Interview at the #MeetInquirer multimedia forum | Aug. 16, 2018

At the #MeetInquirer multimedia forum, Sen. Lacson answered questions on:
– ‘Hybrid’ budget
– National ID
– President Duterte’s reported thinking of stepping down
– Addressing the problems at BOC
– Pork barrel system
– PDEA’s need to refocus anti-drug strategy
– Sen. Tito Sotto as Senate President
– Political scene 2022

* video courtesy Inquirer.net Facebook page

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Quotes from the interview… 

On whether the National ID law has addressed the concerns of those opposing it:
“Yes, we have addressed that in this law, RA 11055, recently signed by the President. Lahat na safeguards naroon. And ang mga basic information as you know already, yan ang required. Two basic questions are required to be answered: Who are you; Are you who you claim to be? That simple. Full name, sex, even marital status optional pa. And age, all the basic information. Ang nadagdag because of modern technology, iris scan, biometrics, and facial image. Bago ma-release ang information nan aka-embed sa National ID, PhilSys, PhilID and PSN, ang serial number, bago ma-release, kailangan ng consent ng tao mismo and/or kailangan ng court order. Of course maski may compelling reason due to health and national security, kailangan pa rin ng court order. Yan ang mga concern na nire-raise especially ng militant groups. I think medyo misplaced ang kanilang apprehension because I assume all of them meron silang ID sa katawan din containing all the information na hinihingi sa national ID system natin.”
“Natatandaan ko during the committee hearing na ni-remind ni Sen Drilon, sabi niya dapat ang selling point is not pang-security purpose kundi para sa delivery of services, to which I agree. At yan ang mas overwhelming na purpose ng PhilID, para nang sa ganoon maski ang sa pagta-transact sa gobyerno mas mabilis, red tape, bureaucratic red tape and all.”
“Noon, iba mindset ko noon, mindset ko noon security para mas madaling makahuli ng criminal. Pero now since I’m already a legislator medyo mas malawak ang kapakanan kesa seguridad.”

On the National ID not being compulsory:
“Baka magkaroon ng constitutional issue pag ginawang compulsory. Unang una libre naman ito. Ang first application free of charge, government will answer for that. If you lose your ID and you need a replacement ID, that’s the time you have to pay. And of course, resident aliens have to pay.”

On President Duterte’s reported thinking of stepping down:
“This is not the first time we heard him say that. Every time he announces something, it’s as if we need to decrypt lahat na sasabihin. It’s just one of those and I think it is out of frustration. Look at the recent events, corruption in the military mabigat sa kanya kasi binigay niya lahat dinoble ang sweldo, lahat na concerns … then biglang makikita niya may report in-squander ang pera ng isang unit or ng V Luna Medical Center. And some of the people very close to him involved din sa corruption. Knowing him, it’s been 2 years ganito lagi ang kanyang pagsasalita. I think it’s out of frustration. Even the extended announcement na basta di si VP mag-succeed sa kanya, the likes of Sen Escudero or Bongbong Marcos ok siya bumaba. Alam nating hindi seryoso kasi alam nating hindi pwede because in the first place it’s unconstitutional.”

On plans to run for president in 2022:
“I’m more bored than excited. Alam mo parang si Sisyphus babalik-balik lang tayo. Ganoon situation sa bansa natin, it’s very frustrating to say the least. Kailan pa magbabago ang sistema? Nagpalit tayo president, nag-elect ng iba’t ibang officials natin. Pero it seems nothing’s moving, just going back and forth.”

On some people saying that Sen. Lacson should succeed President Duterte:
“It’s titillating to hear comments like that. Pero sabi ko nga after all these years, sabi ko nga si Sisyphus na sinasample ko. Let’s see kasi as of now I’m talking as we speak and as you ask me that question, that’s my sentiment, having all the challenges in our midst, ang daming problema.”

On speculations that killings involving cops had authorization by higher-ups:
“Hard to tell kasi walang hard evidence to indict those people or even suspect na sila may mga kinalaman, I think it’s unfair. I think an independent body should conduct investigation not only sa nangyari sa Cebu but in other areas na similar ang circumstances so we can come up with a pattern and possibly find out if ang hierharchy or up to what level of authority ang nagbibigay ng go-signal. Or indirect ang pressure na you should come up with results. Pero these are not recorded accomplishments eh. So kung results ang may pressure for results, they should do it above board. Kung ganoon ang tirada hindi nila mare-report yan as an accomplishment.”

On the need for command responsibility in addressing the problems surrounding BOC:
“Yan ang malaking problema because masyado naging overeager ang law enforcement agencies natin because yan ang mandate ng Presidente. And now ang question how do we solve a problem like that, I’d rather look at command responsibility kasi yan ang exposure ko, kami ni Gen. Farolan, alam namin ang bigat ng command responsibility. Once something like that nailabas sa BOC nang hindi alam ng Customs or sabihin nilang di nila na-check, then the ax should fall on whatever level of authority basta meron lang mapanagot under the principle of command responsibility. Hindi yan ang nangyayari, parang investigation, walang nananagot, minsan ang tinatamaan lang people on the ground. But once the different bureau directors or even lower-ranking but meron silang certain degree of responsibility, they should be made answerable. Ang alam namin ni Gen Farolan a commander is responsible for what his unit does or fails to do. Using that principle dapat iangat ang level ng pananagot at least administratively.”

On Gen. Ramon Farolan’s question whether Sen. Lacson reinventing himself from law enforcer to lawmaker was a conscious effort or adjusting to his environment:
“It’s the latter Sir. I did not plan all those. It depends on the environment. Kasi iba na ang environment from being a military officer to a PNP officer and now a senator. Medyo lumalawak siyempre ang kaalaman mo sa bagay-bagay na nangyayari. I have learned to adapt. Ang bottom line sa akin hindi sa pag-ano ang natutunan natin sa PMA, it’s still embedded. It’s still very much within my person, very much within my character. Yan lang isang maipagmamalaki ko na siguro hanggang matapos ang serbisyo ko sa gobyerno kung kailan man yan, I will maintain that. Yung natutunan natin ang Courage, Integrity, Loyalty. Hindi yan mabubura, Sir. All right Sir, all right.”

On looking for pork in the budget:
“It runs to hundreds of billions of pesos. In 2017 for the 2018 budget, ang na-scrutinize namin na probably good for pork kasi naka-float, yan mga I think P130-plus billion. Ito isang example and I questioned DPWH or at least the sponsor of the measure sa floor, si Sen. Legarda, naroon ang DPWH: Bakit maglalagay tayo ng items na tig-P10M, P100M nakalagay doon road construction including RROW? Di ba dapat nauna ang RROW, settle mo muna bago ka makapaggawa ng kalsada?”
“Year in and year out every time we scrutinize the NEP, and the GAB House version, laging may napapansin namin naka-float, road construction including ROW, 10 or 100M ang dami noon, minsan 45 items may pattern. So yan ang parang may understanding na ilalagay namin diyan ang items, diyan kayo kukuha ng inyong pork. Kasi walang paglalaanan yan. Kasi wala naman talaga, hindi kaya accomplish ang project because hindi settled ang ROW.”
“You can just imagine the frustration if you examine the NEP and GAB every year, year in year out, tumataas ang blood pressure. Laging ganoon. And you are so helpless, because para bang naghahanap ka ng makakatulong tapos paglinga mo wala ka nang makita, ang tingin pa sa iyo kontrabidang napaka-corny mo, nagpapapogi ka. Yan ang mga frustrations. I’m glad in 2016, at least 3-4 other senators approached me, Sinabi sa akin Ping individually I’ll join you. Sen Pangilinan, Drilon, Sotto, isa-isa, different dates nang budget deliberation. I’ll join you, iwa-waive ko. If you think the pork has left, no, it hasn’t left.”

On how much congressmen may be getting in pork:
“Mas lumaki. Sometimes openly, sometimes very discreetly. Because I’ve been talking to some contractors … And you only have to talk to them to find out. May mga congressmen P6B, P5B, P1B, congressmen. Nawala na, nabura ang tig-P70M. of course before pa naman pagka paborito o malapit ka mas malaki makukuha mo. Pero ngayon it runs to billions of pesos per congressman.”
“Dini-differentiate nila kasi pag sinabi pork noong araw post-legislation. Meron kayo tig-70 or 200, mamili kayo ng project maski tapos na ang GAA. Sinasabi nila ngayon pre-legislation, meaning they do it through amendments. Pwede naman kami mag-amend, kasi measure yan, bill yan, so we introduce our amendments. The point is, we only have to read the SC ruling to define what is pork. In so many words, in whatever shape and form, kapag ni-lump sum mo yan at nangasiwa sa project mga legislators na di namin trabaho, technically it’s still pork. And bakit before the period of amendments nagko-caucus? Para magtatanong kung magsubmit kayo meron kayong tig-300M magsubmit kayo meron kayong ganito. Bakit meron pang ganoon tapos na 2013 ruling and final na yan, that pork barrel is unconstitutional in whatever form. May portion yan sa ponencia ni Justice Bernabe na klaro. But you know, going around in circles, they are trying to justify di pork ito kasi hindi ito post-legislation, pinasok namin ang insertions namin during the period of amendments. Pero kanino ang project na yan? Pag sa iyo ang project na yan may karapatan ba kayo under the law, under the Constitution di kami mag-implement, kami lang nagtuturo ng project. Ang problema may bitbit na contractor.”
“We cannot capture all (the pork). May mga nakakalusot pa rin. But there’s more than meets the eye. Sinisita ako ng mga congressmen ng minsan kasamahan ko, bakit ko inalis ang kanila? Sabi ko di ko alam sa inyo yan at di ko alam… Napakahirap minsan ng situation. It’s really very frustrating. The challenge is parang never-ending kaya ako kung ang president mag-submit ng budget during SONA ninerbiyos na ako kasi may makikita ka na naman, may makakaaway ka na naman.”
“Sa akin na lang pansarili ko na lang yan na tayuan ko na ito. Sinabi ko sa privilege speech ko sa pork barrel, I’m sure to lose some friends and create more enemies. But that’s the way it goes. Pagka naman light banter kami magkakaibigan pa naman kami so maybe nakakatulong din yan, di lagi na lang usapang budget sa caucuses.”

On whether pork is here to stay:
“Unless talagang very strong ang mag-i-implement, sabihin natin very strong ang presidente na to deal with the pork barrel system. If he goes hammer and tongs against pork barrel, palagay ko mahihirapan din ang congressmen. I think the way to deal with this siyempre may apprehension ang president pag nilabanan mo Kongreso 1/3 impeach ka. I think the way to deal with this is to deal with them individually. Starting from the most notorious. Pag nasimulan mo sa most notoriously corrupt baka walang kakampi yan.”

On the ‘hybrid’ budget:
“What we heard from the news is may hybrid. Na-extend kasi ang cash-based is good for 1 year, by Dec 31, 2019, kung di magamit o ma-accomplish ang project, yan lang ang babayran kung anong natapos. There’s an extended period of 3 months para habulin ang incomplete portion ng project. Gusto ng congressmen ang status quo na obligation-based meaning once na-awaard ang project maski di matapos sa yearend tuloy pa rin ang pondo, meaning continuing for another year. Ang hybrid mukhang naging compromise, may mga project na ie-extend ng another 6 months, mukhang doon sila nagkasundo but di pa klaro kung magkakasundo.”
“What we’re trying to avoid is a reenacted budget. Why? Because it is a big lump sum kind of budget. Appropriate for the previous year wala naman items na bibibigyan mo ng appropriation for this particular budget year. Ibig sabihin pwede nang i-realign ng executive. Remember if you look at the pattern during the time of former PGMA every time magkakaroon ng election year reenacted ang budget. Try to research, makikita nyo naman. Before 2004, before 2007, nagre-reenact. Laging reenacted ang budget. They are enjoying a big chunk of the budget. Ang PS and MOOE hindi mo pwede galawin yan kasi talagang naka-appropriate yan whether reenacted or not. But ang capital outlay diyan ka pwede maglaro. Kami nag-caucus kami sa Senate and unanimous kami, in fairness to our new SP, bipartisan ang position namin. Titigasan namin ang di pwedeng ibalik ang gusto ng mga congressmen na it’s either reenacted or obligation-based. Kaya the SP came up with a statement to the media, na we support Malacanang’s cash-based, probably if only for that reason. Besides kaya gusto obligation-based, I can discuss this with you openly. Pag cash-based, I’m not pinpointing or pointing fingers at any of the congressmen. But some congressmen kung cash-based, siyempre kung may contractor ang ibibigay na commission good for 1 year lang. Ang naiwan na di natatapos save ko yan kasi baka mamaya di ako makasingil. Kung obligation-based pwede i-advance ang commission kasi sigurado in 2 years kaya tapusin ang project. Ang mentality na ganoon.”
“Bakit concerned na concerned ang (ilang) congressmen sa cash-based against obligation-based? Anong pakialam nila sa project, DPWH dapat iiyak doon, DA iiyak doon for FMR, DepEd iiyak doon dahil di magtapos ang schoolbuildings. Bakit sila umiiyak? Masyado silang concerned sa project na baka di mabayaran.”

On whether the hybrid budget proposal is acceptable:
“That’s a good-enough compromise for us senators. Kasi sa amin ang bottom line is huwag tayo pumayag ma-reenact ang budget. So kung hybrid baka pwede na rin. In our last caucus ang suggestion is, pumayag tayo cash-based except ang cash-based lang ang PS and MOOE. Sabi ko pareho pa rin yan. Kasi kung obligation-based ang capital outlay, 2 years pa rin, House pa rin nasunod. They’re only after capital outlay. Congressmen will not be concerned with PS and MOOE kasi fixed naman yan.”
“We only have to adhere or follow strictly the budget process. We rely on local governments to come up with their local development plans. And mind you even down to the barangay level, ang congressmen are represented. If we follow the budget process, everything starts with the LGU. Barangay, then town or city. Sa city or town, ang congressman, member siya noon. Ang provincial, member din siya roon. Kung susundin natin ang budget process, ang planning mabubuo sa LG. After all more than anybody else sila nakakaalam ng needs and priorities of their localities.”
“Isa pang problema, nauna ang budget call ng Malacanang sa submission ng local development plans. Normally (local devt plans ang submission) by October. Ang budget call sa March. So baka pwede iayos ang schedule na mag-synchronize ang dalawa in such a way masasagot ano talaga ang needs and priorities ng localities pagdating sa national budget, the congressmen will take the cudgels to defend ang kanilang pinagkasunduan sa local development plans.”
“Kung sundin ang budget process Pulido sana takbo ng budget natin, talagang productive. Made-develop ang iba’t ibang areas.”

On the benefit/s of bottom-up budgeting:
“If it is not selective and discriminatory, then bottom-up budgeting should be adopted. Ang problema bottom-up budget namimili lang sino bibigyan ng pondo, ang kaalyado. Another point. Bottom-up budgeting minsan di pang-development, nakalagay roon pang senior citizens, di pang-development. Ang point ko is, we use the budget to explore all possibilities to make the countrysides develop by themselves. Ang IRA 20% lang ang pwede gamitin for development. 55% sa PS, 5% sa calamity, 10% SK, 20% lang naiwan para sa local development.”

On need for PDEA to change anti-drug strategy:
“Maybe it’s about time PDEA and even the PNP should refocus or magpalit ng strategy. Nakita natin napapatay araw-araw nakatsinelas, nakashorts. Baka pwede mag-focus sila sa big-time. We have yet to see a bigtime Chinese drug lord na nakipagengkwentro sa pulis at napatay. Siguro kung ganoon nakita natin baka pumalakpak pa tayo, whatever the circumstances are. Pero every time makakita tayo sa umaga, di talaga magandang pangitain. And yet we hear about P6.4B shabu being shipped out and then now 500 kilos of shabu worth how much, mas malaki pa, tapos wala tayong nababalitaan na may bigtime Chinese drug lords na nadidisgrasya. Baka kailangan magpalit ng strategy.”

On Sen. Tito Sotto as Senate President:
“For one, he’s a unifying SP. Most of our recent acts, bipartisan. Ang maganda kasi sa kanya, he listens, he consults and he makes decisions based on consensus. And he is not ashamed to ask. Nagtatanong anong opinion ninyo sa ganito at sa ganyan. One remarkable noticeable change, especially sa nagko-cover sa Senate ang pagpasok namin di na magulo ang session hall. 1 minute before 3 pm, we all march off from the lounge at the back of the SP’s chair, isa-isa kami pumapasok at uupo. And at 3 pm iba-bang ang gavel.”
“There’s a semblance of discipline when we enter the hall. Malinis na malinis isa-isa kami papasok isa noticeable yan. And we start promptly at 3 pm. Before di alam kung kalian pupukpok.”

On the return to power of Speaker Arroyo:
“I already made peace with her. During our bicam sa National ID she was a member of the House panel, I was the chair of the Senate panel. After we reconciled the disagreeing provisions, may picture-taking, she came forward, I met her, and then we shook hands, it was a warm handshake and it was genuine, it was sincere, at least on my part. And I want to keep it that way. We are now at peace with each other. But there’s no saying I will not also (criticize) kung may nakikitang against my advocacy.”

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