Press Release
October 25, 2017

Program: Headstart
Host: Karen Davila


KAREN DAVILA: (Greetings) So you have Malacañang already accepting the resignation of Andy Bautista effective immediately. This is one less trial for the Senate.

SEN. JOEL VILLANUEVA: Yeah, that is why I think it's a welcome development for all of us because most of the senators wouldn't want to push through with so many impeachment trials with the Chairperson of the Comelec and then you have the Chief Justice which is already ongoing at the House of Representatives. All of us want to focus on our legislative work. In fact, this coming November 13, 14, 15 while everyone is enjoying the holidays, we will be working for the TRAIN, for the tax reforms, then we are also scheduled to finish the budget on the interpellations and debates, including perhaps the amendments by that particular week.

KD: Now, Senator, you're a first term senator. Are you disturbed in any way with how the House is acting on these impeachment complaints? I mean you're almost expecting the Chief Justice to reach the Senate, am I correct?

SJV: I'm not, I'm not expecting but if it will reach the Senate, we just have to be ready and transform ourselves into an impeachment tribunal. I was a congressman for three terms and I know for a fact that this is the duty and mandate of the House of Representatives but looking at these stories about these impeachment cases, for example, the Andy Bautista impeachment. As I was listening attentively, it was mentioned that Malacanang says it's effective immediately.

KD: Tama ba yun, Joel?

SJV: Well, I don't know. I am just not too comfortable listening na ganun parang ano ba ang deal or something like that. Kami naman sa Senado, we'll just be ready if it comes to a point na we we'll hear these impeachment cases.

KD: Do you think there's a conscious effort to flush out Liberal Part appointees or PNoy appointees?

SJV: I don't think so and I hope it's not that way. You know, Karen, when we talk about impeachment, medyo parang PhD ako diyan. Nung time ni GMA parang every year nagfa-file ako ng impeachment and I know for a fact during that time that it is a political exercise so it's definitely political. So 'yun ang kailangang maintindihan as a politician, as a lawmaker, as a judge being part of the jury. Importante talaga na makita mo talaga na there's basis and you just have to decide on the merits of the case.


KD: Now the Marawi siege has ended and you are one of the first that actually said before that you want Martial Law to be lifted as soon as possible after the war has ended

SJV: During the convening of Congress between the House and the Senate, if you would recall, I was the one who raised that issue as to how long do you think it (Martial Law) will last. Right now, we are seeing the effects-foreign direct investments down, etc. Effects ito sa ekonomiya. So I was saying if it's over by September, or October or November, I mentioned during the interpellation, pwede bang i-lift na kaagad ito? I am not saying that 'Let me force these guys or our soldiers to lift Martial Law' but what I was saying was as long as pwede na, baka pwedeng i-lift na because we are really affected by this.

KD: Senator Migz Zubiri was here yesterday and he said for clearing operations, for the safety of the residents, he would want Martial Law to not be lifted until December 31, 2017. Do you agree with that or do you feel that you can now see clearing operations without Martial Law?

SJV: I agree with my Seatmate, Senator Migz Zubiri, but I also want to hear those in command, on the ground. What is the effect? I want to be briefed actually right away. Number two, I think it's very obvious that we should start rebuilding. The 5 billion I heard kanina, I don't think it's enough. We need more in rebuilding this great city of Marawi and it has to start. During the convening of two Houses, I even mentioned the importance of having a rehabilitation czar. I was offering the help of the Senate because we have Senator Ping as Yolanda czar, we have Senator Gordon as Red Cross chair. During my time in TESDA, I had several engagements in rehabilitating Yolanda-affected areas. I think kailangan mayroong master plan.

KD: Planner?

SJV: Someone who is on top of this.

KD: So who do you think should be the rehabilitation czar in Marawi?

SJV: I am just offering the help of my colleagues and myself. Again, I think it is important that someone is on top of the helm.

KD: Right now, do you think the President should lift Martial Law?

SJV: Without the data and everything, I am not in the position to recommend. That's why I mentioned a while ago that I want to be briefed. For example, if you rehabilitate, if you want to expedite the rehabilitation of Marawi City, for example, procurement. You know how hard it is to undergo this procurement process. 'Yung government procurement system it's really about time that we do something about it. So ito yung mga bagay na reasons why I think we should all consider before lifting Martial Law.

KD: You saw the Yolanda rehab under Pnoy's time and there are pockets that are still not fulfilled. What do you think shouldn't be repeated during the Yolanda rehab to now?

SJV: 'Yung accountability. I think that's the most important word right now, accountability. Sino yung in charge, what is your target, what are your deliverables and what is your timeline? It's clear. 'Di mo magawa yan, eh you take the consequences. Yung last administration kasi, for example, si Senator Ping, he doesn't have much power eh during that time so yun yung mga, I think, lessons learned

KD: The rehab czar you think should be more powerful?

SJV: More accountable. Give him all the power to rehabilitate the city of Marawi.


KD: Moving on now to another issue. Before we move on to the TRAIN is even if you don't sit at this committee you attended it because you are from UST. What to you is the most glaring factor during the last hearing?

SJV: Well I have to admit that coming from the Thomasian community, we are also disgusted and we have to say, we are all embarrassed. Dinaan ko na nga lang sa biro during the Senate hearing. You know at this point in time, the UST community is not used to losing the UAAP season. We have not gotten into our first win in the basketball league tapos we are producing these kinds of lawyers, future lawyers na horrible, horrible and these rascals should face and repent. Their actions should be tempered with the full weight of the law.

KD: Were you satisfied with the actions that Dean Divina took or you feel he didn't take when he found out that a UST student was supposedly killed on a Sunday?

SJV: Well, first of all, we don't want to single him out. That's one thing for sure. Number two, being the Dean of UST Faculty of Civil Law, yung first hearing I mentioned this eh. He wasn't aware that in the website being managed by the Divina Law Firm, they are promoting this Aegis Juris. In fact, in the second hearing, the mom of Atio made mention about it. Atio was showing her the picture of the Dean, that he might also be a Dean someday of this University, etc. During the second hearing, if you Google the Aegis Juris, lumalabas siya dun sa website. Siya naman (Dean Divina), he was apologetic about it.

KD: UST claims that they didn't accredit UST during that year

SJV: You know, I trust that my alma mater, University of Sto. Tomas, would allow itself to be part of this scrutiny that is going on. I think the leadership should be committed that if we have found that there is oversight and negligence on its duties, then they should face the music.

KD: Do you think UST feels that way?

SJV: I think so.

KD: Have you spoken to someone?

SJV: Not yet. That is the Thomasian spirit. I am not a Catholic but I embrace Thomasian virtues. We talk about justice, we talk about the truth. That is why seeing these bunch of, sorry, I would call them rascals, it is so disappointing. Imagine, we are accomplice as part of the Thomasian community. We are producing these kinds of lawyers. Yung nabasa natin sa chat messages, yung mga elders.

KD: Na effort to cover up?

SJV: Yes. The effort to cover up, perjury, obstruction of justice. For someone like you who grew up in the UST community for eight years, ang biro ko nga Magna ako, almost magna-nine years e. You know, it hurts, it hurts. I think all Thomasians are rallying behind Atio's family.

KD: Cases have been filed by the MPD by Atio's family...

SJV: Today is the day that they would submit their counter-affidavits. It's a welcome development and in the next hearings, we'll be able to ask them about their affidavit and if they will continue to evade our questions and again, invoke their right against self-incrimination, then we won't think twice of citing them in contempt, all of them.

KD: Do you think UST should keep them out of school?

SJV: Definitely. Kanina we were mentioning about the Dean's actions. Few months ago, I think there was an altercation at the Manila Hotel perhaps a year ago. These guys are already involved. I think four or five of them were present in the hearing. And I asked them a question, "Did the Dean come up with a memorandum order suspending them?" and I was surprised na hanggang dun lang and at the same time, bakit hindi ni-revoke yung recognition ng fraternity? Perhaps, kung nangyari kasi yun, walang sasalihan si Atio. Another development, Karen, is yung counterpart nila na sorority, it seems na parang may ganun din na gawain. 'Yan yung mga developments. Just to give you an update, right now, the Manila Police District has filed multiple complaints against several members of Aegis Juris tapos obstruction of justice dun sa mother ni Trangia.

KD: But are you calling for UST to act on this swiftly and kick these students out? Kumabaga doesn't it make a strong statement?

SJV: I am not going to jump into conclusion na right away but they were saying kasi na they are doing their own investigation so let them do their investigation. I was just sharing my personal point of view as a senator who was there during this hearings in the Senate and as Thomasian fanatic.

KD: The leader of Aegis Juris, how long can you keep him there (in the Senate)?

SJV: We were talking about it last time. We have our own Senators' chatroom and a lot of us including myself would want him to go to the Pasay Police District. During the last hearing, I was tempted to cite all of them in contempt but I also thought meron ba kaming enough space dito. Nandito si Faeldon. But we were talking about it and I think next hearing, these guys should realize that they are getting the ire of the senators and if they continue answering and evading our questions, for example, is this your car? It is already registered to your name, why would you say 'I invoke my right against self-incrimination'? It is a public document, yung registration, may CCTV, may driver.

KD: Actually that's the most abused statement in the Senate hearing

SJV: But I'd like you to look at the behavior of my colleagues in the Senate, hindi talaga papayagan na laging ganun na lang. 'Di pwedeng abusuhin ito and again, kudos to Senator Panfilo Lacson na very firm dito.

KD: What are we expecting on the next hearing? Are you going to attend?

SJV: Definitely. We are expecting to get all these counter affidavits that they are filing. Remember itong si Solano, we were also disgusted sa actions niya na he promised to file his counter affidavit tapos wala pa. He just gave us a rundown e.


KD: Senator Joel to file a bill on fake news. There's so much talk about freedom of speech, freedom of expression. I want your feedback first about that last senate hearing, okay. What did you think?

SJV: I think we put so much weight on the perspective of the bloggers, unfortunately, and hanga din ako kay Senator Grace dun sa patience niya kasi ako I couldn't stand it eh for the longest time.

KD: Did you walk out?

SJV: No, I didn't walk out. But I though, I was able to say my piece to talk about my bill and I think that in the next senate hearing, I would suggest that we invite only the experts, we also look into ourselves and say, "we are the lawmakers here" at the end of the day, we are not co-equal. Pasensya na ho kung magalit sila o sabihin nagyayabang ang mga senador but we are the lawmakers. At the end of the day, we decide after hearing all these views. 'Yung bill natin, itong Senate Bill 1492, we want to penalize any person who would offer, spread, publish, or broadcast fake news. Ano ba yung fake news? They were very ano on this eh, kailangan i-define mo yan, yung fake news. Para sa akin, I've been talking to a lot of justices, judges, and they were saying, "you must give the court the leeway or flexibility to distinguish na ito nga ay fake." Because it's like saying, in a court trial, ano ba yung totoo? Ano ba yung hindi? So dun mo ide-determine. So what we did with our proposed measure is we line up etong elements of fake news.

KD: what's the part of the bill?

SJV: Elements nitong fake news, (1) It should be printed, broadcasted, or posted in the internet. All four should be present. (2) Yung pinaka important ditto ay yung may malicious intent. Yung yung operative word natin ditto, malicious intent. KD: So like an agenda of some kind?

SJV: Yes. And (3) It causes chaos, divisiveness, promotes hate, violence, etc. And, (4) You must have full knowledge or at least enough knowledge to know that this is fake and you're spreading it, you're reporting it, you're posting it.

KD: But the elements of fake news itself, did you iron it out in the bill? Like news if it's fully inaccurate, fully made-up, it's a lie.

SJV: You are aware. The 4 elements are present. Now, if you look at malicious intent, we can use the court's guidance on this, its interpretation of the word malicious, kung talagang walang justifiable motive, walang good intention, talagang designed to destroy and wasakin yung one's reputation. So these 4 elements should be present. A lot of critics would say, it falls under libel. Let me point out aagain, for example, yung libel, the act published is the publication. The publication of the malicious information like vice, crime, defect, or circumstances which injures the reputation of another person. Itong anti-fake news bill natin, the act punished is the malicious offering, publication, distribution of fake news that causes panic, chaos, and violence.

KD: If it destroys the reputation it is included?

SJV: In libel case, Karen, kahit truth yung sinsabi mo, you can be convicted. Kasi you're being punished with the publication of a malicious imputation eh of a crime, vice, etc. Pero kung sa fake news, totoo yung sinsabi mo, it's the truth. Hindi fake news yun. So the truth is an absolute defense in fake news bill. Sa libel hindi eh.

KD: What you want to punish essentially is the spread, production of lies and making it appear as it is true? That's what you want to punish?

SJV: Yes, because right now, I think Karen, and they were saying, I've heard this argument that we need to strengthen the regulatory functions of the media, I mean KBP for instance is a very good example. Maganda yung ano nila pero pagdating sa print, na tabloid for instance or online, medyo wala na 'yan. Pag sinabi mo naman dun lang tayo (sa online), what about equal protection? So I think, kailangan universal. The government should step in and do something about it kasi it's too much.

KD: I'm gonna ask you something. If self-regulation is the best way, won't government intervention affect the freedom that essentially we have in a democracy? I mean whether or not you may like certain bloggers or you don't. I wanted to ask you, what is the boundary or that limitation to that freedom of speech which they claim, "that is my opinion, I wanna write that, it's my page" yun yon eh, that's how it was.

SJV: If you look at the court decisions, even the Supreme Court recognizes that freedom of expression is not absolute. It's just like saying Karen, if I live in a neighborhood at meron akong videoke, magbelting ako, magsisigaw ako, magkakanta ako in the wee hours of the morning, 2-3 AM, karapatan ko yon. How about the rights of your neighbours? May karapatan sila, equal yung rights ninyo. Hindi ka pwedeng may advantage sa bawat isa. So pare-pareho tayo, 'yun yung sinasabi ng Korte Suprema at tingin ko po, napakahalaga na matutunan natin yung salitang respeto sa isa't isa.

KD: Now, are you disliked by both camps? Criticized by both camps?

SJV: Surprisingly, Karen, a lot of them are criticizing the bill, without reading the bill. For instance, during the hearing, someone raised that issue na if they quote a public official na fake pala yung information na ibinigay nung public official ay they would be penalized, so I asked, what particular provision are you talking about? They could not point out. Again sana, at the end of the day, sinasabi ko nga sa mga colleagues namin, na sana tayo yung mag-usap dito. Tignan natin kung how we could be of help.

KD: So where do you stand? About sa anti-fake news... I think it's the DICT that's forming a certain guidelines for social media use with government employees. Where do you stand with government employees or appointees giving their own points of view which can be divisive or they can say, it's my point of view. I mean we've seen it, in the last few days.

SJV: Your opinion, your point of view, should be respected. That is the essence of our democracy. Now, if you are aware that you are spreading a lie, you are aware that these lies would lead to chaos or cause panic then you have to be accountable.

KD: So I will be honest there are two instances, Atty. Mandy Anderson during the customs hearing in the House, pinagalitan siya when she called Speaker Alvarez an imbecile on her Facebook. Correct me if I am wrong. Number two, you have former DSWD ASEC. Badoy, I think, who criticized a blogger and said ang pangit niya or something to that effect and then she was moved to the PCOO and their points of view you know it's their personal opinion they can be hate in that way, do you agree with that?

SJV: Well yung personal opinion should be respected but if you are a government official there is more to that eh, that is why in a bill that we are espousing if you are a government official you get double the penalty, the fines. For example, in this bill yung fines between 100,000 to half a million if you are a government official double yan.

KD: Or if you are used by the government, you are a consultant of government, you are appointed by government.

SJV: if you are a government official, you are a government employee yung 1 year to 5 years, for instance, na imprisonment, kung regular is 1 year, you get 2 years. Because public office is a public trust, you cannot spread lies na alam mong lies.

KD: Now there's a social media army out there and there are government agencies that really uses bloggers not in full employment but have remuneration.

SJV: Karen, this is a work in progress measure and we want to hear all sides and we want to find out how we can do better, how can we make anyone of us accountable. Yung sa blogging, kelan mo masasabi na accountable ka, kelan mo sasabihin na newsmaker ka? We have to look at this carefully and set the boundaries.

KD: Why are you so passionate about this? Considering that there were many other senators out there?

SJV: Well you know, even other countries are already suffering because of fake news. We were in Europe last time, for example, in Germany, there were already coming up with measure like this. In France also.

KD: In Germany?

SJV: Yes, in Germany, I think 30 million euros ang fine.

KD: If you spread fake news?

SJV: Yes! If you don't take down yung pinost mo na fake sa online media oulet. Sa France, they are already talking about it in their legislative chamber.

KD: Facebook also is closing at least 200 sites in the US or something like that.

SJV: If you could just imagine yung effect nito. Every election, ganito na 'to. Sa 2019 for sure, ganito na 'to.

KD: Who has the most social media army?

SJV: Exactly! It doesn't necessarily mean na if you have a lot of followers, you are already telling the truth. The more you have followers, the more you should be responsible. Tayo Karen, we think twice, thrice, a hundred times before posting or saying something because we know our responsibility.


KD: Moving on to another topic, there's a lot to discuss with you. If you were the first who actually exposed the BI controversy of former deputy commissioners Argucino and Robles. And what's insulting now is, it was supposed to be a case of plunder wherein they surrendered alleged bribed money of 49, 999,000 something

SJV: Short of 1000 pesos

KD: Exactly.

SJV: It's terrible. It's a mockery of our justice system. Unfortunately, Karen, let me share this with you, it emanated from my hearing in the labor committee because of the illegal Chinese workers at Clark. There are thousands of them and we submitted a report sa committee ng blue ribbon. In our meeting sa committee on labor, I was commending Commissioner Argosino pa for exposing. During that time pala, nasa kanya yung pera the whole time. 2 weeks na 'yun nasa kanya at gagamitin daw niya yun na entrapment tool. For 2 weeks, walang nakakaalam na nasa kanya.

KD: So what happens now?

JSV: Well right now, tapos na yung hearing but hindi kami papayag, Karen na ibaba sa graft instead of plunder at yung lame excuse eh nawawala yung 1000. Even the money eh, yung iba nasa CIDG, yung iba nasa NBI, kinikuwestiyon ko nga yan, bakit hindi nasa isa? Kami hindi kami papayag, hindi kami magpapaloko. Sabi ko nga, you fool us once, shame on you. You fool us twice, shame on us for letting you go.

KD: The thing is, you will not let them go even if there's a thousand pesos short of the plunder law?

SJV: Yes, we are very clear. Even during the committee hearing, we were already asking for 50 million. It was clear na 50 million yung ibinigay sa kanila.


KD: Quickly, I'll get back to this. President Duterte said that he will not support a bill regarding fake news. Will you still push thru with it?

SJV: Certainly. We wanted to be more aware on how we can improve our situation right now. The government for me should step in dito sa proliferation. Bumabaha na Karen eh, from both camps. And again, the fact that both camps are critisizing this bill, it makes me happy. This bill would be an independent bill.

KD: Very quickly, you said that on November 13-15, you will be focusing on the train or tax reform, and you are an advocate. You want the BPO incentive sa tax incentive to stay. Make it quick, what is it in the DOF proposal wherein the tax exempt of the BPO will be affected?


SJV: They want to repeal the 15% preferential tax rate of the ROHQs, kasama na rin po sa pinopoprose nila yung off-shore banking unit, petroleum service contractors, they want to repeal. On my end, and I've talked to Senator Angara, we discussed this during the interpellation sa session hall, binanggit natin yung sakripisyo nila when they came here talagang ibinigay nila yung trust nila sa atin, and right now, we are number 1 in voice sa call center. We have produced 1.2 million direct employment dito and yung indirect, x 4 x5 yan. For us to repeal it right away, and we are only talking about 1,495 employees and for the next 5 years, we are only talking about 200-300 million pesos. So why not iretain mo yun and yung mga papasok na lang yung may tax uli. So by 2018 of January, dun langmarerepeal, ay dun lang magsisimula. So lahat ng pumasok within this year, mareretain yung preferential tax rate.

KD: With the other consumer taxes to be implemented, can it just be fully retained even for incoming BPO businesses?

SJV: Ang idea, right now, it's booming and the investors are already coming in.

KD: But Vietnam, Myanmar, and Cambodia, are already offering tax incentives for foreign direct investors

SJV: We have to look into it talaga. I remember, when I was in TESDA, we are supporting a lot of manufacturing companies to come here and they were talking about taxes, electricity costs, etc. So we really have to do something about it.

KD: So you're saying na dapat iretain talaga yung 15% preferential rate

SJV: And I thank the good sponsor, Senator Sonny Angara for agreeing with me.

KD: Where do you think will this go? Just an overall review because the House version has a different version, it has 250,000 a year tax exempt.

SJV: I actually agree with that, just that particular

KD: Because in the Senate, ano kayo? 150,000php?

SJV: 150,000. And we were talking about it thoroughly during the interpellation with Senator Angara. For example, if you take a look at the minimum wage worker, halos 147,000 na ang annual income so magaadjust ka uli so baka talagang dapat itaas.

KD: So you're saying, 150 to be tax exempt is too close to the minimum wage?

SJV: In the next couple of years magaadjust ka din agad. Kasi we're talking about indexation eh. Okay na din siguro yung 200 as a middle ground but ako, tingin ko naman kaya don sa 250,000. A lot of things happened eh, during the interpellation on the floor, that's the only time na DOF gave us this data na yung ineexempt namin for example yung halal, etc., would yield to about 12-14 billion, yung una, sinasabi maliit lang. Ngayon, sige kailangan natin isama yan (halal).

KD: Are your figures correct?

SJV: Right now.


KD: You want apparently, the service charge that you pay when you eat in restaurants, I didn't know na that's an all-go to the staff or to those actually serving in the restaurants

SJV: It's in our labor code, article 96, 85% goes to the employees and 15% goes to the enterprise. So I'm pushing for 100% of the service charge that would go to the employee. I'm done in the committee level, the technical working group. And the exemption of 1st time job seekers from paying government fees, NBI clearance, police clearance. For someone who just graduated from college or tech-voc course, magaapply ng trabaho, in one company, you would spend about a thousand peso for government clearances and documents. So can you imagine yung anak ng isang farmer, pupunta sa Manila per company, kung magaapply ka sa sampung kumpanya, that's 10,000 pesos, that's a lot of money. It's also done in the committee level, now we're in the technical working group. Now, we passed sa third reading yung Training Trabaho Bill that ensures creation of jobs. We already passed sa third reading yung Telecommuting, and now we're finishing the alternative work schedules, 'yung compressed workweek, flexi-holidays.

KD: We should talk about these when you get back. And for the record, you have already filed more than 150 bills.

SJV: Thank you. God bless.

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