Press Release
February 10, 2016

Transcript of Kapihan sa Manila Bay media forum with Senate President Franklin M. Drilon by Marichu Villanueva

SPFMD: Thank you Ichu and a very pleasant morning to all of you. The campaign has started. It started yesterday. The next 90 days will be very hectic for the candidates, and it's time that we present ourselves to the people to renew our mandate. Let me answer some issues which you will ask anyway.

First the issue that's being asked: Does the rating of Mar Roxas -which is not on top - a concern for us? Of course it is a concern. No question about that. But what gives us comfort is that there is a steady improvement in the surveys of Mar Roxas, he is now tied for number 2, and for the next three months we will be explaining our platform to the people. We are confident. We have the biggest political machinery in the country. We have the most credible "general campaign manager" - and that is President Benigno Aquino III.

You know, I don't recall an outgoing president with a popularity level as high as that of President Noynoy, and therefore we are confident that within the next three months we would be able to bring up the numbers of Mar Roxas and Leni Robredo, especially now that we are standing on the platform of Daang Matuwid. We can stand on the platform of good governance of the almost six years of the president's term which has brought us successes not seen in the past. For the past five years, our GDP growth has averaged at 6.1 percent - the highest in recent memory.

Our fight against corruption is unrelenting, in the Senate itself, we showed that we are completely transparent. We have no less than 3 senators investigated in the PDAF scam, two of whom are still in detention. And therefore, we can stand proud of the fact that we stood on the mandate of Daang Matuwid and carried it out to the letter.

One of the many things that I would like to look at in the next Congress is the political party reforms. I was just discussing with Ichu here, you know campaigning today is very prohibitive. Prime A programs on television, 30 seconds would cost you P997,000, just for 30 seconds. Post-prime A programs would cost you P831, 000 for 30 seconds. These political advertising rates are higher than the ordinary rates that would be charged to other commercial ads that you would have, that of Mcdonalds or Coca-Cola, or whatever you have. So this has become very prohibitive, and this has become very outrageous.

I have no solution, but certainly this is an area which we can debate on. I have no ready solution for this, I tell you, but we should start debating on this and see what kind of solution we can come up with. There is Political Party Reform Act which will allow subsidy to certain political parties, but I don't think that it will be accepted by the public.

On the other hand, as I said, we must look for a solution to these outrageous expenditures that we are exposed to, if you desire to win. The report is that even before the start of the campaign, some of the candidates are already spending P600 million just for TV ads. You know, at the very least, the Comelec should call these candidates and ask them, "Where did these come from?"

The fiction that the Comelec does not have the authority to look into expenses before the candidates file their certificate of candidacy is something that we should look at and examine. Because before you file the certificate of candidacy, you are not candidate and therefore your TV ads are unregulated. That's pointless. We know that a number of them are declared candidates, they spend money on political ads, these amounts are not included in your declared campaign expenses because of a technicality. We must look into this, and we must debate on this. Because pagdating ng panahon, ay talagang mayayaman na lang ang pwedeng kumandidato. So to me, this must be debated on.

In the same manner I am proud of the fact that in my term as a legislator I have enacted laws that are the subject of debates today. Number one, today you read in the papers of the merger of the Land Bank and the DBP without any law being passed. These are two entities which are created by law but which the president was able to merge. Why? Because of the law that I authored, the GOCC Reform Act, which delegated to the President that power to act on issues like this. The basis is the fact that the DBP and Landbank are duplicating each other's functions, and this is precisely one of the grounds why we authorized the president to act on and merge even if there is no amendment to the charter of these two laws. The law which I wrote, the GOCC Governance Act.

Second, we authored the law on dual citizenship, the Dual Citizenship Act, which today is the subject of debates in the Supreme Court regarding the case of a presidential candidate. We also wrote the Sin Tax Law which enabled the government to collect P 142 billion last year in order to give 90% of our population free medicine, free hospitalization, under the Universal Healthcare Program. The taxes that we collected under the Sin Tax Law, which was languishing in the legislature for years, enabled us to fund our universal health program to give free medicine and free hospitalization to 90% of our population.

The Overseas Absentee Voting, we authored that along with Senator Angara. Today, our overseas Filipino workers are a major influence in the people we elect. These are just some of the major laws which we pushed, the matter of the Anti-Money Laundering Act, again, that is an instrument of transparency in our government.

The need to discuss these matters that we should be all concerned about, because it cannot be denied that there are certain issues which we must continue to debate upon.

And today, the most immediate one, is that we must debate in the next Congress a Political Reform Act based on what we see today. Thank you for this opportunity to join you this morning.

Q: What happened to the Fair Elections Act? You were part of that Congress which passed it.

SPFMD: Well you cannot predict everything. This is a dynamic situation. Who could have predicted when we made the Fair Elections Act, that you would see the day when you would have outrageous political spending season? That is why experience would make us better legislators. I admit, we could not have foreseen, when we crafted the Fair Elections Act, that this would happen, including allowing incumbents to file certificates of candidacy for any position without losing their present mandate. To me, you know, we should take a look at that.

What I am just saying is that there is enough basis for us to have a debate and take a look in order that we can have a better policy. That's what democracy is all about.

Q: Do you think reforms should start in Congress itself? There seems to be flaws in your own system.

SPFMD: We try our best, but we do not have a crystal ball. We act on the basis of what we see presently, we try to predict and foresee what will happen. But you know, these laws are not carved in stone. That's why we are open to discussion and a continued debate on this issue.

Q: Number 1 on your list is the GOCC Act, and you mentioned the Landbank - DBP merger. But the Monetary Board under their own laws, it should have clearance with the Monetary Board, did you include that?

SPFMD: That continues, because that only applies to financial institutions such as banks, when the Monetary Board, being the constitutional body in charge of our financial system, must approve these mergers. The other aspects of the GOCC Act would need not pass through the Monetary Board. It doesn't have to go through Congress, we delegated to the President, the power to merge in this case, entities created by law, without having to go back to Congress.

In this particular case, the Landbank will be the surviving entity, and therefore, all the assets of the DBP, all their personnel, all their liabilities, will be absorbed by Landbank. Even if the DBP charter remains, it became moribund, it's no longer effective as a charter because DBP as a corporation will no longer be functioning.

Q: There are talks that the DBP's license is up for grabs by a foreign bank?

SPFMD: Well that's academic, because the DBP will no longer be there.

Q: You said earlier that you are not concerned regarding the ratings of your presidential candidate.

SPFMD: It is a concern, but it is not we will sink already because of the ratings today.

Q: It comes to me that you are already working for the presidential since you are already sure that you will win as senator.

SPFMD: Thank you, but I will work hard. The surveys are very fickle.

Q: You are at the top five diba?

SPFMD: Yes, but you can be at the top five today and tomorrow be at the bottom five. We, I , have to work.

Q: You mentioned that one of your pet bills, the Dual Citizenship Act, is now a hot issue. So in effect Senator Poe is a beneficiary of that dual citizenship.

SPFMD: Yes, she was a beneficiary, because she became a citizen under a law that we enacted. But the issue remains as to whether she is a natural born citizen, and the matter of being a natural-born citizen is governed by the Constitution. It only enabled Senator Poe to regain her citizenship. Now whether she is a natural born Filipino is a matter governed by the Constitution.

Q: There are now 59 bills which are pending with the President, for signing into law. What do you think are the chances of those? Will they be vetoed?

SPFMD: I don't think so. The law on the exemption of disabled people from VAT will be signed by the President, I think - without pre-empting him - the law on the Department of Information and Communications Technology is there with him, and I hope it is passed, the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act is also a matter that is long pending. Again, these are in the President's desk. The bill which will clarify our Right-Of-Way processes, we have passed this in Congress, and this is now with the President, the amendments to the Philippine Deposit Insurance Corporation (PDIC), which will strengthen our ability to respond to failing banks.

You know, we are proud of our achievements. In this Congress we were able to enact laws which were pending for a long time, untouched because of pressure groups. We started with the Sin Tax Law, which for years could not move, the Reproductive Health Bill, we passed it, controversial as it was, the Fair Competition Act, which is our anti-trust law. So we can be proud of this Congress. The Senate led the abolishment of the PDAF which was a source of embarrassment to all of us, but we passed.

Q: What happened to the veto of the SSS hike? As a former Executive Secretary you know that the presidential veto should be used very sparingly. What really happened there, the SSL IV and the SSS hike?

SPFMD: First the Salary Standardization IV. It is stuck in the bicameral conference committee. What is the issue involved? The issue involved is the existing law which would index the pension payments to the retired military and police personnel, with the salary structure of those in the active service, so that every time there is a salary increase those who retired in the military, police and uniformed service will also enjoy that increase. The pension of our uniformed personnel is non-contributory, they are not covered by the GSIS, and therefore it is funded by our budget, the General Appropriations Act, to that point that by the year 2018, we will be spending more for the pensions than those in the active service.

I am not saying that that is wrong, that paying the pension of our pensioners is wrong, or the indexation is wrong. What I am just saying is that let us find a way by which this can be funded by the GSIS so that the ordinary taxpayer can be unburdened by such funds that we have to allocate for the pensions.

We have to put them under the GSIS law so that like ordinary government employees, they contribute to the fund from where the pension will be sourced. I repeat, I am not against the increases that the pensioners of the uniformed personnel will be entitled to under the law. What concerns us is the source of funding. It should not be the General Appropriations Act. It should be a funded trust fund like the GSIS. That's all that we are saying.

Unfortunately, we do not have that system today. So what will happen, and what I have proposed, is that for 2016, the government employees should get the salary increase entitled to under the General Appropriations Act, which today has an allocation for salary increase of P57.9 billion. P57.9 billion is there for the salary increases for the 1.3 million government workers in 2016. I would urge the President to sign an executive order which will grant these increases in accordance with the Salary Standardization Law IV, but only for one year, because that is only where the authorization is under the GAA. The next Congress should work overtime for the salary increases in 2017, and 2018, and at the same time, work on how we can fund the pensions of our retired military personnel, through a trust fund. This was the original conceptualization. There was a fund that was created, the AFP-RSBS, but it did not succeed, nagkandaloko-loko, kasi they invested in real estate, etc. A concept similar to RSBS, let's have a trust fund where this can be drawn. That is the original concept when we had the retirement law, the RSBS was supposed to respond to this, it was supposed to be a trust fund. Ang nangyari, nagkandaloko loko ang RSBS, pinag-iinvest in real estate kung saan-saan, bumagsak, now you have a problem because you have to fund it with the General Appropriations Act. The taxpayers pay for it, which should not be the case. There should be a fund, that is what I am espousing.

I am urging the President to already sign the executive order which will grant the salary increases to our government workers, at P1.3 million. Pang-Valentines gift siguro ng ating Pangulo sa maga kawani ng pamahalaan, on Valentine's Day, he should, I urge him, to grant these increases, so that we can address this need.

Now, the SSS pension, yes I voted for it. But the President had a different view. He vetoed it, and because of the situation where the P2000 increase to the pensioners of the SSS will come up at about P 4 billion per month, because there are 2 million pensioners, or P48 billion per year. Remember that the SSS- the Social Security System - is a trust fund, which will answer for all the future benefits of all SSS members, eh there are about 30 million SSS members. The pension if we increase it by P2000 will result in an expense of P48 billion a year, the SSS, to our understanding, makes a net profit of about P4 billion per year. So if we decree the P48 billion per year, in about 10 years' time, the fund life Social Security System will be over. We brough this out during the debates in the Senate. The sponsor assured us that this will not happen, because No.1, we can always fund it with taxpayer's money and 2.) there can be a more efficient collection of premiums, and 3.) there can be an increase in the premiums. These were the representations in the floor debates, and so we approved it.

However, the President had a different view, he said, we could not fund it out of this, the sources of funds are not certain to come so we will put in danger the SSS funds. So it was a difference in opinion as to how we can sustain the SSS funds with the P2000 increase for the 2 million retirees, which the Congress said, "We can do," we asked those specific questions, "How can we fund these?" And the representation of the sponsors was 1.) we can always augment the fund of the SSS through appropriations in the General Appropriations Act, 2.) we can increase the premiums of both the employees and the employers, and 3.) we should have a more efficient collection of premiums. So because of the difference the President had to veto.

Now given what we have seen, I ask the officials of the Social Security Commission: Please, on bended knees, in behalf of our retirees, pag-aralan niyo po kung paano madadagdagan ang pension ng ating SSS pensioners without causing a danger to the fund life being shortened. I am sure that they can afford, or the system can absorb, an increase in the pensions. Probably not the P2,000, but for heaven's sake, nangangailangan po ng tulong ang ating mga pensioners. Kaya naman siguro po ang some increase in the pension, how much is reasonable to protect both the fund life and our 30 million SSS members, and at the same time, respond to the needs of our pensioners.

Q: As I understand, you adopted the House version and the House submitted to you a companion bill that the Senate failed to act on, the SSS reforms bill.

SPFMD: I do not understand. You know, the principal feature of that SSS reforms bill is this: that the Social Security Commission can increase the premiums and the benefits without going to the President. That is the only feature of that proposed measure. So how does that resolve the problem? The amount of the increase is still a question of the fund life, of the social security funds. It has nothing to do with the authority of the Social Security Commission to approve increases in pension and premiums without the president's approval. Yun lang po ang hinihingi eh. So there is absolutely no basis for that statement that we did not approve the companion bill. Even if we approved the companion bill, we will still be in the same quandary today. Because all that it did is to dispense with the presidential approval for the increase in benefits.

Q: Why did no senator author a SSS pension hike bill? So it would have gone through committee hearings also.

SPFMD: Even if there were no senators who filed the bill, it did go through a public hearing. The House version went to us, and under our system, it is treated like any ordinary new measure, it goes to through the process of hearing in the committee. Those issues were raised precisely in the committee hearing, and they were raised again in the floor.

Q: Again, the reforms must start at Congress, because it seems that the law, the process if flawed.

SPFMD: No it is not a flawed law. Yes we enacted the law. That is why we have committee hearings, yes we are not perfect, we have committee hearings, we get the views of the resource persons, we act on the basis of what we have gathered. There is also a process, the fact that this was passed by the legislature does not mean it is already a law. It goes through the president for approval. The problem is not with Congress.

Q: How is the Liberal Party now? What will be the best strategy for May, except for President Aquino, to help the low surveys of your presidential candidate?

SPFMD: Hindi naman low survey. Our candidate is statistically tied at 2nd place, at the last survey. You have 34% for Grace Poe, 23% for Binay, 20% for Roxas, 20% for Duterte. The 2nd to the 4th are considered statistical tie. He is not languishing down there. Having said that, we will activate our machinery on the grassroots. We have many Liberal Party governors, congressmen, mayors who are unopposed and therefore, we will activate it and have them campaign for our national candidates.

Q: There is the non-passage of popular bills, the SSS pension, SSL IV...

SPFMD: The SSL never reached the President. It got stuck in Congress. There is a solution for that and I have offered the solution. The SSS, there is also a solution. The solution lies in the hand of the Social Security Commission. The social security funds are for the benefit of our social security members. So, they must balance the interest of our 30 million or so members of the SSS and the mandate to provide social security pension for the retirees because this is the essence of the Social Security Act.

Q: Why not plead all the way to the President in the same way you plead for the SSL IV?

SPFMD: The authority is with the Social Security Commission.

Q: They can recommend it to the President?

SPFMD: Yes, the Social Security Commission will pass the appropriate resolution to increase the pension which, at the present system, will have to be approved by the President. This is a very technical issue and it is better for the Social Security Commission to act on it first.

Q: Sir may pagkakataon po ba nung magkasama kayo ni Presidente Aquino na banggitin itong SSL IV nitong nakaraang linggo hanggang sa kahapon?

SPFMD: Ang proposal, ang rekomendasyon, ang memorandum ng DBM na hinihintay ng Pangulo ay isusumite ngayong araw na ito. I have not mentioned it to him. I'm saying that the Department of Budget and Management, tinanong ko kahapon si Secretary Abad, and he said the DBM recommendation which will grant these salary increases for 2016 which is authorized under the General Appropriations Act will be with the President either today or tomorrow. So that's why I'm urging the President, as a Valentine's gift na lang, na pirmahan ito.

Q: Pero sabi po ng source ko sa Malacanang baka sa Mayo pa ilalabas (on SSL IV)

SPFMD: Ah..mali 'yong source mo...(laughter) Hindi naman nagsabi, ako lang ang sinabi. Suggestion ko lang.

Q: Sir, since nagbabangit kayo si Sec. Abaya and DOTC Secretary Abad, they are LP stalwarts...Liberal Party officials. Don't you think it would be more appropriate for them to also resign now and actively be involved in the campaign now since you need their help right now?

SPFMD: I don't think that Sec. Abad is actively involved...yes, he was there yesterday, so where the other cabinet members, including the Secretary of the Department of Energy...

Q: Lozada? Kasi may Capiz project yata or Iloilo project?

SPFMD: Yes...Under the law, cabinet members are not prohibited from campaigning. They can campaign. But it doesn't mean that Sec. Abaya or Abad will campaign. Unlike you are a civil servant, a career civil servant, you cannot participate in the election except to vote. Cabinet members can participate in the campaign.

Q: They can?

SPFMD: Yes, they can.

Q: But the Comelec issued a reminder against gov't officials from making comments or endorsements favouring...

SPFMD: That is limited to career public officials covered by Civil Service code, not political appointees like the cabinet secretary.

Q: What about CJ Sereno?

SPFMD: CJ Sereno cannot because she is a member of the judiciary.

Q: You were once a cabinet member yourself and I don't think you can draw a fine line between campaigning and your position in the cabinet. How did you do it during your time?

SPFMD: I could campaign because there was nothing wrong. I was the Executive Secretary, I was the alter ego of the President, I campaigned. I violated no law by campaigning. What is prohibited is the use of government funds for political purposes. 'Yong po ay bawal, hindi po bawal ang mag campanya ang miyembro ng cabinet. Ang bawal ay gagamitin ang kanyang posisyon o gamitin ang pondo ng pamalaan para sa campanya.

Q: Going back to RSBS? Wala ba kayong balak to investigate 'yong Senate? Malaking pera 'yun.

SPFMD: Matagal na 'yan. I think ang mga ibang nakademanda na. They purchased a lot of real estate without exercising ...(inaudible) pero marami nanaka-demanda d'yan. The RSVS was supposed to provide funds for the retirement.

Q: Can you give an assessment of Edsa revolution after 30 years?

SPFMD: well, the fact that we are here today, is a testament to the success of the Edsa revolution. Without the Edsa revolution, we cannot have a forum like this today. That is how I assess Edsa today.

Q: Sir, do you have any concern on the timeline of the Comelec, parang maraming atrasado?

SPFMD: I have very serious concerns about postponement of elections even by certain areas. Remember that the matter of the postponement of the elections, is a matter that is governed by our Election Code. Under our Election Code, the postponement of an election may only be done for ...I quote...very serious causes such as violence, terrorism, lost or destruction of election paraphernalia or records, force majure or any other analogous causes of nature that the holding of free, orderly election should be impossible in any political subdivision. The postponement therefore that they contemplate, must be within the four corners of the law that I cited, of the election code. Glitches in the system, wala po dito yan unless... these are the grounds that can be the basis for the postponement of the election. So, any act that the Comelec will do to postpone the election must be justified. Pag nag-brown out, that's force majure.

Q: Sir, what about failure of election? Malfunction of machinery, ballots were stolen, killings of Comelec officials?

SPFMD: That is precisely what the law says. Serious causes of causes such as violence, terrorism, loss or destruction of paraphernalia, force majure. Those are the grounds that would justify the postponement of election in any political subdivision.

Q: But not glitches?

SPFMD: I don't know what they are talking about, the glitches. This is something that can be addressed immediately so that the election will not be postponed.

SPFMD: That is why I am saying, we have to revisit the election code. In so far as the election code is concerned. Because it is harsh not to count the election expenses where the expenses is incurred before the filing of the certificate of candidacy or even before the campaign period. Even before you filed the certificate of candidacy, hindi po bilang yong gastos mo bago the campaign period, that is a fiction that is created by law. And, the poll was reviewed at.

Q: A while ago, there was a mention of CJ Sereno. I was reminded by your pet bill - judicial legislation - and recently, the Supreme Court went into a scientific legislation and that is the beauty talong. Is there any legislative remedy to correct that situation?

SPFMD: Yes there is a legislative remedy. That is a part of the check in balance. They can unless constitutional interpretation. The congress can always overturn the interpretation of the structure distinguised from the interpretation of the constitution. As distinguished we cannot pass a law which will revise a decision based on the constitution. Let me give you a very specific example.

Under the anti-money laundering act, this is very specific, the government, the anti-money laundering council can petition d court 4 a freeze order of the house without notice who is the subject to the target. You must notify the depositor before the freeze order. You can imagine how crazy the decision was. Talagang walang kabase base. What we did is to pass a law which would now say that can be done ex parte - meaning without notice. In contravention of the Supreme Court decision.

Q: So, which one prevail?

SPFMD: The law. Because there was just interpreting what they said was the law. The law should be interpreted as requiring notice to the depositor before you freeze. So, we said, we would amend the law so that we don't have to give notice.

Q: So, it is now a law?

SPFMD: Yes. That reversed the decision of the Supreme Court. But, if the decision of the Supreme Court concerns the amendment of the constitution, we could not do that.

Q: If President Aquino joins Mar Roxas campaign, how would Mar Roxas get out of the president's shadow?

SPFMD: We are campaigning on the platform of continuation. Continuation of the daang matuwid as the platform of continuity and good governance. Which brought us the benefits that the people enjoyed today. The benefits of the universal health care, pampamilyang pagtawid pilipinong program. Mar Roxas will not attempt to have different platform because this is the platform of continuity. Ang sabi nga niya, kung may kulang pa, pupunuin.

Q: Wala ba kayong nakikitang danger na lahat ng focus ay mapunta kay President Aquino

SPFMD: All the candidates are seeking the mandate of the people. Nobody is sure how it would come out. But we are seeking the mandate and we are convincing the people that it is the right policy - the continuity of the daang matuwid program.

Q: One of our advocacies is transfer of our national Bilibid penitentiary to Forth Magsaysay and which is out for bidding next month. It is approved by the president and we appreciate it very much. Our problem is that Metro Manila is becoming very unlivable. And, with private change, some parts of Metro Manila will become flooded most of the time. Would you support the move to transfer the the administrative capital of the Philippines -- to somewhere in central Luzon, owned by the government. which is not flooded, similar to what has happened to Malaysia - Putrajaya and other similar countries?

SPFMD: I am open to that. You know, it is something that we have to be carefully consider. As you said that Manila is getting to be unlivable. Kaya lumipat na kayo sa aking lalawigan sa Iloilo. Mas maganda doon. Wala kaming traffic. Malalapad ang aming kalsada. Marami kaming simbahan. Kaya lumipat na kayo roon. Yes, I am open to that idea. Because that is the way of reliving our metropolis of all of this ills, provided that we have to have a good transport system.

In fact I have been advocating the transfer of the national bilibid penetentiary in fort Magsaysay.

Q: Yes it is approved already for fort Magsaysay

SPFMD: Dapat iyan gagawin... It is an idea which is no brainer... you have the most expensive detention facility in the whole world. And, you have an asset which should be unlock to provide. But, I cannot understand the proposal of the Department of Justice to allocate P20B for this exercise.

Q: No, Mr. Senate President, the budget they place is P50B.

SPFMD: P50B? How of this world! What I mean, for what?

Q: I have been told that the facilities might be better than all other facilities.

SPFMD: This is a perfect candidate for a PPP. Not a single peso will be spent. Because you have an asset of worth a hundred billion? That is a very attractive asset which you can utilize for PPP.

Q: Mr. Senate President, the proposal is to vacate a four hundred eleven hectares in Muntinlupa. And, I don't know how big is the women's correctional and mental hospital in Mandaluyong. Those will generate a lot of income in the government.

SPFMD: I find the proposal of P50B simply outrageous.

Q: Sir, when you go back to the 17th, will you still be the Senate President? Will you still run for Senate President?

SPFMD: I want to win first as a Senator. I won't entertain that thought yet.

Q: By the end of January, tapos na dapat ang deliberation ng Supreme Court.By end of January, the SC should have decided na sana on the disqualification cases. So far, at the rate of the deliberation nila, are you satisfied na umabot pa sa February.. at masasama sa printing ng ballot nila

SPFMD: Are you asking me if I am satisfied?

Q: Yes

SPFMD: No, I am not satisfied. The earlier to be decided, the better for all of us. And, I urge the SC to give this an extraordinary attention so it can be decided earlier. I hope that the Supreme Court will not say we know what we're doing. Such arrogance. We should decide that as early as possible.

Q: Sir, when you say that the Supreme Court should give special attention, ibig sabihin ba twice a week ang oral arguments?

SPFMD: I am just saying we should decide this as early as possible. Having oral arguments once a week is not giving it the urgency that it deserves.

Q: Sir, with or without Senator Poe in the running, do you think Mar Roxas can win?

SPFMD: Yes, we will win.

Q: Sir, no less than Secretary Roxas said people's frustrations ang kanyang kalaban.

SPFMD: He must overcome that. He will address that in the course of the campaign.

Q: Si Senator Marcos naman agreed that people's frustrations will translate to protest votes.

SPFMD: These are all opinions. Alam mo, pagdating ng kampanya, maraming lalabas na mga ideya. I am certain that these will be debated and it will come into the people's decision-making process. That's all I can say at this point.

Q: Sir, you mentioned your accomplishment report. One of the failures is the failure to pass the BBL.

SPFMD: Unfortunately, the Mamasapano incident, whether you like it or not, was a major incident that prevented and created an environment not conducive to the passage of the law. Your Senate reporters will attest to the fact that it is always on our agenda.

There was only one senator interpellating and did not finish his interpellation. Unfortunately, the election campaign came in and it was so difficult to get a quorum. Talagang there were circumstances and events which conspired against the passage of the BBL. We were all for it. I am saying this with confidence. If not for the Mamasapano, we would have passed it last year. We will try again in the next congress because peace is something that we cannot abandon. The comprehensive agreement for peace should be pursued. The agreement should be inj place.

Q: Sir, you said events conspired against the passage of the BBL, the President was echoing in Capiz and Iloilo that there were two senators who prevented the BBL passage. Did he mention it to you?

SPFMD: He did not mention it to me. It's the first time that I heard that statement. Look at the events. Look at the personalities involved. You make your own conclusion. I'm not going to add anything to it.

Q: You promise that you're going to take it up in the 17th congress. So, no more chances in the remaining...

SPFMD: No more.

Q: Will you be the one to spearhead the BBL?

SPFMD: I will support it whether principal author, co-author. I will support.

Q: The principal argument against the BBL was the fact that our negotiators virtually gave to the Congress the negotiations because wala man lang daw effort doon sa original agreement. The BBL right now contain a lot of flaws. They did not negotiate enough and give the job to the congressmen and senators to improve upon it.

SPFMD: Whatever the agreement was, it was subject to congressional action because we have to revise the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao Law. So, that's our system of government. Congress would enact laws in order to craft the policies. That's precisely what we need. We exercise our prerogative to craft policies. We might disagree with the policies on the comprehensive agreement for peace in so far as the provisions are concerned but that's our system. We are supposed to enact a Bangsamoro Basic Law in implementation of the comprehensive agreement on peace. Assuming we pass the law, whether or not the President agrees with us, if it is totally repugnant with the Bangsamoro Basic Law, he could veto the BBL. That's our system.

Q: There was a simple legislation that did not survive Congress, a resolution on economic Cha-Cha.

SPFMD: The phrase "unless provided by law." I am fully supporting that amendment. Our Constitution should be dynamic. We crafted our 1986 constitution immediately after Martial Law. Many of the provisions there were a reaction to the years of Martial Law. Revising everything may not meet public support. That is why I am in favour of that amendment which will simply add "unless provided by law" in those provisions which would be restrictive. I would emphasize that it doesn't mean that we are already changing the policy as contained in the Constitution. I am just saying that let us have an opportunity to debate whether a particular provision is still valid 25 years after its passage. I think it requires ¾ votes. It was a major piece of legislation.

Q: The SSS pension hike bill?

SPFMD: I leave that to the House.

Q: The House can override the presidential veto?

SPFMD: No. The House must initiate it because that is where it originated. It can bring it to us and then we will decide.

Q: Mr. Senate President, halimbawa po kayo pa rin ang Senate President after President Aquino, papaano niyo po lalabanan ng suntukan sa Senado si Manny Pacquiao?

SPFMD: Hintayin na lang natin ang halalan. We have the mandate of the people because at this point, I don't know if I have the mandate to go back to the Senate. I do not know if Manny will have the mandate to join us in the Senate. So, I think it is very premature to say anything about that.

Q: There were new justices for the Sandiganbayan, there were concerns na these justices did not pass the proper process of the JBC. 'Yung iba daw wala sa list submitted to the President and yet appointed.

SPFMD: All the appointed were in the list. Hindi sinunod strictly yung sa division because these are vacancies in the division. What the JBC did was segregate 16 divisions. It is undue restriction on the power of the President . Principally, we must remember that the appointing authority is lodged in the President. There are restrictions imposed in the Constitution and the law. What the JBC did was unduly restrict naman. I think the JBC exceeded its power in nominating those that will be appointed.

Q: FOI Bill?

SPFMD: We passed it in the Senate two years ago. Sa House hindi naipasa.

Q: Last statement?

SPFMD: Our people will be called again to choose the next leaders of this country. We have made gains for the past six years. The critics of this admin can deny this fact. Should we choose the leaders who can continue with what we have started or dare go back to our old ways? I urge the people to choose wisely in the May 9, 2016 election.

Q: What if the next president is non-LP?

SPFMD: It is a democracy. I want to win first. I am not even sure if I'm going to win.

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