Interview with PCOO Secretary Martin Andanar by Lynda Jumilla (Beyond Politics – ANC)

JUMILLA:  What would you say is the overarching message of the President’s 4th SONA?

SEC. ANDANAR:  Well, it’s going to be about the Duterte legacy. And under the Duterte legacy would be what the President would be doing for the next three years. And that would be, number one, you mentioned earlier, poverty alleviation, bringing poverty rate down from 21 to 14 and making the economy upper middle class by the end of his term.

Second would be the infrastructure projects, build, build, kasi alam mo Lynda, you really have to have hard infrastructure projects eh at the end of the day.

And thirdly, there’s the peace and order highlighting the national task forced to end local communist armed conflict, because you can never have progress without peace and order. And I think diyan tututok ang Presidente sa tatlong mensahe na iyan.

JUMILLA:  Of course, SONA is also a time to highlight, let say accomplishments or some issues or achievements that the President would want to highlight. What would we be hearing on Monday in terms of accomplishments?

SEC. ANDANAR:  Accomplishments under the infrastructure cluster; accomplishments under the economic and the business cluster; from our side also, from the PCOO, transparency, FOI, we also expect our Presidential Task Force on Media Security; and other policies of other their departments – the Malasakit Center, hopefully that will be discussed also on the 22nd of July.

But again, it depends on the President kung ano talaga iyong gusto niyang babasahin for the next… for at least 45 minutes to an hour and 20 minutes iyon.

JUMILLA:  45 minutes. Can we hold you to that length? Because I remember the last time when we talked about, I think the first SONA, when everyone said it’s going to be something like 45 minutes, we ended up two hours for the SONA.

SEC. ANDANAR:  Well actually, the first SONA 2016 was a one hour and 32 minutes; the second SONA in 2017 was 2 hours; the third SONA was 48 minutes. So, you know, if we do our averaging, so maybe between 45 to 1 hour and 20.

JUMILLA:  1 hour and 20. He said that you wait until the SONA, I might educate you in relation to the controversy or the criticisms on his policy on the South China Sea or the West Philippine Sea. Is he going to discuss the issue?

SEC. ANDANAR:  Highly possible and let’s also see if the issue on the United Nation’s Human Rights. It’s possible because when the President said that we didn’t have the issue in United Nation’s Human Rights Council yet. So, perhaps that could also be part of the State of the Nation Address.

JUMILLA:  Do you think he’s going to talk at length about the deal, the agreement that he mentioned earlier with Chinese President Xi Jinping in connection with fishing… you know, allowing the Chinese the fish in the Exclusive Economic Zone of the Philippines and supposedly reciprocally Filipino fishermen in areas claimed by China?

SEC. ANDANAR:  That’s possible. But what is really important is how the President will be able to also send the message, again, to the entire nation about our independent foreign policy being friends to all and enemies to none; and it’s really worked on our side so far. We’ve received the good trading deals with China, between the Philippines and China; we’ve received more economic packages from Japan, our economy looks great and people and different investors from different countries are investing in the Philippines. And I think, I believe, that that is a result of that independent foreign policy, that we are friends to all and enemies to none.

JUMILLA:  This agreement with China or with the Chinese President, it might put him in a position where he might open himself up to accusations and possible impeachment.

SEC. ANDANAR:  We’ll see what will happen on Monday, on the 22nd we’ll see what will happen. The President being a lawyer, he has a bright legal mind, he knows what he is doing and whatever he says and whatever he did say during the bilateral meeting with President Xi Jinping would really up to him if he announces it to the entire public what happened inside that meeting with President Xi Jinping.

JUMILLA:  How does he explain – as he said earlier ‘no – ‘I know I’m right, I know it’s legal, I know I did not violate the Constitution.’ How did he explain the whole thing?

SEC. ANDANAR:  The President would always tell us in the Cabinet that the ultimate public that is responsible for – the Filipino people. So, it is essentially the preservation of life of the Filipino people that is most important as his constitutional duty. Sinasabi niya parati, ‘handa na ba tayo makipag-giyera sa China? Hindi tayo handang makipag-giyera sa China. Dahil kapag nakipag-giyera tayo sa China eh wala pang limang oras eh pulbos na tayong lahat na mga Pilipino.’ And his constitutional mandate is to protect the Filipino, the life of every Filipino and that’s it. And he is coming from that argument.

JUMILLA:  Because there is a concern that China will go to war against us. Isn’t that some kind of well… it’s such a fallacy. It doesn’t necessarily mean that, you know, you wanna go to war with another country.

SEC. ANDANAR:  But right now, we are in a phase that we need to deal with China not only in terms of trade, but also in ensuring that we all live, that we do not die because of war. That is why he challenged the United States. He said that, you send the entire 7 Fleet.

JUMILLA:  The United Nations Human Right Council resolution proposed or filed, presented by Iceland. Is the President inclined to take action in terms of cutting diplomatic ties with Iceland?

SEC. ANDANAR:  Diplomatic ties with Iceland. If you ask me personally, I still go back to the question that how can a country like Iceland even bring out a draft proposal to investigate the Philippines if Iceland does not even have a mission in the Philippines. I mean, you have at least have to be in the Philippines and know what happening in the Philippines to understand the psyche of the people, to understand the political situation, the drug—I mean, it should not be based on hearsay, it should not be based on second hand information, it’s should be you, di ba. It’s just weird that you have Iceland saying that.

 JUMILLA: So do you think if Iceland were present physically in the Philippines, by having an embassy, having a chancery, it would be perfect for the Philippines to cooperate with the investigation that Iceland is proposing?

SEC. ANDANAR: There would be more moral ascendancy for Iceland to be able to say, “This is what we want. This is what should be done. This is our proposal.” But they are not here, that’s the problem. They don’t have presence in our country. But there are so many questions, Lynda, they didn’t use the periodic review that should have been done; so many protocols were breached – … the United Nations before – when they presented that resolution to investigate the Philippines.

JUMILLA: Given that the President and the government have already indicated their position on government rejecting the resolution.

SEC. ANDANAR: Well, we have just to move forward and continue managing the country. The President already said that—Sal Panelo already said – Secretary Sal – that we don’t agree with what the United Nations Human Rights Council set forth.

JUMILLA: Okay. You’ve talked about the highlights or the possible highlights of the President’s speech. Let’s talk about the sidelines which we’re expecting to happen. Because, I’m sure you remember last year‘s event where the President had to wait a little while because of the speakership battle taking place on the floor. Do you think something like that would still happen given that I don’t know if people have thrown in the towel in terms of the speakership race?

SEC. ANDANAR: I think it’s going to be a smooth sailing one. It’s going to be an exciting one. It’s the first State-of-the-Nation-Address on the second half of the President’s term.  Everybody is ecstatic and really waiting what would be the plan for the next three years.

We have seen the approval rating, 80% Filipino adults are satisfied with the President’s performance. And we want to … the people would want to hear what are we going to expect in the next three years – ‘Matatapos ba iyong underground, iyong subway? Matatapos ba itong proyekto na ito? Matatapos ba iyong Skyway?’ Iyon eh, this is really Duterte legacy that we’re looking at for the next three years.

And of course, titingnan mo rin iyong darating na sunrise eh, right? So when you set forth a legacy, then whoever wants to be president in 2022 would have that much pressure. Kasi ang mga botante natin sanay na sa mataas na standards na accomplishments eh. So therefore, this SONA is very, very symbolic and exciting especially for those who want to be … who are running for president in 2022.

JUMILLA: So does the President—has the President received some assurance that whatever it is that has not been solved or hasn’t been resolved in the speakership race will be resolved in the morning when the House of the Representatives opens?

SEC. ANDANAR: The President himself is very confident that Congressman Cayetano will be the next Speaker, so it doesn’t give us a reason to be worried at all. I’m just looking forward and, you know, crossing my finger that nothing technical … technical—

JUMILLA: As in technical broadcast-wise?

SEC. ANDANAR: Technical broadcast-wise that goes south. Alam mo naman, I mean, everyone’s basically dependent on RTVM, hooks up. So sana walang mangyaring… ganoon parati eh.

JUMILLA: Yeah, that’s your producer hat you’re wearing at that time.

SEC. ANDANAR: Yeah, that’s what I think about when I’m sitting there so sana okay lahat.

JUMILLA: Did the President order or mandate his allies to support Cayetano and Velasco?

SEC. ANDANAR: What I know, Lynda, is the Speaker-want-to-bes [wannabes] were the ones who really went to the President and talked to him about it. I mean, you see it in most of the activities of the President whether it’s here in the Philippines or outside. Kita mo sumusunod lahat ‘di ba?

JUMILLA:Right, right.

SEC. ANDANAR: It’s really them who wanted the President to get into the picture and decide. So it was the President who also decided na si Congressman Alan. All of them are friends of the President.

JUMILLA: Will there be consequences if a congressman, an ally congressman does not vote, for example, for Cayetano? What do you think?

SEC. ANDANAR: I don’t think so. I don’t think so. I think the President just said that this is his preference and this is his choice; and if they don’t follow, I don’t think the President will even take it against them. But knowing how politics work in our country, there’s a big possibility that it’s going to be Congressman Alan Cayetano. And then a 15-21; so 15 months, and then 21 months si Congressman Lord Velasco. But you know what? All of them are friends of the President and, of course, the Cabinet.

JUMILLA: What do you think are the measures that the President will push for and the prospects ‘no, given the composition of the House and the Senate, that they will be passed?

SEC. ANDANAR: Well, during the last interview of the President, which happened last week, he did mention that he wanted to prioritize the passage of the National Land-Use Act aiming to resolve land-use conflicts from that land-use plan in the national and local levels, and integrate and monitor developments on land-use. Iyon talaga iyong problema.

JUMILLA: Okay. So that’s one thing that he wants to—and he has been pushing for it every SONA, actually.

SEC. ANDANAR: And, you know, he’s frustrated with how the process would take so long before land can be converted, land can be distributed. And he even mentioned that if it cannot be cut, meaning the entire process cannot be cut in into half, then no president can ever solve the land problems in our country.

JUMILLA: Okay. What about death penalty, TRAIN 2?

SEC. ANDANAR: Yes, TRAIN 2 is a priority, it’s a must for us to be able to continue our Build, Build, Build Program and of course, we have to have a source of funds to be able to use it into building. And Secretary Sonny Dominguez mentioned it already during the first pre-SONA at the PICC, I think that’s very important.

With the death penalty, a few of the administration’s senators and newly elected Senator Bong Go and Senator Bato dela Rosa have already signified their intention to really push for it. We’ll see if the President—

JUMILLA: Charter change and federalism?

SEC. ANDANAR: Secretary Alan Cayetano is keen on doing some changes in the Constitution. I think there are some clauses on the Constitution that need to be revisited or even changed like the foreign ownership of land for us to be able to invite more investors in our country.

JUMILLA: There is of course something going around for the longest time that you will be moving to another position in the Cabinet or in the government. So, what position will that be?

SEC. ANDANAR: It’s so difficult to—

JUMILLA:It’s okay.

SEC. ANDANAR: But there is talk of minor changes in the Cabinet. And I don’t know if it’s going to happen during the State of the Nation or after the State of the Nation or maybe this week, we’ll see. But I’m happy that I was able to serve at least three years full at the Presidential Communications—

JUMILLA: Right, exactly three years.

SEC. ANDANAR: Kung anuman ang gusto ni Presidente, if he wants to move me to this position or that position, we serve at the pleasure of the President.

JUMILLA:So, Presidential Adviser for Political Affairs? Are we gonna have that discussion soon?  [laughs]

SEC. ANDANAR: You know, we’ll see, but that would be a weird thing because you’ll be calling ‘Papa Martin.’ [laughs]

JUMILLA: [laughs] Maybe not. Okay, Secretary, thank you so much.

SEC. ANDANAR: Thank you so much.


Source: PCOO-NIB (News and Information Bureau-Data Processing Center)