Press Release
February 15, 2016

Excerpts of Pandesal Forum with Senate President Franklin M. Drilon
by Wilson Lee Flores

Q: On Senator Drilon's Valentines Day

SPFMD: Kahapon po I started Valentines Day with a mass in the Legazpi City cathedral. I was with my wife and my daughter and we were in Bicol Area, particularly in Albay. And as I heard mass with my wife and my daughter, I spent the day trying to figure out how Mayon Volcano looks - behind the clouds, actually we couldn't see it, but it was a very pleasant and restful Sunday rest.

On 2016 elections

Q: Any fearless forecast in the 2016 presidential elections?

SPFMD: I can't give you the rankings, this is because we just started our campaign, we just started on February 9. We went to Region 6, we went to Capiz and Iloilo, and then we went to Region 5, to Camarines Sur. We went to Masbate, and Albay.

It is too early to predict at this stage. I would like to believe that the four candidates are closely bunched together. The next two months, will be very crucial and I am confident that given the machinery that we have, and the fact that we have the President coming with us in the campaign, he was in Capiz, he was in Iloilo, he was in Camarines Sur, so I am confident that our presidential candidate will be able to improve his ratings. Right now he is tied to 2nd place according to the latest surveys but I am confident that we could prevail at the end of the campaign.

Q: On candidates' disclosure of medical records

SPFMD: We were in the campaign trail and I would reiterate our call that all the presidential candidates should bare their medical records, kasi we are looking at a leader for the next six years. The leader must be in good health. Hindi naman pepwede na we are not certain. In the United States, all the candidates would bare and make public their medical records. I think the public is entitled to know what is the condition of each presidential candidate since they will lead this country for the next years.

Q: Would you challenge them, the presidential and vice-presidential candidates to a physical test, say jogging in Luneta?

SPFMD: Just walking, probably, and that will be part of the campaigning. We can walk from Luneta to wherever they want to walk, just a few kilometers, and it will be a good indication of how healthy they are, but more than that, I call on all presidential candidates to make public their medical records.

On Poe's disqualification cases

SPFMD: For the benefit of Senator Poe, I would reiterate my call that after tomorrow's hearing in the Supreme Court, that they will require the parties to submit their memorandum in ten days and decide the case already. Again, I would repeat, because of the doubt, created, it is not fair to Grace. They should decide on this case already na. Just decide it one way or the other - just as long as we have certainty, because the uncertainty resulting from the pendency of this case will not do our country any good. It affects the integrity of our elections, but most importantly, in fairness to Senator Poe and her supporters, they should know how the Supreme Court interprets our Constitution on the matter of being a natural-born citizen, and her residency.

Q: On the Comelec glitches, are you worried? Is it possible that we go back to manual voting?

SPFMD: We can not go to manual. Hindi na po pwede ang manual, ang sinasabi ng batas natin, automated, now ang Comelec po hindi pwedeng magkakaroon ng glitches, and postpone the elections. It cannot be. We must do everything in order to have the elections on time and we will have a clean and orderly elections.

Q: On Senator JV Ejercito's endorsement of Senator Drilon in the elections

SPFMD: Well I thank JV for that very kind expression of support. You know for the last three years, I have worked with Senator Ejercito quite closely in the bills that he has sponsored and being the Senate President, as a senior member of the chamber, having been elected four times as Senate President, I helped and guided JV and I am glad JV has been open about this and there is no political divide when it comes to the Senate's work. All of us are conscious of our mandate to deliver what in our belief is the best in the public interest.

Q: Sir, yung very persistent rumor na given yung presence ni Senator Poe sa birthday party ni President Aquino, na dalawa daw yung candidate ng pangulo?

SPFMD: I was in the birthday party. From what I read in the papers, Grace Poe greeted the President a happy birthday and medyo nagbiro, "Wala bang pakain sir?" Ang sabi ni Presidente, "May dinner mamayang gabi baka gusto mong dumalo?" Senator Grace accepted it. Alam mo syempre panahon ng pulitika, marami ng palabok like that, nagiging secret candidate ng Pangulo si Senator Poe. Even Senator Poe has denied that, but you know, the rumor mill is very rich these days. There is no truth to that.

Q: On rumors that Senator Poe is the sister of Senator Marcos?

SPFMD: I don't think that that is true in the first place. Alam, we know how to put our names in the news eh. Kasama na siguro yan.

Q: Do you think Mar is jealous, given these rumors?

SPFMD: I don't think so. Mar knows that the president has committed to campaign for him, and that is not only a commitment, but also has shown in the course of the very difficult campaigning the week 1, that indeed he will deliver on his promise of campaigning for Mar and all these talks would have no effect on Mar.

Q: Do you think the President joining the campaign is a good strategy for Mar?

SPFMD: Yes it is a very good strategy. No matter what our critics say, what they cannot deny is that out of the past presidents after EDSA, this is the president who has maintained his popularity up to the last six months of his administration. He has made it very clear that he with his policy of good governance, he believes that Mar Roxas is the best candidate to carry through to the next administration. There is no doubt in my mind that he is the best campaigner that we have.

Q: What would push Mar Roxas ahead of the others?

SPFMD: The machinery of the Liberal Party, we have dozens of local governments, if not hundreds of local government officials who are running under the LP unopposed, and therefore this is a very potent machinery which could carry us to victory.

Q: What will be the chance of a tax reform income bill in the next Congress?

SPFMD: Okay, since you asked that question, I might as well discuss them. Firstly, there are a number of measures which were left unpassed by this Congress. First and foremost is the amendments to the Constitution which will allow Congress to review the very restrictive provisions of the Constitution so that we can open our economy. The conditions when we drafted the 1987 Constitution are very different from today. 30 years after, a lot of things have happened and it is very important that we respond to these challenges. There is no question on that fact that we must not remain isolated. We must be able to respond quickly and therefore we must have some flexibility in the Constitutional provisions. I must emphasize that I am not proposing any specific amendment. What I am just saying is amend the Constitution in such a manner that a review is possible without amending the Constitution by putting the phrase "unless otherwise provided by law," which would allow us to review these are policies, whether these should stay or not. The first step is to enable Congress to do this.

I would like to review, and I support the review of our income tax structure, because the brackets - meaning if you have a taxable income off P500,000 you are taxed 32% on that income, so because that was set in 1995. Today, 20 years after, a good percentage of our taxpayers are already in our bracket, so the original concept that the higher your income, the higher your taxes should be as a means of supporting other members of our society is no longer valid, because we are all there.

Third, I would like to enact the rationalization of fiscal incentives. Fiscal incentive is granted precisely in order to foreign companies to come to our country and provide jobs to our people, so they are provided incentives or income tax holidays, capital exemptions from customs duties on capital equipment. There are incentives that would come to the Philippines and be attracted to set up shop. We would like to review how effective these incentives are up to today. Are they effective in terms of generating employment. Is there duplication? There are so many incentive granting agencies. Are the present incentives granted commensurate to the contribution to the economy?

That is why we started with the first step, the Tax Incentives Management and Transparency Act (TIMTA) which will allow the public to scrutinize and see whether these incentives granted are serving the purpose for which these are instituted. These are just some of the measures I intend to sponsor in the next Congress.

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