Senator Franklin M. Drilon

Drilons are not a political family.  The senator’s father was an employee of the Philippine National Bank, while his mother was a simple housewife.  He and his two brothers and a sister did not experience an affluent lifestyle while growing up in Iloilo.

Senator Drilon was born on Nov. 28, 1945 in Baluarte, Molo, Iloilo City.  His parents - Cesar Drilon, who died in 1995, and Primitiva - instilled in their children from the earliest years the values of hard work, integrity and fear of God.

“My father had the greatest influence on me.  He was an employee of PNB and while growing up he kept telling me that he was working in a bank, and therefore values of honesty and integrity were always inculcated in us because of his work,” he recalled.  “He kept saying ‘Be careful because you are handling other people’s money, and therefore you must be true to the trust imposed on you.’”

Drilon is a product of the public school system.  He went to Baluarte Elementary School and proceeded to the UP Iloilo College for his secondary education.

“I am proud of my education at the public school system.  What I am now I owe it to the overworked but underpaid public school teachers.  Truly they are our unsung heroes who mold our youth to become productive citizens of the country.  That is why they are very close to my heart and in every opportunity I never fail to reciprocate their invaluable services to the country in the form of increased benefits and opportunities for professional development,” Drilon said.

He finished his Bachelor of Arts in Political Science in 1965 and his Bachelor of Laws in 1969, both at UP.  Among his classmates at the UP College of Law were his late wife Violeta Calvo-Drilon, Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, Executive Secretary Ronaldo Zamora and businesswoman Loida Nicolas-Lewis.

He did not only excel in academics, he was also active in campus politics.  He was a member of the UP Student Council as university councilor.  He served as associate editor of the Philippine Collegian and member of the editorial board of the Philippine Law Journal.  He is also a member of the Order of the Purple Feather, the honor society of the UP College of Law.

Drilon placed third in the bar exams in 1969.  He worked for four months at the Ledesma, Saludo and Associates, then joined Sycip, Salazar, Luna, Manalo & Feliciano Law Offices as associate lawyer for four years.  The prestigious ACCRA law firm took notice of the brilliant lawyer and lost no time in securing his services.  He and first wife Violy Calvo were colleagues at ACCRA, where he retired in 1986 as managing partner to join the government.

His first stint in government service was in 1986 when then President Cory Aquino tapped him to become deputy minister of labor.  A few months later he rose to become Secretary of the Department of Labor and Employment.  Having been directly involved in labor issues when he was with ACCRA, Drilon immediately buckled down to work.  He knew firsthand the demands of capitalists for stability and peace in the workplace, but, he was equally concerned with the needs of the working man for decent wages and improved working conditions.

His priority then was to establish industrial peace in the post-Marcos era, a requisite for increased investments and employment.  He was fair yet firm in dealing with the conflicting demands of management and labor.  He knew that in order for him to be credible and effective, he had to enforce the law fairly and consistently.  Even the leaders of the more assertive and active labor unions acknowledged Drilon’s efficient and effective stewardship of the labor and employment department.

Drilon’s next stop was the Department of Justice in 1990, also during the Aquino presidency.  His background as a brilliant lawyer and bar topnotcher was put to good use as the fledging Aquino administration busied itself fighting coup plotters and running after the Marcoses and their cronies.  As Secretary of Justice, Drilon personally attended to the big cases while never neglecting the urgent need to streamline the judicial system.

His outstanding work in the labor and justice departments did not fail to impress President Aquino, who appointed him Executive Secretary in 1991.  As Little President, Drilon implemented the policies and programs of Mrs. Aquino with his signature efficiency and competence.  By 1992, the Senate seat was already beckoning but Drilon opted to help Mrs. Aquino finish her term.

Mrs. Aquino’s successor, Fidel Ramos, reappointed Drilon to his old post in the justice department.  A true professional and devoted public servant, Drilon resumed the unfinished task of reforming the judiciary.  He worked to increase the wages and benefits of the judges and prosecutors, kicked out corrupt and inept judges and fiscals, hastened the disposition of cases, and gave the poor more access to free legal services.

As Justice Secretary, he was instrumental in the prosecution and conviction of Mayor Antonio Sanchez of Calauan, Laguna, who masterminded the rape-slaying of a UP Los Baños coed and the murder of her friend; Claudio Teehankee Jr., who figured in the gun slaying of Maureen Hultman; and Rolito Go, the trigger-happy assailant of a La Salle student.  The three are locked up in jail, a testimony to the uncompromising belief of Drilon that everyone is equal before the bar of justice.

Buttressed no doubt by his extensive and outstanding work in three Cabinet posts, Drilon’s ascent to greater prominence could no longer be denied.  He was drafted by the Lakas-Laban coalition in the 1995 senatorial elections, placing fourth in his first attempt at national politics.  Running under the slogan “Kontra krimen, justice agad!” he served as the voice of millions of hapless and dispossessed citizens yearning for justice.

During the campaign, Drilon would often fly to the US to comfort his wife Violy, who was then being treated for lung cancer.  Violy eventually succumb to the Big C in September 1995, two months after her husband assumed his Senate seat.  In memory of his wife, the senator set up the Violeta Calvo-Drilon Foundation to continue her charitable work.  Its anchor project is the School Milk Feeding Program, which distributes free milk to Grade 1 pupils in public schools throughout the country.  Hundreds and thousands of poor schoolchildren have benefited from the program, which is now spearheaded by the senator’s second wife.

The nation immediately took notice of the neophyte senator.  The Senate Press Corps voted him “the most promising” in his first year at the Senate.  He was chairman of, among others, the powerful Committee on Accountability of Public Officers and Investigations of the Blue Ribbon Committee.  As such, he was in the forefront of uncovering corruption, abuse of power and other anomalous activities in government.

In between the serious task of legislation, the senator found time to love again.  Two years after the demise of his first wife, Drilon was smitten by the charm and simplicity of Mila Serrano-Genuino, a close family friend.  It is said that Violy had intimated to a relative that if the senator would remarry after she died she would like him to take Mila, a comely and deeply religious widow from Baao, Camarines Sur.  The widower and widow would jog together in their Greenhills neighborhood, as they still do now, until they became inseparable.  Presidents Aquino and Ramos are wedding sponsors.

At the start of the second half of his six-year term, Drilon assumed the post of Senate majority leader, the workhorse of the chamber.  He was charged with directing the deliberations on the bills, scheduling debates and hearings, and ensuring the speedy passage of bills.  Blas Ople, who was then Senate President, called Drilon “an excellent majority leader.”

Drilon’s scope of interests and priorities is wide and varied-from judicial reforms and transparency in government transactions, to streaming the bureaucracy and modernizing the economy.  For all the seeming complexity and variety of his legislative agenda, the bottom line of his work as senator of the land is to ensure that every Filipino is given equal opportunity to develop himself and to partake of the social, economic and political opportunities.  “I am here first and foremost as the people’s advocate for honest, efficient and responsive governance.  If I could deliver on just this basic mandate, I would consider my work in the Senate successful.”

Drilon has introduced numerous proposals, many of which are now part of the laws of the land.  As the Senate workhorse, he was the first to arrive and the last to leave the session hall.  Year after year since becoming senator in 1995, he has recorded perfect attendance.

The pride of the Ilonggos reached the pinnacle of his Senate career last April 12 when he assumed the Senate Presidency.  In a short span of one month consisting of 20 session days, the Senate passed a record number of 199 bills and eight resolutions.  “Seldom - or should I say never? -  has the Senate done so much in so little time,” observed then Senate Majority Leader Francisco Tatad.

Upon adjournment of the second regular session of the 11th Congress, the senators passed a resolution commending Senate President Drilon for his “inspired and inspiring leadership.”  In his sponsorship speech of the said resolution, Tatad said Drilon “is the first truly hands-on Senate president we have seen in quite a while.”

He continued: “In him (Drilon) have combined the intellectual’s passion for rigorous analysis and reasoning and the successful commander’s zest for decisive action, the parliamentarian’s panache and the CEO’s managerial skills, the workaholic’s work ethic and the popular taste of a Renaissance man.”

Echoing the sentiments of his fellow senators, Tatad said, “He (Drilon) has provided the kind of leadership the Senate needs not only to run well but above all to rediscover itself as a source of pride and strength for our people.  This is a boon, a promise, an assurance for our people, which should rekindle their spirits at a time when so many things seem to be going wrong.”

That kind of leadership is again being demonstrated by Drilon. After again placing 4th in the 2001 Senatorial elections, he was voted by his colleagues to hold the highest Senate post at the start of the 12th Congress. Drilon was Senate President until the end of the Second Regular Session of the 13th Congress, or after more than five years, earning him the distinction as the Senate President who held the position the longest in post-Edsa years.

As Senate President, Drilon steered a Senate in action - a Senate which championed the causes of our countrymen, a Senate of cooperation and union, of sharing, caring and linking, not conflict and competition.

Coinciding with his 58th birthday, Drilon joined the Liberal Party (LP) as its chairman. He was then elected as LP President in September, 2004. Under his leadership, the LP was revitalized and is now poised to be the most dominant political party in the Philippines by 2010. Drilon is also chairman of the Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats (CALD).

In April, 2005, Drilon was elected as President of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) 112th General Assembly. IPU is an international organization of parliaments of democratic countries around the world and serves as a Permanent Observer at the United Nations.

On July 10, 2006, Drilon was elected as Chairman of the IPU Committee on Human Rights of Parliamentarians, the prestigious international body that investigates violations of human rights of lawmakers throughout the world. He is the first Filipino legislator to be elected to the position since the IPU was established in 1889.

Drilon now chairs the powerful Committee on Finance and the Committee on Public Order and Illegal Drugs in the Senate. Under his watch, Drilon worked firmly for the enactment of a new national budget for 2007.

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13th Congress Senators