Drilon on Senate funds: I’ve been fair

The likely Senate President says he stands on his record of fairness in the distribution of Senate funds

'RELATIVE TERM.' Sen Franklin Drilon will not say whether or not Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile was fair in selectively releasing Senate funds. He only said he stands on his own record of fairness when he was Senate President. File photo from Senate PRIB

MANILA, Philippines – Will there be a repeat of the Senate fund controversy in the 16th Congress?

For the man who will likely replace Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, it’s all a matter of fairness.

In an interview on ANC on Monday, May 27, Sen Franklin Drilon was asked how he will handle the chamber’s money following a controversy over Enrile’s selective release of Senate funds.

Enrile drew flak last January for excluding 4 critics from receiving additional Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses (MOOE).

Drilon, who led the Senate in 2000, and 2001-2006, said he “was confronted with the same situation.”

“My record will show I have been fair in allowing additional benefits, MOOE. I have been fair. I stand on my record of fairness when I was there. There was basis for the distinction: the officers and non-officers [of the Senate] and it was accepted.”

Yet the man touted to be the next Senate President declined to comment on whether or not Enrile’s release of funds was fair.

“Fairness is a relative term. What may not have been fair to Alan [Peter Cayetano] and Miriam [Defensor Santiago] may have been fair to Sen Enrile. These are subjective judgments you make. It’s a question of fairness and unfortunately, Miriam and Alan did not see it as fair,” Drilon said.

Enrile defended his decision not to give additional funds to Cayetano, Santiago, Sen Pia Cayetano and Antonio Trillanes IV, saying he was exercising his sole discretion.

The issue evolved into an ugly word war among Enrile, Santiago and Minority Leader Cayetano, further dividing the current Senate majority and minority.

Drilon is widely seen to be the next Senate President after leading the administration slate Team PNoy in a 9-3 victory as campaign manager. A close ally of President Benigno Aquino III and vice chairman of the ruling Liberal Party (LP), he has pushed for the passage of key administration measures in the chamber. 

He is expected to have secured the numbers needed for the post, 13 votes, with Sen Manny Villar’s Nacionalista Party agreeing to field a common candidate with the LP. The two parties forged a partnership under Team PNoy along with the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC). 

Enrile is one of the top leaders of the opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), which only has 3 winning senators in the midterm polls.

Feistier minority?

Drilon admitted that he is eyeing the Senate presidency but stopped short of saying it is in the bag.

“I believe given our experience, we have been there before, been there, done that. We can help with the President’s agenda if the 13 [senators], the majority in the Senate, would feel we can deliver the mandate that we got in the last election then I’m willing to serve. I will not be coy about it.”

Drilon though said he maintains good relations with the man he will replace. He described his ties with Enrile as “very amiable.”

“I have not crossed swords with Johnny in the past 3 years. We took different sides on crucial legislation like the sin tax. He led the opposition to the sin tax, RH (reproductive health). We were on the other side. We worked together to convict the former Chief Justice but in all this, we have not had personal differences.”

Enrile counts as his supporters Senate Majority Leader Vicente “Tito” Sotto III, Senate President Pro-Tempore Jinggoy Estrada, Sen Gregorio Honasan II, and newcomers Senators-elect JV Ejercito and Nancy Binay.

Drilon responded to observations that compared to the current set-up, the new minority will be “more feisty.”

“You can never say. Feisty? We must be prepared for anything. Each senator is a reasonable person. Experience equips us to handle situations,” he said.

ARMM, fiscal incentives, mining law

Drilon said the administration is all too aware that it only has two years left to ensure the passage of pet legislation. By 2015, he said politicians will already gear for the 2016 presidential polls. 

Still, compared to the past Congress, Drilon said the President will have a better chance of pushing for his agenda this time around.

The senator identified the following as key measures:

  • amending the charter of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) to conform with the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro
  • Fixing fiscal incentives
  • Mining law

Drilon also said the administration will work on the confirmation of Cabinet members like Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, and Environment Secretary Ramon Paje.

He said he is also working on senators’ committee chairmanships. “We have also to figure out their capabilities and how well they would [suit] their constituencies in that particular field. Until the fat lady sings, it ain’t over.”

With all this possibly on his plate, Drilon said he is able to do the job.

“Having gained experience in 4 and a half and 5 years before, I am better equipped to handle any situation in the Senate.”

“I believe, again I’m not being presumptuous, I could say that I could be better equipped to handle situations in the Senate for the sake of pushing legislations, policy changes, given the fact that I have been there.” – Rappler.com 

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