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Transcript of interview with Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon

Drilon: First, the matter of pending free tuition for tertiary level, the entire senate contingent pushed for the approval by the president of the measure as it will benefit our tertiary level students. The principal bone of contention is the budget. The senate contingent is saying that the budget is only about P20 to P25 billion and we have incorporated P8.5 billion from the present budget. We strongly argued that we need not to implement in its entirety the free tuition act on year one. In other words, we can phase it so that the other aspects of the law can be implemented after year one. As expected Sec. Diokno objected to the approval of the president and strongly recommended a veto, and was pushing for the full implementation instead of Unifast law. Now the bill is with the president. I'm sure that he will consider the views of the senators present and the opposition of Sec. Diokno. At the end of the day that is the burden of leadership. We hope that the president will approve this bill.

Q: Sir, may posibilidad na ma-veto?

Drilon: At this stage there is a possibility that it can be vetoed and there is a possibility that it can be approved. The president just listened to all the arguments and he will decide on it.

Q: May bagong threat daw sa Mindanao?

Drilon: He briefed us on intelligence information of new threats posed by the ISIS in the south and he is looking for a closer regional cooperation in the neighboring countries, particularly Indonesia.

Q: How serious?

Drilon: In the president's briefing it appears to be serious. That's what he said.

Q: Is it different from Maute?

Drilon: He was referring to the ISIS.

Q: Anong kaibahan sa nangyayari ngayon?

Drilon: We did not discuss that.

Q: Ano yung intention ni president?

Drilon: He informed us of that renewed threat because the secretary of national defense has requested for additional manpower, and, therefore, that would require budgetary allocation.

Q: Buong Mindanao?

Drilon: Mindanao generally, but there are certain specific provinces.

Q: Sir, ilang soldiers daw yung hinihingi?

Drilon: I think about 20,000.

Q: May discussion about the issues on the customs?

Drilon: On the customs, the president is eagerly awaiting the recommendation of both the senate and the house panel. Speaker Alvarez and Cong. Farinas were also present. Our agreement in the senate is we will try to finish as soon as possible and we will submit our recommendation to the president as the senate.

Q: He asked for the senators' opinion about the BOC?

Drilon: He said that he will await the report of the senate and that will contain the opinion of every senator.

Q: Yung retention ni Comm. Faeldon is nakabase sa results ng investigation, sir?

Drilon: That is my impression that the continued stay of Faeldon will be influenced and will be determined on the basis of the findings of both houses insofar as the smuggling of 604 kilograms of shabu.

Q: How about the tax reform bill?

Drilon: The president accepted that the senate will retain flexibility insofar as finally deciding the amounts of taxes. Generally the need for a reform in our tax structure is accepted. Ang pinag-uusapan lang ay kung alin ba ang dapat maitaas na buwis given the fact that there areas of inflation, particularly on the increase on excise tax on fuel. Ating tinitingnan kung ano ang epekto nitong pagtaas ng buwis sa gasoline doon sa presyo ng pangunahing bilihin. My impression is that the president left it to the good judgment of the legislature, in consultation of course with the Department of Finance as to what is the appropriate tax structure that we will finally pass.

Q: He still requested that you pass it in haste?

Drilon: No, there was no such thing. Basta we will deliberate on it. He did not impose any deadline.

Q: Not in full?

Drilon: He realizes that the senate as collegial body will have to seek the views of each senator.

Q: Yung ganong stance ng president, open to amendments?

Drilon: Yes, he is open to amendments.

Q: Yung economic managers?

Drilon: Of course the economic managers are taking hard stance. That's expected.

Q: This is the first time that the president invited you to a meeting?

Drilon: This is the first time the president invited me because this involves the legislative agenda.

Q: How was it?

Drilon: Part of work.

Q: No special request as far as the minority's fiscalizing duties?

Drilon: No special request. In fairness to the president he asked me to join because this is a legislative agenda. And certainly the views of the minority would have to be considered.

Q: No expression of full confidence on Comm. Faeldon?

Drilon: There was no expression of full confidence; as I've said, the president will await the report of both houses.

Source: Senate of the Philippines

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