Press Release
May 30, 2016

Interview with Senator Juan Edgardo 'Sonny' Angara

DATE: May 30, 2016
HOST: Karen Davila

DAVILA: On Hotcopy this morning with the new administration coming in, a changing of the guards is expected in the Senate leadership. Senator Sonny Angara, a member of the Joint Canvassing Committee, now joins us in the studio, live, Good Morning to you Senator Sonny Angara.

SJEA: Good Morning Karen, thank you for having me.

DAVILA: Alright, my first question of course is first you as a member of the National Board of Canvassers. There have been many questions when it comes to canvassing. The camp of Senator Bongbong Marcos has manifested many times their disagreement with some of the Municipal of Provincial COCs that were read. Tell us what are the limitations and the responsibilities, only that you can cover.

SJEA: Well, the camp of the Senator Marcos would often after the results for read out, they would say, the under vote for so and so maybe. For Lanao, for Misamis, for Quezon province is so and so. Meaning, the number of people who didn't vote for Vice President. It seemed to me that they were laying the predicate for maybe a presidential protest in the Presidential Electoral Tribunal. Because they probably know as a the Joint Canvassing Committee has a limited jurisdiction and it can only look at the Certificates of Canvass, meaning the total of the votes for a province, for a city.

There are 166 Certificate of Canvass and for the different provinces. And we compare the electronic with the manually transmitted, there are two. Meaning, the VCM from the provinces itself will send it as soon as they close the precinct or the canvassing.

DAVILA: So, it's not the precinct, you are not looking at the precinct elections returns.

SJEA: No, the precinct sends it to the province and then province will send it to, or the precinct sends it to the municipality or city first and then they send it to the COMELEC.

DAVILA: So, what are you comparing the electronically sent?

SJEA: It's the one sent by the provinces and the cities, and the posts abroad for the absentee voting. In total there's about 165 or 166.

DAVILA: Now, did they match?

SJEA: Most of them matched. There was a problem in about maybe 8 provinces because in these provinces some machines didn't work or they transmitted too early. In those cases we call the Board of Elections inspectors. There are three, so we call them -- the Chairman, and they would tell us what happen and they explained. Then we accepted their explanations.

DAVILA: So, what did you do if didn't match? You took which one?

SJEA: They would tell us which is the accurate one. Because sometimes they transmitted and in some cases they still had the results in testing of the VCM machines.

DAVILA: Okay now what happens for example an article came out today. I'd like to quote (TV recording problem) transferred to Leni Robredo and also other candidates allegedly transferred to other presidential candidates. What do you do with the situation like this?

SJEA: I haven't read that article Karen, but again that's probably best for a electoral protest if ever. That's his right and under the law and of course that's very time consuming and if ever it's also expensive. I think if you ask people who filed electoral protest in the past. Senator Santiago, Senator Legarda, they would probably tell you that it's a painful process and time consuming because then it's like a normal court case. There's no urgency.

DAVILA: Now, we've witnessed in 2004, when GMA was proclaimed over FPJ amidst many questions on the COC although that was manual, and Senator Kiko Pangilinan then was vilified as Mr. Noted. And yet, few understood the limitations of the National Board of Canvassers. Would you change or should we change anything with the responsibilities of the NBOC?

SJEA: No, I think it's a proper jurisdiction set out, it's in the constitution. And you can't have lengthy debates, you can't resort to the ballot boxes because it would take too long. And then you have a power vacuum come June 30, that for me is more disturbing than any other electoral allegation. So, I think the current scheme is probably, there's a reason for it, you know, there's a reason why, you have to have elected official because by June 30.

DAVILA: But how do you the describe situation of incoming Vice President Leni Robredo wherein she is the winner and yet you have questions from the supporters and those who voted for Senator Bongbong Marcos. I've always said that it also hurts Leni Robredo in a way when you have very polarizing proclamation and then you sit as Vice President and you have certain group of the country saying you didn't win.

SJEA: This is probably the closest margin in a race for the top 2 positions. 263-Thousand, it is not even 1% of the total votes cast. So, you understand that ganun talaga, you understand where they are coming from. The situation that has yet to cool down. So, there's are a lot of heated emotions on both sides I think. Of course, more on the losing side. But we saw it in the case of President Ramos and Senator Santiago when their margin was 1-Million votes. I think with time things will cool down and things will settle down of course you can have the right to a protest if necessary.

DAVILA: Now, Rodrigo Duterte has already said he is not coming to the Proclamation today. I mean how you feel about that.

SJEA: Well, it's not a requirement. I think many proclamations at the local level even at the Senatorial level you saw not all the Senators went to the proclamation. The decision is for the candidates to go. Pero ang sabi nga nung report niyo he is a maverick so, I guess you have to take it. And he said he never been to his proclamations in Davao.

DAVILA: But historically will Duterte be the first President, if ever, not to attend his own proclamation in Congress.

SJEA: I think so. I think GMA and Noli-Kabayan were there. PNoy and Vice President Binay were there. In recent memory at least at petitions though he would the first not to attend.

DAVILA: Alright and what do we expect this afternoon, its two o'clock in the afternoon. How will it go?

SJEA: Well, first Senate and the House will meet separately and will pass a resolution. Well, the Chairman, Congressman Gonzales - Majority Leader Gonzales for the House. And Senator Koko Pimentel in the Senate will be presenting the report and then it has to be adopted by majority of the Senators and then we meet jointly at two o'clock to proclaim.

DAVILA: So, this is for procedural na lang.

SJEA: Yes, you just have to make it sure that you have the majority of the Senators present to pass the report. It's suct an historic event and I am pretty that they will be there. It also never happened na walang quorum.

DAVILA: Walang litrato lang, walang lalabas sa diyaryo bukas of Duterte and Leni beside each other.

SJEA: Right that's right. Maybe they can photoshop something together.

DAVILA: On another note, you have a Congressman Bebot Alvarez, was handpicked by Duterte, is now incoming House Speaker. You have Sonny Belmonte already declaring it, I think Alvarez will be the next speaker. In the Senate is quite interesting although you have Senator Allan Cayetano and Senator Koko Pimentel were the known supporters and allies of Duterte. It doesn't look like they still have the numbers.

SJEA: Well, the Senate is always a little more interesting in the sense that people are very independent and there's no towing the party line. You can sometimes you have the majority that is comprised of members from the opposition party and in the majority. It doesn't necessarily mean that their supporters of the President. So, ang nangyayari diyan is, it's a personal - it's a one to one basis unlike parties in the House, it's parties are talking to each other.

DAVILA: Correct. Now, is it true that anybody who would want to overthrow Drilon would need 13 votes?

SJEA: Yes, you need an absolute majority because the Senate is a continuing body. In 2010, I think there were a number of aspirants for Senate President, none was able to get more than 12. Senator Enrile who was then the Senate President before elections stayed on as Senate President.

DAVILA: But right now I think there are only seven or eight members of the Liberal Party.

SJEA: There's seven or eight, there are three groups actually. The Liberal plus group, plus because Senator Joel is from Sibak party list and Senator-elect Risa Hontiveros is from Akbayan.

DAVILA: But they're bound to support?

SJEA: I really don't know.

DAVILA: Presumptively, who knows?

SJEA: Presumptively, yes. And then you have the group of I think the NPC and UNA. So, that's Senator Legarda, Senator Sotto plus, again it's plus. Because maybe Senator Gatchalian will be in their group, and then you have Senator Nancy Binay plus the UNA group, Senator Honasan. Maybe, Senator Pacquiao will also be in that group. I think there are about 8 or 9 and then the third group I think there would be, I guess the other. None of the above, none of the 2 groups.


SJEA: Yeah, NP is about 3, I think. You have Senator Trillanes, Senator Cayetano, Senator Villar.

DAVILA: And then where do you fall?

SJEA: Well, I'm the only LDP member so. I guess I would be in the...

DAVILA: Where do you go?

SJEA: Well, I'm friendly with all groups and I said publicly na I'm okay with any of the four aspirants but the things are very fluid right now, Karen. And unlike the house where the president unequivocally said that Bebot Alvarez is my guy, he hasn't really made any pronouncements yet for the Senate.

DAVILA: Interesting.

SJEA: So people are looking and are trying to read the signals.

DAVILA: So you mean to say one problem is that Duterte himself hasn't said 'okay, it's Alan or it's Koko'? He's not made that declaration.

SJEA: It's not a problem, Karen. It just makes things more interesting because then people tend to just read the signs and trying to figure out who would be the best.

DAVILA: So if I were to ask you as an analyst this morning, is there a big chance, honestly, that Senator Franklin Drilon just might retain being Senate President? Is that a possibility?

SJEA: There is. That's always a possibility, Karen. As we saw in the case of Senator Enrile, of then Senate President Enrile in 2010. History could repeat itself. Meaning, since the President's party has 2 aspirants, then the votes could be split and there's a power backing and then Senator Drilon keeps his position. That's possible.

DAVILA: Yeah. But how hard will this be for a presumptive president Duterte if he doesn't control the Senate with the bills he wants to pass? I mean, let's start with the first, the death penalty. That alone.

SJEA: President Ramos in 1992, he didn't control the Senate. I think there were about 3 member of the LAKAS I think who won and there were 16 members of the LDP which was then the dominant majority party. So what he did was he tried to cobble together a coalition. I think that's the obvious thing for the next president, for President Duterte, to do. To try to put together a strong majority that would support his death penalty.

DAVILA: But when it comes to the death penalty for example, do you see that more as a party decision in the future or it seems to be like it's a very personal vote for many Senators?

SJEA: I think it's something that touches on religion. I think it would be a personal vote much like the Reproductive Health Bill. I think you'll find members of the same party decision possibly disagreeing or stating different positions.

DAVILA: Where do you stand on it? What's your stand? At least on drug trafficking. Let's start with that.

SJEA: I'm open. I'm willing to listen to the arguments but I think what I like about the next president is his strong emphasis on law and order because we've had some incidents in the news about the drug situation. Apparently, we've been taking it for granted. It's very serious so I think, I hope law enforcement will improve and then maybe it provides a better context to the death penalty debate.

DAVILA: Now, you have an incoming House Speaker Bebot Alvarez saying that his priority will be to push federalism, at least in the 17th Congress immediately. Do you see that as flying in the Senate as fast?

SJEA: Well, that's a serious move, Federalism. It's a practical change of the system of government. Because right now we have a unitary and a republican system of government. When we say federalism, although it's an extension of the autonomy of local governments which we have in 1991, but this one is serious step. When we say federalism, we're going to have mini federal governments that will have greater powers. So that necessitates constitutional change. That may take a longer argument than a regular bill.

DAVILA: But what's your reaction that they're setting aside the BBL completely? Alvarez said there's no point to the BBL if we go for federalism this is much better. Considering the Senate works so hard on the BBL.

SJEA: Well the BBL was supposed to be a first step. It would be subsumed. It wouldn't be loss but in fact it would have spread to other regions. So the approach to the Bangsamoro region would be the approach to all the whole entire Philippines. So I don't think the supporters of the BBL has anything to worry about there.

DAVILA: But you think it will still pass, the BBL?

SJEA: Well, it would be taken up in the context of Federalism. Meaning, it may take it longer because it's a part of a bigger debate.

DAVILA: Okay, interestingly President Aquino in the last few months trashed the income tax reform bill. And yet as he is exiting, he is giving advice to incoming President Duterte, prioritize on the tax reform bill which by the way, is yours. This is your brainchild so to speak, that income tax reform bill. But how do you feel it's this way?

SJEA: We've been pushing it since 2013-2014, but we're happy. I think it's too bad that the Aquino administration did not make it a priority because there was the fiscal space to make it happen and because of their good fiscal management. The government had money. The only question was whether they wanted to give that dividend to the public. Unfortunately, they decided against it. But I think having been there for 6 years, I mean there's something of value to that advice giving to the incoming administration. They can tell them, o itong taxes na 'to mahirap ikolekta 'to. So I think they should take that for what it's worth, at that face value and try to move forward for that. What I'm happy about is that incoming Finance Secretary Dominguez has a agreed basically with what we've been saying for a long time that if you earn 500-Thousand and you're in the top tax bracket, that's too much. And it's been frozen at 1997 levels diba? 'Yung pera mo noong 1997, hindi na 'yon pareho 'nung halaga ng hawak mo ngayon. 'Yung piso dati, hindi na yung piso ngayon. That's the basic philosophy of our amendments.

DAVILA: So you are feeling positive that the finance secretary that's been coming in will be pushing it?

SJEA: Well, they announced it as part to their - one of their first pronouncements in the 8-point agenda, it is included there so, I'm very much encouraged.

DAVILA: Okay, President Aquino is leaving with a 6.9% GDP growth and the incoming administration plans on an 8% growth. How do you see that as a feasible or even possible in the first year?

SJEA: I do see it as feasible and doable for this year because analysts are predicting between 6-7%. So, just 1% off, you have to make it up and where can you make it up?

DAVILA: Where can you make that up?

SJEA: I will say in tourism and maybe in agriculture. Those are maybe parts of the economy which there's something to be extracted there in terms of growth. Just maybe maintain what the Aquino administration has done in services and other - trying to push manufacturing also. I think you maintain that while emphasizing these other areas which didn't grow as much.

DAVILA: Okay. Now, you were once the dominant party, you had said, during the time of former President Fidel V. Ramos.

SJEA: No, not President Ramos. Former President Cory.

DAVILA: Now, what are the party plans considering now Koko Pimentel is PDP-LABAN -- has gone on the forefront in the Duterte candidacy. I mean, is your party planning on anything like this? Because that is completely fate or an accident. You know what I mean?

SJEA: Right. Well that also happened to the LPs, the LP was a small party and then President Aquino was catapulted to the presidency so you see the party grow. It's a cycle. It depends really on who the President is. Kapag kapartido mo 'yung presidente, your party will grow. But then as you see, it's boom and bust cycle. Like now there's defections, from the LP to PDP-LABAN. It's historical, it's a 6-year cycle that you see. And our party is usually allies with the majority and whoever is in power to help push their agenda because now we're a small party.

DAVILA: Okay. Last words Senator Sonny.

SJEA: Well thanks for having me, Karen, and maybe we should support our new President and Vice President and at the same time, I hope our new President and Vice President are conciliatory. Because they're not elected by the majority of the people, meaning majority chose other candidates like President Duterte was elected by 40%. Although he's a very popular President and I don't know for the Vice President but it's 30% or something for Vice President Robredo. Sana I think the process of healing, it's good that it starts and they started to build the alliances the way President Ramos did early on during his term. He tried to unite and create a common vision for the country.

DAVILA: On that note, Senator Sonny Angara, thank you very much.

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