Press Conference: Molo, Iloilo

BBM: That’s why both houses of Congress already have substitute bills. The House approved the so called NP version of the BBL which is something that, kaya nga they were accused na minamadali at ni-re-rail road. Now in the Senate we have a different system, we were able to write, I wrote a substitute bill to replace what was the BBL. We do not talk about, hindi na napag-uusapan iyong BBL. Iyong pinag-uusapan na ngayon natin ay The Basic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region. Sa ngayon na sa period of interpellation sa House, period of interpellation sa Senado. Almost, not almost, everyday ako’y nandun sa Senado at tumatayo para mabigyan ng pagkakataon lahat ng ating mga Senador na magtanong tungkol sa substitute bill na finile ko. So that is the parliamentary status of The Basic Law on the bangsamoro Autonomous Region.

Facilitator: Thank you Sir…

BBM: Where are you? I cannot.

Rep from Philippines News Agency: Here Sir.

BBM: There you are.

Rep from PNA: Sir may we know your political plan for 2016?

BBM: You will know when I know. I always tease the media when they ask me what my plans are and I say if I knew my plans I will tell you. The reason that you do not know, is that because no decisions have been made. A national campaign is not kept secret. The moment that you know what you’re doing in the national campaign, you’ll announce it as quickly as possible. So I will have to ask for your patience because as you know, not only myself but all, not all, many of the other potential candidates have still to make their decisions as well. Kaya’t sa ngayon, wala pang decision. Pero malapit na dahil alam niyo naman na ang filling is already in October. Kailangan na makapag-decide. Siguro by the end of September makikita na natin kung ano ba talaga ang magiging political terrain. Sinong tatakbo, sinong kapartido, sino iyong a-adopt, sino ang tandem. The election this year has been very unusual. Parang malapit na malapit na tayo sa filing, palapit na ng palapit sa eleksyon, hindi pa maliwanag sinong tatakbo, sinong magkasama, all of those things. But I guess that’s what happened in this political cycle. So again, I will have to ask for your patience because it is not that I am keeping or trying to be nagpapa cute na hindi nagsasabi. Pero talagang iyong mga desisyon na iyon ay hindi pa naming na-ifa-finalize.

Q: Sir another question from…

BBM: Sure

Q: Sir we were also there at the LMP this afternoon and Nene Pimentel the author of the Local Government Code said that the implementation of the local government code is faulty and he would like to have it amended also and also for the President’s qualification, educational qualifications to be improved. Your mind on this Sir?

BBM: Well I have been working very closely with the Senator Nene simply because he is, I don’t want to call it, kasi nagagalit siya pag sinabi mong Father of the Local Government Code, but he is the author of the Local Government Code. Therefore, and the minute that I became Local Government Chairman, ay pinuntahan ko siya and I was consulting with him kung ano sa palagay niya ang mga kailangang gawin para pagandahin iyong Local Government Code. There are many different areas in the Local Government code that we could improve. First and foremost, just the sharing of the IRA at sa palagay naming lahat kulang ang sharing ng IRA sa local governments for two reasons. One, in our view the calculation of the local government IRA share is faulty, it’s flawed. Dahil ang ginawa ng IRA share is faulty, is flawed dahil ang ginawang interpretation ng DBM sa nakaraang ilang taon, ang kinukuha lang nilang tax based ay iyong collection ng BIR. But kung titignan natin ay dapat talaga ang national collection, 40% of national collection includes what is collected by the Bureau of Customs, the VAT all of these other collections and that would greatly improve the situation. The other thing that we are looking at, in fact this is what I spoke about with the Mayors is the 50%. We proposed that the IRA sharing will be 50-50 between national government and local government. I think that is perfectly justified because our local governments depend on their IRA share to a great extent that iyon namang national government at maraming pagkukuhaan. Then there are other details like the amount of income that is necessary to convert to a city, then there’s the proverbial problem of the iyong boundary disputes between adjoining LGU’s because of course, IRA is calculated on the amount of square the area that, how big the LGU is. Kaya’t lahat nag-kle-claim na mas malaki sila. In fact it is a very funny statistic that since the Local Government Code became law the Philippines has increased its area by 200 square kilometers. Ilocos Norte is about 200 square kilometers so sabi nila nangunguha tayo ng 200 square kilometers of political expansion. So that is something that we have had to look into. There are many other little details that we would like to look at, the terms of the barangay officials. It something that we have proposed early on, but it was denied by the DILG. First actually what happened was the DILG said that payag sila na gawing 5 years, gawing 3 terms. Hiningi pa nga ng liga ng Barangay is 5 terms. So sinabing gawin nating 3 terms at somehow nagbago ang kanilang isip, sinabing hindi na. Kailangang synchronized. Hindi naman kailangang synchronized pero ang kailangan susunod doon sa national and local elections. So, there are many issues that need to be looked at. Not because the law was wrong. But because we have moved on in the situation today is different from what it was when RA 7160 was enacted into law.

F: Thank you Senator. Next question is …

Q: Mister Senator there seems to be a lack of direction in foreign policy especially in the Senate, for example is the encroachment of China into Philippine territory. Are playing coy about this situation? What is your take on the foreign policy direction of the Senate?

BBM: Well first of all, the Senate has no, foreign policy is only the purview which is under the President and the executive. The Senate does not dictate foreign policy. We do not, we can of course make our raw opinions felt. The Senate only comes in when there is a treaty that is signed between a President, our President and another head of state. When that is so, the treaty has to be ratified by the Senate. But we do not direct foreign policy. Right now, to go back to go to your question about what is happening in the West Philippine Sea, I think that we have been, that taking the case to adjudication was a good idea. Kasi kahit sabihin ng mga Chinese na hindi nila papansinin ang magigiging resulta, kahit papaano kapag mayroon tayong nakuhang resulta at maging pabor sa atin, malaking bagay iyon. That is a big moral victory and that moral victory will translate, maybe slowly, it will take a long time. Pero kahit papaano, if there is an official judgment as to whether or not, what China has been doing as an encroachment or not, well I think that we will be able to use a favorable judgment in many, many ways. What I have also always said was beyond the adjudication case that was argued before the UN is we should also try to initiate direct contact with China in whatever way possible. And when I say that I say that not only in the formal sense na government to government, iyong Ambassador natin makikipag-usap sa Secretary ng DFA, but kahit iyong mga negosyante kung mayroon silang kaibigan, na makatulong, dapat kausapin natin, subukan natin. Baka sakali doon magiging tama iyong, doon makakalusot ang ating magiging solusyon. It has not been noticed, but there has been a significant shift in the Chinese position vis-à-vis the Philippines. And what is that? Sabi ng Ambassador ng China, that at last they are open to talks, bilateral talks with the Philippines and all issues to be discussed under UNCLOS. UNCLOS is The United Nations Charter Law on the Law of the Seas. Ang lagi nating sinasabi iyan na dapat ay tayo, dapat ang China sundan ang International Law ang basically that is UNCLOS. And they have always taken a different position. This is the first time that we have heard from China that they are willing to consider our position under UNCLOS. That is very significant and I think it is an opportunity that we should seize. I would advise our diplomats to immediately pursue that. Pinagbibigyan tayo doon sa ating pagpipilit ng International Law. Ang dapat sundan and that is UNCLOS, and they are now saying, we can talk about it within that framework of International Law. In an important development, I hope we could take advantage of it.

F: thank you Senator. Next question from…

Q: Good evening Senator.

BBM: Good evening.

Q: Let’s go back to politics. Recently the Nationalista Party, your party, headed by Villar, and the PDP Laban headed by Pimentel talked with Duterte. They acknowledge it or it did not happen?

BBM: That was the report that came out that ang Insider said na ganito ganyan, na tapos na ang, it’s a done deal, hindi galing sa amin iyon. That did not come from the Nationalista Party. That did not come from the PDP.

Q: Senator Cynthia Villar is already acknowledging it.

BBM: No, she has acknowledge that we are meeting. That we are talking. Iyong done deal na statement hindi ko alam. Well I have a suspicion kung saan galing iyon but that did not come. Tinatawanan nga namin.

Q: What’s the true story behind these things?

BBM: The Nationalista Party has been in discussion with all the other parties for a very long time now. For the last few months. We have been talking to everyone who cares to discuss it. We as individual candidates, or we as possible candidates are also talking to other individuals. As prospective candidates but those decisions have not been made. Should that decision have been made, I guarantee you within 5 minutes you would know about it. It will be official. Because a national campaign is not something that you keep a secret. That would be foolish. A national campaign is something you announce at the earliest possible moment. And so the minute that decision has been made, we will announce it and it will be official. It will be a spokesman of the Nationalista Party, not some unnamed unattributed report. Kaya’t we were laughing about it nga the other day together with Senator Cynthia and Senator Koko. We were saying, anong sinasabi mo. What can you do? You said people are convinced that this is true. But the talks are on-going. They are advanced. We have made a lot of progress. Again, not only with PDP Laban. With all the major parties. We are technically still in coalition with Liberal Party. But that coalition has become loser and loser and less and less formal as time goes on after the 2013 election. So in our view as the members of the Nationalista Party that it is still an open field and although siyempre as I said nagpro-progress na iyong mga usapan, so more or less there are directions already kung saan ang patutunguhan nitong usapan na ito. But again ipaubaya natin sa official na deklarasyon ng ating partida. I do not want to preempt anything. And let us allow the party to make any such announcements. You know we cannot avoid that speculation because as I always tease everybody, people think that we in the Philippines, they think the favorite sport is basketball, that’s not true, it’s poltics. Hindi lang pulitiko. Kahit na iyong sino-sino, basta ilagay mo doon, kahit naka ilang beer na iyan. Wala pultiko pag-uusapan. Of all things. That seems to be our nature. Especially now when things are very uncertain and we are rapidly approaching filing. You cannot blame people for trying to figure out ano ba talaga ang nangyayari. From the moment that we can make it clear to you, we will.

F: Thank you Sir. Last 2 questions. From Manny Alcalde of News Express…

MA: Good evening Mister Senator.

BBM: Good evening.

Q: In light of this PDAF scam Sir, sending more law makers to face cases, I do not know but there’s a rumour that you favour going up into the Federal system of government. I don’t know but if you can share your view as far as Federalism is concerned?

BBM: Well Federalism I think is a good system of government. If you remember we already had a federal system. The Batasang Pambansa elected their assemblymen on the basis of regions, hindi lang probinsya. My sister became an assembly woman in the as an assembly woman from our region. Not from Ilocos Norte. So we already tried it and I think as principle it is a good idea but it will need a very strong hand. It will need a very committed government to change the constitution and to restructure the government into a federalized system. I think probably it would be better because it brings government closer to the people, in my view. It also makes for me a worst of government because when you have many centers of power all around the country, when one center of power gets into trouble, or nagka problema, or it falls, or whatever, hindi naman lahat bagsak. Pero kapag iyong isa lang, we have a very centralized form, and something happens, mararamdaman ng lahat so that makes it less stable. So the federal system makes for a more stable form of government. That is always a good thing. And furthermore, it brings government closer to the people. Closer to the local communities. And again, that is a good thing. I think that there are enough examples around the world of successful Federalist countries and I think we can learn a great deal from there. Our only, perhaps in our case, dahil pag Federalized and pinaguusapan lamang Prime Minister. Our research seems to indicate na kapag nagsusurvey kami, noon pa ito, noong in the 90’s, when we were starting to talk about it. The Parliamentary form of government, iyong Federalism, and we took surveys. Ang Pilipino it turns out, ang Pilipino gusto nila na sila ang boboto sa lider ng bansa. Ayaw nila na magiging Prime Minister na binoto ng mga members of Parliament. Kaailangan sa balota, sila ang susulat. Kaya’t noong 70’s sinubukan natin. Mayroon tayong Prime Minister, iyong panahon na iyon si Virata and mayroon tayong Pangulo, iyong aking ama. The way that was the system was employed was that, the Prime Minister is the head of government and the President is head of state. That satisfies the Filipinos’ insistence that they actually directly vote the leader. Puwede tayo mag federalize but we have to take that into account and I think that will work. The French have that kind of system pero Parliamentary sila, hindi sila Federalized.

Q: Thank you Senator. Last question is from…

Q: Good evening.

BBM: Good evening.

Q: Mayroon nag pro-propose, proposing a urgent bill regarding sa reduce personal income tax?

BBM: Sorry nawawala. Reduce?

Q: Reduce personal income tax ng ordinary workers.

BBM: Yes oo.

Q: Any reaction?

BBM: Well I think it is a reaction to the overzealous collections of the BIR now. I think maraming nagrereklamo sa ating sistema ngayon. Where many of the sectors that are supposed to be tax exempt, ay tina-taxan parin. At iyong paghahabol na iyon, iyong paghahabol sa tax ay parang, where everybody is, parang natatakot lahat, dahil kahit na tama ang iyong ginagawa, puwede ka pa ring imbistigahan. Puwede ka pa rin i-assess. Ang feeling ng tao, sumosobra na. Overzealous na nga. And that’s why this is a reaction na ibaba ang tax rate. What I think is more important than to lower the income tax rate is to adjust the categories. Dahil iyong category natin ngayon, iyong mga working class, dahil mababa masyado iyong threshold, napupunta na sa middle class. Kaya’t nata-taxan sila lahat at the middle rate and all the way up. Iyong middle class, napupunta na sa upper class iyong mga napaka yaman na the richest of our people. And their complaining na ang buwis na hinahanap sakanila ay masyado ng mataas dahil sa kategorya. So, that I think, we should attend to that first. Because the rate of taxation on income tax is an important part of our economic planning, our financial planning. And what has happened in this government is we are always trying to collect as much money for the national government but then we are told, masyadong ang ating BIR, ang daming iniimbistigahan, ang daming tinatakot, pero sasabihin sa atin na iyong na appropriate na pera, ang budget doon sa inaapropriate na budget, 400 billion, hindi pa nagamit. Nasaan na ngayon iyong 400 billion? Bakit niyo pa inappropriate hindi niyo pala gagamitin. Bakit pa kayo nangongolekta? And that is a very funny policy na hindi namin maintindihan kung bakit mo ipagmamalaki na hindi mo nagamit iyong napakalaking pera. Ibig sabihin hindi niyo ginagawa ang trabaho ninyo. So I think this is because of all of these factors. Iyan ang naging reaksyon. Kung ganyan lang, babaan nalang natin iyong tax rate. I cannot say that I blame those of you.

Q: Thank you Senator that’s the last question.

BBM: That’s it?

Q: Yes sir. Not unless if you have any announcements.

BBM: Yes I have an announcement. Dinner is served.

Q: Thank you Senator

BBM: Thank you very much.

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