know. I cannot comment on that.

Q: Sir yung mga transcript of Senate hearings can be used as evidence outside of the Senate like the Ombudsman? Because these are official statements.

SPFMD: It can be used by subject to the rules of evidence in a judicial proceeding. Documents certainly can be used and in the past, the Ombudsman has requested for certified copies of the documents submitted. So, the answer is yes. Of course, I said subject to the rules of evidence in a judicial proceeding.

Q: Sir, with all the problems, yung malfunction ng MRT, sa palagay niyo may dapat managot sa DOTC?

SPFMD: I want to see the committee report.

Q: Yung mga testimonies under oath, pwede gawing evidence?

SPFMD: In a criminal proceeding, the resource persons who made the statement must be placed on the witness stand because the accused will have a right to confront them and cross-examine them just to repeat what he/she said in the course of the committee proceedings. Remember that in the committee hearings, they are resource persons, not witnesses. That's the difference.

Q: Pero sir are you disappointed with all the mess sa MRT operation? Di ba madalas kawawa yung mga pasahero, madiskaril yung operation.

SPFMD: Certainly I am concerned with the lines that I see in the MRT. Talagang we must provide solutions for this.

Q: One way po ba to improve service ay mapanagot itong mga officials?

SPFMD: I want to see the committee report.

Q: As Vice Chairman of the Liberal Party, may we know when and how yung kick off ninyo?

SPFMD: The campaign kick-off is in Roxas City. That is my information at this point. And then we will proceed to Iloilo City for the campaign kick off. But, in this election, corruption will be an issue and we are prepared to defend the record of the president as one who has kept his nose clean, and cannot be accused with any corrupt practice, in fact, I see one of the presidentiables that the president cannot be considered that the president. could not be charge of any corrupt practice.

The respect that we have gained internationally and the perception of the international financial community, our sound economic fundamentals are all anchored on the anti-corruption platform of President PNoy. As I said, in this campaign the Liberal Party is prepared to defend the president in terms of the Daang Matuwid policy and we are willing to debate with anyone to defend the record of the President.

Q: Are you confident that the pre-election surveys will change once mag start na ang campaign period?

SPFMD: We are confident that once we are able to explain to the electorate the need to continue the anti-corruption drive of this administration, we will be able to reverse the perception.

Q: Why Roxas City?

SPFMD: Well, our candidate... Isn't it obvious?

Q: Kaninong decision iyan?

SPFMD: I don't know. I don't have any personal knowledge. I assumed this was agreed after considering all the circumstances. In 2010, we have also one of the early rallies n Tarlac.

Q: Why from Roxas to Iloilo? It's on the same day?

SPFMD: Yes, it's on the same day. What is the explanation? It is only two hours, kapitbahay lang. And, Region 6 is the bailiwick of the Liberal Party.

Q: Bakit hindi Plaza Miranda?

SPFMD: I can't answer that.

Q: Yung sa issue ng narco-politics?

SPFMD: Drugs is the serious problem in our country. But, if you look back every time there is an election, meron talagang allegations of drugs being used during the campaign and it is a good media copy, kaya nga narco-politics becomes a mantra during election time. But, we must be consistent in our campaign against illegal drugs. Hindi na po pwedeng kada eleksyon na lang ay merong narco-politics na sinasabi. Whether there is an election or not, we must consistently address this drug problem. I am aware that there is evidence of narco politics.

Q: Why does the LP have to defend corruption against the President?

SPFMD: I am saying that corruption is an issue, or will be an issue. The administration will defend itself from the attacks of the opposition on this point.

Q: Why not focus on Mar?

SPFMD: I am making an assessment, that corruption will be an issue.

Q: On the SSL 4

SPFMD: Wala na, hindi na kaya. Unless we take it up again in May, I think it's too late. My suggestion is the President exercises his executive power to decree salary increases as it is already authorized under the General Appropriations Act (GAA) for this year.

Q: So sir hindi po ba ma-aaprove yung bicam panel sa suggestion, iapprove na lang yung SSL 4 without the indexation?

SPFMD: I do not know what happened there. I have no personal knowledge of the discussion in the bicam but that is my suggestion.

Q: There is no reason naman ma-disappoint yung mga government employees?

SPFMD: There is no reason why the government employees should be disappointed, because there is an appropriation and I am certain as we talk today, the President is carefully reviewing his options in so far as the salary increase is concerned.

Q: If the EO does becomes an issue, ano po ang mangyayari doon sa P57 billion, diretso sa savings automatically, without the EO?

SPFMD: Yes, that becomes the case. That will be savings.

Q: Sir sa election rules, bawal daw magbigay ng salary increase 45 days before the election?

SPFMD: Well, I am not aware of that but then, with the 45 days, there is still time. The General Appropriations Act (GAA) has provided for a salary increase. There is every reason to act on this. Immediately, the proposed Salary Standardization Law is a measure coming from Malacañang, so the only difference is that the proposed SSL was for four years. The proposal is an executive action only for one year while Congress would review this issue of being able to provide for our military pensioners whose monthly pension is sourced from the GAA, not from the GSIS, but from the GAA. Kailangang pag-aralan so the next Congress will now have to review this.

Q: What happens to arrest orders to the alleged Binay cronies now?

SPFMD: Well, at the end of this 16th Congress, that arrest order becomes moot if not executed and served. It dies a natural death. You know, with the expiration of the 16th Congress, then the arrest warrant becomes functus officio. No longer valid.

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