ANC Interview with Senate President Franklin Drilon
(Note: I’m publishing excerpts from this recent interview of ANC’s Ricky Carandang with Senate President Franklin M. Drilon to allow bloggers to get a handle on Senate issues including the forthcoming change in the Senate leadership.)
Q: During the press conference this afternoon, you said it twice, you are not turning it over with a heavy heart…
SPFMD: No regrets. Firstly, by July 24, I would have been Senate president for five years and seven months, including the time that I was Senate president in 2000. That’s the longest time that any senator has held the position since EDSA Revolution in 1986. Of course, the longest one is Amang Rodriguez, who held it I think, for 10 years. […] I thought that I have done my share in leading this institution, in preserving democracy, i npushing legislation necessary at that point. I am very satisfied with the past five years and a half that I have been able to contribute to almost every aspect of our political, social, economic life.
Q: During the press conference, much of the questions that came you and Sen. Villar’s way is, what does this mean for the Senate? Will there be a lot of changes in the committees?
SPFMD: …as a matter of tradition, the Senate president is given a certain leeway in nominating committee chairs. But from the way Sen. Villar answered the questions this afternoon, it would appear that he is not inclined to make any radical change; with reason. We have barely six months of this Congress — starting July 24, up to December 31, two weeks in January, and one week in February and after that, the 2007 election. When you change committee chairs in the Senate, you woud have a period of a certain degree of instability. You cannot avoid rancor, dissatisfaction in the organization, that’s natural. The moment you do that, you at least consume two months. You have barely three months left. As Manny said, I’m trying to read his mind, for the good of the Senate and in order to be able to continue working smoothly, that he woud minimize any changes in the committees. As I said, I do not know this for a fact. I’m trying to read between the lines of what he said during the press conference this afternoon. Because honestly, we haven’t discussed this.
Q: The Palace is not going to get any breaks from Manny Villar?
SPFMD: I don’t want to get into that kind of assessment. All I’m saying is that I don’t think the senators would change their basic principles, their basic beliefs with Manny Villar or with Drilon on top.
Q: What’s going to happen in 2007? Are we going to elect new members of the Senate or new members of the parliament?
SPFMD: [..] As of now, notwithstanding all the noise, I have not seen Sigaw ng Bayan moving forward their so-called how many million signatures. But even assuming that they have that, it is the legal process, up to the Supreme Court and these are valid legal questions, should push the process towards the end of the year. Mind you, that does not even include the plebiscite. On the Constituent Assembly, up to this point, notwithstanding the announcements in the past, we have not seen any signature. The legal issues to be resolved are real issues, novel questions never before raised in the Supreme Court. Therefore, we will end up in the Supreme Court. Therefore, the 2007 elections will take place.
Q: The leadership tells me that they are close to 190 signatures, does that matter?
SPFMD: It doesn’t matter because the basic issue of whether or not in a bicameral legislature, the House can disregard the Senate in this very basic work of performing a constituent function, meaning amending the Constitution — can we be disregarded by the simple 3/4 vote all coming from the House. Number two, the issue was resolved by the Supreme Court and plebiscite must take place talking about 2007 elections. yes, there will be an election unde rthe 1987 Constitution and a presidential system of government.
Q: What confidence do you have in your part that the Supreme Court is going to put down those attempts?
SPFMD: Because as a lawyer, as former secretary of justice, I’m in the view that PIRMA or the people’s initiative doesn’t stand on any solid constitutional basis.
Q: …it looks like we will have a reenacted budget this year?
SPFMD: Reenacted budget this year. First, it got to the Senate ab out March after 8 months or 9 months and we worked hard. We have the Committee of the Whole. Unfortunately, the Senate thought there should be certain cuts made. It is a P1.053 T budget. The cut on the programmed portion was about P26 B and these were cuts which after analyzing the expenditure program, maybe could be set aside and reduce the deficit by P26 B. We talk about the reorganization of the government which would not take place this year of which P10 B was allocated. We removed the P5B Kilos Asenso fund which was a lump sum appropriation in addition to the internal revenue allotment (IRA) of the local government units. The local gov’t units with P88 B , another P5 B was added without any indication how this will be used. […] For example, I suggested to them why don’t we make it performance-based. If the LGU would be able to increase its revenue collection of local taxes, let us put counterpart funds in order to encourage them to lower their dependence on the internal revenue allotment, build up the capacity by encouraging them to collect local taxes and we will put in counterpart funds from the Kilos Asenso funds. We were ignored. They just said, “no we have our own rules.” We just couldn’t agree. You have a P3 B Kalayaan Fund which again is a one-liner. We have a P2.5 B repair of airports all over the country which the DOTC Secretary himself said this was not in our original plan but NEDA said we have available funds to pump prime, P2.3 B. We can put this instead of her in airports, which you don’t really need, let us put this in the school building programs.
Q. There are questions and points raised that if the Senate were not there, would (not) ever be raised?
SPFMD: That’s right, yes. These would never be raised. We raised these, we made it public. Unfortunately, the President said if you cut it by P1, I will veto the budget.
Q: How would the country be like without a Senate?
SPFMD: The most basic example is the wage increase, across the board. Move faster? What did the employers suddenly realized? I heard Mr. Donald Dee who is an avid supporter of this administration saying, ‘look we have to think twice about this unicameral parliamentary system.’ Suddenly they come up with a P125 across the board increase. Suddenly they realized that sometimes there is need for a check and balance.
Q: 2007 is your last term. What happens to Senator Drilon after 2007?
SPFMD: I have not given it much thought but not being in the Senate is not the end of life. I have been in public service for the past 20 years.
Q: You are not shutting the door to another run for public office?
SPFMD: For the past 20 years, it has been a pressure cooker on a daily basis. Labor Secretary immediately after EDSA revolution when labor was trying to test the limits of their freedoms under the Freedom Constitution, terrible job. Department of Justice at the time when my good friend Gringo Honasan was trying to bring down Cory Aquino with all those coups … A friend or foe would have different perception of what we have done but in my conscience, I believe I have done something for our country. Loking back, I think I have done my share. (end)