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Newsmakers

Franklin M. Drilon’s big shoes to fill

WORDSWORTH - Mons Romulo - The Philippine Star
Franklin M. Drilonâs big shoes to fill
Franklin M. Drilon was senator for four non-consecutive terms overall: From 1995 to 2007 and 2010 to 2022.

Franklin “Frank” Magtunao Drilon retired from public service after having served in numerous positions throughout his career. Drilon served as labor and employment secretary, justice secretary and executive secretary under President Corazon C. Aquino.

Later, he was reappointed as justice secretary by President Fidel V. Ramos before he became senator for four non-consecutive terms overall: from 1995 to 2007 and 2010 to 2022.

Born and raised in Iloilo City, Drilon graduated from the University of the Philippines and worked as a private practice lawyer before joining the government in 1986. After having devoted his life to three decades of public service, he tells us he is now enjoying family time and has been asked to be a senior adviser by ACCRALAW.

When asked what advice he can give the youth who dream of entering politics, he says, “To the youth, politics will test your resolve to consistently maintain the principles you hold dear in life. Always uphold what is right and just.”

One person he admires the most is the late Cory Aquino. “I admired Cory Aquino before entering public service, and after I joined government. She stood for and never wavered to fight for what is right. As her executive secretary, I saw her up close: her integrity and strength of character,” adds Drilon.

Former Sen. Frank Drilon and wife Mila renew their vows on their 25th wedding anniversary, which was also Mila’s birthday (April 6, 2022), at the Mary the Queen Parish, where they got mar-ried. First row from left: Lucca Borromeo, Victor Genuino, Lia Luna, Lucas Drilon, Sandro Borromeo, Cian Luna, Stella Genuino, Eliza Drilon-Luna, Dr. Christian Luna and, Audrey Luna. Second Row: Emilio Borromeo, Viboy Genuino, Camille Genuino, Mila and Frank, Eds Genuino, Atty. Patrick Drilon, Trina Borromeo and Paolo Borromeo.

He hesitates when asked what advice he would give President Bongbong Marcos, but obliges when asked his dream for our country: “I dream of a country where everyone would have roofs over their heads and food on their tables.”

Read on as former Sen. Franklin Drilon shares with us the highlights in his life as a public servant.

1. The recognition by both the labor and management sectors that, as labor secretary, industrial peace was attained, which was essential in creating employment opportunities. We created the National Conciliation and Mediation Board (NCMB), which settled industrial disputes.

2. As labor secretary, I cancelled hundreds of licenses of illegal recruiters, and established Filipino Centers abroad to respond to the needs of our Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs).

3. As justice secretary, I actively prosecuted rebellion cases and a number of high-profile cases, which put to test our justice system and the rule of law in the country. As a consequence, we narrowly escaped a bomb attack on our home at dawn of Nov. 19, 1990. This, however, did not stop me from doing what’s right and just in order to show the people that democracy and the justice system in our country are working.

4. I prosecuted a number of high-profile people to restore the faith of our people in the justice system. These were Mayor Antonio Sanchez, Claudio Teehankee Jr., and Rolito Go, among others. The successful prosecution of the accused in these cases strengthened the faith of our people in the justice system.

5. As justice secretary, I implemented reforms such as the establishment of the Witness Protection Program, strengthening of the National Prosecution Service, the Katarungang Pambarangay program, and built Halls of Justice throughout the Philippines as a symbol of our adherence and respect to the rule of law.

6. As executive secretary, I oversaw the peaceful transfer of power from President Aquino to President Ramos. It was memorable work for us in the Aquino administration because we knew then that the stability of the new government would be affected by how well we could transfer power and assure the continuity of projects.

7. The confidence bestowed upon me by my colleagues who elected me as Senate President four times, spanning eight and a half years, is the highlight of my career. My tenure as Senate president is the longest under the present Constitution. As senator, I also have held all four major leadership positions of the Senate: Senate president, Senate president pro-tempore, Majority Leader, and Minority Leader. I also chaired important committees such as the Blue Ribbon, Finance, Constitutional Amendments and Revision of Codes, Banks, and, the Committee on Ways and Means.

8. As a senator, I pushed for the passage of measures whose impact would last beyond our lifetime. Among the major laws I authored and sponsored were: the Dual Citizenship Law of 2003, which allowed our countrymen to retain their citizenship, and reacquire their lost Filipino citizenship; the Sin Tax Reform Law,  which continues to contribute significant revenues to the government’s Universal Health program; the GOCC Governance Act of 2011, which promotes efficiency and fiscal discipline of government corporations; the amendments to the Public Service Act and Retail Trade Liberalization Act that would revitalize our economy and improve services to the public through direct foreign investment; the Revised Corporation Code, which introduced significant changes to the legal framework for the establishment and operation of corporations, ultimately facilitating the ease of doing business in the country; the Tax Incentives Management and Transparency Act or the TIMTA Law, which promotes fiscal accountability and transparency in granting tax incentives and served as precursor to the CREATE Law; the amendments to the Revised Penal Code, which updated the eight-decades-old criminal statute; the Sandiganbayan law, which institutionalizes structural changes to this important institution of justice and accountability; and the Synchronization of Elections and term of office of ARMM officials, which made the local and national elections in harmony with the Constitution.

9. During the pandemic, my exposé on the overpriced COVID-19 test package led to a public uproar and resulted in PhilHealth lowering the price of its COVID-19 test kits, thereby saving the government P8.3 billion worth of funds that could have been lost to overpricing and corruption. I actively pursued the investigation of the Pharmally anomalies.

10. Other memorable highlights of my career in public service include the Philippine Legion of Honor, bestowed upon me by President Aquino; the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun, bestowed upon me by Emperor Akihito of Japan; and the Doctor of Laws honoris causa degree bestowed on me by my alma mater, the University of the Philippines.

(We welcome your suggestions and comments. Please e-mail me at [email protected]. Follow me on Instagram @monsromulo.)

FRANKLIN DRILON

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