FULL TEXT: Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez at Meet Inquirer Multimedia
Incoming Davao Del Norte Representative Pantaleon Alvarez last June 14 sat down with the Inquirer group for an hour-long interview on his expected victory as Speaker of the House of Representative. He also talked about the other legislative priorities of President Rodrigo Duterte, including the shift to federalism.
Below is the full transcript of the interview:
Juliet Labog-Javellana, Central Desk head: Good morning. Welcome to the 8th edition of Meet Inquirer Multimedia. Once a month, we bring a notable newsmaker to the hot seat to be interviewed by our different platforms, the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Inquirer.net, Radyo Inquirer, Inquirer Bandera, Inquirer Libre, Cebu Daily News and our social media and mobile networks.
Our forum will be livestreamed at Inquirer.net and broadcast in Radyo Inquirer 990 AM tonight. We are live on Twitter, Facebook, Viber, Line, Kakao, FireChat, WeChat and Telegram, at #MeetInquirer.
Our people have spoken, and in just two weeks, we shall see the inauguration of our new president. We are honored this morning to have our first guest from the Duterte administration. The person who is well on his way to becoming the next Speaker of the House, the fourth highest official of the land. As a key ally of the President, Congressman Alvarez will play a major role in how the Duterte administration will “metamorphose” from the climate of hope and fear.
Thank you for coming here sir. May you be our lucky charm. We shall have a proper introduction shortly. May I just acknowledge the presence of our board chair Ma’am Marixi Rufino-Prieto, our President and CEO, Ma’am Sandy Prieto-Romualdez, our COO, Mr. Rene Reynoso, our Executive Editor Mr. Joey Nolasco, our Inquirer.net Editor-in-Chief Sir John Nery, and the officers, editors, reporters, photographers and employees of the Inquirer family. At this point, may I request the Chair, MRP to give her welcome remarks.
Marixi Rufino-Prieto, Inquirer President and CEO: Good morning and welcome to Meet Inquirer Multimedia. It is an honor to host incoming Speaker of the House Congressman Pantaleon “Bebot” Alvarez. The Filipino people have just made history with May 9, 2016 elections. We have a new President-elect, who won a resounding victory at the polls. Today we have one of the architects of the victory as our honored guest. We look forward to a vigorous and illuminating exchange of views and ideas with Speaker Alvarez. Thank you and once again, welcome to the Inquirer.
Javellana: Thank you, Ma’am. And now, I am pleased to turn this over to our distinguished moderator, our editorial consultant, and Inquirer.net Editor in Chief, John Nery, Sir.
John Nery, INQUIRER.net Editor in Chief: Thank you Juliet. And good morning. To our various audiences on the different Inquirer platforms, and to our special guest a warm welcome to Meet Inquirer Multimedia. We have prepared, a short, maybe 2-min. long video introduction of our guest. Let’s roll the tape.
Nery: Welcome. Strictly speaking, you are Congressman-elect, and will become Congressman on June 30 and Speaker of the House of the 17th Congress on July 25. But we don’t wanna be pedantic, so if it’s alright with you, we’d like to call you Speaker Alvarez.
Speaker Alvarez, maybe you can first begin with an opening statement.
Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez: “Bebot” na lang muna siguro. I would be very presumptuous. Anyway, sincerely I would like to thank the owners, the officers, editors and staff of the Philippine Daily Inquirer for giving me this opportunity, perhaps, to honestly answer some important questions in these important times. So let’s start the ball rolling.
Nery: Okay, I think we have all been – we are all encourage to ask questions. But first, we want to segue to the next part.
If you will allow me, Speaker, just a word about the format – very, very straightforward. We will have questions from the editors, reporters in the different Inquirer platforms beginning with the Executive Editor of the Philippine Daily Inquirer and then also, we will field questions narrated by our followers and subscribers on social media. And if we will have more time, we will have questions from the floor. Thank you for giving us until 12:30. So we will have an open forum until 12:30.
Okay the first question is from the Chief Editor of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Executive Editor Joey Nolasco.
Nolasco: Mr. Speaker, what are the three, top three legislative priorities of the Duterte administration?
Alvarez: Number one would be the federalism; number two, restoring death penalty; and number three, the amendment to the Pangilinan law on Juvenile and Delinquency Law. Because ito ‘yung maraming problema eh. We received a lot of complaints from law enforcement authorities tungkol dun sa mga minors na hindi pwedeng i-charge. Tinaasan ‘yung age ng 15. Originally, I think, it was 9 ‘yung sa Revised Penal Code. Inakyat ng 15. So, ang nangyari – I’m not questioning the intent of the law. It’s quite noble — but the problem is in the implementation. Nagkaroon tayo ng problema dahil ‘yung mga 15 years old, ginagamit ngayon nung mga syndicates for committing crimes. And I think, we have to address that problem.
Nery: Would you like to elaborate on the first two – federalism and the death penalty?
Alvarez: Well, federalism – we have been into this unitary form of government for quite some time. And it was introduced first by the colonizers, like Spain and then followed by the Americans. You’d be surprised why the Americans did not introduce the federal form of government, where in fact, they have this type of government at home. Now, we could only surmise that maybe, a unitary form of government is best if you are a colonizer, because it is easier to control the country. But we have been through it for – since we started as a country, as a nation. But until now, wala hong nangyayari sa atin. So, maybe, it is now time to consider another form of government. Because under a federal set-up, magkakaroon ho ng maraming opportunities doon sa mga probinsya; doon sa mga regions because they will be empowered to control their own economy, natural resources and they’ll have the chance to chart their own destinies.
Nery: Speaker Bebot, the unitary form of government is provided for by the Constitution. Are you saying that you are going to work on a constitutional amendment or revision?
Alvarez: If we change the system of government from a unitary to a federal form, I think we really have to revise the Constitution. It is not just amendment; it is revision of the Constitution.
Nery: So, when you say that your first priority – one of your first priorities – is to push federalism, how will Congress be involved here? Are you going to pass a measure that will call for a Constitutional Convention? Are you going to constitute yourself as a Consa? What is the process going forward, Sir?
Alvarez: Well, as we all know, there are actually 3 modes of amending the Constitution. One is Constitutional Convention; another is a Constituent Assembly; and the last one is, People’s Initiative. But People’s Initiative applies only when you amend certain provisions in the Constitution. But when you revise a Constitution, I think we are left with two options: one is Constitutional Convention, another one is Constituent Assembly.
Constitutional Convention would be very expensive and very long. A Constituent Assembly would be easier, less expensive. But I guess, the president wants a Constitutional Convention para wala hong masabi yung tao na, you know, self-serving yung gusto nating mangyaring constitution para sa kaniya. So maybe we’ll go for a Constitutional Convention but still, kailangan hong kunin natin yung consensus ng Kongreso kung anong mode ang gagawin to revise the constitution.
Nery: And – sorry – one last follow-up to your first answer, what about the death penalty? So this was banned in about ten years ago. So you’re gonna push for… is this part of the requirement to be a member of the new ruling coalition. That they will support the death penalty?
Alvarez: No, it is not, no. But as we all know, the president, when he campaigned, he was very specific on what he wants to do. Number one, it was an advocacy, federalism. And he said he wants to restore death penalty. And third, he wants to amend the Pangilinan Law. Now, on the basis of these three clear platform[s] of the president, he was elected by a majority of the Filipino people. Of course, he wants to do it.
Nery: Thank you. Our next question comes from PDI Reporter DJ Yap.
DJ Yap, reporter: Good morning, sir. Sir, last week, you said that under a federal parliamentary system of government, there’s no place for a vice president. So what is the plan for Leni Robredo under the Duterte administration?
Alvarez: No, no, no. I didn’t say that. I said under a federal set-up (Yap: There’s no vice president?) Of course, kung parliamentary, definitely there is no vice president. Pero kung federalism, federal form of government under a presidential set-up, baka mayroong vice president, just like the United States of America. So depende na yung kung ano ang mapagkakasunduan.
Yap: Sir, could you tell us what the plan is? What are your proposals? What does president-elect Duterte think about Leni? She is the highest official of the Liberal Party at this point, so ano po yung score?
Alvarez: PDP? PDP-Laban, not LP.
Yap: No, I mean Leni is the highest official of LP, sir sa incoming administration. So ano po yung tingin niyo sa kaniya ngayon, ano po yung role that she will play in the Duterte administration?
Alvarez: Her role is specifically provided in the constitution as a vice president. Hindi na tayo lalayo doon. Hindi naman puwedeng wala talagang role yung vice president kasi talaga naming mayroon siyang role, under the present constitution.
Yap: So no cabinet position at all, sir?
Alvarez: It’s not stated in the constitution so it’s optional on the part of the president.
Yap: Sir, the fact that she’s not being given a cabinet position, does it have to do with her being part of the Liberal Party?
Alvarez: I don’t know. I think that question is best addressed to the president.
Nery: Thank you. Our next question is from PDI reporter Tarra Quismundo.
Tarra Quismundo, reporter: Good morning, sir. Sir, I just would like to go back to federalism. You said that it is a top priority, so what will we exactly see once the new Congress opens and do you have a specific timeline on how to go about this? Does the president want this immediately or, what are the timelines and is he open to the possibility that if the public doesn’t want this actually, is he open to the possibility that maybe this is not what we need?
Alvarez: No. I guess once Congress opens, somebody will file a bill calling for a Constitutional Convention and from there, tingnan natin kung how fast we can pass that law. So immediately there will be a Constitutional Convention – an election of the delegates for the Constitutional Convention. So tingin ko naman dito, mga siguro before the mid-term elections, election for the delegates of the Constitutional Convention. Now, mayroong dadating na barangay elections. Tingnan natin baka puwedeng isabay na yung delegates ng Constitutional Convention para isang gastusan na lang. Baka puwede nating i-delay konti yung election ng barangay officials para naman maisama na natin yung delegates ng Constitutional Convention to save money for the government.
Quismundo: Just a follow-up. Given that this is, ‘yun nga, a top priority, what’s the assurance that this will not distract from the rest of the governance… I mean, for the administration to go down to business on the other affairs of…
Alvarez: Hindi naman siguro because yung members of the House of Representatives are divided in different committees. Mayroon talagang committee on amendments and revision of laws. Constitutional amendments and revision of laws. So puwede nandoon sa commiteeng iyon, pinag-uusapan ‘yun, at tsaka ‘yung ibang committees naman will perform regularly.
Nery: Our next question is related to the fate of the BBL given the push for federalism. It will be asked by our PDI correspondent from Cagayan de Oro who happens to be here. He is also the newly-elected chairman of the NUJP… Sorry, president [of the NUJP], Ryan Rosauro.
Ryan Rosauro: Maayong buntag, sir. Promise man ni President-elect Duterte sa katung kampaniya pa na nothing will appease the Moro people except the BBL. Unsay plano sa imong liderato kabahid, given nga, top priority ang federalism.
Alvarez: Well, we will continue to pursue all efforts towards peace. Basta kapayapaan, bukas tayo diyan, lahat gagawin natin so we can attain peace and lasting solutions. My understanding with BBL; I have read the draft. There are provisions that, to my mind, needs constitutional amendments. So, timely na we are also working on federalism. So, palagay ko naman mapag-uusapan natin sabay-sabay ‘yan.
Rosauro: Ibig sabihin sir, no BBL will be filed sa 17th Congress?
Alvarez: No, no. If somebody files a bill for BBL, we have to tackle it in Congress. We’ll talk about it and we have to decide if Congress, by a majority vote, approves BBL so we’ll pass it on to Malacañang for approval of the president.
Nery: The next question is related to constitutional convention. Chito dela Vega, Editor in Chief of Inquirer Libre, will ask that question. And then after him, we will have questions Mark of Inquirer.net, Billy of Radyo Inquirer and Bella of Inquirer Bandera. Chito?
Chito dela Vega, Inquirer Libre Editor in Chief: Good morning, sir. You just mentioned that there is a very strong likelihood that we will have a Constitutional Convention or there will be revisions to the constitution. Recently, I overheard on the radio that Presidential Spokesman Sal Panelo mentioned the word constitutional dictatorship and the like. There is a need to have one. Will this be one of the agenda in case we will have a constitutional change? [Will there be a] possibility of having a constitutional dictatorship happen during this convention?
Alvarez: I don’t know what is a constitutional dictatorship because I have not encountered such term in the constitution and I don’t know how to do it. Ano kaya ibig sabihin nun?
Dela Vega: Okay sir, one last follow-up. Is term limits of government officials will also be tackled… in your mind lang, will this also be tackled, discussed or changed during the Constitutional Convention?
Alvarez: Well, when we call for a Constitutional Convention, we open everything for revision; all articles of the present constitution. Mabubuksan ho lahat ‘yan, hindi natin maiiwasan ‘yun. Now depende na kung ano magiging resulta nung convention, kung ano yung aprubahan nila.
Nery: Okay, Marc Cayabyab of Inquirer.net
Marc Cayabyab, reporter: Good morning, sir. Recently, former Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello made a remark that President-elect Duterte practically walked into a virtual dictatorship because the super majority in Congress, both House and Senate, and also because of his appointment of ten to twelve justices in the Supreme Court. So as the presumptive Speaker of the House, how do you intend to prevent this from happening and to still ensure that there is a healthy democracy and healthy opposition in Congress, despite the super majority?
Alvarez: Well, it doesn’t follow that when you have a super majority, mayroon kang virtual dictatorship no? Mukhang mali naman siguro ‘yung statement na ‘yun. Well, as far as the House of Representatives is concerned, I want to assure you that we will always be on the side of the people.
Cayabyab: Sir, how do you intend to foster a sense of opposition, at least, since you mentioned that you intend to reduce the minority to a bite-size twenty or so. So that would mean there is a very minor opposition to everything. How do you prevent this from…
Alvarez: As long as we have opposition, then there is democracy.
Nery: Sir, before I call on Billy Vegas of Radyo Inquirer, how many votes do you think you’ll have now for speaker? If I’m not mistaken during the 15th Congress, Speaker Belmonte had something like 251. Something like that. And in the 16th, Speaker Belmonte had something like 253 out of the 290. About how many are you looking at?
Alvarez: No less than 200. Mga siguro, mga ganoon din.
Nery: Around 250 also?
Alvarez: Yeah because last count ng PDP-Laban is already 72, plus the membership of the Nacionalista Party, NPC and NUP. Plus the votes of the partylists’ groups. Mukhang aabot din tayo doon.
Nery: But strictly speaking, 200 is not a super majority of 290. It’s not the same as… so where did that word, compound term come from?
Alvarez: Hindi ko alam, lumabas na lang ‘yan eh.
Nery: Maybe it was part of the strategy to get more recruits from the LV?
Alvarez: It didn’t came from me.
Nery: Okay, Billy Vegas, Radyo Inquirer.
Billy Begas, reporter: Okay, Mr. Speaker. Sir, tanong ko lang, what will happen kay Speaker Belmonte ‘pag kayo na ‘yung umupo?
Alvarez: Well if he joins the majority, siyempre, we can give him chairmanships of some committees and then, yung kagaya nung ano… part ka nung House of Representatives.
Begas: Sir, mayroon ba siyang hininging committee o may inalok ba kayo sa kaniya?
Vegas: Sir, follow-up lang. Paano niyo hahatiin yung chairmanship nung committees doon sa dami ng mga lumilipat sa inyo ngayon?
Alvarez: Kung papaano rin hinati ng mga nauna sa akin, ganoon din siguro kasi ‘yun pa rin ‘yung mga committees na pinaghahatian eh. Maybe on the basis of party memberships. Kung ilan ‘yung members nung party, i-proportionate na lang natin.
Nery: Bella Cariaso of Inquirer Bandera.
Bella Cariaso, reporter: Hi, sir, good morning. Sir, this early, incoming Budget Secretary Diokno said that he will push for the 15 percent VAT. Will that be a priority of Congress?
Alvarez: If it needs amendment doon sa present law, pag-uusapan ‘yun. I think magiging priority ‘yan because revenue ‘yan ng bansa. So importante talaga ‘yun.
Cariaso: Pero ang problema, sir, ‘yung acceptance nung publiko kasi parang ngayon pa lang, mayroon ng threat na ngayon pa lang, lalaki na ‘yung sisingilin na tax sa mga tao?
Alvarez: ‘Yun ‘yung sinasabi ko na Congress will always be on the side of the people. Hindi ibig sabihin gusto nila ‘yun ay aaprubahan din natin. Magkakaroon ng public hearing ‘yan then pakinggan natin yung mga tao.
Cariaso: And then, sir, yung mga pensioners, hopeful sila na sa susunod na Congress dahil may pag-asa daw pa yung two thousand pension hike. So ano ‘yung assurance niyo sa mga pensioners natin sa SSS?
Alvarez: Ako, personally, I’m for that. Personally, I am for that. Tingnan natin laman nung bagong Congress ngayon kung ano ‘yung gusto nila. Kung ano ‘yung mapagkakasunduan ng majority, but personally, gusto ko ‘yan.
Reporter: Sir, follow-up doon sa pension hike. President-elect Duterte also made a declaration that he also supported the SSS pension hike. Sir, has he given you instructions on how to exactly push this in Congress under your speakership?
Alvarez: Wala, wala. No instructions.
Reporter: Personal initiative pa rin?
Alvarez: Last time, he met some members of Congress. I think that was about a week ago in Davao. Sabi naman niya hindi siya makikialam sa Congress. He told us just to do our jobs. That’s all.
Nery: The next question will come from the editor in chief of Inquirer Bandera, after which we will have two or three questions from social media. And then after that, we’ll have questions from three editors: Tina Dumlao, Volt Contreras, Michael Ubac.
Dona Policar, Bandera Editor in Chief: Good morning, sir. The president in waiting is hard on his stance against illegal drugs. Will you order all congressman to undergo mandatory drug test?
Alvarez: Why not?
Nery: Is that a criteria for joining the majority?
Alvarez: I will take that suggestion.
Policar: Okay. So what will happen to those congressman who will test positive?
Alvarez: May rehab naman eh.
Policar: Hindi ba ‘yun magiging grounds for them to undergo the ethics committee?
Alvarez: Well, tingnan natin yung rules but magandang proposal ‘yan.
Policar: So will you order them immediately to undergo drug test?
Alvarez: Tingnan natin pag-bukas ng Congress.
Nery: So that will be July 25, the fourth Monday of July. Questions from social media?
JV Rufino, Group Director for Social Media: Okay, we have a question here from Twitter and it’s very specific to Congress. How would you drastically reduce tardiness and absenteeism in the House of Representatives?
Alvarez: Okay. Tingnan natin ‘yung rules, ng Congress. I’ve been away for fifteen years. I’m not too familiar with the rules now but I will encourage, really, congressmen to be present during sessions and to religiously attend also committee hearings.
Nery: And what would the sanctions be if they fail to show up?
Alvarez: Mahirap sabihin ‘yung sanctions because… Ito, experience ko, sa Congress, nung first term ako nung 1998, may nakikita ako doon talagang actively nagpa-participate sa floor. Walang absent. Tapos may bumulong sa akin na congressman na matagal na, sabi niya, tandaan mo, tingnan mo ‘yan ha, next Congress, wala na ‘yan. Talo na yan. Kasi ‘pag lagi ka raw nasa Congress, wala ka sa district mo, ‘pag reelection, medyo delikado ka na. Pero alam mo, kailangan talaga, kung congressman ka, gawin natin yung trabaho natin, nasa Congress ‘yan. I mean, legislation ang mandate ng mga representatives so we’ll find ways and means na mag-perform ‘yung mga members ng House of Representatives.
Nery: Sir, it seems to me that you need a strong majority leader and you have reelected Congressman Rudy Fariñas. Most likely he will be your majority leader?
Alvarez: No, uh, Congressman Rudy Fariñas will be our new majority floor leader.
Nery: Is that your personal choice [or] was that President…
Alvarez: No, my personal choice.
Nery: You went all the way to see him and asked him to…
Alvarez: Yes, yes.
Nery: Why is that?
Alvarez: Well, I’m comfortable with Congressman Fariñas, matagal na kami magkasama.
Nery: Okay, JV, another question from social.
Rufino: From twitter handle @selalmo: Will the speaker support measures regulating agri-ventures to favor small farmers?
Alvarez: Agri-ventures to favor small farmers. Uhm, by all means, yes. Basta umangat ‘yung buhay ng ating mga kababayan ‘di ba? Why not. But sana, ‘yung bagong Department of Agriculture ay to come up with measures na paano tulungan ‘yung mga small farmers. Because like in Davao, for instance, yung mga Carp beneficiaries doon sa Davao, maliliit na mga lupa ‘yun na binigay. They ended up leasing it to the big corporations kasi mas maganda yung income. Bottom line kasi dito, incoming lang ‘to eh. I don’t think this is about land, this is about income. So kung ma-organize natin ‘yung mga small farmers to engage in commercial farming. May economy of scale kasi dito sa farming. Hindi basta mayroon ‘kang isang ektarya diyan, sasakahin mo, kikita ka—hindi eh. Nangyari na ‘yan sa Davao. Mas maganda ‘yung chances nung mga farmers natin kapag malaki yung isasaka mo. Ngayon kung cooperative ‘yan at maganda ‘yung management nung cooperative, talagang magiging successful ‘yan. So kami naman, on our part sa Congress, I think mas maganda if we will support yung kooperatiba tapos we will provide them with necessary tools to increase their income at tsaka ‘yung production sa farm.
Rufino: We have one more question. Will this Congress support the lifting of the bank secrecy law?
Alvarez: Ah, pag-uusapang mabuti ‘yan. It’s not that easy, that issue. Kailangan pag-usapan mabuti, kailangan marinig natin ‘yung side nung lahat ng involved. Bankers, depositors, everybody.
Nery: Our next question is from our business features editor, Tina Dumlao.
Tina Dumlao, editor: Sir, medyo malayo sa business but I still need to ask, one reason why people easily shift party allegiances under a new administration is because they know they’ll only get a share of the pie if they’re part of the majority. So ang tanong ko, are you going to penalize those who will decide to stay in the minority kasi lahat ng lumalabas ngayon, even if the minority is, let’s say Danilo Suarez, he is a “chosen” minority. Parang malabo yata ‘yan for a democracy. So ang tanong ko, what are you going to do with those who, in their conscience, really want to stay in the minority because they don’t believe in the legislative agenda of the Duterte administration? Anong mangyayari sa kanila, will they lose their, I don’t know, something. I’m sure they’ll lose something, that’s why they all want to be in the majority. That’s my first question.
And then, second is how do you value now minority in a democracy.
Alvarez: Yung minority, they will still get their share. Kasi lahat naman ng congressman, pare-pareho yan eh.
Dumlao: But that did not happen during Arroyo’s time, if you remember.
Alvarez: Ay, hindi, ‘yung pananaw ko, iba. Kung ano ‘yung share mo, makukuha mo ‘yun kahit na nasa minority ka. To be fair. I want to be fair. Now if we disagree on some issues, I mean, that is what democracy is for ‘di ba?
Dumlao: So no penalty for being in the minority?
Alvarez: No penalty, no penalty.
Dumlao: Second then, kasi nga ‘yung danger naman of also being in a super majority with a weak minority is that there are rules, there are laws that have to be passed but are unpopular. For example yung tax, kasi ang daming plano under this new administration to do a lot of populist acts. Let’s say, lower taxes. But then there are no revenue measures to go along with that. That will be unpopular. So, paano mo babalansihin yung mga pangangailangan na let’s say, sabi niyo nga, we will listen to the people but sometimes difficult decisions have to be made. So how are you gonna balance those two? The need to give more but also the need to collect more?
Alvarez: Well, the beauty of democracy is we can disagree on some issues but at the end of the day, it’s still the majority that prevails. So kung ano ‘yung mapagkakasunduan ng majority, iyon ‘yun eh. Tanggapin na lang natin. Mahirap naman ‘yung kung ano ‘yung nasa minority, kahit na sabihin mong ‘yun ang popular ‘di ba? In a democracy, hindi ‘yun ‘yung mananalo eh, ‘yung mananalo ‘yung democracy eh. So, why, ‘di ba?
Dumlao: Sir, last na, yung doon sa on the federalism, kasi you’re talking right now as if it will already happen. So how open will we be to the contrarian view, let’s say that, going there will only result in strong political dynasties because some of the regions are really not prepared to rule themselves. How are we going to reconcile that with the constitutional provision on a Cordillera Autonomous Region, plus an autonomous region in Muslim Mindanao.
Alvarez: First, on dynasty, bakit wala bang dynasty ngayon? Mayroon naman under the unitary form of government ‘di ba? Hindi naman siguro lalakas, kasi mayroon ng separate set of laws for every state na mangyayari. Now, yung sa Cordillera and sa ARMM, of course, mababago ‘yon. Kasi magkakaroon ng bagong different states. Mas gaganda pa ‘yung mga privileges. They’ll have the chance to manage their own economy, manage their own natural resources, chart their own destinies.
Nery: Thank you. Metro Editor Volt Contreras.
Volt Contreras, editor: Good morning, Mr. Speaker. My question, this question is about Metro Manila, and it also takes off from you being a former DOTC chief and also because it once made the incoming president curse at the pope.
The people must be expecting that change is also coming in terms of how we manage the traffic situation in the capital. So what can we expect from Congress or the House, or from the administration in general in terms of legislation or exerting pressure in the executive agencies in solving this problem?
Alvarez: Ah okay, first, the problem of traffic in Metro Manila is not an ordinary problem anymore. Crisis na ito. Now, kung anong kailangan ng executive branch. Halimbawa, emergency powers to solve traffic crisis in Metro Manila, we have to consider that kasi bakit emergency powers? Ganito, nung nasa DOTC ako, mayroon kayong gusto ipatupad diyan, ang daming court cases na fini-file kung sino-sino. TRO, hindi ka makakagalaw. Anong gagawin mo? Ngayon, kung bigyan mo ng emergency powers ‘yung executive branch to solve the traffic crisis, ang daming solution eh, mahirap lang gawin because ang daming mga nagf-file ng kaso. Right of way, kung ano-ano. Ang hirap, ang hirap. Ngayon kung gusto nating ma-solve ‘yan, eh solve natin kung ano ‘yung dapat na solusyon. Pangalawa, ‘yung mass transportation, ‘yung trend. Dati ang tumatakbo diyan na mga car trains, kung ‘di ako nagkakamali mga nasa 70 plus. Ngayon, iilan na lang. Sabihin mo, mga sampu, fifteen, eh papaano, hindi na-maintain properly. Tapos umorder ng mga bagong car trains. Tinatanong ko kung bakit, siyempre may mga tao pa ako sa DOTC, bakit hanggang ngayon ‘di tumatakbo? Mukhang hindi yata nagm-match ‘yung signaling system. Naawa ako sa bagong DOTC secretary, sakit sa ulo ‘yan. Ang daming problemang iso-solve.
Nery: What advice would you give the incoming DOTC secretary?
Alvarez: Take maintenance.
Nery: Maintenance medicine or…
Alvarez: Maintenance medicine. Magkaka-high blood ka diyan. Mahirap na trabaho ‘yan, DOTC. Mahirap na trabaho.
Nery: So it’s possible that one of the legislative solutions is you create a new district for Metro Manila, give the Metro Manila governor real powers. Is that possible?
Alvarez: No, andiyan naman ‘yung DOTC. Kaya na nila ‘yun. May MMDA ka pa. Kaya na ‘yon. Ang isang lasting solution, maybe, for the traffic situation in Metro Manila and the overpopulation would be ‘yung federal—federal form of government. Why? Because opportunities, bababa na ngayon sa regions. Bababa ‘yung opportunities. Of course, karamihan ng mga residents dito, hindi naman tiga-Metro Manila ‘yan. Karamihan diyan Visayas, Mindanao, maybe northern and southern Luzon. Now siyempre ‘pag maganda na ‘yung opportunity sa probinsya, eh bakit ka pa dito mag-stay sa Metro Manila. Talagang babalik ka doon, uuwi ka. Natural consequence.
Nery: Our next question is from our PDI Day Desk Chief and newly-minted Harvard graduate, Michael Lim Ubac.
Michael Ubac, Inquirer Daydesk Chief: Good morning, speaker. I’m interested in just following up on our discourse this morning. ‘Yung role of Congress. Because we all know that the Congress is a fiscalizer and also a coequal. But in the past, Congress, especially lower house, has been very cooperative to the seating president in passing his legislative agenda. So ano makikita mong role ng Kongreso under a Duterte presidency?
Alvarez: Under a Duterte presidency, let me [be] clear about this na ‘yung nasa majority, kaya kami nasa majority because we believe in the programs of the present administration. Now kung ano man ‘yung programang ‘yon, susuportahan naming ‘yon. Kailangan nating, let’s give the president a chance to succeed kasi gusto niyang baguhin ‘yung bansa, hindi madaling gawin ‘yun. Kailangan niya talaga ‘yung suporta ng Kongreso, suporta ng mga tao para baguhin ‘yung bansa.
Ubac: To be specific, ‘yung war on crimes, sabi niya, I don’t know kung eksakto ‘yun na parang ‘wag kayong mag-iimbestiga ng the way we implement our war on drugs, maybe until after. Could you comment on that, ano ‘yung magiging role ng Congress doon kasi effectively it would clip your powers?
Alvarez: Kung ano ‘yung role ng Congress, na kung kailangang imbestigihan, imbestigahan natin. Pero kung hindi naman talaga kailangang imbestigihan, huwag nating imbestigahan. Kasi palagi naman ‘yang in aid of legislation ‘di ba? Minsan naman, nandun na rin ako nung 1998, marami ding hindi in aid of legislation. Pero sana gawin na natin kung ano ‘yung tama.
Ubac: Sir, this president has a very high-off success in terms of implementing his legislative agenda because very high votes. Were it not for the very far coming his way in the campaign, he could’ve gotten more votes. So, ang interested ako, no president is articulate enough, when you seat in office, to draw up your own legislative agenda right off the bag. So may mga tao ho bang really drafting na his legislative agenda in a way na mas maging cohesive, clear sa tao. Kasi right now, war on drugs, war on poverty, federalism; pero we don’t know the details that go into them.
Alvarez: May mga tao na nagp-prepare ng mga legislation na if-file nila. Ito ‘yung mga congressmen na pag-open ng Congress, magf-file ng mga bills, different bills. Now from the administration, from the executive branch, we are still waiting kung ano ‘yung programa na gusto nilang ipatupad. Let’s say, kung ano ‘yung amendment sa National Revenue Code, kung ano ‘yung amendment doon sa Customs Law. Kasi sinasabi ni Mayor, mas gusto niya ‘yung simplified ‘yung filing nung income tax ‘di ba? Kung isi-simplify mo ‘yan, as a lawyer, ang alam ko, one way of simplifying it is to go gross taxation. Gross, reasonable rate, ‘yun na ‘yun. Wala nang intervention ng mga examiners, bayad ka lang. Simple kasi kung bigyan mo naman ng reasonable rates ‘yung mga taxpayers, gross; eh kung reasonable naman ‘yan, bakit ayaw mong bayaran? I mean, mas gusto mo na bayaran ‘yun kaysa ita-tax, ia-assess ka ng one hundred million, tapos pupunta sa’yo yung examiner. Ako, alam ko ito because I’ve been practicing law also. May mga kliente tayo, one hundred million ang assessment. Punta ka sa examiner, puwedeng sabihin fifty percent pero ang ireresibo, wala pang twenty-five percent. So mas malaki pa ‘yung napupunta sa corruption kaysa doon sa gobyerno. So kung ikaw gobyerno, eh ‘wag mo na taasan ‘yung rate. Lagay mo na reasonable tax rate para ‘yung mga taxpayers, bayaran na agad ‘yan. Kahit sino naman, pag reasonable tax rates, mas gusto mo ibayad sa gobyerno ‘yan, wala kang sakit sa ulo.
Ubac: Sir, sa initial policy discussion niyo with the incoming president, mayroon na po ba siyang na-identify na at least five or seven priority legislation?
Alvarez: Honestly, wala pa. Wala pa. We were hoping na ‘yung conversation naming with some leaders of Congress last week ay mayroon na siyang mga ilalatag na gusto niyang ipagawa. Pero wala pa, it’s more on meet-and-greet lang. Pero personally, I asked the president na buhayin yung Ledac, ‘yung kagaya nung kay Ramos. At least once a month, mayroong Ledac para smooth ‘yung flow ng legislation natin.
Ubac: Mr. Speaker, doable po ba ‘yung war on crime, war on poverty and federalism at the same time in six years?
Alvarez: Yes, doable.
Ubac: But ‘yung parliamentary or federal ba natin, may separate ba ‘yun na Parliament, separate na Supreme Court, separate na State House?
Alvarez: Uhm, iyon ay subject doon sa discussion sa Convention itself. Pero ‘yung idea ko lang diyan, kung sa America mayroon silang Supreme Court pero may courts sa bawat states, at tsaka different set of laws for every state ‘di ba? May mga state sa US na puwede ‘yung same-sex marriage, mayroong hindi puwede. Mayroon ‘din ‘yung pabor sa abortion, mayroon ding hindi. Parang ganoon, so depende na ‘yun sa culture noong isang state. Culture and tradition, perhaps.
Ubac: Thank you.
Nery: Next question is from our chief of the Central Desk, Juliet.
Javellana: Yes, sir. Just on the top legislative agenda, can you give us the time frames, if you have? For example, for federalism, you mentioned Con-Con around barangay elections. How about the death penalty and the juvenile amendment? Is the FOI also in the agenda?
Alvarez: Ah, yes. I want to – except for federalism ah, kasi kailangan ng plebiscite ‘yun – I want to pass it within the 17th Congress. Kailangan maging output ‘yun, oo. So earlier, maybe. ‘Wag naman three years.
Javellana: So two years?
Alvarez: At the most.
Javellana: Including the FOI?
Alvarez: Yes, yes. FOI, tapos na ‘yan. Ire-refile na lang. So palagay ko naman mabilis na ‘yan.
Javellana: And as incoming speaker, sir. What would you say would be your leadership style? You mentioned you would be fair to the minority, etcetera, but this early, can you define what kind of a speaker you would be?
Alvarez: Gusto kong makatulong sa tao. Kung ano ‘yung, especially in addressing poverty. I want to be an instrument to uplift the condition of our fellow men.
Javellana: Sir, do you really drive your own pick-up truck?
Javellana: You do?
Alvarez: Ngayon lang hindi kasi…
Javellana: So I heard the incoming president espousing a simple living also for officials. Is that gonna be part of the new style in Congress?
Alvarez: Yeah, simple lang tsaka ano, you know, my greatest problem is wearing barong and Americana.
Nery: Something you share in common with your president elect?
Alvarez: Kasi nung congressman kami, naka-maong tapos naka-barong.
Javellana: In fact, I think that’s one of the questions. Would you do away with the fashion show in Congress, you know, in Sona?
Alvarez: Ah, oo, kasi alam mo even the Civil Code frowns own display of wealth amidst poverty. So hindi naman kailangan kasing pumorma ka doon. Business attire lang, okay na.
Javellana: Ah so business attire on July 25?
Alvarez: ‘Wag naman ‘yung casual. Business attire.
Javellana: How about for women?
Alvarez: ‘Yung, kung ano ‘yung business attire kung pupunta ka ng opisina. Hindi ‘yung pupunta ka ng party. Iba ‘yun.
Javellana: Sir, have you learned something from the previous speakers and if you did, what would be the lesson that you learned?
Nery: Can I ride on that question? You’re a member of the batch of 2001, ’98-2001, right? Famously, Speaker of the House Manny Villar impeached President Estrada. I just wanted to include that in the question. What are the lessons that you’ve learned from previous speakers, including Villar?
Alvarez: I don’t see any impeachment of the president in this Congress.
Nery: There is no one-third.
Alvarez: Wala siguro. You know, impeachment, okay lang ‘yan when you have a weak leader. Pero ‘pag strong leader, mahirap gawin ‘yun. Before you do it nasagasaan ka na. This president will not take it sitting down, especially when you have the mandate of the people on your side. ‘Wag na lang tayo mag-adventure doon.
Nery: What about other lesson from other speakers?
Alvarez: Si Manny Villar, magaling siyang mag-pacify. Kaya niya ‘yung mag-navigate ng legislations, kayang-kaya niya with less resistance. ‘Yun ‘yung nakita ko sa kaniya. With the other speakers, ‘di ko masabi dahil one term lang ako sa Congress. Then after that, wala na ako sa politika for 15 years. Hindi ko naman sinasadyang maging congressman ulit dahil ayaw ko in the first place.
Nery: Did President Duterte ask you to run?
Alvarez: No. It was out of frustration that I filed my certificate of candidacy. Last minute, mga thirty minutes before deadline.
Nery: That seems to be a pattern among the Duterte administration winners. Filing at the last minute.
Javellana: Sir, in fact, can you take us to that last day of filing. What really happened? Can you share the inside story?
Alvarez: Tatlong tao lang nag-uusap noon, nung last minute. Ako, si Bong Go and Senator Koko Pimentel. So, kinukulit ko si Bong Go na pasakayin si Mayor Duterte doon sa eroplano na pinadala ko sa Davao. So hanggang nung una pala, sabi ko kay Bong, “Bong, nasaan si Mayor Duterte?” Sabi niya nasa Davao. Sabi ko padala ako ng eroplano para mag-file, sunduin. Sabi niya, huwag na kasi ayaw bumaba sa kuwarto. ‘Di sabi ko, iniisip ko, I might as well gamble. Sabi ko padala ko na lang ‘yung eroplano. So I called Lion Air, si Archie po. Sabi ko padala kayo eroplano dito; sabi niya kapos sa oras, hindi abot. Hindi, sabi ko, puwede ‘yan, take off ka na ngayon. Sabi niya, hindi, mahaba ‘yung pila. ‘Di ba may congestion sa runway? Mahaba ‘yung pila. Sabi ko, hindi, subukan mo. So, position na sila, mga pang-apat yata. So nung nag-radyo ‘yung piloto sa Manila Tower. Manila Tower, RPC, permission to take-off, Manila to Davao. So to fetch candidate Duterte. So pang-apat na puro malalaki eroplano sa harapan mo, nung narinig nung tower, sagot nung tower. RPC, you are given permission to take off para sa bayan.
Nangyari ‘yun! Take off. ‘Pag dating doon, hindi sumakay. Hindi sumakay. Talagang hindi. Kausap ko si Honeylet, lahat. Ayaw niyang lumabas doon sa kuwarto. So sabi ko, Bong, paano? Magf-file tayo para may window pa tayo, may December 8. Sabi niya, sige, tawagan mo si Koko. So tinawagan ko si Koko, sabi niya, huwag na nating pahirapan. Ayaw niya talagang tumakbo eh. Sabi niya, lalo lang natin siyang pinapahirapan. Just let it go. Sabi ko, “No!” Wala namang mawawala. Pa-file ka lang kahit sino diyan tapos substitution tayo ‘pag dating ng December 8. Sabi niya, sigurado ka? Oo, sigurado ako. Tapos tinawagan ko si Bong Go. “Bong, tawagan mo nga si Koko. Sabihin mo sa kaniya magf-file.” So ayun, nag-usap sila ni Bong, nag-file nga nung last minute, ‘yun na si Martin Diño. Nag-file, mali-mali pa ‘yung finile. So problema ulit ‘di ba? So ako naman, at that time, wala na talaga. So sabi ni Archie, wala na hindi na tayo aabot. Okay, sabi ko. Sama ng loob ko. I cried. Sama ng loob ko. Si Tony Boy Florendo, dinalhan ako ng COC. Pinapirma niya ako. Sabi niya, “File ka ng Congress. Wala akong kasama babalik ako.” Eh ako naman, sa sama ng loob, pinirmahan ko. Tapos, hindi siya umalis, sinamahan pa niya ako doon sa Comelec para mag-file kasi diskumpiyado siya na hindi ako pupunta doon. So pinirmahan ko. Of course, the rest is history. Now, I’m in the middle of all these things na ito, speaker ka. Magba-barong ulit.
Nery: So, if you remember you visited us here together with Mayor Duterte in August. You were wearing shorts pa. And then he said, “No, he’s not going to be part of my cabinet.” At that time, you really had no political plans?
Alvarez: Wala. Ang plano ko talaga was to help him sa campaign. And then pagkatapos niyan, to attend to my… ‘yung maliit ko na farm sa Davao. Negosyo konti. And then, mag-retire. I was already preparing for my retirement. Ginagawa ko na ‘yung, I have a small property in Siargao. That is where I want to retire kasi laidback ‘yung buhay, simple lang. Ngayon, na-postpone. KS
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