Interview on CNN Philippines | Aug. 1, 2018

In an interview on CNN Philippines, Sen. Lacson answered questions on:
– Basilan bombing
– leadership row at the House of Representatives
– Senate unity on Charter change
– Mayor Sara Duterte and the political landscape

Quotes from the interview… 

On the Basilan bombing:
“That was the initial finding (that it was a suicide bombing). And I said it’s frightening and worrisome to say the least because it’s the first time a suicide bombing case occurred in the Philippines. My fear is, what if there is a spillover to highly populated urban centers? Then we have a big problem. That’s why I advised the government in general, especially the security officers, to step up their intelligence and security capabilities, especially government installations. Because who knows, once it is confirmed to be a suicide bombing case, then we should really step up.”
On AFP spokesman’s reported claim that the checkpoints prevented further damage:
“If not because if the checkpoint, more damage and more lives could have been lost. And the van was checked doon sa checkpoint mismo and it was preempted somewhat. Pero unfortunately 11 people died, including a 10-year-old child. So it’s still worrisome.”
On how to prevent further suicide bombings:
“It’s difficult to stop. But you know, from where I came, it’s intelligence, intelligence, intelligence. Intelligence should prompt the government forces to do some proactive offense. There’s no other way because if you are not being proactive you’ll be caught flat-footed.”

On whether martial law in Mindanao helped the situation:
“If at all, psychologically. Because martial law or no martial law, if you look at the provisions in the Constitution, there are no extra powers available to the president because the writ of habeas corpus has not been suspended. There are no warrantless arrests. More than what is already in the Bill of Rights or in the Constitution or in the existing rules and existing laws.”
“It’s helping the administration of President Duterte because as I said at least psychologically, people are showing some obedience to the military.”

On the leadership row at the House of Representatives:
“It was the manner of the takeover that I was referring to, not the change in the leadership in the Lower House because that’s their business. But the timing and the manner by which the Speakership was taken over, yan ang may problema because it was there for all to see.”
“I was talking to an ambassador yesterday, he paid a courtesy call to my office. And that was one of the more prominent topics we discussed because he was there and he witnessed. And he shared my view it was indeed awkward. It was not supposed to have happened that day because it was the President’s day.”

On former President Arroyo as Speaker:
“Just to be clear on where I’m coming from, I have made peace with her. Noong bicameral conference namin sa National ID system, because I chaired the Senate panel in that bicam meeting, and she being one of the authors, she was there as one of the panelists ng HOR contingent. After we reconciled all the disagreeing provisions, we shook hands. And to me… we made up and we made peace.”
“Second, I still believe that no person is beyond redemption. With all the ordeal na pinagdaanan niya, for all 9 years of course 9 years siya in power and 6 years na she was out of power and even incarcerated, ako I often mentioned this, I often quoted President Kennedy na ‘forgive your enemies but don’t forget their names.’ And that’s what I am right now. I have not forgotten all the names of those who made my life miserable for the past 9 years under the Arroyo administration.”
“A case in point, Romeo Prestoza, the newly appointed sergeant-at-arms. He used to be an intelligence officer. Prestoza, ito I’m just thinking aloud. Why would Speaker Arroyo choose Romeo Prestoza as sergeant-at-arms? I would warn the members of the HOR to be wary of their, you know, because this is an intelligence-trained officer and baka may purpose lang. It cannot be helped na ganito ako mag-isip because of what I experienced.”
“I’m now wondering why of all people, kasi ang dami din niyang kaalyado sa military noon, why choose Prestoza? So ako, doon sa mga kaibigan ko sa House, especially the members of the minority who are not with the company union, they should watch their back.”

On reports of SGMA aspiring to be Prime Minister:
“Yan ang overwhelming sentiment among the senators, not just myself, that she would aspire to be Prime Minister. Kasi binibilang din namin ang naiiwang panahon. We will go on break in October, babalik kami ng November, go on break in December, then balik kami January, break na naman ng February. Bakit kailangan mag-change pa ng leadership? Ano ang end state desired? Yan ang tinitingnan namin. So these are analyses, we may be right, we may be wrong, but that’s the analysis na sine-share ng aming mga kasama sa Senado.”

On whether Speaker Arroyo is an asset or liability to PRRD:
“Yes and no. As far as the Senate, after the SONA and after we witnessed hat happened in the LH we held an all-senators’ caucus. Before that we had a majority caucus. And SP Tito was there and he was presiding and relating to us what transpired before during and after SONA, and what the President told them while they were waiting for the president to deliver the SONA. After he relayed to us ang usapan nila roon, ang naging reaction kaagad namin, parang nag-solidify ang Senate na teka muna, pagisipan natin mabuti itong charter change if we will go through it or even lift a finger to initiate a move from the Senate to go into a joint session or joint resolution with the House. Parang si Speaker Arroyo pa at that point, I don’t know if there will be changes in our sentiments, pero at that particular point, noong Tuesday, the following day (after SONA), parang naging unifying factor pa si Speaker Arroyo sa mga senador to go against Cha-cha.”
“Call it wariness, call it distrust, call it anything you want to call it, pero yan ang naging sentiment. And then when we had our all-senators’ caucus lalo na-reinforce kasi sumama ang mga LP. And funny because SP Sotto informed the President, ‘Mr. President, alam nyo sa change ng leadership baka mahirapan akong ma-convince ang mga kasamahan ko.’ And he enumerated one by one. Sabi niya I’m counting with my fingers, 10 na agad ang tiyak na ayaw. Look in my group alone the macho bloc, ako Sen. Ping and Sen. Gringo, 3 kami; 2 kasama ko sigurado hindi ko ma-convince kasi pinakulong yan, ang isa di nahuli. Of course Sen. Trillanes, isa pang napakulong. Add to that the members of the LP bloc, 5 yan. So that’s 8. Ang isa nakulong, so that’s 8. And the father of one of our colleagues in-oust niya at pinakulong niya pa, Sen. JV. Ang isa naman dinaya ang tatay, Sen. Grace, e di 10 agad yan, sabi niya. And then there are others. And then when we held that caucus parang ganyan naging sentiment stay put tayo, let’s just fold our arms, do nothing because we may be trapped if we even adopt a joint resolution with the HOR.”

On whether con-ass is as good as dead in the Senate:
“As far as the senators, yes, good as dead. Because we are not adopting any joint resolution that could pave the way for a con-ass. Hindi mangyayari.”
“Walang cha-cha. Maski sabihin mo pang con-con ganoon pa rin, kailangan pa rin ng participation ng Senate.”

On Mayor Sara Duterte:
“She is politically (powerful). She is not only an influencer in Region 11, not in Mindanao, but on the national political scene.”

On the political landscape:
“Everything in this world is relative especially when we talk of politics in the PH, everything is relative, everything is temporary. How long it will hold we don’t know. But the fact of the matter is, Sara Duterte, Mayor Inday Sara, is a big influence in the national political scene. We don’t know kung saan ang trajectory nito. We don’t know that. Sa ngayon nakita natin ang consolidation of powers. Kino-consolidate ang prominent political parties, NP under the Villars, even the Marcoses of northern Luzon. Of course, some members of the LP who bolted after PNoy stepped down. And then Lakas. I don’t know if there is still KAMPI of Mrs. Arroyo. Wala na yata. But consolidation ito, for what purpose we don’t know yet.”

“I had a bad experience sa TRAIN 1. I worked closely with the DOF. Meron kaming amendments na pinagusapan that could have generated P117B in additional revenues in VAT alone. Ang pinagusapan namin lower VAT from 12 to 10 percent, but limit or eliminate so many lines of exemption, 143. Imagine, sa buong ASEAN region tayo pinakamalaki. 143 lines of exemptions. Parang 59 sa Tax Code and 84 sa special laws. Every time pass kami special law may nakadikit na VAT exemptions so sabi ko sobra-sobra na. and this is where leakages diyan nangyayari ang leakages. Sa computation ng VAT, tapos exemptions. Let’s look at Malaysia for example. Ang VAT nila only 6%, pero exemptions nila sa 14 lang. Thailand 7%, 25 exemptions. Lahat 10 percent tayo lang 12, pero exemptions natin 143. Why? Why are we favoring these sectors? PEZA, coop, power, mga sectors na matagal nang nagtatamasa doon sa mga tax incentives. Di ba ang tax incentive, tax holiday, pang-spur, pang-startup lang. Pero for the longest time they’ve been enjoying VAT exemptions. Bigyan natin ng break ang consumer.”
“TRAIN 2 basically incentives din. Tatanggalin ang incentives ng yun din, mga sectors na yan. E mas lalong mahirapang makakuha ng boto yan. Kasi VAT is pass-on, ito direct hit sa kanila mas matatamaan sila. So I don’t know what is the future of TRAIN 2 in the Senate because no one wants to touch it with a 10-foot pole.”

On TRAIN 1’s effect:
“Nakadagdag sa inflation. So many factors pero TRAIN is one factor that contributed to inflation we are having now.”