Miriam to Miriam: Sen. Santiago’s letter to Coronel-Ferrer on the Bangsamoro Agreement

7 Apr

Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago wrote Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, the chair of the government peace panel, regarding the latter’s statement that the peace panel will be seeking a meeting with the senator and other legislators to extensively discuss the different provisions in the CAB (Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro) and to allow for a deeper understanding of the context and substance of the documents.

Sen. Santiago earlier stated that the CAB is unconstitutional because it allegedly violates the principle of constitutional supremacy.

Sen. Santiago's Letter to Miriam Coronel-Ferrer

Excerpt from an interview with Sen. Santiago – 2 April 2014

4 Apr

Once the Ombudsman files the plunder case in the Sandiganbayan against public officials involved in the PDAF scandal, should the accused senators be immediately suspended from public office?

Yes, that is automatic under the law. Once the Ombudsman files a case before the Sandiganbayan, automatically, instantaneously, the public official is suspended from public office, since plunder is exclusive only to public officials. Furthermore, immediately, the accused should be held in jail unless the evidence is weak. So you see, there is a reversal of the usual attitude in law; we always presume that the evidence is weak because of the presumption of evidence. However, in plunder, notice that the presumption is reversed—we always presume that the evidence is strong, and it is the burden of the accused to show that the evidence is weak if you want to go out on bail.

Oras na masampa iyan—kasi sa ngayon hindi pa naisampa sa korte kundi nabigkas pa lamang ng Ombudsman dahil mayroon pang panahon para magsampa ng motion for reconsideration. Mayroong sariling rules of procedure iyang Ombudsman, gaya nang may sariling rules of procedure ang Sandiganbayan. Dito sa Ombudsman, kung sabihin niya na final na ang kanyang resolution, isasampa na iyan. Kailangang umakyat pa sa Court of Appeals or Supreme Court para kumuha ng TRO—mahirap yatang kumuha ng TRO laban sa fiscal. Unless there is a TRO or other injunctive relief, the moment the case is filed and stamped received by the Sandigan clerk of court, automatically the senator goes to jail and is suspended from public office. If he is found guilty, then of course he goes to jail for a lifetime because we no longer have capital punishment. Ordinarily, that kind of case would be considered punishable by death. He would have to go for the rest of his life, and then all his properties would be confiscated. That would be payback time.

I would like to express my admiration for this kickass resolution by the Ombudsman. It was difficult for her to make that decision because she is up against very powerful people, extremely powerful people. Then again, in a society that has already convicted a president who was ultimately granted pardon and is already trying to prosecute another former president, that is a natural progression, I think, in the attitude of the people. They now understand what is the meaning of the rule of law.

I thought yesterday was a very happy day. This is the first time in history that a Senate President has been indicted. That is an indictment not only of the Senate President involved, but also of the entire Senate. What kind of Senate will elect a Senate President, a man who ultimately turns out to be one of the biggest thieves in the country?

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MIRIAM: BANGSAMORO AGREEMENT UNCONSTITUTIONAL

3 Apr

Sen. Santiago was the guest speaker at the commencement exercises of the Gordon College in Olongapo City last 2 April 2012.

Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, chair of the Senate committee on constitutional amendments, said that the recently signed Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro which includes as an integral part some 12 agreements, including the 2012 Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro, is unconstitutional because it allegedly violates the principle of constitutional supremacy.

The senator said that the Agreement establishes not a mere autonomous region as provided for by the Constitution, but a substate which will exercise certain sovereign powers that should be reserved only for the central government.

Santiago, a former professor of constitutional law at the University of the Philippines, appeared to be particularly incensed by the Agreement which provides in Part 7, para. 4, subpara. (b), that one of the functions of the Transition Commission is the following:

“To work on proposals to amend the Philippine Constitution for the purpose of accommodating and entrenching in the Constitution the agreements of the Parties whenever necessary without derogating from any prior past agreements.”

Santiago said that this provision is “beyond ridiculous.”

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PARADIGM FOR THE HAPPY LIFE

31 Mar

This was Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago’s speech at the West Visayas State University Commencement Exercises in Iloilo City, 28 March 2014

In my approaching old age, I am now supposed to share with you what life has taught me, and in the end to encapsulate for you what is the meaning of life. From where I am now, I find that these conundrums are easily answered. First, life teaches us that, whether we perceive it as predestined or as random, it is beyond any person’s control. Second, there is no template for the meaning of life. Instead, the meaning of life is what you choose to make it mean. In making your choice, when you reach my age, your journey becomes an affirmation of the warning that life is a consequence of our moral choices.

The Problem of Evil

As professionals in a small developing state, you will be living in an environment of poverty and corruption. I will deal separately with poverty and with corruption. For me, these two features constitute the problem of evil. For example, the P10 billion pork barrel scam is definitely a problem of moral evil, as contrasted with supertyphoon Yolanda, which was a natural evil. We can see that human evil can be defined as “the suffering which results from morally wrong human choices, specially when the moral wrong is of an extreme kind.”[1] It is not difficult to identify the sources of evil in our society. There are many sources, but I will deal with only two.

The first source of evil in Philippine society is self-interest. Every day, many people pursue their self-interest at the expense of others. However, self-interest becomes a moral evil when selfish politicians make our people suffer in hunger and poverty. Another major source of evil lies in “a failure in moral imagination.” There are many psychopaths in Congress, but they are unable to imagine the sufferings that they cause on millions of Filipinos who are poor. Let me give you one example.

In the present pork barrel scandal, the most guilty are not only the senators and representatives, but also the executive officers of the so-called implementing agencies, which could be a department, an agency, or a local government unit. Under the Government Procurement Reform Act, the choice of the NGO is subject to competitive bidding or through negotiated procurement. As we are beginning to see in the publicly televised proceedings of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, the problem arose because the senator or the congressman insisted to the head of the implementing agency that the service or supply contract should be given to the legislator’s chosen supplier or contractor, from whom the legislator got a kickback of as high as 50%.

The executive officers of many of these implementing agencies, such as the Technology Research Center (TRC), National Agribusiness Corporation (NABCOR), and Muslim Youth Foundation appear to be equally guilty of the crime of plunder or malversation committed by the lawmaker who exerted pressure to give a contract to one specific supplier or contractor. Accordingly, I shall file a resolution for the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee to expand the scope of its present inquiry on the pork barrel scam, so as to include executive officers of implementing agencies. These officers should be required to explain the criteria that they applied, in choosing the corrupt NGOs that became the ultimate beneficiaries of the pork barrel.

The implementing agency should never have allowed the corrupt politicians to exert pressure in favor of NGOs. After all, NGOs are supposed to have their own funds from non-governmental sources, such as international donors, international financing institutions, corporate donors, etc. At present, there appears to be no government agency that monitors the flow of public funds to hundreds of NGOs, legitimate or illegitimate. They could be political NGOs, quasi-NGOs (QUANGOs), NGOs run by socialites, or NGOs run by wives of business tycoons.

It is the implementing agency who chose the corrupt NGOs. But these implementing agencies were not even created by Congress. Instead, many are subsidiary corporations of existing departments or government-owned corporations created by mere administrative orders or created through the SEC. According to former budget secretary Benjamin Diokno, the proliferation of implementing agencies is highly anomalous, because some of them receive more funds than the legitimately created agencies of government.

We have to act. First, we need to establish the criminal liability of their past and present executives. Then we should recover the misappropriated funds. And then we should throw into jail the liable public officials. After we have accomplished these measures, it follows that the guilty implementing agencies involved in the pork barrel scandal should be abolished or reformed.

How were the NGOs able to capture either the Senate or the conference committee on the budget drawn from the two chambers of Congress? The answer is not so simple. In the past, the COA required government agencies to make a full liquidation of public funds prior to any future releases of their funding. But in last year’s budget, the requirement of full liquidation was reduced to merely 70%. Who inserted this corrupt provision? Was it the Senate finance committee, or was it the bicameral conference committee on the budget? In any event, this provision was “administratively” vetoed by President Aquino, leaving its implementation unclear. This question should be answered by the DBM secretary.

MIRIAM SEEKS PROBE OF PORK IMPLEMENTORS

31 Mar

Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago, arguably the most fearless female member of the Philippine Senate ever, shakes hands with graduating students of West Visayas State University (WVSU) in Iloilo City over the weekend (28 March 2014). The Ilongga senator, a native of Iloilo and invited WVSU commencement speaker, challenged students to get involved in the battle against corruption in the country. (Photo by Tara Yap , Manila Bulletin - http://www.mb.com.ph/feisty-lady-in-her-natural-element )

 

Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago said she is filing a resolution for the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee to expand its current pork barrel probe into the culpability of the implementing agencies listed in the 2013 and prior budgets.

Santiago said that the heads of certain implementing agencies such as the Technology Research Center (TRC), National Agribusiness Corporation (NABCOR), and Muslim Youth Foundation are “equally guilty” with the lawmakers in committing the crime of plunder or malversation of pork barrel funds.”

“The implementing agencies should never have allowed the corrupt politicians to exert pressure in favor of certain NGOs, who are supposed to have their own funds from nongovernmental sources,” the senator said.

Santiago said that NGOs should source their funds, not from the pork barrel, but from international donors, international financing institutions, corporate donors, etc.

“At present, there appears to be no government agency that monitors the flow of public funds to hundreds of NGOs, legitimate or illegitimate. They could be political NGOs, quasi-NGOs (QUANGOs), NGOs run by socialites, or NGOs run by wives of public tycoons,” she said.

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SHOULD THE PHILIPPINES RECOGNIZE CRIMEA?

24 Mar

Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, chair of the Senate committee on foreign relations, and judge-elect of the International Criminal Court, said that the Philippine government should decide whether to recognize the new independent state of Crimea by taking into account non-legal factors, such as diplomatic abilities, the ability to raise international support, the ability to influence the media, and even military power.

“International law is neutral with respect to secession. International law neither prohibits nor promotes secession. The independence of Crimea will depend upon the acceptance of the international community,” the senator said.

Santiago made the statement at the International Youth Conference in Taguig City last 21 March 2014 sponsored by the AIESEC, the world’s largest youth-driven organization representing some 124 countries and some 2,400 universities.

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Cyber Law on Libel; “Pay-for-Stay” in Napoles Case

17 Mar

This was Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago’s speech as guest speaker at De La Salle University’s First Business Law Conference sponsored by Ley La Salle on 14 March 2014, at De La Salle Manila

I am happy that after making an epic journey from my house in Quezon City to Manila, I have been able to arrive safely, but only after navigating the most catastrophic office trip in the world, which sometimes features traffic smashups, the worst floods to hit the planet after the flood of Noah and his ark, sinkholes, holdups, pickpockets, and just plain street crimes. I risked all these, just to be able to join you at this first business law conference, for which I congratulate the officers and members of Ley La Salle.

Internet as an Enterprise Platform

We have all seen how the Internet and the Web have introduced new ways of interacting, organizing, and doing business. The book entitled Cyber Law, third edition, written by seven professors from various American schools, including Harvard, makes this observation:

The Internet means advances in productivity, speed, and knowledge. It is the fastest, most cost efficient way to reach the widest possible audience. . . . It makes it possible for businesses to deliver targeted aids to users, based on their searches. The net effect of these technologies is nothing short of an information revolution where there is now almost universal access to both free information and free tools to disseminate information.

In the last few years, the Internet has made possible new and different business models. These new models are businesses that exist only in, and only because of, the Internet, include such companies as Google, Facebook, Craigslist, and Instagram.

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MIRIAM TO COLLEGE STUDENTS: “DON’T VOTE FOR PORK BARREL SCAM POLITICIANS IN 2016”

8 Mar

Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago today appealed to some 2,000 students of the Lyceum of the Philippines University (LPU) in Batangas City, not to vote in 2016 for senators or congressmen involved in the pork barrel scam.

Santiago made the appeal during the awarding ceremony of the most outstanding students and student organizations of the LPU, where she served as guest speaker.

“We should not reelect any senators or congressmen running for reelection in 2016, if they are among those against whom the Ombudsman will file criminal charges for plunder or malversation of public funds in the Sandiganbayan,” the senator told the students.

“Of course, every person enjoys a presumption of innocence,” Santiago said. “But when the Ombudsman conducts the preliminary investigation, she goes over voluminous papers and other documents, as well as affidavits executed by eyewitnesses. She has to do this, because under the law, the Ombudsman who is the prosecutor in this case, has to prove what the law calls a prima facie case. The term prima facie is a Latin phrase which means at first sight, or on first appearance, but subject to further evidence or information. Hence, if the Ombudsman files a case against a reelectionist for plunder in the Sandiganbayan, this means that she has in her possession enough evidence to allow the trial court to rule in favor of the government.”

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MIRIAM WARNS PLUNDER FUGITIVES OF EXTRADITION

5 Mar

Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago warned those who have fled the Philippines to evade plunder charges in connection with the pork barrel scam, to stay away from the United Kingdom, Spain, and India.

Santiago made this warning as she sponsored yesterday the Senate concurrence in the ratification of the separate extradition treaties between the Philippines and these three countries.

Under the Philippine Constitution, a treaty or international agreement must be concurred in by at least two-thirds of all the members of the Senate to be valid and effective.

“Criminals will have fewer places to run and hide in once these treaties become effective,” Santiago said.

According to the senator, because of easier and faster means of international travel, the flight of rich criminals from one country to another to evade prosecution or commit crime has become more frequent. She said extradition treaties are considered to be the most effective mechanism in obtaining the return of international fugitives in order for them to face the consequences of their criminal actions.

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MIRIAM: WHAT HAPPENED TO MY ANTI-EPAL AND ANTI-POLITICAL DYNASTY BILLS?

3 Mar

Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago lamented that a number of her important bills are still languishing in the Senate.

Santiago, the Senate’s top performer, challenged her colleagues to act on her bills, particularly Senate Bill No. 54, or the Anti-Signage of Public Works Bill, and S.B. Nos. 55 and 1580 or the Anti-Political Dynasty Bills.

“I am disappointed. Without public clamor, these bills will never see the light of day. The committees to which these bills were referred are sitting on them,” the senator said.

The Anti-Signage of Public Works Bill was referred to the Committee of Civil Service and Government Reorganization chaired by Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, while the Anti-Political Dynasty Bills were referred to the Committee on Electoral Reforms and People’s Organization, chaired by Senator Aquilino Pimentel III.

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