Transcript of Interview with Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon

Q: Is Charter change inevitable?

Drilon: I am open to it, let's put it that way. Inevitable would really depend on how the senate and the house would work on it, because amending the charter is, principally, a function of congress, of both houses, and it is ratified by the people. Theoretically, the office of the President does not participate in the amendment of the constitution but realistically as a political leader, the views of the president would influence the views of the legislators especially the supermajority in congress.

Q: So you're open to it, but are you open to a con-ass or a con-con?

Drilon: I'm open to either although I filed a resolution calling for a con-con. At the end of the day, it is the review of the constitution that is more important. How can achieve that in the best possible way is something that we can debate upon. One thing, we are of the view is that we have to vote separately - the senate and the house. I cannot imagine a situation where the senate would be an irrelevant institution.

Q: And you become irrelevant when you vote jointly?

Drilon: Yes, if we vote jointly we become irrelevant. That is an unfortunate interpretation because if we change the name of a high school, in any place in this country, the senate can veto by not acting on the proposal from the house. If the senate's vote is needed to change the name of a high school, I cannot imagine that the framers of the constitution contemplated of the situation where the senate's vote is just equivalent to that of 290 or so congressmen in a joint voting. No senator will agree to this kind of interpretation.

Q: No senator.

Drilon: No senator.

Q: All of you are going to say that we need to vote separately?

Drilon: I would like to think that the opinion of all my colleague - but I cannot speak for all of them - but the more logical, the ore rational, the more legal, the more constitutional position is that we have to vote separately. We have wo chambers - the house and the senate. Where in the constitution does it say that in an amendment in the constitution, the senate and the house must vote jointly. Show me a provision of the constitution, which says that the two houses must convene physically together. The Constitution says that Congress, by three-fourths vote of all its members, may propose amendments to the constitution. Congress has two chambers. Where does it say that we must convene jointly? We can propose amendments to the constitution separately?

Q: We're talking about Article XVII, Section 1, which says that any amendment to, or revision of, this Constitution may be proposed by 1) the Congress, upon a vote of three-fourths of all its members.

Drilon: Where does it say "assembly"?

Q: Convening.

Drilon: Convening as one body. It doesn't say about it. We are a bicameral congress and therefore, we act separately.

Q: But it never also says voting jointly or separately. Meaning, could it really ne subject to interpretation?

Drilon: No, because congress is composed of two houses. A simple law is passed by the action of two chambers. We don't have a unicameral legislature. That is to me, why we should look behind all these criticisms of the senate. I think it is part of the effort to make the senate irrelevant, to make the senate look bad to the people and ultimately, to make it easier to amend the constitution so that there'll be a unicameral congress.

Q: So what is it? Conditioning the minds of the people that you are not needed anymore?

Drilon: That's correct, conditioning the minds of the people is part of the plan.

Q: But you already called on the senate president to defend the constitution and the senate president said that he has done his part and that any senator is free to defend the senate? Do you think that the Senate President has defended the senate adequately?

Drilon: We must go beyond the debate of whether we have passed the death penalty, because it is so myopic view of this. Unless this is nipped in the bud, this kind of talk will continue and it is the burden of the leadership that he must rise above the PDP Laban and assert the independence of the senate.

Q: How does one understand the position of the senate president knowing that he is the PDP Laban president, the President, as well, is a PDP...Has he adequately defended the senate?

Drilon: The defense of the senate should go beyond legislative agenda. If you limit to the legislative agenda, then you forget the bigger picture. What is the bigger picture? The drive to have the senate become irrelevant.

Q: The PDP Laban framework has a senate, it has a bicam.

Drilon: Whether or not there is a bicameral legislature in a federal system is something that is given in any model that you look at. A bicameral legislature is possible in a federal system, a unicameral legislature is also possible. The powers granted to each chamber is what is important. You have the parliamentary system in England, the House if Lord is more of a symbolic than anything; the Diet in Japan, the Lower House is more powerful.

Q: If you have a con-ass, it's up to you (to decide). I'm just saying that the PDP Laban framework has a senate.

Drilon: Yes. And if we vote jointly, goodbye (senate).

Q: The senate president is saying that the he will file a resolution...but Sen. Pangilinan says he will have a hearing...

Drilon: We are working in a committee system. All resolutions are referred to the committee having jurisdiction...

Q: You were saying that there is even a question of kung dapat magsama kayo (house and senate).

Drilon: Opo, magsama sa isang chamber kagaya ng ginawa namin noong martial law extension, we physically convened, because the Constitutions says voting jointly. So how can we vote jointly.

Q: Does that mean sir na hindi kayo papayag as the minority na magsama?

Drilon: Ang hindi po papayag ang majority including the minority is that we vote jointly.

Q: There are two timetables that could be followed (a plebiscite on May 2018 or May 2019)? What are your thoughts on that?

Drilon: The timetable must be realistic. The speaker is talking about a plebiscite in May of 2018, that is four months away. Just looking at the situation because, right now, they are trying to impeach the chief justice.

Q: The no-el scenario. Do you believe this is possible and something acceptable to the people?

Drilon: I don't think it is acceptable to the public. But I think this is real reason behind the drive for a federal system: suspend the election and we go on federalism. I don't think we can afford that.

Q: Secretary Harry Roque, ang sabi niya yung no-el, even continuing the president's term is almost an impossible dream. Do you believe that Sir? How's that pronouncement?

Drilon: I assume that that is the position of the president. In the absence of any evidence to the contrary, I concede that.

Q: In the absence of any evidence to the contrary...

Drilon: Yes, because look at what they said and what the President said, "if the President agrees". At this point, the President is very clear that he does not want any extension of term. It is the congressmen, the speaker, who want an extension of the term. To me, I will repeat, this is an indecent proposal, because you're voting on something that will favor you.

Q: It's also because the speaker was saying isa kayong mabagal na kapulungan.

Drilon: Sa akin, I will repeat, we should look at the statement beyond the alleged failure to execute the legislative agenda, which, by the way, does not include death penalty - in both the LEDAC and in our inter-chamber legislative agenda. Senator Ping says today that there is not majority of the senator voting for the death penalty. How can we include that in our legislative agenda?

Q: It's not gonna pass, Sir, why? Because SP Pimentel was also saying that talks on death penalty will resume when the senate begins its work.

Drilon: What I know is that Senator Gordon is the head of the justice committee, which hears this. In the last meeting that we had, there is a constitutional issue that was raised. That was the last question raised.

Q: Ipinasa na kay Sen. Pacquaio, who is an advocate.

Drilon: Let the majority in the committee endorse the death penalty bill. I do not know. I am not certain that you can get a majority in the committee to endorse the death penalty bill on the floor.

Q: Is it good as dead?

Drilon: I have said that the death penalty is dead.

Q: Questioning this (joint voting) possibly to the Supreme Court, is this something that you or the minority planning to question before the Supreme Court?

Drilon: We are open to it. Ultimately it will have to be decided by the Supreme Court.

Q: Do you think it (the impeachment against CJ Sereno) will be transmitted to the senate?

Drilon: I do not know. Based on the statement of Cong. Umali, the impeachment complaint will be brought to the Senate sometime in April or May. The moment it is transmitted to us we have no choice but to sit as an impeachment court and the moment we sit as an impeachment court, goodbye legislative agenda, goodbye federalism, goodbye BBL.

Q: Any priority of the senate?

Drilon: We have stated it, we support the BBL,; we support a good Department of Housing bill; we support a salary standardization law, which may grant the corresponding increase to the civilian personnel, because we passed, upon the request of the Malakanyang, the salary standardization law, which doubled the salary of the policeman and our soldiers. This will result in a salary distortion. Today a teacher 1 receives P21,000 while a policeman receives P40,000. Shouldn't the teacher, shouldn't the health worker, shouldn't the entry-level lawyer in the Department of Justice be the same with everybody.

Source: Senate of the Philippines

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