Press Release
June 15, 2015

Excerpts of Media Interview with Senate President Franklin
M. Drilon at the Kapihan sa Diamond Hotel

Q: Ano-ano na ang napasa ng Senado?

SPFMD: During the Second Regular Session of the 16th Congress, we passed many reform bills, bills which languished in the legislative mill for decades. First, we passed the Philippine Competition Act, a very important measure especially with the Asean integration. Presently we have a very weak anti-trust law. Only the revised penal code provides for monopolies in restraint of trade. We passed, and now awaiting the signature of the President, what we now call the Philippine Competition Act.

This Act is very significant because it will now punish monopolistic behaviour, unfair trade practices will be prohibited, punishable by fines as much as P250 million, imprisonment of seven years. This was languishing in the Philippine Congress for over twenty years. You can imagine the difficulty as unfair trade practices is very profitable. Price fixing is very profitable. You can imagine the lobbying that goes with the pressure, but we passed it. It is a very significant measure, we do hope that monopolistic practices in trade, unfair trade practices, especially price fixing, will now be a thing of the past. The second is the amendment to the cabotage law. Presently, one of the causes for the very high prices of our basic commodities is a very expensive inter-island transport cost. For example, shipping by domestic carriers, rice, from Manila to Davao, is more expensive than transporting the same from Bangkok to Manila.

Q: Bakit mahal?

SPFMD: Dahil po yung domestic shipping is limited to Filipino companies. Meron pong nationality requirement. For domestic shipping. Hindi pwede ang foreign equity sa domestic shipping. Only Filipinos or corporations controlled by Filipinos can engage in domestic shipping. What we have done in order to stop this, is goods coming from abroad can be transhipped through our inter-island ports by the same foreign vessel that transported it from the foreign port. Pwede silang dumeretso, or pwedeng dumaan sa Manila, and continue to carry goods to, say Davao. For example, if the rice is destined for Davao, the goods can be carried from Thailand to Manila, and manila to Davao by the same foreign shipper whereas presently, you have to tranship it to the domestic carrier. It then becomes very expensive.

We have also passed the Tax Incentive Management and Transparency Act. Timta would seek to allow the exemption to come in on the amount of incentives and revenues that we (unclear) by virtue of the incentives bracket (unclear). Right now hindi natin alam kung magkano ang gini-give up natin, narerenew, because of the incentives.

Q: Aalisin ang lahat ng tax incentives?

SPFMD: Ang gagawin natin, ito po ay ilalabas sa publiko. Magkano ba ang insentibo na tinatanggap ng mga kumpanya, and what are the benefits that we get in return? Halimbawa, how many workers are hired because big companies put up a factory here, by reason of the income tax holidays? It is a transparency measure so that everybody knows. O sige, we gave up P100M because of the income tax holiday, how many workers were hired? Who otherwise would not be hired without the incentive granted?

We have also passed the law creating the Department of Information, Communications and Technology, one of the bills sponsored by Senator Recto and passed in the Senate, one of the shortcomings that we have right now is that there is no department that focuses on the information and technology aspect except as a bureau in the DOST. Now we will make it a full department, so that at least there can be a strong body that will look up for example the speed and cost of internet services which is the slowest in Southeast Asia, but the most expensive. This department, the DICT, will now focus on this. Also, one of the largest sectors are the call centers, and yet there is no department specifically in charge of the call centers.

We also passed a bill which now a law, which would increase the tax exemption for bonuses.

Q: Wala nang tax yun?

SPFMD: Meron din po. Nung 2014, bonuses up to P32,000 is exempt from income tax. We brought it up to present cost, and this coming December, you will have bonuses up to P82,000 exempt from taxes.

We also expanded the Philhealth coverage so that all the senior citizens are automatically covered by Philhealth benefits without paying any premiums. We also have a number of education measures, which is the so-called Iskolar ng Bayan, where the top ten graduates of the high-school in both public elementary and university will be enrolled free of charge in all state universities and colleges. Yung valedictorian po, pag pasok sa kolehiyo, ay libre po.

Also authored by Senator Koko Pimentel, we passed a law which increased the Sandiganbayan divisions from the present five divisions, we made it seven. This is critical because right now, before an anti-graft case can be decided, it takes five to seven years, simply because of the volume of cases. We increased it from five to seven, and Senator Koko revised the jurisdiction so that those who are charged with damages of not more than P1 million, RTC na. Para rin hindi na mahirapan ang mga kawani natin sa pamahalaan, na marami naming kaso diyan, yung maliliit na kaso, doon sa RTC at aalisin sa Sanndiganbayan.

We have also lengthened the prescriptive period for graft cases. Right now, after fifteen years, from the time the act is committed, the act restarts. Dito sa batas ni Senator Koko, it will become twenty years. More time to prosecute. These are the laws that we enacted, the principle ones that were enacted during the Second Regular Session of the 16th Congress.

We have also passed the amendments to the probation law so that certain technical procedural inequities, for example, under the law, offenses where you are convicted with the penalty of not more than six years would allow you to apply for probation. If you appeal that conviction, you lose that privilege. We think that this policy is not correct. If I am allowed to avail of the probation, which is principally designed for rehabilitation, why should I be deprived of that right or privilege if I appeal? You deprive me of the opportunity for the appellate courts to review my conviction.

Q: On the Bangsamoro Basic Law

SPFMD: Senator Marcos has committed that when we come back on July 27 for the third regular session of the 16th congress, he will file the committee report which would be subject to debates on the floor, and we will clear our calendar once the bill is filed, we will clear our legislative calendar to give way to the very important measure which we hope to finish after one month.

Q: On the anti-trust bill. How will it affect the flour milling industry, the cement industry, etc.?

SPFMD: I cannot answer that directly. There are specific acts which are prohibited, as for example, price fixing. It is not that it will affect this or that industry, any industry wherein the players will have unfair trade practices, the most common of which is price fixing, then they will incur the liability. Second, acquisition of competitor could be prevented where it results in a monopoly. In other words, the acquisition could be voided by the Fair Competition Commission where the practices will result in monopoly.

Q: For cement owners, how will the anti-trust law affect them?

SPFMD: Assuming that it happens, the Fair Competition Commission can void the contract of sale. Monopolies are not per se unlawful. The mere fact that you are alone in the business, that is not unlawful, but when you engage in unfair trade practices, then it becomes punishable.

Q: On the substitute BBL bill

SPFMD: When we say substitute bill, it only means we will not make reference to the version submitted by Malacañang. The concept will be the same, certain provisions could be the same, but since a new bill is being presented instead of amendment to certain portions of the Malacañang version, then technically it is called a substitute bill. You do not use the original bill as a reference but it does not mean that the concept of the original bill is tapon na. It can be reiterated.

We have not debated the Malacañang version on the floor but necessarily, in the committee hearings, there must be a reference point and the reference bill is the Malacañang version.

Q: What is the most important bill that the Senate has passed?

SPFMD: In this congress, the most important measure is the Fair Competition Act and the education measures, because these are for our youth, sa edukasyon. Yung Timta. In the same manner that the public has required the Freedom of Information Bill. Sa Senate, matagal nang naipasa yan. It is pending in the House of Representatives.

In the same manner that the public has demanded transparency in government transactions, in the same breath, we believe that there should be transparency in the privileges that government has given to businessmen who put up businesses here through income tax holidays.

Q: On the decommissioning of the weapons of the MILF

SPFMD: This is a very important confidence building step because then the sincerity of both sides will be tested. The MILF will surrender a number of high-powered functioning arms, and this is part of the confidence-building process. The most difficult, unwritten aspect of the BBL is the lack of trust. This is not a monopoly of the country. Wherever you go, in peace processes, the most critical aspect is how to build confidences. Kung paano po maibalik ang tiwala and the Mindanao conflict and peace process is no exemption. We must rebuild confidences. It is only in confidence building measures that we build building blocks for the ultimate(unclear) for prosperity and security for that party of our country, which can generate employment and prosperity. This decommissioning of firearms is a very critical step in the confidence building measure on both sides.

Q: On the P70 billion a year that will be given to the Bangsamoro

SPFMD: Hindi ko na po maalalala kung magkano ang budget ng ARMM but there is a lumpsum appropriation for the present regional government f the ARMM. This is not new. What is more important is how this is used. This is just an appropriation. How this will be used is subject to government regulation.

Q: On the allegations surrounding the decommissioning of the MILF of their weapons

SPFMD: By the way, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National police will test these weapons being surrendered, yes, after they are turned over.

Q: Kapag hindi pwede, unacceptable?

SPFMD: That is part of the decommissioning, these will be all decommissioned.

Q: On the establishment of judiciary in the Bangsamoro region

SPFMD: If I recall, the Shariah courts will only have jurisdiction if both parties belong to the Muslim faith. If one of the parties is a non-Muslim, the Shariah court will have no jurisdiction. It is the same setup, it is not much different from the present setup, and what we will have in the Bangsamoro Basic Law.

Q: On the proposed Bangsamoro Police

SPFMD: The police will follow the constitutional provision that our police force will be "national in scope and civilian in character." Those are the parameters set in the Constitution and therefore, the chain of command in the PNP should be followed, including the control by the National Police Commission. This one of the very sensitive provisions in the BBL but we will make sure it can be defended under the Constitution in terms of supervision and control.

You know I was one of the petitioners of the infamous MOA-AD in the Supreme Court. I was the petitioner, and my lawyer is now the Chief Justice, then Professor Maria Lourdes Sereno of UP. We know how sensitive these provisions are in terms of the four corners of the Constitution, and we will see to it that to the best of our abilities - especially with lawyers like Senator Koko - we will try to see to it that it can be defended in the Supreme Court in the grounds of Constitutionality.

Q: Will the Bangsamoro Police be under the PNP?

SPFMD: Yes. It should not be outside of the chain of command of the Philippine National Police, because that will be attacked on its constitutionality.

Q: Will the Senate version of the BBL iron out unconstitutional provisions?

SPFMD: We have not seen the draft yet. I am sure it will be.

Q: On the opt-in provision, or "creeping expansionism"

SPFMD: We will object to the opt-in provision as presently worded.

Q: On how the Senate will ensure BBL's constitutionality

SPFMD: One of the grounds why the Supreme Court declared as unconstitutional the Memorandum on the Ancestral Domain in the past administration is because it called for constitutional amendments. Here we will let it conform to the Constitution.

Q: No chance for constitutional amendments for the BBL?

SPFMD: No chance. You can attack Koko and me everyday in your column if we do that.

Q: On House of Representative's efforts to pass economic amendments to Constitution

SPFMD: That has nothing to do with the BBL. It's not amending the economic provisions in the Constitution. It is amending the manner in which the policy on the economy can be changed without amending the Constitution because you insert the phrase, "unless, otherwise provided by law."

Even with that phrase, the policy need not be amended if the Congress doesn't agree.

Q: Only the economic provisions will be covered?

SPFMD: It's only the economic provisions. It's not in the political provisions.

Q: Payag kayo on these amendments?

SPFMD: Ako, I could not speak for the whole Senate now, because there have been no debates yet, but ako on the economic provisions, I think we should allow more flexibility by allowing Congress to debate on a matter of law the economic policies which are otherwise closed in the present Constitution.

Q: Will you be amenable to letting foreign ownership of our lands?

SPFMD: At this stage that is too early. All we are saying is that open that for debate. We are not saying, "Open the Constitution to allow foreigners to own land." We are just saying that, "insert the phrase unless otherwise provided by law so we can debate as whether we will allow foreigners."

Q: Isn't that indirectly amending the Constitution?

SPFMD: Because you insert the phrase unless otherwise provided by law. For example, the matter of the anti-dynasty bill. You see, the Constitution prohibits political dynasties as may be defined by law. So in fact, the same thing. All we are doing is to allow the debate on these economic provisions. For all we know, there would be no change. But to "Do not change it because it's in the Constitution," precisely in my mind and view, that precisely deprives us of the chance to adjust our policies with the need for us to debate on it.

Q: Do you have the base figures for the firearms to be given as part of the decommissioning process for the MILF?

SPFMD: We do not have the figures. I would assume this is part of the data the Armed Forces of the Philippines would have. I do not have the figures but it is certainly in percentages. The data would be somewhere, but Koko and I have no access yet.

Q: On the Anti-Dynasty Bill

SPFMD: The evil sought to be addressed by the Anti-Dynasty Bill is that we prevent the influence of an elected official using his influence to get another official elected. The point of Senator Pimentel is that if a governor in Province A will have a son running for election in Province B, is that covered by the prohibition of political dynasties, on the premise that the evil sought to be addressed is the influence of governor in province A? Would that be limited to Province A? Then the anti-dynasty principle should not apply to the son in province B.

But for a senator or for the President, then that influence would be national. The evil sought to be addressed is if you would allow the relative of an elected national official. So I repeat, the premise is, we want to address the evil of elected officials, using their office to influence the choice of the electorate by voting for the relative up to the first degree. That is why you when you have that in any other jurisdiction, the evil sought to be addressed is not there.

Q: How about party-lists?

SPFMD: The reality on the ground these days, I know of political families who control their congressional districts, and part of that control includes the election of a party-list representative who would have enough votes in that district alone to qualify as a party-list. That has to be really studied, because the reality on the ground is different from the theoretical moorings and perceptions.

Q: What is your take on the claim that the Liberal Party is now in panic mode?

SPFMD: We are the Golden State Warriors, not the Cleveland Cavaliers. We have a deep bench, we are not in panic mode.

Q: How come Secretary Mar is very hesitant to present himself as a candidate for the 2016 presidential elections?

SPFMD: Why don't you address that question to him? I have no personal knowledge on that. I can't answer that, that is personal to him.

Q: If the LP has a deep bench, sino sino?

SPFMD: Yung mga nabababasa niyo sa pahayagan. We have a deep bench - we have Stephen Curry, David Lee (laughs.)

Q: You were earlier quoted as saying that you would like President Aquino to select within the LP with his 2016 choice. So that means no chance for Senator Poe?

SPFMD: I have already answered that - our party has a deep bench, and the President is our chairman, our titular head. It is our view that the President look at party members, but the president consults everybody and it is within his prerogative to determine who can best continue the reforms he has started.

Q: How high up is the anti-political dynasty bill in the legislative agenda? May time pa ba to approve this in this Congress?

SPFMD: We will have as a priority legislative measure. The fact that in the Senate, the budget does not come in the floor in the middle of November, so between July and November, our calendar would have and allow debates on a number of critical issues - The BBL, the Anti-Political Dynasty Bill- which we believe should be given priority. May panahon pa naman.

And then, let us not forget, we can also have the lame-duck session, which can take place after the election, so for example, we have passed the legislative measure and nasa bicam naman na, at magkakasundo naman sa bicam, sayang naman kung hindi pa mabuo iyan. As we have practiced in the past, we have what we call lame duck session, wherein laws where there is this consensus that these should become law, are taken up during so-called lame duck sessions. Because the present 16th Congress will expire only in June 30, 2016. There is time for that.

Q: On the definition of "break" between the terms of senators, and the one-term prohibition

SPFMD: Huwag niyong iboto. Because ang sinasabi mo, "Isn't that prohibited and covered by the anti-political dynasty law?" Well that the anti-political dynasty will not be able to stop that. Because ako, at hindi naman anak ko ang tatakbo. Kung ayaw nito, edi huwag niyong iboto.

Q: On Speaker Belmonte's comment on passage of the House Resolution No.1

SPFMD: Well, so be it. We need 3/4ths. Ang usapan naman namin ni Speaker Belmonte, we will let the House tackle it first, and if the House can muster the 3/4ths vote then we will take it up in the Senate and we will vote on the same number. If it will not pass in the House, I guess we will just have to take it up some time in the future again, not in this Congress.

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