Press Release
April 19, 2016

Transcript of Sen. Chiz's interview at the FOCAP Forum

DATE: 18 April 2016
Event LOCATION: Diamond Hotel, Manila

Q&A with Senator Francis 'Chiz' Escudero (FULL TRANSCRIPT)

MODERATOR: Are we ready? Thank you for coming, thank you senator for coming here on your busy schedule. So Senator Francis 'Chiz' Escudero started his political career at 28. So that is close to your 20 years in office.

FGE: 18.

QUESTION: Yeah that's 18. And this is his 9th year as senator. He served three terms in the House as, also as Minority Floor Leader from 2004 to 2007. He currently chairs the Committee on the Environment and Natural Resources and in the past, has chaired the Finance, Justice and Human Rights, Ways and Means, National Defense and Security Committees and various others. He has a Bachelor of Laws from University of the Philippines. Please welcome Senator Chiz Escudero.

FGE: Good morning, no opening statements really. I'd rather answer whatever question you might have and hope to be able to clarify them. If I nose bled in the middle of my English please forgive me. I am used to speaking in Filipino.

MODERATOR: Alright so...

FGE: You still want me use the mic o no more? It is intimate and...

MODERATOR: Alright so where do we start senator, go ahead and start firing? Yes Jim go ahead.

QUESTION: Senator we know that you made Jejomar Binay.

MODERATOR: Lakas-lakasan mo nga iyan para mapakinggan ng mga ibang...

QUESTION: You know that you are one of the people who made Binay win in a very difficult situation in the past. You are an insider basically. For at a loss, trying to analyze the elections, the presidential 2016, because it is so close to call. Can you help us assess what do you expect to happen in the next three weeks? On elections. And one question is, after the Supreme Court decision clearing Grace Poe. Many basically predicted that she will surge ahead. Can you tell us what do you predict to happen with her situation, her candidacy?

FGE: Let me clarify it. Very much like in basketball, elections are the same. Candidates win elections, campaigners lose them. So I don't think any campaign manager or any supporter can claim the victory of a particular candidate in any election. But candidates should always own their victories, they should also own their defeats. But that rarely happens in Philippine politics. Having said that, each election is unique. You cannot use the previous elections in 2010 or 2004 or 98 to gauge the current elections because it is not operating in a vacuum. Things change and things are static and things continue and are moving. You cannot, as the word you use, predict, what will happen. That what makes elections exciting. Now why didn't Grace go up? You are assuming that nobody else is moving. You are assuming that there is no Duterte surge.

You are assuming that there are no additional cases filed against Vice President Jejomar Binay. You are assuming that people actually got wind of the news about her disqualification. When the Supreme Court decision first came out with its decision nationwide, according to the surveys, it is only 64% learned that decision. And then the following day, you already had news about the petitioners or rather the respondents.

Those who lost in the Supreme Court case filing their motions for reconsideration, threatening to impeach the Supreme Court Justices, saying that the majority vote was not achieved. It was a 7, 6-2 vote. So doubts were created to with respect to the efficacy of the Supreme Court's decision. And if indeed there were no hurdles anymore. Legal hurdles that would block the candidacy of Senator Grace.

So those were the factors that may have affected the numbers at that time. But then again survey are tricky. She may actually go up, because of that, but she may have actually gone down also because of the rise of the other candidates who went to the other candidate. So it may be true that she went up indeed. But it was offset by a shift of her softer voters to other candidates.

How do I see this election? Ask me again about five days before, the last 20 days of any campaign is like the last two minutes in a basketball game where the team is leading by five points. Similar to what we are seeing now. No presidential candidate is leading by more than 10 points to his or her closest rival, the same is true with the vice presidential race. So the last 20 days is just the last two minutes in a basketball game.

Anything can happen and it depends on how the ball bounces. And if you will get all the breaks in the last two minutes of the game, so meone can actually still drop the ball even if he's leading And by some miracle, which is not rare in politics, someone can actually all of a sudden find himself, all of a sudden, leading. So nobody should feel complacent, simply because he or she is leading at this point in time in the game.

QUESTION: Nobody should feel disappointed too.

FGE: Anyone who's high in the survey should not brag and anyone who's low in the survey should not feel bad either. Things change. Surveys go up, surveys go down on particular candidate and anything can still happen given the tightness of the race.

QUESTION: What percentage point would you consider safe for a candidate because like that Manny Pacquiao blunder, his comment cost him 12 percent. But it's only one mistake so...

FGE: From 10 million followers in Twitter, he went down to 10,000 in 48 hours. In 48 hours. But the thing is it's back to two million. I think he's back at 2 million followers on Twitter. Difficult, difficult to predict. You're talking of the Duterte statement? Everything remaining constant, meaning, nothing else changes, which again is impossible but everything remaining constant, nothing changes, I would expect, I would look at the five to eight-point dip from his current numbers. Because there are roughly soft voters, he has a core voters based on the about 15, as a minimum. So if his numbers right now is 30, so you're talking roughly half of his voters right now still soft and not hard core.

MODERATOR: Okay, Ellen.

QUESTION: Good morning sir. I'm Ellen. Of all the vice presidential candidate, you're ahead on the early surveys but then, Bongbong Marcos suddenly has overtaken, Leni Robredo also coming close behind but you're still in the running, how do you see...

FGE: That's more difficult to read because I'm a candidate in that particular race, anything I'll say will be self-serving. Having said that, I think it's a close race. Even Alan Cayetano cannot be discounted given that he might benefit from a late surge from Mayor Duterte. So we're considering all of these factors and all of these candidates as serious threats to our candidacy and to our campaign. We're leaving no stone unturned in so far as making sure that our messages sent across and it's just a post in relation to theirs so that people could actually find a contrast and a distinction.

QUESTION: But how do you see the surge of Bongbong Marcos rate in the survey considering the Marcos burden?

FGE: I think the next president and vice president will win with 35 percent of the votes. The Marcos loyalists have always been a minority. Majority of our people still don't like him, but then again, only 35 percent is needed to win. So he don't need the majority. Those Anti-Marcos would probably divided up amongst and between us, who are, who don't agree with what happened in the past. So I guess that's what puts him ahead right now, he's ahead based on current surveys.

It is the first time we're doing a weekly survey. The problem with the weekly survey is you can't really do a nationwide surveying in one week, at best they can do it in 20 provinces and take a snapshot in these 20 provinces and say it's representatives of the entire country. That's a shaky assumption to make, especially given the tightness of the race. If it will wide open, if you're talking of a 10-20 point lead, then you can do tracking surveys in 20 provinces out of 82. But if it's a tight race, it's quite difficult to predict the entire country using less than even a third of the provinces.

In fact less than a fourth of the provinces and it's a representative. It's good for tracking but I don't think it's an accurate read of the real picture of the ground is. You need a more in depth survey in order to do that. In 2010, the surveys I was doing at that time had a single digit margin of error per province. So I could do an actual and accurate read of the nationwide total compared to the surveys that are being done now.

QUESTION: What are the sample sizes Senator?

FGE: In 2010? 16.

QUESTION: 16,000?

FGE: Still on those surveys, if I were not running, I would most likely be running an election on someone else.

QUESTION: Some civic organizations say that surveys should stop at a certain point before the elections, do you agree?

FGE: The Supreme Court has ruled already on that issue. The Supreme Court ruled a couple of decades ago that's part of the freedom of speech that it cannot be curtailed. To my mind, those who want to stop the surveys perhaps think that the voters are stupid, they are not. Voters will decide based on who they actually want to vote for, regardless of whether or not they are leading in the surveys. And if indeed, they can be influenced by that, that's part of their freedom as well to choose. And it's not for any candidate to limit that or constrain that. That's part of our democratic processes.

QUESTION: I like to ask what the Poe-Escudero tandem will do about the South China Sea issue? Will you carry on the policy and strategies of the Aquino Administration or will you make some modifications?

FGE: Just the legal strategy. We will continue with the case filed before the Hague. We will not abandon that, it has been filed. It has been already in decision and we will not abandon that case. However hand in hand with the filing of that case, we will continue to engage all other claimant countries on a multi-lateral, regional, bilateral, even backchannel talks in order to arrive at a peaceful solution to the problem...

Now while all of these are ongoing. There's no reason why we cannot have other levels of engagement with China for example and other claimant countries. Namely, economic, culture, educational, even political outside of the West Philippine Sea. Deng Xiaoping, he said "lets agree on what we can agree on today. What we disagree on, let's set it aside and let future generations take care of it, not exactly forbidden. Because sometimes, time has a way of healing misunderstanding and all wounds. And you will be all of a sudden surprised that what seem to be beyond agreement between two parties, all of a sudden is easier simply because of that passage of time.

Take for example, Taiwan and China. They are opposite poles completely . It's not so much that the Taiwan wants to be independent of China. Taiwan thinks that China is part of Taiwan and vice versa. The main land thinks Taiwan is part of China. And yet by some twist, Taiwan was able to participate in the Beijing Olympics, how? Because they came up with their own Olympic flag, they came up with their own Olympic Anthem.

And who would have thought that in spite and despite their serious sovereign political differences, Taiwanese athletes could actually participate in the Olympic Games in Beijing. So I'm quite confident not to mistake, that these issues will be resolved peacefully because it's not in anyone's interest for war to actually break out.

Whatever posturing you may see right now is part of the strategic and tactical positionings by both sides including, the United States. But at the end of the day I don't think it's on anybody's interest. The US, the China, The Philippines, the claimant countries, Southeast Asia. It's in nobody's interest for war to break out in the West Philippine Sea.

QUESTION: Do you have contingency plans already? A few were discussed by Senator Poe on how we will handle a decision by the Arbitral Tribunal, as early as May or after that?

FGE: We have talked about it and there is only one way, you have to be able to exert pressure on China via gaining the support of the community of nations to enforce these decisions, this decision rather. You have to understand we have to play an active role in so far as making sure whatever favorable decision assuming, that will come out, would be enforced or at least observed by all claimant countries.

Unlike a territory occupied by a foreign power where a population is subjugated, you have people who are suffering and that is seen on TV, people see it. And yet, look at ISIS. They occupied large, huge territories. Practically held hostage and brainwashing huge numbers of people. And yet the United States and the world is slow to react.

Take for example now, juxtapose that with the current situation of the West Philippine Sea. Nobody is being subjugated here. Nobody is being oppressed. If at all, it is the fishermen, our fishermen that can't go there. But no population was actually colonized or subjugated. There are no violations of human rights being committed when they built that island on the West Philippine Sea. So I guess the world is slower to react to it. Lend their support, lend their ear to the current situation in the West Philippine Sea. I think what we should impressed upon them is that it is affecting the livelihood of our fishermen. Our fishermen can no longer go there, they're not allowed to go there. They are being...

Question: Shooed away...

FGE: Shooed away or water canoned away by Chinese Coast Guard vessels. If we can make it about that, if we can talk about that, then perhaps we can gain more support from the world community and the community of the nations to take our side and to see our cause.

QUESTION: Do you think China is willing? Because it's been done already by the present administration. They talked to China, the group of Harry Roque already filed a complaint before the UN about this issue of the affected fishermen?

FGE: Well the case is not talking. And I don't think the government is talking to China about this. You have to understand, with any country, China more specifically, especially in relation to their culture. Face is very important. We have our own respective domestic audiences that we have to cater to. And on the part of China that's burgeoning, if not already a world power equal to or probably surpassing the United States. A face saving way out should always be a conscious effort between part of all parties, all claimant countries. Given as I have said, all of us have domestic audiences. Government should not be too quick in issuing statements, it should be more diplomatic in so far as this issue is concerned.

Because I believe the Philippine Government can resolve a lot of these issues. Amicably and peacefully. If only handled properly. And not handled Western style, so to speak. Meaning brash, outright and confrontational. Asians have a way of settling disputes. And I think we should rely more on those processes rather than using the Western thought and processes on settling disputes amicably.

MODERATOR: Thank you. Dario?

QUESTION: Yes so (inaudible).

FGE: I know, how are you related to Jimmy Agnote?

QUESTION: I think he is the cousin of my father.

FGE: Former barangay captain of Calunggay. Sorry, I know all my baranggay captains there.

QUESTION: So it is likely during the presidency of Senator Poe that's also during your term as vice president, China will fortify the Scarborough Shoal. Have you ever thought about this? What kind of steps are you going to do, concrete steps for example, If China, you know continues to do that? Because there are reports that the China is focusing on that particular shoal from now. Especially because it is very near Subic and they wanted to control that area?

FGE: Agree. I think we should be in touch with our allies, more specifically with the United States with the respect to how to contain this. Not really handle it but not contain it. But on the part of China, there is no engagement within the Philippine Government and China, in this regard, other than the case filed before the Hague.

Other than the case filed by Attorney Roque, in a way sanctioned by the Philippine government or supported by the Philippine Government. I think once we begin engaging China, either on a regional or multilateral basis or bilateral basis, the fortification or additional plans may be put on hold. And hopefully whatever base, so to speak, that they are constructing or they have constructed now may still be shifted into a shared facility, not really a base by all claimant countries, either for rescue operations, for maritime security, for environmental preservation and other common themes and goals that the countries may have in that particular part of the world.

There is still time, I think, China, again would not want a regional confrontation to ensue in this particular time when their economy is growing and they would want have a seat in their place in the world as one of its leaders, not only economically but politically as well.

I suggest for example, that the Chinese Ambassador if it's an issue, regional, multilateral, bilateral talks have become a battleground in itself. That if you're for bilateral, you're not nationalistic or patriotic, that's not true. If we don't want to be bullied, we can still stand up and leave. But why close that door when it's a peaceful avenue of settling this dispute? In fact, the compromise can even be set. We can hold a regional meeting here, which paves the way for separate bilateral talks to be done by all the claimant countries. And whatever common denominator they may arrive at, then, we can use that as a regional output or the Manila Declaration in so far as far the West Philippine Sea is concerned.

There are many ways of doing it, actually. Again, just by being conscious that each country has a domestic audience to cater to. And it should not embarrass any country in so far as this issue is concerned, because it is quite a sensitive issue for some countries, like China and the Philippines.

QUESTION: Sometime, the danger of calling the idea of rewriting the Constitution, not only to open the foreign investments specifically. To welcome back the Americans to have a permanent base in the Philippines. Do you agree with this one?

FGE: My mind is not closed with respect to amending the Constitution. I saw in a movie once, I think the title is, "With Honors". In a Harvard School, the students were asked, "what is the wisdome behind the American Constitution?" and their answer was, "the wisdom behind the Constitution is its ability to adapt and to change, it is the humility of its framers, when they said and admitted that they cannot possibly provide for any and all contingencies in the future." That's why all constitutions provide for a way which it can be changed.

That's why Constitutions were mainly written in paper, not in stone, they can be changed, they can be amended .And I'm open it to be amended, for as long as it is in the best interest of our country. With respect to the military bases, I'm actually saddened that we seem to have regressed instead of progressed with respect to the military bases here in our country. With the military base agreement, the United States was paying us. With EDCA, we're not being paid a cent.So instead of gaining more, even by way for example, military aid, I think we ended up with less compared to what we used to have.

Number two, in so far as the economic provision is concerned, I throw the question back at you, you are more in touch with foreign investors. Correct me if, I'm wrong, the number one concern, the top concerns of foreign investors why they are not putting enough investments in the Philippines, is not really so much the ownership restrictions.

The number one reason would be the absence or lack of a stable policy environment, number two reason would be the intervention, quite often by the Supreme Court, with respect to contracts entered into by the government. Number three would be power. Number four would be infrastructure. Number five would be corruption. Somewhere down the road, you'll see ownership restrictions.

But that's not really the major concerns of foreign investors coming into the Philippines. Probably even higher than that would be the number of holidays we have, we have 23 or 24. And compared to other countries, we have 13th Month Pay, we have night shift differential, we have overtime pay. I've talked to the Call Center industry, and you can imagine the burden that they have here compared to other countries that don't have similar number of holidays. Let's just talk holidays for example.

In the United States, the reason why they have a President's Day, they actually combined three separate holidays into one. Here, we have 23 holidays. Let's talk about Rizal Day, Bonifacio Day, Araw ng Kagitingan, they're all of different days. At 24 holidays, you paid double pay. Why'd you pay double pay?

For all of your employees, let's talk about the Call Center industry. That's not for ease and computing, a million earning approximately 20,000 a month. That's approximately 1,000 a day minimum. They work for 22 days in a month. 1,000 a day so you pay double pay. So out of their total salary you have to pay them an additional 22,000. 1,000 a day double pay for each one. Sorry 24,000 or 24 holidays. So that's 24,000 times a million how much is that?

QUESTION: Mahina ako sa music (laughs).

FGE: That's 24.

QUESTION: You're talking to journalists we can't do it, sorry (laughs).

FGE: I'll compute it now. Well I get confused with the zeros you know. I want to be sure about it. Let's see.

QUESTION: Including the Catholic holidays there huh?

FGE: 24 yeah. I even included Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha. P24 billion, so if you cut it by half or join holidays you can actually attract more foreign investors when it comes to BPO Industry. If your internet speed is faster, not second to the Afghanistan as the slowest, perhaps we can do too. If you can provide for exemptions on night differential given that by the nature of their work. They work at night not in the morning, again some adjustments can be made.

I'm not saying that we will do it, all I am saying is these are more important to them. The bottom line, we have one of the highest tax rates in the world. If we can lower that too, that may prove to be a more attractive incentive for them to invest here rather than amending provisions in the Constitution on ownership.

But some provisions actually need to be updated. For example media. CNN is inside my bedroom. I don't even know if a single Filipino owns a share of stock of CNN. But we have a provisionary Constitution that says media should be 100 percent owned. But it is in my bedroom, it penetrates my bedroom every day.

These are some outdated provisions that need to be changed, because who cares if media is 100 percent owned here if media outfits worldwide can actually enter my television set inside my bedroom. Sorry for the long answer.

MODERATOR: Alright yes go ahead.

QUESTION: You mentioned the multilateral approach in asserting our sovereignty and addressing the maritime disputes. How are you going to concretely engage countries like Cambodia? How are you going to convince them to change their stand in the region because countries like Cambodia and some observers are saying that they are stuck in having a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea so far from a multilateral perspective. How are you going to...

FGE: If not now, we should not, I think the basic mistake of this administration is, President Aquino thought or continues to think he can settle it in six years. We should be of the view and opinion that even if takes two or three administrations, for as long as we do not let go of our right and claim our ownership over it, then it's okay.

But do not operate on a framework that we can do it in six years, China existed for thousands of years and they plan for a hundred years. Malaysia and Singapore plan for a hundred years, that's when they construct, for example, an airport. They already try to project tourist arrivals for the next 50 to a hundred years.

They have actual areas for expansion in case they need to. Look at the new airports we constructed. No area for expansion anymore. The new airport in Silay, the new airport in Cagayan de Oro. No room for expansion when it is filled up on its second year of operation. So as long as we are open, we engage. I am of the firm belief that it will come. For as long as we don't let go of it and I think we should begin by referring to it as the West Philippine Sea.

And for example, when we went to The Hague, instead of uniting claimant countries, the Philippines did not even consult the other claimant countries. That is why I saw the situation wherein some other claimant countries have actually spoken against the case we filed in The Hague. Similar because they were not consulted. And if you win in that case, then they'll lose their right. They're almost like China. So if we have done it, via engaging our neighbors, other claimant countries. Perhaps, we have a better chance of achieving a consensus.

But the Philippines went straight, without even asking other claimant countries. We didn't even ask other claimant countries to join them, join us rather. So I think it's the question of approach. The new administration would have a better chance in doing it even it will be more inclusive. With respect to what we intend to do in the West Philippine Sea issue.

QUESTION: So how do you ensure now that sustainability of the single approach given that historically, the main problem of changing administration is basically changing policies also that even includes the South China Sea?

FGE: Well hopefully in the next administration, a tandem will win. We haven't had a tandem since Gloria and Noli. I am even doubtful if Gloria actually won in that election in 2004. But there have been actually no tandem, president and vice president, elected. Hopefully. If this election gives us a tandem, then we have a better shot at a having a continuous policy.

Not only with the respect of the West Philippine Sea, but other programs and projects as well. Not limited to six years, hopefully for 12 years. President Aquino is trying to do that by making his running mate in 2010, win in this election. But I think that's complete, there's complete dissonance there. In so far as providing continuity through his losing vice presidential candidate in the last elections.


QUESTION: There's criticism that, associated claims, there is some criticism on the platform of president, of Senator Poe. Some critics are saying you're big on promises but low on details. Like how do you plan to implement all the promise infrastructure, free education, lower taxes. Where will you get the funds?

FGE: I can actually answer it right now. Free education only cost P12.4-B. So it begs the question why is government not spending for it? That is ... of 1% of the total budget. The total subsidy to State Universities and Colleges is P47-B. All you have to do is add P12.4-B and tuition fee will be free in all State Universities and Colleges nationwide.

Number two, on Tax Relief, if we pass the Tax Relief Law, which Noynoy refused to pass. The president refused to pass. It meant government losing P30-B. That is P30-B back into the economy, back into the pockets of our people. Which I doubt if they hide under their bed. They'll spend it anyway and each time they spend it, we get 12%. So the actual net lost will only be approximately P18-B, not 30 at 12% VAT.

Number three, on lowering of Income Tax. Our own Department of Finance headed by Secretary Purisima, in fact has an even loftier plan and I saw that plan, that study. In fact in six to eight years, they want to exempt every Filipino earning less than a million pesos a year. The plan is to expand the base and to make BIR concentrate on the large tax payers who actually pay 2/3 of total tax collections of this government.

Instead of you know, focusing their efforts and attention and time on the smaller taxpayers, who at the end of the day, have no savings anyway and will spend it to make the economy grow. Even if the economy grows and they generate jobs, then they get income tax along the way. Their view is also to reduce income taxes from 6-8 years, to the range of about 21-24 percent so that we will be more competitive with our ASEAN and Asian neighbors.

The savings of the government since 2011, is pegged that is 723 billion, that P723 billion which was not spent by the government for the past five years. So if you're talking of fiscal space, we have fiscal space. We're in a situation where we have fiscal space and at the end of the day, I think you know better how to spend your money instead of government spending it for you.

Baka may mangumisyon pa? So, if you're talking how to spend it in infrastructure? We set 300 billion for agriculture, we set a hundred billion for OFWs, we set 600 billion for Social Services, we set a trillion pesos for Mindanao. As former Finance Committee chair of the Senate, we have studied the figures and we did all the pencil pushing behind these proposals.

For example, the Department of Public Works has allocated about 400 billion to construct highways and bridges and yet they allocated only 7 billion for farm to market roads. We are still on the way towards 5 percent GDP spending on infrastructure but we should simply shift to farm to market roads instead of simply highways and bridges. The gap is simply too wide, 7 billion for farm to market roads as against 400 billion to highways and bridges?

We intent to pave all to farm to market roads in four years, the same GDP infrastructure spending would remain but we will skew it in favor of farm to market roads. If we do that, according to NEDA, we will be able to increase the income of farmers. If it's a port to market road, even fishermen, by 7-8 percent. At 28,000 kilometers of farm to market roads, 10 million per kilometer, 7 billion a year, with this government spending for the past five years, it will take us 40 years to achieve that goal.

But spending 90 billion of the 300 billion allocated for the agriculture, for farm or port to market roads, we can finish it in less than four years. Thereby, increase in the income of the poorest of the poor, 60 percent of which rely on agriculture and hopefully, have a better shot at making our growth more inclusive than this administration ever achieved in the past five years.

QUESTION: There are rumors that you are having some conflict on the campaign funds with the husband of Senator Poe?

FGE: That's not true. That's only from the column of Tulfo and no one else. You know it's quite funny, of all the tandems, Senator Grace and I and even Susan Roces, we're tightly-knit compared to other candidates. Roxas and Robredo just recently met. Duterte and Cayetano, are new friends, newfound friends. Binay and Honasan were in opposing poles for the past for so many decades. Miriam and Marcos, I don't even know how they met.

Senator Grace and I we've been together for the past 10 years, fought many battles, won some, lost some. Even before Senator Grace entered government when I was the spokesperson of her father, so all of these intrigues are useless and unfounded because of all the tandems, we have the best shot and chance of overcoming any difficulty and intrigue, any attempt trying to destroy our relationship either before the elections, during this campaign, or even after the elections.

QUESTION: Of course you know, that it may happen that one of you might be elected, one of you might not be.

FGE: In which case, the other will continue to help the other. Again, more than our relationship in politics, we're friends. Ninong ako ng anak ni Senator Grace, ninang siya ng anak ko, even before she entered politics. So, I think the relationship goes with whatever outcome this election may have, whether she wins and I lose, I win and she lose, or we both win or we both lose it will stand it has to with this election.

QUESTION: Is it in the works if you and Senator Poe win, is it in the works that you have to amend the Constitution for whatever reason you may have now?

FGE: According to her she's open to it, I'm open to it too. But if at all it will be done, it should be done in the first half on the next presidents term. It cannot be done in the latter half of the next president's term, but we have yet to see concrete proposals. The most concrete proposal we've seen, is proposal of Speaker Belmonte, which simply adds the phrase as may be provided for by law in all the ownership restrictions in the Constitution thereby giving it to the Congress to decide. I'll throw the question back at you, do you really want that? Do you really want the Congress to be the one to decide?

QUESTION: One question that I like to throw, if the Constitution is to be amended how are you responsive to the idea that a tandem has to be elected as a tandem not separately?

FGE: Very much like in the United States. You only vote for the president and not the for the vice president. I think it would be difficult to achieve in the Philippines especially given the fact that we have given the voter the power, right and the ability to choose the vice president. It would be very difficult to take that away from him. However genuinely motivated we may be in wanting a tandem. I think it would be difficult to take away what is given already to the Filipino voter for the past so many decades.

QUESTION: Do you have any opinion or to say about the history of Marcos' corruption?

FGE: I do and have said it. But not during the campaign perhaps. I said it in for example in the debate last night. Instead of criticizing him, as a Senator I passed three laws. The Anti-Torture law, the Anti-Enforced Involuntary Disappearance Act and the Marcos Human Rights Compensation Bill. Instead of simply criticizing him, playing lip service, by attacking him during this campaign, which is not my style, I simply did my work and passed this three laws to avoid a similar occurrence from happening in the future of our country even if Martial Law will be declared.

Actually under the Constitution, Martial Law is a toothless tiger, it's close to meaningless short of giving the president the ability to call on the Armed Forces of the Philippines to suppress lawless violence. The privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus will no longer be suspended, can only be suspended or lifted for a period of 90 days and the Congress can revoke that. The operation of courts will continue in spite and despite the Martial Law unlike in the previous experience we had during Marcos time.

QUESTION: So in other words without putting out the negative effect of Martial Law, you made the statement with those three bills.

FGE: I think action speaks louder than words. Talk is cheap when it comes to attacking especially during the campaign period a fellow candidate. Besides you know I was saddened by the statement of President Aquino during the celebration of EDSA, when he chose that occasion to attack Senator Marcos. Why? Is he of the opinion that EDSA is about their two families?

It just so happens that Aquinos were benefitted by EDSA and Marcoses got hurt by EDSA. But quite frankly, EDSA was never about those two families. It should never be about them. It's never about them. It was about the Filipino people shouting with one voice that we've had enough and we want change.

In fact, none of the two families were even at EDSA during the peak of the revolution. So why should it be about them? And isn't it sad that after 30 years from EDSA these two families are still bickering, when quite frankly nothing will change with respect to their lives whether they win or lose in these election. Their grand children's children will not be poor even if Bongbong loses this election. The grandchildren of President Aquino's grandchildren will also not go hungry. Whatever happens in this election. On the other hand, a lot of Filipino families can actually go hungry and become poor if we make a mistake in choosing our countries next leaders.

MODERATOR: Okay Jerome, Reuters. Go ahead please?

QUESTION: This administration is very crucial in terms of attaining our personal status, aspirations by 2030 and looking forward. So you mentioned these figures that you've had. For one year for the entire term, and how will you ensure that this will continue. The economic segment?

FGE: Actually it's more or it's based more in percentages. On the first year 30% for Mindanao, continuously, 10% for agriculture and 20% for social services. I don't think any administration has ever planned the budget that way. They simply allocate and appropriate funds depending on the interests that are present when they were writing the budget. And just simply total it in the end. I think from the beginning the percentages should be clear in our mind in order for priorities to actually be set.

They are doing it on the reverse. They are doing it, they are doing it on agency by agency basis and then they are trying to justify and then come up with the total later. We want to do it by the reverse, 10% for the agriculture, 20% social services, for the first year, 30% for Mindanao. As a beginning proposition with respect to how the budget can be handled. I mentioned figures, not because these are empty promises.

Because there is a saying in English "put your money where your mouth is". You can't have a program for something, if you are not putting money into it. You can't be sincere and genuine with respect to what you intend to do if you do not know where to get the money and how much is actually pouring into that particular plan of yours.

I am of the firm belief that the budget should be used as a tool of the government to achieve its goals. In fact, there was one definition of governance I read in a book. Governance is about allocating scarce resources of government. If you are able to allocate scarce resources properly, then you would have govern properly as well by prioritizing the most vulnerable sector in any country or in any society.

QUESTION: This administration has been promising (inaudible) even the GDP growth we have seen at 6 or 7% with this large budget that you are promising, what are the assumptions for growth for the Poe Administration?

FGE: We're operating on a budget at P3 trillion. That is why when we said 10% for agriculture, it's pegged at three trillion, that's why we said 300 billion. And the budget always grows on a yearly basis anywhere between 3 to 5%. Given the growth of our economy.

Those are the assumptions that we are making, but to be frank about it you know, we have to be thankful to our OFWs and BPO Industry. Because to a large extent they are the reason why we are where we are. It is not so much President Aquino. It is not so much the best Finance secretary in Asia or Europe or the world, Secretary Purisima.

Without our OFWs, without the BPO Industry, even if they were the smartest presidents and Finance secretaries there are, they simple cannot hack it and cannot do it. We have been insulated from economic shocks in the world principally because of this particular phenomenon. For the first time our BPO remittances and OFWs remittances always equal, almost equal rather our foreign debt. That's why we have been insulated, that is why we can borrow at very low rates. That is why our credit rating has been going up. Because our source of foreign currency has been continuing and it has been the source of strength for our country.

Which now begs the question, what have we done for them? I mentioned earlier the BPO Industry, if you compute total of OFW remittances I think the latest figure is $28.4-B. That is approximately P1.3-T a year. Question, what have we given back to our OFWs? I'll give you an example, 200 million in legal assistance funds, 50 million in repatriation funds.

OWWA is paid for by OFWs, POEA has a budget of about 40 million. So all in all, it's not even a billion. Out of 1.3 trillion that they send? On VAT alone, we're getting over 140, 150 billion from the money they're sending. Not to mention of income of banks from fees, so how much are we giving back? That's why what we're saying we're trying to endue earmarking.

If we're getting approximately 140 billion in taxes from all of the OFW remittances, by way of spending here by their families and relatives, then, that's why I said yesterday, we want to set up a 100 billion fund to provide for the portability of PhilHealth. Meaning, they can actually use PhilHealth wherever they may be in the world.

Number two, in order to set up a pension fund for them, a startup capital and setting aside part of what they pay OWWA, out of 25 dollars, probably, 5 or 10 dollars, so that it will not be an additional burden for them, so they will actually have a pension that will take care of them when they get older.

Number three, we would like to put a Legal Assistance Fund and increase in the number of embassy officials we have abroad. In Saudi Arabia, the ratio is approximately one is to 10,000 Filipinos. How can one embassy or consulate official take care of the needs of 10,000 Filipinos? Especially given the wide expanse of the territory of Saudi Arabia, we have three offices there, but how can a Filipino travel for about eight to 12 hours to go to the Embassy, leave work, and ask for help and return?

It's simply not feasible. We have to give back more to our OFWs, they deserve it. And why can't it be a policy of a government to make all Filipinos with illegal papers abroad, legal? Isn't that our lookout? To make all illegal migrant workers abroad, wherever they may be, to provide them legal assistance to make their stay there legal?

Instead of them fending for themselves. Why can't we, for example, enter into a prisoner exchange treaty with other countries? If you remember the Spanish national who was accused of murder and rape in Cebu? You know Spain actually pushed for a treaty to enter between Philippines and Spain. Because of that one single national, so that the Spanish national can serve his sentence in Spain instead of here?

How many Filipinos do we have abroad were incarcerated? According to some figures I've seen, it was between 10 to 18,000. If a Filipino is convicted, to serve a sentence for example, 20 or 30 years in jail, his family here who's presumably poor, his wife, his children, you think they can actually go there to visit him?

For the next 20 years while he's in jail? Once he's released after 30 years, he'll come back even if they see each other in the street, meet each other, they might not even able to recognize each other, after 30 years. Why can't we even do that for them? Now, whether we succeed or not in getting that treaty approved or ratified by the other country, well, still, it will be nice for government to even think about it, pursue it, try to do it, try to achieve it.

Because what's wrong with it? In fact, we will be able to help that country declog or decongest their jail system and we will be able to bring the OFWs closer to his family while serving, whatever sentence he should serve for a crime he committed in that foreign land.

Sorry, for I'm a bit faster because it is so, the injustice is quite plain and I was once the Finance Committee chair that put 200 million as the Legal Assistance Fund is still not enough. But that was all they could give me. The original amount raised there was only 10 million, what can you do with 10 million with all of these cases? In fact they will enter into the picture once the Filipino is convicted to either life or imprisonment or death.

But before that, let them get their lawyers, that's the policy of the Philippine government. But we owe them so much, and yet, we're not doing enough for them. Seaman's Book they have to renew every year, if you make three years, five years, you do not fall in line every year. Let them fall in line once every five years if you want.

Why do they have to fall in line in the airport to get a refund, for the terminal fee for which they are exempted for, that we exempted them from already after paying for their tickets? There must be a way. If only to bring back to them what they have been giving to our country. Sorry, if it's a bit off to your question.

QUESTION: Just to go back to go back. It was a good six year growth. Are you promising or targeting to accelerate that, to continue that?

FGE: It's always a plan to accelerate, of course. At the very least continue. Anyone running for president will tell you that. Because that's the dream sequence of any sitting president, of any country, of any people to actually continue the trajectory of the growth of our country. And we have a good shot of doing it. Again, because of the BPO and OFW remittances. Our economy is bulletproof from whatever shocks other countries may be suffering from abroad right now.

MODERATOR: Simon, go ahead.

QUESTION: Sir you might know that this week people who went to the COP 21 meeting will be signing that agreement officially to keep global warming to stand down to 1.5 percent, 1.5 degree celsius. What do you think the Philippines, under a Poe-Escudero Administration, can do to help lower the global temperature? And what kind of impact do you think we can have in terms of fighting off the effects of Climate Change with these strong storms that we're having, the drought that is being experienced right now with El Niño?

FGE: Question, sorry I'm not that updated with respect to that, is China signing?

QUESTION: Good question. I think

FGE: Is the United States signing?

QUESTION: The US is leaning towards signing it.

FGE: I turned the question because Global Warming is the outcome or result of carbon emissions among others. And China is Number 1 I think, or the US is Number 1, at 26 or 24 percent, the United States is number 2 or number 1 at 26 or 23 percent. The Philippines is at .03 percent, and we have one of the best energy mixes in the world, by way of renewables in one hand which includes geothermal and hydro and coal. In fact we have wind, solar, underwater current, hydro, geothermal and coal.

We have one of the best energy mixes in the world compared to any other country, we have been doing enough even at the expense of paying a higher cost for electricity. Because by far, wind is more expensive than coal. By far, solar is more expensive than coal. The same is true for geothermal and yet were at it, and we are pushing for it.

We passed the Renewable Energy Act and we might be extending the incentives if only to push for it. Even if we were paying the price for it, all of us. Because the wind power in Ilocos, the F.I.T. for that is being passed on pro-rata to all of us. So we're paying more expensive power because of these renewables. We are already at it, it's a matter of continuing it and hopefully the technology will be able to catch up and the prizes will begin to go down.

But compared to other countries in the world by ratio and proportion given the amount of energy who are utilizing or spending, we're good compared to where they are. In fact I was, forgive me, a bit offended by Gore's visit, trying to give us a sermon about what we should do. We're there already, it's his country that's not there. If at all, he should deliver the sermons, he should deliver it there in his country. Not here, because we are a bit ahead of them when it comes to having a rich energy mix, with a good balance of renewables.

MODERATOR: Simon do you have a followup or another question? Okay. Melo? The late comer (laughs).

QUESTION: My question has something to do with your thoughts about foreign relations. How do you think will the Poe-Escudero Administration deal with China, and Malaysia in Sabah claim?

FGE: The first one, we discussed the first one earlier, we will engage China. Not only a legal and multi-lateral, regional level. Bilateral and backchannel would be open options as well because these are equally peaceful ways of settling the dispute. We will not hold the thought that this administration seems to hold that they can settle the issue in six years.

Even if we don't settle it in six years for as long as we pave the way for it to be settled, eased the tensions, and not let go of our right and claim over the West Philippine Sea, we will have no illusions of being able to settle this claim in six years time or even in 12 years time. I think that's the basic mistake this administration committed with respect to the West Philippine Sea.

They thought or they were of the idea that they can actually finish this within their term. No such thing will happen I believe. Third we will continue to engage China with respect to the other levels of engagement: culture, multilateral, economic, educational, even political, outside of the West Philippine Sea issue because we have a lot more in common with the Chinese people than the Americans actually. And as I said earlier too, using Asian methods ways and means rather than Western, I think we can arrive at amicable settlement. Or if not, a process by which it can be achieved, if not in the next six years and the next decade or so.

On Malaysia and Sabah, that is a ticklish issue. So many things have to be unwound before we can actually even reach that particular issue. At this juncture, the next administration, what I think they should focus on, would be the undocumented Filipinos in Sabah. We should enter to an agreement with China, with Malaysia rather, with respect to these people. They should start putting an office in Tawi-Tawi in order to all of these undocumented Filipinos may be processed and may be given a nationality.

Because until and unless they have a nationality, they remain stateless. They cannot enjoy the benefits of any social security or service either in Malaysia or here in the Philippines. We have a good chance of doing it. The current speaker of Malaysia is from Sabah. In fact he grew up in Iligan, he's a personal friend of mine. He grew up in Iligan, he left Iligan, and in fact he's been to Iligan I think for the past five years about 15-20 times incognito because he has a lot of relatives there. So I am of the firm believe that let's settle the human problem first and then we slowly approach it without affecting our relationship with Malaysia and find the best way to achieve this goal of either clarifying who actually owns Sabah. Because it's a very ticklish issue really, complicated legal issue, from the way I understand it, I try to simplify it.

The Sultanate of Sulu was given Sabah because the Sultan of Brunei was saved by the Sultanate of Sulu from a coup de etat or a revolution. In the transition, the Republic of the Philippines was created and the Malaysian Federation was created. A British company which pro-anteceded the Malaysian Federation was paying rent to the Sultanate of the Sulu. And when the Malaysian Federation came into being, they continued paying the rent.

Question, what's the legal status with respect to the ownership of the Sultanate of Sulu of that island and our country? Because isn't it possible that you own a piece of property in the United States and simply because you're a Filipino that's not parcel and automatically become part of the Philippines? At some point in time the Sultanate of the Sulu seeded it to the government, in a document that I have yet to see, actually what I am advocating is for someone to file a case in the Philippines.

To settle it via the Philippine Supreme Court, if it is the part of the Philippines or not. If it is part of our state or not, and let the Supreme Court decide, at least we have a legal document containing all the evidence that there may be. If at all to file a claim or to fight for it at some point in time, it may or it may not be binding, actually for short it's not binding for Malaysia, but at least we have now a repository of everything that we know of about this claim.

Instead of it being forgotten in time, because the errs are many and varied and fighting with each other, so at the end of the day, I think that's the best course of action to take, you have to be very sensitive about this too. Given our not so bad relations with Malaysia. We're good with Malaysia and I don't want whatever our ties with Malaysia to be affected by a fishing expedition.

QUESTION: You've never entertained thoughts of serving as DFA secretary on the next administration.

FGE: When I get older probably. So that all I get to do is travel and rub elbows with kings, and queens, and presidents. But no, not in my, before you arrived I was saying I will try not to nosebled with my English because I'm more used to using the Filipino language. And you will make it even more difficult for me if that's the job you'll give me, if at all. And it will take time away from my beautiful and young wife and my young kids, too, so, no. No thank you.

QUESTION: Have you ever entertained thoughts that you'll be serving vice president to somebody else other than Grace Poe?

FGE: That is always a possibility. But that's a possibility I will confront after the elections, not before. You have to understand, I have a running mate. I'm like a race horse, I have blinders on the side. I'm only looking at Sen. Grace Poe as my tandem, running mate and president.

QUESTION: Why is it that it's more difficult for us to see you campaigning together?

FGE: Only recently, actually. Because based on surveys we have different areas to attend to. She's strong in different areas, where I'm strong. I'm weak in different areas where she's weak. But then again, again why put us on the frontline? I think in the entire campaign, Sen. Marcos and Sen. Miriam were together only on three occasions.

Well, with the exception of Sen. Cayetano and Mayor Duterte, well they're always together. With the exception of the two candidates, I think most of the other tandems campaign separately, even Vice President Binay and Sen. Honasan, more so Leni and Mar. They're really campaigning separately. For the past, it was only in the past week that we started shifting. For two reasons, as I've said. Her weak and strong areas are different from mine. And number two, we get to cover more areas within a shorter period of time since she carries my candidacy wherever she goes anyway, and I carry her candidacy wherever I go.

QUESTION: There's no legal impediment in Senator Grace's husband running the show as (inaudible) he's not a Filipino citizen?

FGE: Actually, he's a dual citizen. Actually, he's a natural-born dual-citizen. Talo pa nga niya si Grace.

QUESTION: Going back to that possibility that under a Poe Administration, you don't want to be a spare tire, and what activity, what role are you, of course the final decision will be up to President Poe but what is your inclination to be active in that administration?

FGE: Anything, actually, that she will give me because I'll do the same thing. I will report for work early because I really wake up early unlike the others. Number two, I will finish the job at hand. Put the best interests of the majority first and I will not steal from that agency.

Take for example Housing. That's why the vice president has always been called a spare tire because they have always been assigned the Housing sector, right? But no agency is too small. I'm not applying but I'm just using it as an example. Singapore, Hong Kong, built its economy behind a strong Housing Program when they were starting. So it's not an agency to trifle with, really.

In Metro Manila, 3,000 hectares, would you believe? 3,000 hectares are occupied by informal settlers. By simply adapting a simple policy, onsite, semi-high rise, four-storey, we will be able to relieve the congestion of Metro Manila to the tune of 2,200 hectares. Because informal settlers live horizontally. So if I do four storeys, and I do vertical, I will be able to get back three-fourths of the land either for roads, open spaces, or new development. It's not something to laugh about or trifle with a thing that is small. By improving the quality of life of our people living in slums, we will be able to help even in the maintenance of peace and order.

As they say, "if a person lives in a pigsty, in a pigpen rather, he will act like a pig. If a person lives like a rat, he will act like a rat. But if a person lives in a house, in a home, he will act like a person". GK has proven that. So it's not a small agency to really look down upon in so far as a potential job even for a vice president is concerned. It's only that, perhaps our past vice presidents haven't really paid that much attention.

Because at the end of the day, Housing is not about cement, it's not about steel bars, it's not about roofing materials. It's about financing. If we can reduce the monthly amortization of informal settlers to anywhere between 300-500, we would be able to give a roof and a house to live in to about 90% of Filipinos who don't have houses. If we can achieve P300 a month, then a 100% of Filipinos without any home can be given actually a home and a roof to live in.

QUESTION: You know, secretly I think that something that will drive you will be the housing industry.

FGE: No, I just want to be a builder, that's all. I don't want to be a pharaoh or anything. I just want to be a builder.

QUESTION: I remember that somebody told us before the housing industry is the mother of all industries. Because in one house, you will see the industry is there. Lumber, everything is there in a house. That's why they call it the mother of all industries. And you know who told me that? Your father, once upon a time when we were talking in a forum.

FGE: Well because there was a plan of government before that each town or each province will, if you really go aggressively on housing, will take care of a particular aspect of a house. Hinges, doors, window panels, cabinets, tables. It's actually an industry often by itself which we have the capacity and the knowhow to do.

QUESTION: Relations with Japan, I think, one of the remaining issues is the Comfort Women. I'd like to ask your position on that and will you, the government has already, we signed about, this will no longer be an issue within Japanese and Philippine governments but Comfort Women groups are still demanding an official public apology from Japan. If ever you and Sen. Poe win, would they be able to get support from you, sir?

FGE: Question, what's the latest position of the Japanese government in this? Last time, if I recall correctly, statements have been issued along the lines of an apology but not directly and reparation has been offered, too, correct me if I'm wrong. And the groups supporting the Comfort Women are asking for?

QUESTION: They don't regard it as official government apology, those that have been issued and the Asian Women's Fund payment in the 1990s are just atonement and not just compensation for it.

FGE: If you ask me, we should continue to engage Japan on this issue, bearing in mind that any apology that's forced is not a real apology. It should come from the heart, voluntarily and willingly. And I think through engagement that can be achieved. Again, if not today, in the course of time. Very much like the rest of the Philippines issue, Japan has its own domestic audience to cater to and we have to understand that, too.

But that does not mean we will not let go of the rights and interests of our people who were oppressed during the occupation by Japan on the Philippines in World War II. Only that time is of the essence because most of them are quite advanced in age. Hopefully we would be able to achieve it and they would be able to see the day before it's too late.

QUESTION: Comfort Women groups, sir, are disappointed in the Aquino Administration that not of our leaders spoke to the Japanese government to raise this issue during his term. During your term, would you be brave enough to bring this up with any Japanese official?

FGE: It's not a question of courage. As Cinderella said, have courage and be kind. So, hindi ko pangarap maging Cinderella. Pero I think we should be kind to the victims of this issue. But at the same time, have the courage to bring it up and as I said, engage, I'd rather use the word engage, our neighboring countries, with respect to whatever issue that's along the lines we're fighting for the interests of our people.

I think all of their basic complaints, I talked to them too, government didn't even give them an ear to actually listen to what exactly they want and so that government can serve as a bridge to bring forth their concerns, complaints and what they want, to the Japanese government. I don't see anything wrong with that and that I don't even think the Japanese government should be offended in any way if a country is fighting for its own nationals and bring it on the table. Either through a backchannel or informal talks.

QUESTION: South Korea did that.

FGE: Exactly.

MODERATOR: Time is fleeting and we have to take last two questions, Jim?

QUESTION: Nearly 50 years after the insurgencies, all kinds of insurgencies sprouted in the 70s, late 60s, and five or almost six presidents after, the insurgents are still there and all their guns and they're still in the mountains. The question is, how will a Poe-Escudero leadership address the insurgency problem? What's the policy and related to that, what will you do the four or five groups now, like the Abu Sayyaf, that cannot be brought into the peace process framework?

FGE: We have to distinguish between rebel groups or so-called freedom fighters and terrorists. I would classify the Abu Sayyaf or any IS affiliated groups as terrorists. We do not talk and we should not negotiate with them. We should simply pursue them and if they put up a fight, eliminate them.

In so far as the MILF, MNLF, NPA, we should open talks with these groups. I think talks with them with the CPP-NPA-NDF were suspended because of some problems with the safe-conduct pass of some negotiators. We will address that issue and we will open and resume talks with the CPP-NPA-NDF. However, having said that, we should also address more specifically, the root cause of the problem, the root of criminality, the root of rebellion in the country, which is poverty. At the end of the day, it's poverty. Someone theorized that the best counter-insurgency tool is a road, not a gun, not bullets, not a bomb, but a road.

Lives will be improved, wallets being constrained and they will be given wages and when it's completed, goods will be cheaper to and from. And if anyone creates trouble there, it's faster to send our law enforcement troops there, so a road. We want to address the root of the problem. That's why we're spending 20% on social services, because for as long as there is a father who cannot feed his family three times a day, for as long as there are parents who cannot ensure the education of their children until college, for as long as there is a Filipino family that cannot ensure that they can actually overcome or cure whatever ailment their loved one is suffering from, sabi nga sa Tagalog, palaging may kakapit sa patalim.

Someone will always be forced to go to the extreme, commit a crime, or go up into the mountains. The strategy has to be two-pronged, it cannot be singular. You have to engage them, talk to them, and follow the peaceful process of arriving onto an amicable settlement of whatever issues they are fighting for.

But on the other hand, we should also address the basic root of the problem, poverty in those areas. Because until and unless you address the root cause of the problem, there will always be rebels and criminals that will be born in the decades to come. Parang damo lang iyon, kapag pinutol mo lang tutubo ulit, dapat bunutin mo, hindi ba? Parang weeds, bunutin mo para yung damo hindi na tumubong muli.

QUESTION: Specifically on the BBL, will you just support a redraft of the BBL or just a re-file of the BBL?

FGE: It will not be a re-file. We have to go through the process of making the consultation and drafting of the BBL inclusive. So that it will enjoy more support compared to what you saw under this administration. Number two, we will make sure that it is compliant with the Constitution. Hindi ko alam, sorry, I think OPAPP suffered from a variation of the Stockholm Syndrome. They were more rabid, with respect to the provisions they inserted than the MILF.

I'm perplexed by that. We had direct discussions with the MILF, some provisions it was okay with them for us to remove it. But OPAPP was the one who was adamant, who didn't want any change in the BBL. As if to think that they own all knowledge and good intention with respect to the BBL. When quite frankly, they omitted a lot of things. They didn't take care of a lot of things that they didn't study that hard.

I'll give a shallow example. Under the proposed BBL of OPAPP, all State Universities and Colleges will just have one representative from the Bangsamoro Parliament. Sounds good, why not? Who will complain? I asked the CHED, "Is it not true that all boards of all State Universities and Colleges, the members, if you total the members, it's always an odd number, never even, to avoid the possibility of a hung board." So I asked CHED, "If you add one member from the BBL, then it will now be an even number. Were you even consulted?" They said, "No, sir. Actually, sir, you have a point. You're right."

OPAPP said, "we didn't think about that." And then they immediately say, "So sir, I think we should make it two members, from the Bangsamoro Parliament." I said, "I have no problem with that. My problem is, clearly, you didn't do your homework. You didn't do the due diligence. You're just making it up as you go along. That's the outcome and output if you didn't consult all of the agencies concerned."

We asked BIR, BBL said all internal revenue will be collected and given to the BBL, Bangsamoro Government. BIR protested, Kim Henares protested, Sec. Purisima protested in our hearing and said, "We should collect it first and if you want we can turn it over to them so that we can get the entire revenue picture of the country. How can you carve out an area of the country revenue-wise and they'll be the ones to report to us? No way." Some shallow examples to show and prove that the current BBL as worded and written, is simply not acceptable.

QUESTION: What is the significance of this particular election? Why is it important?

FGE: Each election is important because in each election, in every country in the world, Filipinos and voters are always at the crossroads as to whether or not what direction, not whether or not, as to what direction our country will take in the next six years. I don't think we're at the stage that government policies and programs are immune from who the sitting president is. I dream of the day that it would. But we're not yet there.

So hopefully, the next president will not be vindictive, hopefully the next president will work towards uniting the country, hopefully the next president will be open to working with everyone and not simply with one side. We have the yellow who think that they own all knowledge and good intention at sila lang yung tuwid. And if you're not a member of the LP, you're no longer straight which is a misnomer and wrong to begin with.

And then you have the reds who, they haven't even won yet, are facing stiff and tough resistance already and it will continue if they become victorious. I think at some point in time our people should realize that the last thing we want is a renewed battle between the yellow and the red. The last thing we want is for whatever bickerings or bad vibes during the campaign will be exported after the campaign.

Hopefully our voters will decide along those lines. The last thing we want, really, is to keep on fighting over political issues instead of simply focusing on the economy. Other countries are focused on one thing only, the economy, and not political positionings of the respective candidates they may have in the next elections. There is a time for that, but after the elections is not the time for it. Hopefully, that's what our people will see. Hopefully, that's the direction our people would want to take.

MODERATOR: Thank you, just a line to finish this program. Thank you very much. Simon, go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you very much for visiting us again with your busy schedule and in these final weeks before the election. Thanks so much for your insights and the election analysis, too, that you shared with us. It is very helpful, thank you.

FGE: Mano-nosebled na ako, kaunti na lang.

MODERATOR: Senator, I think the big question is when will Grace Poe sit with us before May 9?

QUESTION: We need to have her.

FGE: I think that's the best evidence that the rumors are not true.

QUESTION: That what?

FGE: That I actually dictate on everything she says with us. I think that's the best evidence. Because if you ask me, my answer would be yes. And the only reason why it's only now that I attended because apparently I got the impression that the only time I can attend this is if she's with me. Or if my wife is with me.

I got that impression, too. I've always relished and cherished the opportunity to engage for one simple reason, we're not hiding anything anyway. And if we do not know the answer to the question or to a question then that's why I asked some inputs first before I answered some questions. You we're saying, sorry?

QUESTION: Can we ask your help to ask if they will come

FGE: I told her already that she should.

QUESTION: (inaudible) told us they're looking for a date na, before May 9.

FGE: She should. I'm of the firm belief that she should, especially during the last days of the campaign, she should go airborne. Meaning through media, print, radio, internet, TV. That's the way to reach the voters.

MODERATOR: Thank you very much.

FGE: Thank you, gentlemen and ladies.

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