Kapihan sa Manila Hotel

Q: This is only me second time to come here. I’m here because of Bongbong. Not because of Rody. So, Senator, this is going to be a hot coffee morning because elections are getting more bizarre by the day. I remember a few months ago, you characterized the upcoming elections as strange and getting stranger. Is it getting more strange?

SBBM: Yes. I was just talking to some of the other friends of mine who are in other camps. This is the most “magulo”, that’s the word we use, election that we’ve ever seen and these are people who have been in politics for most of their lives. We’re talking 30, 40 years. There is less order to it. I think the main characteristic that comes out is that the party structure has become less important and it is very much now a personal campaign. I don’t know if that’s going to change in the next few months, pero sa ngayon, talagang unang-una, with Mayor Duterte, we did not know if he was coming in, if he was staying out, and now he has come in. How will that affect the presidential candidates, also with the vice-presidential and senatorial candidates? I think the senatorial election is indicative because if you look at it, there are no parties talaga. Everyone is adopted by different parties.

Q: Free for all.

SBBM: Yes. That is very much the case. There are no senatorial candidates that are only in one party.

Q: There are how many of you running for VP?

SBBM: We are 5 I believe.

Q: Plus 1 running for president? Right?

SBBM: Yes. You mean from our party?

Q: No, from the Senate. How many of you are you running for vice-president?

SBBM: From the Senate, I’m waiting to have our picture all taken together one day during session but we haven’t managed it yet. It’s interesting.

Q: You alone as a vice-presidential candidate, are in the cross hairs of Estrada, Miriam, and now Duterte. You’re the most desirable VP candidate. Have you committed yourself to any or all of them?

SBBM: Well I think, as I said, the party structure although it’s still there, it is not as dominant as it used to be. I think we have to take a page out of maybe the American elections. You have to get from what is not your balwarte. Kailangan kukuha ka ng suporta hindi lang sa pinanggalingan mo, hindi lang sa mga kababayan mo, kung hindi sa lahat ng iba’t-ibang lugar. You cannot win. For example, I cannot win just by taking votes from where I’m strong. I have to go to and gain support from other places. So ganoon talaga.

Q: Doesn’t that make the election more expensive?

SBBM: I don’t know. I think maybe more expensive only because to a large extent, it’s more expensive because ads are very expensive now than they were in 2010 or in 2013.

Q: But then you have more people backing you up.

SBBM: Ganoon pa rin. Pag national election you still have to have coverage all over the country. Yes. In the sense that you have to really fight for every vote. Whereas before, pagka may party machinery, may dala kaagad iyung party na dito, malakas kami rito lagi. Ngayon, you have to get each vote on your own. Of course the party can help but, only to a certain extent because ganoon nag-evolve iyung ating pulitika.

Q: Wala pa po kayong presidential running mate?

SBBM: Miriam. I’m running with Senator Miriam.

Q: How far does that go? Seryoso po ba iyun?

SBBM: We describe it as a loose coalition.

Q: Lose as in talo?

SBBM: No.

Q: Maluwag? Hindi po ba double meaning pag maluwag?

SBBM: Hindi masyadong mahigpit.

Q: So parang turnilyo, maluwag? Ganoon po?

SBBM: Hindi naman. Hindi naman sa turnilyong maluwag, loose coalition ito. It’s because exactly, I think it is a reaction nga dito sa ganitong klaseng naging halalan natin.

Q: It has led to the Constitution, the party system, the increase in population, and lack of principles.

SBBM: The party system. Our experiment in the multi-party system has not worked. I believe the reason is not only do people not understand how the multi-party system is supposed to work, the politicians do not know how it is supposed to work. Kasi simple lang iyan. There is no cost to political turncoatism dito sa Pilipinas.

Q: That was happening since way back.

SBBM: Kaya nga. Iyun na nga. Now it is very much institutionalized. Dati kung lumipat ka from NP to LP, it’s a big deal. It was a very big deal. Let’s take the example in other countries. Pagka lumipat mula Republican lumipat ng Democrat, napaka laking bagay iyun. Sa UK, when you cross from Conservative to Labor or to Liberal, that’s a very big deal. The reason why is because they are based on ideology. We are not based on ideology. We are based on political convenience. Iyung magsama ng eleksyon ngayon, next electon magka-away na, magkalaban na. So it really is not based on any shared ideology.

Q: How does it feel to be number 2 in the surveys? Number 2 to Chiz. Are you energized to hit the ground running faster?

SBBM: I don’t think you enter into the campaign, talagang handa ka na na gagawin mo lahat ng kailangan mong gawin. Syempre binabantay-bantayan mo iyung mga surveys but, hindi iyan ang sinusundan dapat. Dapat may plano ka. Iyung plano ay susundan mo. Syempre mag-aadjust ka ng kaunti as circumstances change. Yes, it gives you direction na dito tayo kulang, dito natin kailangan patibayin iyung ginagawa namin, pagandahin natin iyung galaw natin, whatever it is. It gives you some direction but again, at this point, in time you really should already have a general plan as to what you’re planning to do.

Q: Ano po ang inyong reaction na among the vice-presidential candidates, ang tumitira sainyo mismong Pangulo? Flaterred?

SBBM: Yes. I’m enjoying the attention. At least we can say he has been very consistent in attacking me. So, but then, that is his opinion.

Q: Senator, what happens, because you gave some brotherly advice to Senator Grace Poe, what happens if she wins as president and you win as vice-president? There is a new dynasty. Have you thought of that? Hasn’t that ever struck you? Share the thoughts with us. Because she’s leading.

SBBM: Of course I’ve thought about it. It’s a funny story. It will be the same. I am comfortable with any of the presidential candidates.

Q: Are you comfortable with her?

SBBM: I have known her the least of all of them.

Q: 3 years she was in the Senate with you.

SBBM: Yes. But I have known Mar for 30 plus years. I have known Jojo Binay for 20 years. I have known Mayor Duterte for 20 plus years. So, you know. I’m very comfortable with all of them. Miriam of course, I’ve been a fan of her for a long time. For me, I feel, I’m confident, that should I be elected, whoever the president should be and end up being, I’m sure I can find a way to work with them despite our differences may be in party affiliations.

Q: You remember sir gaining, dahil kaya sa pagtira sa inyo ni President Aquino?

SBBM: Palagay ko, syempre pag ang Pangulo ang bumabatikos sayo, hindi nakakatulong iyun. Siguro kung gumaganda man ang numbers, dahil talagang may plano nga kami, sinusundan namin ang plano. I am slowly going around to different areas, trying to rekindle our old alliances, trying to gain the support of as many people and I suppose the numbers, kung gumaganda man ang numbers, ibig sabihin nagkakaroon na ng epekto.

Q: Is the Marcos name an advantage or a disadvantage?

SBBM: It’s a huge advantage.

Q: It’s a huge advantage, in what way?

SBBM: Very simple. There are many important political leaders around the country who I can pick up the phone or I can show up in their office and I can say, “may I speak to you? May I ask for your support?”, which I would not be able to do if I was not the son of my father. These are the people that worked with him very closely, these are people who were aligned with him very closely, so madali silang lapitan. Syempre mayroon built-in din na kalaban, I think in politics lahat naman ganoon. It’s the same for everyone.

Q: Wala po kayong pagsisisi kung bakit vice-presidential position ang inyong kinandidatuhan? With all this kabi-kabilang disqualifications. You could have been a presidential candidate.

SBBM: Yes. I think that iyun na nga. Dahil nga masyadong magulo itong eleksyon, hindi nga masyadong maliwanag and I couldn’t really see how it was supposed to work for me as a presidential candidate. But for now, I’m happy with the decision I have made. Nagbago na ang posisyon ng vice-president but at the same time, syempre iyung isa sa main function ng vice-president ay maging handa kung sakali man ay hindi na kakayanin ng pangulo, ang maging pangulo, sa palagay ko in that regard, handang-handa naman ako. I have been in every department of government except the judiciary. I have too many years that I care to remember of experience. So, in that regard, I am ready. Besides that, I think again, the experience I have gained over the many years from viewing politics and the problems that our country faces from so many various perspectives has given me many ideas.

Q: You’re sounding like a presidential candidate now.

SBBM: Be that as it may. It is just a continuation of what I began when I first ran for vice-governor.

Q: Would there be material time and a way for you to change your application from vice to president? Ano sabi noong inyong mom? Kasi gusto niya mag president kayo.

SBBM: Yes. Syempre my mother. Ganoon naman talaga. Hindi naman kataka-taka na iyung iisang ina ay gustong maging successful ang anak.

Q: Is there a process, a time, and a process for you to jump from number 2 position to number 1?

SBBM: I don’t know. I haven’t even looked into it. It’s not something that I consider to be an option. Many things happen in the course of an election. Such an instance occurs, we will have to look into it but, right now that’s not.

Q: What’s the possibility?

SBBM: Hindi namin pinag-uusapan iyun. We don’t think about it.

Q: Bakit hindi pinag-uusapan?

SBBM: Dahil ang kandidatura ko pang-bise.

Q: What would you need to do to overtake the lead of Chiz Escudero?

SBBM: Again, keep going around. Keep campaigning. Wala naman sikreto diyan. You ask for the support of different quarters, different sectors, different geographical areas. In the end, the campaign is still a campaign. You have to, as I said, fight for every single vote.

Q: And spend every last centavo?

SBBM: Well, as I said, it’s an expensive enterprise.

Q: If running for president means spending something like 2 to 3 billion pesos, how much does it take to win a vice-presidential contest?

SBBM: I don’t know. I’ll tell you on May 10.

Q: Nakakamagkano na po kayo na gastos as of now?

SBBM: Tanong natin doon sa mga nagko-contribute. Hindi ko naman sinisita. Hindi ko naman iniisa-isa.

Q: Sinong pinakamalaking contributor as of today?

SBBM: I don’t think they would like for me to expose their identity.

Q: From Ilocos, from Leyte, from Manila, from big business?

SBBM: All of that.

Q: Sir do you have complete senatorial candidates?

SBBM: Not yet. I believe the number right now is we have 10 na senatorial.

Q: In case you win as vice-president, what cabinet position would you prefer? Can you give us an idea of what you’re going to do just in case you win and you get that post?

SBBM: When I look around and I see the problems, of course I want to search, but I talk to people, one of the biggest potential for doing good is in DOLE I think because we have many problems. One of the biggest problems is jobs in the country. I believe that without changing any policies, without passing any new laws, that we can improve the performance of DOLE when it comes to: 1) protecting our workers; 2) preparing our work force for employment in the private sector; and 3) for support and protection also on our OFWs.

Q: Contractual workers.

SBBM: That contractualization is becoming a big issue and rightly saw dahil

sa batas. Sinasabi hindi dapat ginagawa iyan at marami ng ipinanalo ang labor sector against management in that regard.

Q: Sir, it’s a practical system. I have a nice experience with this girl at SM. I was amazed at the way she tried to service me. She called me on text telling me, “what you’re looking for is now available, please come. “ So I said, “what happens when your contract runs out?” She said, “I will leave it to my supervisor.” Because in her experience the girls who were good in that section where she was assigned would become permanent, depending how good you are. SM has so many branches. It’s like a training ground. The way I look at it. It is a training ground and you separate the chaff from the grain, you winnow out the bad ones, the lazy ones, the ones who have no incentive.

SBBM: Well you can do that anyway by performance audit of anybody. I think every corporation, especially every successful corporation, at some point, reviews your performance; sinasabi, are they still worth having? At the same time, the law provides for protection and benefits for our workers. We must abide by those privileges and rights that we have.

Q: Atras po ako ng kaunti. Kailan ba nagsimula itong massive contractualization ng labor?

SBBM: It’s been going on for a few years now.

Q: During the time of your father, contractualization and the word “ENDO”, totally stranger iyan. Paano ito nagsimula?

SBBM: Walang ganyan. We have been hearing about it, as I said, because nagiging widespread at ang nirereklamo nga ng mga labor groups noong dumami ang strikes.

Q: During the time of Letran.

SBBM: Yes, it started around there.

Q: KMU.

SBBM: I think after that happened.

Q: Sa palagay niyo ba hindi kayo pinepersonal ni Noynoy Aquino kasi lahat ng sinasabi niyo kinokontra niya. Like iyung asawa niyo, si Liza, kamag-anak noong asawa ni Don Pedro Cojuangco. Hindi ‘ho ba? Pag sinabi niyong mas maganda noong panahon noong tatay niyo, laging kinokontra. Sa totoo lang, kahit sa ADB, mula panahon ni Cory hanggang sa panahon ni Ramos, pinakamababa iyung sa inyo. Sabi ‘ho iyun ng ADB.

SBBM: Iyun ang aming sinasabi. Iyan naman talaga ang katotohonan. Madaling mapatunayan. Kung titignan natin ang objective test, halimbawa, mga levels of unemployment, levels of poverty, literacy, lahat ng mga bagay na iyan, masasabi naman natin na maganda ang naging performance. Kung bakit ginagawa ng Pangulo na kinokontra lahat, karapatan niya iyun. It’s his prerogative.

Q: Pinepersonal ‘ho kayo.

SBBM: Hindi niya siguro personal iyun dahil talagang magkatunggali ang aming pamilya sa pulitika. Ako ang pakiramdam, hindi ko pinepersonal. Syempre kasama iyan sa usapang pulitika.

Q: Is your mom your biggest donor and by how much?

SBBM: No. I’ll answer it already. No. She’s not my biggest donor by any means.

Q: But she’s your biggest fan.

SBBM: Oo there’s that, yes. If your mother is not your biggest fan, you’re doing something wrong.

Q: I am from Mindanao so I’m for Duterte. I am wondering how you will work if Duterte becomes president. How you will work when it comes to federalism?

SBBM: Good question. Again, I have already taken a position. Federalism is something that we really should look into very closely. If you remember the Batasang Pambansa was a step into that direction when we elected our assemblymen by region. So nagsisimula na tayo papunta sa federalism. Definitely, ako I would happy to be involved in the extensive discussion and study of how to implement a federal form of government. That is something that brings us to the issue of charter change, that brings us to the issue of political subdivision, so it’s a big question. In theory, I believe it is a good system of government. One, because it is more sensitive to the needs of different localities. Bawat LGU ay nakakaiba sa ibang LGU. Sa palagay ko, mas sensitive ang mga tiga doon, doon sa pangangailangan ng isang LGU. That is why I think it is more sensitive. Secondly, when you have many centers of authority, it is a more stable government. Kagaya ngayon, very centered sa Manila, pagka problema sa Manila, problema sa buong bansa. Pero pag federalized tayo, pagka problema sa isang federated state, hindi naman maaapektuhan gaano iyung mga iba. So it’s a more stable form of government. I think many people agree with that. The problem might be in implementing it. How do we move from the system that we have now?

Q: We need to change the Constitution.

SBBM: Most definitely. I think the move to at least begin the process of charter change, will begin very soon after the next administration takes its position.

Q: You will improve on the BL BAR? Your version of the BBL. That’s where you will work out on? The tone of your proposal to your own version of BBL, seems to be in that direction.

SBBM: No. The Bangsamoro Autonomous Region is a different kind of political subdivision. It is an autonomous region. The other political subdivisions will not be necessarily an autonomous region like the Bangsamoro.

Q: Senator, ang puna kasi sa tumatakbo ngayon is the lack of discussion about that platform. Iyung isang presidential candidate, sinasabi niya, they will solve all the 20 problems that confront us, but I think that those are motherhood statement. Will you tell us once elected, kung ano ang priority mo. China is knocking at our doors on the South China Sea, we have the problem on the BBL, we have the problem of poverty, the other one is the brain-drain. We keep on encouraging Filipinos to go abroad, wala na kayong talent, what you do is export people like me. Please tell us iyung first priorities niyo.

SBBM: I think the priorities are as to what people are worried about. Kung ano ang inaalala ng pangkaraniwan na mamamayan. Nakakagulat dahil sa ilang taon na nagpapasurvey at nagbabasa ng ibang survey, ngayon lang nanguna sa problema na sa tingin ng taong bayan ay ang droga- illegal na droga. It was always in the top 5 noon. Pero the 2, 3 surveys that I’ve seen, iyan ang number 1. Talagang lumaganap na ang pagkalat ng iligal na droga. Tama naman siguro iyung ginagawa ng mga pulis, na iyung by-bust operations, pero maraming kailangan ayusin doon sa problewma na iyan. Pangalawa, kailangan na natin habulin iyung kinikilala na mga drug lord na malalaki talaga. We have to go after iyung mga namumuno na drug syndicates. Para talagang mabuwag na iyung mga grupong iyan. Tapos balikan din natin, tulungan ang ating kapulisan. We have to support them with training, with facilities, with funding, but also, we know that there are many policemen involved. Kailangan din natin tignan ng mabuti yan. We have to discipline them. We have to investigate them. If need be, we have to change the systems so hindi na mangyari ulit iyun. We talked about the OFWs. The OFWs, of course we would like for them to be here, dahil iyung kanilang sipag, iyung kanilang galing, iyung kanilang tiyaga, ay imbis na tumutlong sa ibang bansa, tumutulong dito sa akin. Kailangan na kailangan natin sila. Pero bakit sila umaalis? Walang trabaho dito. Kailangan natin maglagay ng trabaho, gumawa ng paraan, para dumami ang trabaho. Papaano natin gagawin iyun? We have to grow the economy. How do you do that? You have to put up the framework- the infrastructure. Kaya tayo hindi makapagcreate ng bagong trabaho dahil ang imprastraktura natin ay hindi natin binibigyan ng malaking investment. We have been spending 2 and a half percent of our GDP on infrastructure development in the past few years. That is very, very low as compared to our ASEAN neighbors. Kung titignan mo, may mga lugar sa China gumagastos sila labis sa sampung pursiyento of their GDP para sa infrastructure. Tapos, the nature of the infrastructure. Kailangan hindi lang political infrastructure. Pag hiningi ng mayor na paborito mo na maglagay ng kalsada rito, wala naman gumagamit, huwag niyo ng gagawin iyun. Tignan ninyo kung saan talaga ang pangangailangan. It is called business-driven infrastructure. Kung ano ang pangangailangan ng ekonomiya, para gumanda ang ekonomiya, iyun ang ilagay mo. Hindi man tayo makapagpatayo ng bagong power plant. Hindi natin pinapaganda iyung ating irrigation system at agrikultura. Iyung airport natin, barado na. Iyung port natin, barado na.

Q: Why is that? We have the money. We are underspending.

SBBM: Dahil walang bago. I do not know. 2014, we underspent by 800 billion.

Q: So it’s not a lack of money.

SBBM: It is not a lack of funding. It’s lack of direction. Lack of policy. Walang policy. Wala naman tayong sinusundan na plano. Basta’t react tayo ng react. Kailangan planuhin natin ng mabuti at sabihin natin, ito iyung gusto nating mapupuntahan ng Pilipinas. Kung nais natin pumunta rito, maging malakas tayo sa halimbawa, maayos natin iyung power problem, ito iyung mga kailangan gawin. Kung talagang gusto natin dumami ang turista dito, pagandahin natin iyung airport. Kung gusto natin mas maganda ang takbo ng negosyo, mas mababa ang cost ng transportation, ayusin natin ang mga pwerto. Ayusin natin ang mga kalsada. All of these things can be done. This is all infrastructure. Walang pagbabagong kailangan. Simple lang. Sinasabi natin ang mga OFWs, mga bagong bayani. Tapos nilalaglag ang bala. Parang the right hand does not know what the left hand is doing. To go back to infrastructure, 2 years ago, the Department of Public Works downsized. Nagtanggal sila ng mga trenta pursiyento ng kanilang tao. The next year, dinoble ang budget ng Public Works. Papaano nila gagawin iyung trabaho, tinanggal mo lahat ng tao nila? You see this kind of inefficiency, pag naayos mo iyan, malaking bagay na iyun. Malaking multiplier effect iyun. So, as I said, walang pagbabago sa polisiya, walang bagong batas, kung hindi pagandahin lang ang takbo ng gobyerno.

Q: Comment lang. Bago niyo ‘ho magawa lahat iyan, tumakbo po kayong president.

SBBM: Ang lagi kong sagot sa ganoong klaseng comment, sa tamang panahon.

Q: Ang tamang panahon po ay hanggang December 10. Puede pa ba?

SBBM: Wala na.

Q: Nasaan sa priority mo ang South China Sea issue?

SBBM: Alam mo lahat iyan top priority. Walang hindi importante diyan. Malaking-malaking bagay. Iyung South China Sea issue, sa palagay ko, we have to engage the Chinese more. Naging useful iyung sa UN dahil nasasabi natin kung ano iyung ating pananaw- what is our argument kung bakit sinasabi natin, atin ito, dito kasama sa Pilipinas ang mga lugar na ito, itong area na ito. Maging maliwanag kung ano ba talaga ang position natin. Ngunit, hindi tayo maaaring Manalo sa UN dahil wala tayong katapat. It is as if you are in court arguing against no one. You are the plaintiff, you have no defendant. How will you win? Again, I think the argument needs to be made in the UN arbitration.

Q: The Chinese won’t accept any decision.

SBBM: That is why it is necessary to engage the Chinese in every possible way. We have to solve this problem. Hindi natin puedeng pabayaan itong problemang ito. Kailangan natin ayusin itong problema na ito. Hindi magkaka-ayusan kung hindi magpirmahan at hindi mag-agree ang China at tsaka ang Pilipinas.

Q: They speak so fondly of your mother.

SBBM: They very much respect the opening of relationship. I keep talking about it, parang walang nakarinig, na may malaking pagbabago ang position ng China. Mula noong simula nitong gulong na ito, ang China sinasabi nila, 9 dash. Iyan lang. Tayo argument natin, hindi iyan sumusunod sa internationbal law. Hindi iyan sumusunod sa UNCLOS. Kaya’t napunta tayo sa UN. Para nga maipakita natin na hindi sumusunod sa International Law iyun. If you go back to the recent past, a few months ago, it was the first time that the Chinese Ambassador said that we are open to bilateral talks under the framework of International Law. That is the first time they have said that. It is a very big opportunity for us. Dapat we should take it up. And yet we haven’t. Ang nagsabi sa akin, ang nagpoint out sa akin ay mga tiga DFA naman. Alam nila. Ang mga tiga DFA sinasabi nila malaking pagbabago ito. Pero iyung gobyerno natin hindi inexplore iyang possibility na iyan.

Q: 48 of them were preparing to go kasi.

SBBM: Yes I know. It was a funny sight to have 48 people with only 1 person arguing.

Q: And they were foreigners.

SBBM: We need our foreign lawyers.

Q: Iyung father niyo ang nagpatatag ng claim natin sa Spratlys. Anong reaction mo ba? Iyung mga isla nawala sa panahon ng mag-ina?

SBBM: Kaya nga, kung titignan ninyo ang kasaysayan, tayo naman ang nagsimula nito. Paano natin tatapusin? Alam ba natin kung ano ba iyung gusto natin? Parang hindi pa natin naririnig- this is what we want, we would like for us to come to an agreement in this regard. You know, ang mga diskusyon na iyan hindi naman basta’t magkita lang minsan, tapos na. Dahan-dahan iyan. Maraming pang pag-uusapan. Kumplikado iyung mga issue. Pero ang suggestion ko simulan natin sa mga mangingisda. Halimbawa, ang mga mangingisda ng China at tsaka ng Pilipinas noon ay magkasama iyan. Nangingisda sila sa international waters. Walang problema. Kung minsan daw, pag gabi na at tapos na sila magtrabaho, nagsasama sila, kumakain sila ng magkasama, nag-iinuman sila doon. Tapos balik nanaman sila sa pag-isda. Ngayon hindi na puedeng gawin iyun. Balik natin iyun. Let’s just start with small steps. If we can say, ayusin natin itong sitwasyon dito sa ating mga fishermen para mabalik man lang sa dati na normal na pagtrabaho nila. If we can get that, then the next step. What do we do ngayon about the military patrols? What do we do naman about the claim? The structures on the island. What can we do? What are the compromises? We should have proposals. We haven’t made any proposals. We have not said to the Chinese or to anybody else; ito iyung gusto namin mangyari. Dito sa palagay namin ang tama. Hindi pa natin ginagawa iyun.

Q: Sa scenario po na iyan, ano ba talaga ang US at ang Japan?

SBBM: Syempre mga big players sila. Pero ang kailangan natin aalahanin ay kung mayroon man tayong diskusyon sa China, hindi natin ginagawa ito para sa America. Hindi natin ginagawa ito para sa Japan. Ginagawa natin para sa Pilipinas ito. Mahirap itong problemang ito. Hindi simple ito. The only guiding principle in all of this is that we are not doing this because we are close to the Americans or we are close to the Chinese or we are close to Japan. We are doing this for the best national interest of the Philippines. Hindi simpleng solusyon iyan because we are between these superpowers. We have China on 600 kilometers away. We have the United States with its presence here in the pacific and in Asia. Bumahing lang iyung isa doon, durog na tayo. Kailangan maingat tayo. That is the situation. It is a very delicate situation. It must be treated with the appropriate finesse and diplomacy.

Q: Just for a change in pace, do you think Trump will win? Is there a chance for Trump to win? Or will it be Hillary more likely?

SBBM: Touch call. It’s a difficult call. He’s a bit of a phenomenon. Parang Duterte. When Trump first shut up, nagkataon iyung isang kaibigan ko Amerikano who stayed with me, he just came to visit. He was a Republican. Sabi ko, “are you serious about Donald Trump? Are you people serious about supporting Donald Trump? You know because he’s a bit outrageous, he’s a bit flamboyant.” Sabi niya, “at least he says the things that we are thinking about. He’s not trying to finesse around the real problems of the country.” I think that’s the same thing with Mayor Duterte. I don’t know what’s going to happen.

Q: You still like Duterte after what he did and said about the Pope and iyung 1000 peso donation niya to Caritas every time he makes a curse?

SBBM: Anyone who has known the Mayor for any length of time will know that that is exactly the way he talks.

Q: So it will not impact on his ratings?

SBBM: That, we will have to see. We don’t know. But I have asked people after the commotion about talking and saying the Pope should leave. I asked them; “so now do you agree with what he said?” They said no. “But will you vote for him?” Yes, sabi. So, I don’t know what will work out in numbers. But again, people are looking for order. People are looking for stability. Masyado ng magulo ngayon. We have no strong leadership. We have not seen any strong leadership for a while. That’s why things are not as smooth.

Q: If you say that, that we lack a great leader, they’ll say kasi martial law iyan. Kasi martial law baby ka.

SBBM: I wasn’t. Why? Is martial law the only way to impose order?

Q: That’s what they think. Ayaw nila ng disiplina.

SBBM: Pagka walang disiplina, walang mangyayari sa atin. Tignan mo iyung pinaka success story na lagi natin tinitignan at kinakahanga. Singapore. Let’s go back a little bit when they first started and look where it took Singapore. Because the order, tuloy-tuloy ang planning. Sumusunod lahat doon sa plano. Basta’t kailangan gawin, ginagawa. Kahit politically unpopular, kung may plano na kahit nagpalit na ang gobyerno, tuloy pa rin iyung plano at hindi nagbabago.

Q: Sabi nila kasi 3 million lang sila.

SBBM: Well, totoo din iyun. They may be 3 million, but they are fighting way above their weight. I just saw a statistic, Singapore has the fastest growing number of millionaires anywhere in the world. More than China. More than anywhere. The fastest growing number of millionaires. So there you go with despite their size, they are punching way above their weight.

Q: Puede po ba iyung great leader na hindi naman sinasacrifice ang freedom ng mamamayan?

SBBM: Well hindi naman kailangan isacrifice ang kahit na ano. Basta’t kailangan lang magkaroon ng maayos na patakbo. Iyun lang naman. Simple lang naman. Sundan lang iyung batas. Sundan lang naman iyung polisiya. Kailangan lang consistent. Iyan iyung traffic. Halimbawa we hear, traffic ganito ang problema, sinasabi, inaayos na namin. Saan niyo inaayos? It’s going to get better. Why will it get better? Explain to us why it will get better. But nothing is actually getting done. We heard in the first 4 years ago, we will this year be self-sufficient in rice. Every year tumataas ang importation natin. Maraming sinasabi pero walang nangyayari. Kailangan talaga kung mayroon kayong sabihing plano, masundan iyung sinabi.

Q: Mister Senator, the way you sound, as if you’re going to vote for Duterte.

SBBM: Of course not. I will vote for my president.

Q: But you sound as if you were. Who is your president?

SBBM: Senator Miriam is my president. I am not going to vote for anyone.

Q: Even if Duterte adopts you as his candidate for vice?

SBBM: I don’t think at this point that that’s going to happen. The Mayor and I are friends. But Senator Miriam and I, I hope I can also call her a friend but beyond that, we agree on very many things in terms of approach, in terms of even ideology.

Q: But her ranking is very low. 4%. Does that bother you? Although she’s great in social media, Pulse Asia and SWS’ surveys show that she’s at the bottom, single digit.

SBBM: At this time, before the 2010 elections, in 2009, kung titignan ninyo iyung mga ranking, walang kinalaman doon sa naging resulta sa Mayo. So, malayo pa.

Q: Some, by traditional expense, say that whoever the Americans will support in this election, would win in this election. What’s your comment on that and what is your position on certain related issues such as VFA and Philippine-American relations.

SBBM: I think that may have been true in the past. I don’t think it is as true now that the Americans pretty much decide who will win. I think it has always been true that their support has been important. But now, I think the issues that people see in the presidential election are more important rather than who the Americans want. They have moved away already from our colonized past with the Americans. Palagay ko, it’s a natural process na hindi na tayo masyadong tumitingin sa Washington, kung hindi talagang ano ang nangyayari sa Maynila, kung anong nangyayari sa Norte, kung ano nangyayari sa Visayas. It is more localized in terms of the issues. Again, our relationship with the Americans- it is a special relationship. It is something that we continue and should continue to cultivate. I believe that it is important to us to, as I said, continue that relationship. But again, we have to see what is in light of the national interest- what is best for the Philippines. We are not in the midst of a war that we need to choose sides. We not in the midst of any such conflict. So, we can chart our own path. I think that’s what we should do especially considering that China now has emerged not only in economic, but also in military superpower. We have to add that to our discussion and our determination where the balance should be in terms of our alliances. But again, I think the only way that we can determine kung ano ba talaga. Kasi it’s a very thin line that we have to tread; between not only the United States, not only China, but ASEAN, in the EU, all the other geo-political forces that our intact upon us. Kailangan nararamdaman natin lahat iyan. Kailangan natin mapuna kung saan ba talaga ang dapat sa Pilipinas.

Q: But Senator, our relations with America are more than political, we have the sugar group, persons that depend on the American market- certain exporters that depend on the American market.

SBBM: That is the same for many other countries. Simply because the American market is so large. But again, because of our special relationship, perhaps you were right that our economic ties are stronger. That is I think to the good because the key to economic success in this day and age for every country is trade. It is no longer cornering the world market in one commodity or another. Palagay ko, pagpatuloy natin iyun. But that is separate from the geo-politics that we are involved with. How do we handle our foreign policy relationships with other states?

Q: Mister Senator, kasi the usual issue from the legacy of your father is political persecution. Right now, may sentiment iyung opposition na under President Aquino’s administration iyung political persecution. You have Senators jailed, the case against Vice-President Binay. Do you share the sentiment na mayroong political persecution laban doon sa mga kalaban ni President Aquino. My second question is, kamusta po iyung relationship ninyong tatlong vice-presidential candidates na galing sa Nacionalista Party?

SBBM: I don’t know what is happening in terms of this- the prosecution, the investigations of wrong doing amongst other politicians. But I have to say that there has been an element of what I refer to as “selective justice” in this administration. Let us get away from the political side of it. Bakit iyung Ampatuan murder, Maguindanao massacre, mag-aanim na taon na. Maliwanag kung sino ang accused. May mga eye-witness accounts. Marami. Kumpleto na ang kaso ng prosecution. Anim na taon na. Wala pang nangyayari. Ngunit nakapag-impeach na tayo ng isang supreme court chief justice, nakapagparesign tayo ng ombudsman, nakapagpakulong na tayo ng tatlong senador. Bakit iyun mabibilis? Bakit ito na walang bahid ng kahit na anong pulitika, simpleng-simple na kaso, hindi natin matapos-tapos? That is I think more to the point. Let’s take away the political color of it. We have to prioritize what are the most glaring injustices. How about the 3 of us vice-presidential from Nacionalista? Walang problema. I last saw Senator Allan during the hearings for Laglag Bala. We had a nice chat. I had lunch yesterday with most of the NP and with Senator Sonny Trillanes. Wala namang problema. Basta’t ang batian namin, sige goodluck na lang sa atin. Ganoon lang. I hope we will remain friends. Matagal naman iyung pinagsamahan namin. This is only one election.

Q: Sino po iyung sinusuportahan sa tingin ninyo ni Senator Villar Sir?

SBBM: Officially walang piniling official candidate ang NP kaya’t lahat kami pumila ng independent. I don’t know kung magpoposition ang Nacionalista Party formally for one or the other. I hope it will be me.

Q: Just in case, can you substitute for Senator Miriam?

SBBM: If she decides to withdraw? Again, I couldn’t tell you. I haven’t really studied the matter. That’s not part of any of our planning or any of our discussion. That is going to be a similar situation with what Mayor Duterte has done, that he will substitute for another. So, we don’t know if that’s going to be allowed because that has already been contested. So, we will see what the COMELEC decides.

Q: If allowed?

SBBM: If allowed? It’s a nice hypothetical but I don’t think she’s going to withdraw. Why should she withdraw? She says she’s healthy, she can conduct the campaign, so she should continue.

Q: How far will the social media network account for a victory in this presidential election?

SBBM: That’s a very difficult question to answer. Depends. Iyung mga proponents ng social media, they tell you, iyung mga medyo hard core traditionalists, maliit lang iyan. Kahit may supporter, kahit hindi sumusunod. I’m sure the correct answer is somewhere in the middle. With just empirical data, we cannot get a hard number as to what really the effects are. But if you look at the demographic of those most active in social media, it is precisely the demographic of the largest sector in our country- the young people. 18 to 35 years old constitutes 44.4% of the entire electorate. I would venture to say that all are on social media in one form or the other.

Q: AlDuB.

SBBM: Biruin mo. That’s a perfect example.

Q: Senator, curious lang po ako, kasi before na maging si Senator Santiago ang inyong ka-tendem, alam ko mayroong mga nagsasabi Duterte-Marcos ‘ho talaga. Ano po bang nangyari before Miriam Defensor decided to be your tandem? Ano ‘hong nangyari? Mayroon ba kayong previous na usapan o talagang that time walang kaplano-plano si Mayor? Kasi parang mayroon na ‘ho noon. In fact, nakita po iyung ginawa nila na poster para ‘ho sainyo.

SBBM: Simple lang iyan. Syempre tinatanong ko kay Mayor Duterte mula noong simula, ikaw ba ay tatakbo o hindi? Ang sabi niya sa akin, hindi, hindi ako tatakbo. So anong magagawa ko kung hindi pakinggan siya at paniwalaan siya. So iyun ang basis na hindi mukhang tatakbo si Mayor Digong. So ang lapit ko naman sakanya, tulungan mo naman ako sa Mindanao. Sana makuha ko iyung endorsement mo dahil malaking bagay ang endorsement mo. Hindi lamang sa Mindanao, sa Visayas pati na rin sa Maynila. So iyun ang nilalapit ko sakanya. Sana matulungan mo ako. Noong nagdecide siyang tumakbo, nagbago na lahat. So ganoon ang pangyayari. That’s what really happened. Kasi noon pa, dating gawi talaga, basta’t nasa Davao ako, pinupuntahan ko siya. Dahil nga magkasundo kami. We’re friends.

Q: What do you like about him?

SBBM: What you see is what you get. He’s plain spoken. If you have been in a rock setting, he’s terribly entertaining. He’s fun to be around.

Q: Iyung father niyo ‘ho ba pinaghuhugutan niyo rin ng mga idea para ipagpatuloy iyung kaniyang mga nasimulan?

SBBM: Ang aking ama?

Q: Opo. Kasi alam natin inventor siya at tsaka marami siyang nakatenggang proyekto na hindi natuloy. Are you planning to pursue it kung sakali na, syempre iyung tandem niyo magiging kavibes niyo?

SBBM: Hindi naman sa pinupuruse ko iyung gawain ng aking ama. Sa palagay ko, kung gagawin ko man iyun ay dahil sa palagay ko tama para sa panahon na iyan ang dapat nating gawin. Iyun ang dahil ginawa ng ama ko dahil bagay sa sagot na maganda sa problema.

Q: I suppose that if you are vice-president, you will become desire of labor. In view of the legal integration of ASEAN now which finds the labor force the most problematic, what kind of policy will you push around that line?

SBBM: Strengthening, number 1. Again as I mentioned, iyung protections ng ating mga manggagawa- all our laborers, our workers. We have to continue their protection, the tenure that the law guarantees, all of these things. I think what we should do is build-up the SMEs. Iyung mga credit natin na binibigay dapat mas madali para sa mga SMEs dahil sila talaga ang bumubuhay ng ating ekonomiya. Tapos siguro ang TESDA, ang CHED, maybe they can start to retool or adjust their courses or what they teach so that they prepare the work force for employment. 90% of the work force is in the private sector.

Q: How should this immediately be part of ASEAN integration?

SBBM: We will be more ready to compete. Essentially ang worry natin lahat pag ASEAN integration, hindi tayo makapagcompete. Ang inaalala natin ay halimbawa, ang agriculture, dahil mataas ang cost of production, mababa ang production natin, all of those things, kailangan natin patibayin ang agrikultura para makapagcompete. Alalahanin natin na halos setenta pursiyento ng mahirap sa Pilipinas ay nasa agrikultura. Kaya’t kailangan talagang bigyan ng mas malakas na focus iyun. Again, the infrastructure that I said. You cannot add jobs to the economy if the economy is not growing. Now we hear that we’re growing at a remarkable rate. I’ve been hearing this for many years. But it’s not felt by ordinary people. It is felt by big corporations. It is felt by rich people.

Q: Not even by the middle class.

SBBM: Not even by the middle class. There is a very serious failure in the policies of the distribution of wealth. Now, I think we have to re-think the CCTs because spending 65 billion a year and nothing changes in the poverty rate, nothing changes in the literacy rate, nothing changes is the mortality rate, then we have probably arrived at a point of diminishing returns. Maybe that money can be used to be spent for schools, for hospitals, for roads, for bridges, for power plants, for improvement of the internet, a new airport, more ports, all of these things that can be done. So, maraming-marami talaga. Para sa akin ang daming potential. Nanghihinayang ako. Kaya hindi tayo nakikinabang.

Q: This is not a question but a commentary. None of the presidential and vice-presidential candidates have ever spoken about the middle class. We are the middle class, we are the intelligent voters I think, I hope. But nobody cares about us. They are looking after the very poor, they are looking after big business, investors, but nobody cares about the tax payers. We are the most taxed sector. They don’t want to bring down the taxes.

SBBM: They file as middle class, but tax as upper class. Because there is no recognition that the stability of the economy or even for that matter of society. If you study any books on sociology, a strong and healthy and vibrant middle class is the key to a stable economy and even to a stable society. I think that we’ve forgotten that. To look at merely aggregated numbers and say the whole country is growing at 6%, but the agriculture constitutes only 10% now of our GDP. 70% of the poor are in agriculture. So how has this been good for them? The SMEs. There’s no manufacturing in the Philippines anymore. We don’t make anything anymore.

Q: Only babies.

SBBM: Magaling tayo diyan. Iyung SMEs. There is no policy nga that recognizes the importance of certain sectors and a plan to develop those sectors so that is goes down to the benefit not only to social stability but even financial stability.

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