It is appalling that the detractors of Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago have resorted to cheap threats to malign her. Like the two petitions filed against her, thebomb threat received by the Comelec is part of a plot to destroy the senator’s image and reputation. It appears that the purpose of the threat is to call attention to the black propaganda against her. The bomb threat is a despicable and desperate act of terrorism, endangering people’s lives just to further a political agenda, and sabotage Sen. Santiago’s reelection.

We condemn this barbaric act and call on the electorate for vigilance against such dirty political machinations. We urge the police to investigate this matter immediately and arrest the perpetrators.

(Sgd.) Atty. Camille L. Sevilla

Chief of Staff

On the Comments of Sec. Cerge Remonde

I understand he called my husband and apologized. If that is the case, he is a big person in that sense, so I will try and match his generosity of spirit by dropping the whole thing. Apparently, he said that he didn’t mean anything. I was just riled because it implies that I was fabricating things out of mid-air, and my reply actually was that there is basis except that you cannot see it. That criticism that there is no basis is very short-sighted because all they want is physical or factual evidence. But the jurisprudence, the case law, shows that the Supreme Court has ruled many times that the only accepted evidence in conspiracy is the sequence of events itself; you cannot show factual proof that they conspired because that is almost impossible. So I was talking on the basis on what the Supreme Court ruled.

On Her Amendments to the Proposed 2010 National Budget

All my amendments to the budget were adopted. The first is that there should be a new oversight committee on the road tax. Second is that there should be 200 more rubber boats just in case of floods. The third is that we will reduce the Supreme Court budget to the 2009 level because the Senate, on my recommendation, wants to express the sense of the Senate of disappointment over the decision of the 3rd Division of the Supreme Court over the disbarment case against me.

In that decision, the five justices said “Yes, she has the right to parliamentary immunity, she cannot be held liable in any other place,’’ meaning to say if the senators do not want to punish me, then no one else can.  But it took eight pages to reprimand me, so the conclusion does not follow the premise. In administrative law, a reprimand is already a disciplinary measure, so in effect the 3rd Division of the Supreme Court violated the Constitution. We all know that if there is a question of constitutionality, it is the Supreme Court who has the last word. The Congress cannot overrule the Supreme Court in a decided case. But Congress can exercise the power of the purse to send a message to the Supreme Court. So by cutting down its budget, we are in effect sending a message to the Supreme Court we will continue to use the power of the purse to counterbalance the Supreme Court when we think that it has committed an unjust act. The senators are very perturbed that I was held to account for a privilege speech because we all know since the very beginning that only the senators themselves can hold a senator liable for anything he/she says here. So they were very surprised since I did not raise a protest immediately after what happened last August when I received a copy of the decision.

The case against me was dismissed but it reprimanded me for eight long pages. One newspaper even tried sensationalist tactics to use it in a headline. But that was erroneous and misleading because in the first place I was not reprimanded by the entire Supreme Court, only a division, and it did not actually use the word ‘reprimand’ but the language between the lines posed that implicit message. So the senators are very concerned that this could be the beginning of what ultimately be a creeping deconstitutionalization of our right to parliamentary immunity here.

I told them also that the basis for my privilege speech is the fact that although the notices for application for the post of Chief Justice did not specify that only incumbent justices could apply, and despite the fact that it was the Supreme Court that has summoned me to a so-called interview. I was made to sit in a holding room and then eventually a member of the Judicial Bar Council was delegated to tell me that, first, I have to waive the interview because I was the only one present.. So I waited, and after that the JBC announced the decision that I was disqualified even from being considered because I was not an incumbent, because the position of Chief Justice should only be occupied by an incumbent. That also gave the senators a shock because there is constitutional or statutory authority for claiming that when the position of Chief Justice is vacant, only the incumbents can be considered, since the JBC must first submit three recommendations to the president before she can issue an appointment. So that is the shocking feature of that revelation and I think that convinced the senators, that they had to do something to send a message to the Supreme Court.

*Sen. Santiago recommended that P161.088 million be cut from the budget of the Supreme Court.

Ramon Magsaysay Award for Government Service



Miriam Defensor Santiago, 

who was given the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Government Service for “bold and moral leadership in cleaning up a graft-ridden government agency
31 August 1988

I accept this award on behalf of the officials and employees of the Commission on Immigration and Deportation of the Philippines.

When I assumed my position as commissioner in January 1988 the office did not enjoy an unsullied reputation. In fact, it was regarded as one of the most notoriously corrupt agencies in the Philippine government. For a former judge and law professor like myself to accept the post was tantamount to a death wish. But I decided that it was my moral duty to brave the perils of bureaucratic darkness. It was a way of paying my dues to society—for it has been kind to those who like me, rose from the ranks of genteel poverty.

The twin dragons that guarded the door to bureaucratic integrity were corruption and criminality. These two cultures interfaced with and supported each other. Corrupt employees protected alien criminals, who in turn cultivated in the employees a fatal attraction to illicit incomes and flamboyant lifestyles. We set out to slay the double-headed monster.

We arrested and deported members of alien criminal syndicates, with particular attention to those who were busy earning for Manila the reputation of the fake passport capital of Asia. Also high in the order of battle were syndicates specializing in moral damage to Philippine culture, i.e., those engaged in the rape of our people through illegally procuring infants for adoption in Europe, maintaining child prostitution communities for alien pederasts, and procuring “mail-order-brides” and “entertainers” for prostitution abroad. We did not win the friendship of our enemies but, I hope, we earned their fear and respect.

At the same time, we tried to clean up our own backyard, which was infested with “fixers”. The fixer invents or exaggerates a bureaucratic problem so that he can fix it for a fee. He can be either a government employee or a private person who operates as the adjunct of a corrupt employee. The fixer, like a poisonous mushroom, proliferates in an environment of neglect; therefore, we designed an environment to make the fixer obsolete.

To eliminate the role of the fixer as a democratic panacea, we are making basic information available to our constituents through published booklets of instruction, which now include the Immigration Manual Legalization Rules and Regulations, Deportation Rules of Procedure, and, before the end of this year, Immigration Law. To eliminate the fixer’s role as an agent of speed in a milieu of delay, we opened the Express Lane Service, which enables the alien to obtain his documentation on the same working day that he files his application, if he pays a small overtime fee. The overtime fees are accumulated in a trust fund and distributed monthly to employees on top of their salaries. By such means we may not have converted immigration employees to virtue overnight, but I hope we have helped them to see the light.

Have we slain the twin monsters of corruption and criminality? Not yet. Then what have we achieved? Three things:

First, we have sent a signal to the alien criminal community that the Philippine government means to operate under an impersonal system of laws, not a personalistic system of bribery and unethical influence. The Philippines is a developing state struggling with the problem of poverty, but the necessity for “financial aid” ends where foreign exploitation begins.

Second, we have upheld the retention factor in the Philippine bureaucracy. Rather than resorting to the arbitrary mass removal of allegedly corrupt employees, we chose the more difficult path of reorientation concurrently implementing values education and financial amelioration. We seek to energize the bureaucracy by its own moral and political will. We aim to develop a power base, consisting of the best, rather than the worst, in the Filipino character.

Third, and finally, we proved to our constituency that we can effect turnaround in the culture of corruption. The race is worth running, the conflict is worth fighting; this is the good fight. President Corazon C. Aquino, with her shining virtues of impregnable honesty and faithful resolve, deserves the support of all men and women of goodwill. The Filipino people deserve good government.

Once, in my third week in office, I went home at midnight. I tiptoed to the bedroom of my two sons, one of whom is six years old. I had not talked to them for three straight days because I was focused on the most insurmountable problems in the office. I attempted to wake up my boys so that I could at least perform the maternal function of wishing them good night and sweet dreams. But they were snug in their beds, and I failed to wake them. It was then, in the midnight darkness, deeply anxious about the physical safety of my children because of the death threats against me, that I broke down and wept. I felt exhausted beyond human endurance. I felt abandoned in a savaged jungle of iniquity and malice. I confronted that naked face of evil, and although I did not yield, I am not unscarred.

And yet, ladies and gentlemen, I retained my basic faith that I am not alone. This award proves it. The campaign against corruption and criminality is not mine alone; it is carried forward by the Commission on Immigration and Deportation employees, by President Aquino, and by the Filipino people. By the grace of God, and with the help of old friends in the international community, we shall, at the end of the long and tortuous road, claim our just victory, for surely the Infinite Administrator, even now, arranges the universe, in order that immutable good shall triumph over the invincible forces of evil.