Press Release
July 21, 2016

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

On the opening of 17th Congress

SPFMD: The Senate will officially convene and officially open the 17th Congress. We will elect Sen. Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III, the only PDP-Laban member in the Senate as Senate President. I expect to be elected to the position of Senate President Pro-Tempore and Sen. Vicente Sotto III as the Senate Majority Leader. This is our agreement in the caucuses we had held and in the alliances we have formed. The matter of the committee chairmanships and membership will be known after July 25. We expect the reorganization of the Senate to be completed with the different chairs and the members of the different committees by August 15, 2016. That's my estimate.

On President Duterte's SONA

In the afternoon of Monday, as you all know, we will proceed to the Batasang Pambansa to attend and hear the first State-of-the Nation Address of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte. What is my expectation of the State-of-the-Nation Address? I expect to hear from President Duterte how he wants Congress to assist and help him in fulfilling his administration's 10-point socio-economic agenda, which he had previously announced. In his 10-point socio-economic agenda are measures to improve the social protection programs, which include the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino program or the 4Ps or the conditional cash transfer. We would like to hear how he intends to improve this particular social protection program.

We also heard him promise our policemen that they'll have a minimum of P50,000 per month salary. The policemen are looking forward to this increase given their role of fulfilling President Duterte's anti-criminality campaign. We would like to hear how the President intends to fund this minimum salary for our policemen of P50,000. We would also like to hear the plans of the President on the increase in the pension of the Social Security System retirees. Again, this is part of the social protection program.

If you will recall, I filed Senate Bill No. 11, or the Transportation Crisis Act, which seeks to grant Presidential emergency powers to resolve the horrendous traffic problem within Metro Manila and the other urban areas. We would like to hear in the President's SONA if there are any specific powers he would wish to be granted to the executive branch in order to improve our transportation system and alleviate the traffic conditions. So, these are some of my expectations on the President's SONA.

As you know, I have also filed the proposed Senate Resolution of both Houses calling for the Constitutional Convention, we would like to hear his views on this. We also filed Senate Bill No. 226 or the Political Party System's Act. We also filed Senate Bill No. 230 or the Anti-Political Dynasty Act. My expectation is that he would touch on some of these items which we would like to think are included in the broad 10-point socio-economic agenda that he has outlined.

There's a lot of work to do in the years ahead. We would like to hit the ground running that is why as early as a month ago, we already settled the leadership issue in the Senate so that we could concentrate in preparing for the work ahead of us so that the stability in the Senate leadership would enable us to concentrate on the measures that we would like to push in the first year of the Duterte administration.

On the Senate leadership

Q: What is the latest on Senator Ralph Recto? Is he joining the Majority or Minority?

SPFMD: I do not know, I have no information on that. Maybe you should ask Senator Recto.

Q: So, as partymate, sir, hindi kayo nag-usap?

SPFMD: Nag-usap kami. He had proposed that he head specific committees. He relayed this to Koko Pimentel as the presumptive Senate President. I have not been informed on what has transpired between Senator Koko and Senator Ralph.

Q: Sir, in the House of Representatives ,yung possibility ng PDP-Laban and LP coalition did not materialize, so si Speaker Belmonte parang nagdeklara na minority na po sila.

SPFMD: That's what I read in the papers. I have not been personally informed of the situation in the House. What I know is what I read in the media.

Q: How about here in the Senate? There are no talks on the possibility na magkaroon ng coalition ang LP at PDP?

SPFMD: Matagal na kami nagkaroon ng coalition.

Q: Pero walang signing�

SPFMD: Wala na. No need. Sa amin, our word is cast in stone.

On the 17th Congress legislative agenda

Q: Ano po yung mga legislative agenda that you would like to focus on sa 17th Congress?

SPFMD: I have enumerated the bills and resolutions that I filed. This is my legislative agenda as Senator Drilon. I intend to focus on this.

Q: Ano sa tingin niyo ang mga exciting discussions and deliberations sa 17th Congress?

SPFMD: My bills would be exciting. Obviously, I cannot characterize what is exciting or not. The senators have filed their own measures. Each senator was given the privilege of filing 10 measures at a time. I am sure that these are the priority bills of each senator.

Q: Sir, former President Aquino is not attending the first SONA of President Duterte, do you think na it is better na um-attend siya considering na yung mga former presidents like FVR, GMA, Erap�

SPFMD: That is a matter addressed on the personal judgment of President Aquino. I will not want to substitute my judgment for his judgment.

Q: A few weeks into the Duterte presidency, there is a difference in opinion between some senators and Malacañang, with all of these, how do you see the relationship between the Senate and President Duterte and the Malacañang in the coming months?

SPFMD: There is nothing new to that. The Senate has always been known for taking independent positions. You have 24 republics in the Senate of the Philippines. So, you can imagine that there are 24 opinions in every issue. Difference of opinions between the senators and Malacañang are to be expected. At the end of the day, it is what the Senate takes as position as an institution. Death penalty, a number of senators will have a number of ideas. It may not be consonant with Malacañang but at the end of the day, how the institution will vote will depend on the position of the Senate. Differences of opinion between Malacañang and the senators don't bother me. That's a reality in our political system.

On the proposed salary increase and other issues regarding 2017 national budget

Q: Sir, the president has plans to increase the salary of the policemen but the budget secretary said it will not be included in the national budget, kasama na ba yon sa SSL?

SPFMD: Until I see the details I could not figure out what it is. Firstly, the executive order signed by President Aquino before he left provides for salary increase that is for 4 years, which however must be funded by the General Appropriations Act. For example the increase for 2017, which was indicated in that executive order signed by President Aquino before he left should be reflected in the General Appropriations Act for 2017.

I have not yet seen the budget for 2017, so I cannot see what the situation is. I do not know if the salary increases which were provided for in that executive order will be funded in the 2017 budget, which will be submitted by President Duterte to Congress.

So, I do not know. I am in the dark as to what the situation is. I would repeat, the last executive order, signed by President Aquino that mandated salary increases, must be funded by the General Appropriations Act of 2017. If it is not funded, then there is no increase. If it is funded, I want to know how much it is because President Duterte has indicated that he would want a minimum of P50,000 per month for PO1, the lowest grade.

So, I would like to see how this will be handled in the budget. And the budget has not yet been submitted to Congress. I understand that it will be submitted to Congress per Secretary Diokno about mid-August.

Q: If there will be funding dun sa iniwan ni President Aquino, pwede pa ho bang i-adjust to make yung sinasabing P50,000 minimum o kailangan magkaron ng additional...?

SPFMD: Remember, it was just an executive order and since there was a promise of P50,000, that executive order must be amended and the funds necessary to fund that new increase or the old increase must be in the budget in order to make it effective. In other words, that executive order is not enough to enable our bureaucracy to receive the salary increase, There must be an item in the 2017 General Appropriations Act.

Q: On the proposal to provide increase in the salary of policemen do you support it?

SPFMD: Yes, we are inclined to support that. That was promised by President Duterte. Yes, we are inclined to support that. But I must repeat that that must be provided in the budget.

Q: May pondo po ba?

SPFMD: That is a matter for the executive to determine and to raise. But as I recall, that was promised.

Q: On the list of the projects of the Senators

SPFMD: I did not know if the others have been asked. I cannot speak for them. I have not been asked.

Q: On whether the funding for the projects and the lists of the projects are course through the Senate President

SPFMD: The system before was that during the time of the PDAF, their request for the funding of the particular project through PDAF was course through on the Senate Committee on Finance and the Senate President. This time, as I have said I do not know. Secretary Diokno has not asked me to submit anything.

SPFMD: You know, I don't not know why you have given such practice such a bad name. Okay, I will ask you a question, ladies and gentlemen of the press, when a district engineer suggests that a project be included in the budget, is that pork or not.

Q: They are not legislators, Sir.

SPFMD: So, what if they are not ordinary citizen when they proposed to their congressmen, the inclusion of a particular project, and the congressman will make a proposal. Is that pork? Let us be more specific. In my case, the COMELEC, when we are debating on a budget last year, asked me to increase its budget by P500 million in order to get the transmission of the result faster. I included that in the budget. So, is that pork? No. The Commission of Audit asked me to repair a heritage house in Iloilo. I placed P40 million as a result of that, is that pork?

Q: But sir the proposed 2000...

SPFMD: No, no you have to ask me, is that pork?

Q: Senator Lacson said that the legislators have no business daw po.

SPFMD: That is why I am asking you, this actually happened. I am telling you, for COMELEC and for COA, and the DPWH budget the district engineer submits its proposal, is that pork?

Q: Sir, the proposed budget is not yet submitted...

SPFMD: Correct that it is not yet submitted. Because that is what the question is being raised. Is this pork? Is this a pork barrel system? That is why I am asking when I proposed an increase to the Comelec while the budget was being debated on the floor in the senate, was I inserting pork barrel or not? When I had the heritage or the old office of COA repaired upon the request of COA, is that pork?

Q: On whether the legislators are asked by the DBM to submit a list, is there a violation on the position SC?

SPFMD: Technically, no. Because that item can be vetoed by the president. Whereas PDAF before, the allocation was lumpsum and it was a post-budget identification of projects, which cannot be vetoed. Whereas if you propose an item while the budget is being debated upon, that is subject to the approval of the Congress and subject to the line-item veto of the President. There's a difference. In the old system, it was a lumpsum, and after the lumpsum is approved, we identify projects, which cannot be disapproved by the president. Whereas today, you propose a project, it comes out as a line item, it can be disapproved. So that is why I raised the question, I haven't submitted anything.

Q: Practiced na yun sir na hanggang hindi pa na-submit yung budget, nag-submit na ng proposals ang mga lawmakers?

SPFMD: I don't know if it is being practiced, but I am just raising the issue: "Is it a pork barrel?" Because pork has such a bad connotation. I was describing to you what I was doing. Am I not a legislator when I proposed P500 million for the Comelec? I am. Is that pork?

Q: So pre-identfiication talaga yun, so hindi mag-fall as violation of the Supreme Court ruling. Pero magiging liable po ba kayo for those projects? Yun yung mga cases before diba?

SPFMD: I am explaining to you that what was happening before was that there was a lumpsum appropriation, and from the lumpsum appropriation legislators would identify projects. The Supreme Court said that that is unconstitutional. But according to your reports, budget was requested, the legislators, in this case of Congress, they would submit P80 million, if I recall correctly. Now these are items which will be itemized and subject to debate in Congress and subject to line-item veto by the president, which was not available and allowed in the previous practice since lumpsum ang appropriation, you cannot line item a lumpsum. So that's the difference between the present system proposed in the House and the previous practice of the pork barrel?

Q: So hindi siya violation of the Supreme Court ruling?

SPFMD: No it is not, because the Supreme Court said, "you cannot participate in the post approval." In this particular case, this was submitted before the budget was approved by Congress and before the budget was approved by the President.

Q: So balewala pa rin ang Supreme Court decision, since nakakapag-identify ng projects ang lawmakers?

SPFMD: Anong masama kapag ang legislator nag-identify? Because I am telling you, I identified P500 million for the Comelec last year, for this year's election. I identified P40 million for COA. That's on record. Masama ba yun?

Q: So Congress pa rin as a whole ang nag-approve?

SPFMD: Precisely because budget is given to Congress, because in our system of our government, we control the purse, the President executes what we appropriate. Remember, that a policy can be enforced and can be effective when supported in terms of the budget. For example, as a matter of policy I say, "We need 50,000 more policemen," I fund with items in the budget for the 50,000 policemen, is that pork barrel? Obviously it is not. If the president does not agree with that, he exercises the line-item veto. But that's the interplay between the two branches of government: Congress proposes, and the president can exercise the line-item veto and it is only in the budget that the President can exercise the line-item veto.

Q: Pero diba ang sistema, ang executive ang mag-popropose, then Congress ang mag-aapprove?

SPFMD: Are you saying that whatever they propose, we just approve or disapprove? Saan galing ang theory na yan? That is not correct. We have the power to realign the budget if we do not agree that there should be 50, 000 policemen, but there should 50,000 doctors. When we move the item for 50,000 policemen make it instead of 50,000 doctors is that within the prerogative of Congress or not? Is that proper or not? Is that valid or not? Obviously, it is valid, obviously it is valid even if proposed by these 'bad' legislators. The moment kasi na marinig niyo may ginalaw, pork na yan. So hindi naman pwede na pagdating sa amin, aaprubahan na lang namin, pikit mata.

On SC decision granting ex-PGMA's demurrer to the evidence plea Q: A few days ago, the Supreme Court dismissed the plunder cases against former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Do you think it was a failure on the part of the prosecution?

SPFMD: That question requires an assessment of how the Supreme Court arrived at that decision, because it was what we call a demurrer to the evidence, which means that the view of the defense or the accused, is that even if they will not present any evidence on their behalf, the evidence submitted by the prosecution is not sufficient to convict, and therefore the case should be dismissed. From that you will realize that what was required was appreciation for the evidence presented. I could not pass judgment on whether or not there was enough evidence presented simply because I have not yet seen the decision. I can say that I am saddened and disappointed, but as an officer of the court, as a lawyer, and as a former Secretary of Justice, I respect the decision of the Supreme Court especially when I have not seen or read the decision. I would assume that they used their knowledge of the law and their assessment of the evidence presented, in order to come up with the decision. I am disappointed, but I respect their decision.

Q: Di ba nagkaroon din po ng Senate investigation on this issue?

SPFMD: Yes, but there were witnesses in the Senate which, to my knowledge, hindi naipresenta sa Korte. The example is the General Manager and Vice-Chairman Rosario Uriarte. Rosario Uriarte was the principal resource person in the Senate investigation. He was the key witness who said that it was former President Arroyo who personally approved the PCSO intelligence budget. But I do not know, and I do not think that she was presented as a witness in the case, and so there was no testimony to that effect. If she was charged, there is nothing that I recall, and that she made an effort to be a state witness. I would urge the administration, or the Ombudsman at this point to check whether or not Uriarte has left the country or her whereabouts. If she has left the country and that can be easily checked, then if she is in a country where we have an extradition treaty, the Ombudsman should make an effort now to have her brought to the country so that she can testify either as a state witness, or that she could be confronted with her statements during the Senate hearing.

Q: So kung makakapag-testify si Uriarte, lalakas ang kaso laban sa former President?

SPFMD: I do not want to pass judgment on that, because obviously. I do not know the totality of the evidence presented by the prosecution.

(Note: this portion is part of the ambush interview)

SPFMD: Rosario Uriarte, being the general manager and vice chairman of PCSO then, is the missing link to the evidence presented by the prosecution. To my knowledge and I can be corrected, Uriarte was never presented as a witness in the criminal case because she disappeared.

Q: May effort ba to locate her?

SPFMD: I don't know.

Q: May ibig sabihin ba yung pag-alis niya?

SPFMD: Flight is an indication of guilt as a principle of evidence.

(Below is a clarification on SPFMD's statement earlier regarding the grant of demurrer to the evidence):

SPFMD: "A Motion for Reconsideration cannot be filed because a dismissal on demurrer to evidence is a dismissal on merits, which is equivalent to the acquittal of the accused. Jurisprudence has stated that a court cannot review an order granting the demurrer to evidence and acquitting the accused on the ground of insufficiency of evidence because to do so will place the accused in double jeopardy."

Q: The fact that the Ombudsman wasn't able to present her, what does that say about the quality of the prosecution?

SPFMD: I do not want to pass judgment on the quality of the prosecution because I have not yet even seen the evidence of the prosecution.

Q: Are you saying that doon nagkamali ang prosecution, sa hindi pag-present kay Uriarte?

SPFMD: She was the General Manager. Siya ang may hawak ng mga authorizations. She testified sa Senado. But you cannot use the proceedings in the Senate in a criminal case, because you have to confront the witness, you have the right to confront the witness. Do not forget -and that is always the error of the public, that the Senate is a court of law. It is not. The purpose of the Senate investigation is in aid of legislation. You cannot take the transcript from the Senate and present it as proof in a criminal case. You could use it to confront the witness if she changes her testimony.

Q: Si President Duterte nag-express siya na gusto na niya palayain si PGMA.

SPFMD: President Duterte is a former prosecutor, and he knows that there is need for evidence before you can convict. And Uriarte, given what she said in the Senate investigations is a key witness.

Q: Yung Ombudsman may power po ba para habulin si Uriarte?

SPFMD: She can make an official request to the Department of Justice to whom the Ombudsman will make an request. Theoretically if Uriarte is found in the United States where there is an existing extradition treaty, a request can be made to bring Uriarte back here.

Q: Sir may pending pa pong plunder case si PGMA sa Ombudsman. Pwede pa rin bang magamit si Uriarte?

SPFMD: Kung panahon niya yun bilang General Manager, and depending on what appears on the documents to be her participation, she may or may not be used as witness. On the Senate's role in treaty ratification

SPFMD: It is the President who ratifies the treaty. The Senate concurs in the ratification. If the President does not ratify, then there is nothing to concur. That's what the Constitution says. The Senate does not ratify. The Senate concurs in the ratification. It is the concurrence in the ratification that makes the treaty part of the law of the land and becomes obligatory on the government. In other words, two phases: ratification by the President and concurrence in the ratification by the Senate. Quite obvious, if the President does not ratify and therefore does not send the treaty to the Senate, then we cannot concur to anything. In fact, if you remember the Rome statue. Then President Arroyo did no ratify and therefore, we had no chance to concur. Kung ayaw ipadala sa amin, wala kaming i-concur.

On Senator Pacquiao

Q: May report na babalik sa boxing ring by November, appropriate po ba iyon sa isang neophyte senator?

SPFMD: His commitment is that he will not neglect his duties as a senator. And I take his word for that. I support his desire to exercise his profession as a professional boxer as long as he remains true to his commitment that he will not allow the exercise of his profession to interfere with his duties. I am a lawyer and I can exercise my profession as a lawyer. A businessman can continue running his/her business while being a member of the legislature. An entertainer can continue his or her profession while being a member of the Congress. Why should we impose a different standard to a professional boxer. That's why I am supporting Senator Pacquiao's decision to box again because that is his profession. But I hold him to his commitment that it will not be at the price of neglecting his duty as a senator. I'll be the first one to criticize him if he does that and I support his decision to exercise his profession.

Q: What committee you are going to chair?

SPFMD: That will be decided pa. hindi pa final.

Q: You're in the majority, is that part of a formal coalition with the ruling PDP?

SPFMD: There is no formal coalition. It was a consensus arrived at between the LP and its allies, and the NPC and its allies, basically led by Senator Sotto and in the LP by myself. We discussed among ourselves. We nominate Sen. Pimentel as our senate president.

Q: I-recommend n'yo po ba yung LEDAC?

SPFMD: The LEDAC is a good mechanism to work on the legislative agenda of the president. In the last Congress, we had a monthly meeting between the officials of the House and the Senate and we were very effective in working on legislative agenda, which resulted in a number of very significant laws.

Q: Paano matulungan yung mga drug addict na sumusuko?

SPFMD: Establishment of more rehab centers is one of the solutions.

Q: I-recommend n'yo po be ang additional budget for creation of rehab centers?

SPFMD: Pork barrel yan, ah? Kaya nga kayo ang nagsasabi ng pork. When I recommend that we remove a portion of the budget for an X department and put it for the establishment of rehab center, is that pork or not? (Laughs)

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