Archive | September, 2010

MIRIAM CALLS FOE “SABIT SINGSON”; OMBUDSMAN NO JURISDICTION OVER SENATOR, CHALLENGES TO TV DEBATE

30 Sep

Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago said that the charges filed against her by Ilocos Sur governor Chavit Singson were already dismissed on 8 July 2010 by Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, for lack of jurisdiction over members of Congress.

Accordingly, Santiago twitted the governor as “Sabit” Singson.

“Singson is sabit na naman, meaning he has again broken the law. The Ombudsman herself ruled that she has no jurisdiction over a senator,” Santiago said.

Santiago said that the Singson charges, apart from being prohibited by law, are also unconstitutional, because he is apparently persecuting her for a privilege speech on jueteng that she delivered last week, naming him as the jueteng operator in Ilocos Sur and Ilocos Norte.

“The Constitution provides for parliamentary immunity, meaning that a senator cannot be held liable in any other place outside of the Senate. Thus, the Ombudsman merely quoted the prohibition in the Ombudsman Act,” said Santiago, a constitutional law expert.

Santiago said that she is studying a future privilege speech to be called “Singson the Sabit.”

“He has a list of “sabit,” meaning criminal liabilities. Maybe I’ll expose it on the Senate floor, after I recover from my present illness,” she said.

Last week, Santiago interrupted her sick leave to deliver an explosive privilege speech in the Senate naming the jueteng operators in all the provinces of Regions 1 to 5, including Singson and his relatives.

Santiago is on sick leave for hypothyroidism, and has been told that it will take at least one more month for her to go back to Senate work.

“He scares a lot of people because of his alleged tendency to violence. But I challenge him personally. I wish I could challenge him to a duel, but that is a crime under the Penal Code. So instead, I challenge him to a debate on any of the major TV channels,” she said.

Santiago said that the voluminous charges filed against her by Singson with the Ombudsman are virtual “carbon copies” of the same charges filed by the same lawyer when she ran for the Senate last May.

“Those same charges have already been dismissed separately by the Ombudsman, by the Supreme Court two times, and by the Comelec. All the cases were handled by the same discredited lawyer who has managed to lose all his four cases against me. He is reportedly facing three disbarment charges,” she said.

Santiago said the charges have become the laughing stock of the country, because it includes the charge that in effect, Santiago herself killed her son.

Santiago noted that among the top newspapers in the country, only one gave prominence to the Singson story.

“He is so influential that he can convince certain staff of a paper to resurrect a dead story. I am filing a complaint with the paper’s ombudsman,” she said.

The senator said she has requested BIR Commissioner Kim Henares to order the BIR national office to conduct lifestyle checks on all alleged jueteng operators led by Singson, as well as all the governors in the provinces in her list.

Santiago added that she has also requested PNP Chief Gen. Raul Bacalzo to order the PNP national office to conduct similar lifestyle checks on the jueteng operators and the NBI provincial directors in each province in her list.

The senator said that Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez could dismiss outright the Singson charges for being prohibited by the 1989 Ombudsman Act.

Santiago said that after her jueteng expose on the Senate floor last week, many senators went up to congratulate her.

“No single senator criticized or contradicted my speech. The text has been mailed throughout the country. The Singson charges are merely an effort to scandalize, intimidate, and muzzle me,” she said.

The senator said that after two months of chronic fatigue, staying at home has been “a life worse than death.”

“All my enemies out there, feel free to shoot me – preferably in the back. But do it after the gun ban,” she joked.

Santiago said she is not afraid to die.

“Death is only a portal. And maybe Archbishop Oscar Cruz will pray for my immortal soul,” she said, referring to the head of the National Crusade Against Jueteng.

MIRIAM: LEGALIZE JUETENG IF . . .

28 Sep

Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, following her Senate privilege speech on jueteng, said that Palace officials should not only probe jueteng operators, governors, and mayors, but in addition, should study the proposal to legalize jueteng.

Santiago, who is on continued sick leave, gave a rare interview to Radyo Bombo, Iloilo City which was broadcast nationwide.

In her privilege speech, Santiago pointed to the example in the United States which passed a constitutional amendment upholding the Prohibition Act Against Liquor, but subsequently repealed the amendment to legalize liquor.

“There are occasions when government, seeking to prohibit absolutely, finds the law impossible to enforce. If we cannot prohibit, should we not regulate?” Santiago said.

“Various Philippine presidents have come and gone, but illegal jueteng remains. No administration has yet succeeded in sending a gambling lord to jail,” she said. “If so, should we not settle for regulating jueteng, instead of abolishing it on paper, without any realistic hope of success on the ground?”

According to Santiago, Congress should consider legalization because the prohibition of jueteng has merely increased its reach and volume; led to the perennial criminal conspiracy between the Interior and Local Government Secretary and the PNP chief; and has enabled jueteng operators, through their untaxed wealth and major campaign contributions, to control the winners in local and national elections.

The senator likewise said that STL or small town lottery, which was supposed to be an alternative to jueteng, is a failure.

“Only 10 to 15 percent of STL earnings go to the government. The rest of the earnings actually go to jueteng,” she revealed.

Santiago said that government can impose high fees on jueteng and earn huge taxes for the cash-strapped government instead of incurring more foreign debt.

The senator said that the government’s mandate on jueteng is clear: to enforce the law on jueteng or to legalize it.

Further, Santiago said that any debate on the legalization of jueteng will include a discussion on the pros and cons of gambling itself.

She said that those who favor legalized gambling say that gambling is harmless fun and provides an escape from the harshness of life. Gambling also merely follows the law of supply and demand, and is not itself immoral because people could be addicted to other things.

On the other hand, Filipinos who are against gambling argue that it is immoral because it gives false hopes to those least able to afford the financial outlay involved. Gambling is also addictive and results in anti-social behavior, financial ruin, and crime; inculcates materialistic values in society resulting to destroyed marriages, families, and friendships; and offers wealth by chance, instead of by skill, industry, or merit.

MIRIAM WANTS DEATH THREATS POSTED ON FACEBOOK

28 Sep

Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago has been receiving death threats by telephone through her Quezon City office.

Confined for hypothyroidism in her Quezon City house, Santiago has instructed that all calls for her should be routed to her Quezon City office.

In an interview with Radyo Bombo yesterday, Santiago said she received reports from office staff of unidentified voices making implied death threats.

The calls were received by Sandy Schala, the senator’s executive assistant and by Matilde Fuentes, the administrative head.

Santiago said that the callers left messages to “take it easy on the operators and the PNP” or insisting that “she should present witnesses or shut up”; or demanding that “she should resign or else.”

According to Santiago’s executive assistant, the messages have been relayed to Santiago.

As immigration commissioner, for which she was named laureate of the Magsaysay Award for Government Service, Santiago created an urban legend when she reportedly commented: “I eat death threats for breakfast.”

This time, Santiago’s reaction was equally brief: “Please post all death threats on my Facebook wall.”

 miriam-comics-threats

DILG + PNP = JUETENG

23 Sep

Privilege speech on 22 September 2010

I am on sick leave for hypothyroidism, which means that my thyroid gland located at the throat does not produce enough thyroid hormones. This deficiency causes many of the body’s functions to slow down. Some of the symptoms are: extreme tiredness, dizziness, and shortness of breath. For this reason, I will not be able to answer questions after my speech. Instead, with your kind permission, I will have to rush home to recuperate.

On other similar occasions, I hope our colleagues will extend me the similar privilege to participate briefly in certain Senate activities that I might consider as extraordinarily important. I can summon enough energy only for about an hour’s work, each day, and after that I am exhausted and dysfunctional. My endocrinologist expects recovery in three to six months’ time.

MIRIAM PUSHES FOR WHISTLEBLOWER PROTECTION

20 Sep

Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago called for more safeguards to protect whistleblowers and witnesses to crimes and corrupt practices.

The senator made this statement in light of the resurgence of the issue of government officials receiving jueteng kickbacks, and the latest revelations by witnesses in court proceedings of the Maguindanao multiple murder case.

“The government needs a new institutional mechanism for integrity and accountability to avoid scandals and restore credibility in the public service. The litmus test for such reforms is the government’s treatment of whistleblowers,” Santiago said.

Santiago re-filed Senate Bill No. 1883, the Whistleblower Protection Act, seeking to strengthen government and even corporate accountability by supporting and protecting the right of employees to speak out about wrongdoings in their workplace. The senator initially filed the bill in the Thirteenth Congress.

“Whistleblowers automatically expect retaliation for their honesty. They are usually accused of being malcontents trying to profit from their accusations. The fear generated by retaliations creates a chilling effect on the willingness of people to come forward and expose wrongdoing,” Santiago said.

Santiago’s proposed law defines retaliatory actions to include the discharge, suspension, demotion, harassment, blacklisting and the refusal to hire a whistle-blowing employee. Aggrieved employees or former employees can also file a civil case against their employers or former employers.

“Our fight against graft and corruption in the government hinges on the courage of those who see evil and cry foul. We must reward their bravery and honesty with security,” Santiago said.

MIRIAM URGES CONGRESS TO EXERCISE STRICT OVERSIGHT ON MULTI-BILLION ROAD FUND IN 2011 BUDGET

16 Sep

Senator Miriam Defensor yesterday appealed to both houses of Congress to exercise strict oversight on the multi-billion Road Users Fund in the 2011 budget.

In her letters to Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Speaker Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Santiago asked them to personally intervene and ensure that the road fund is deposited in the national treasury and subsequently appropriated by Congress in the upcoming 2011 budget.

“Until the recent past, the Fund was deposited directly with the Department of Public Works and Highways, and released by the Road Fund Board without congressional scrutiny.  As I pointed out in a privilege speech late last year, that anomalous procedure provided occasion for freewheeling plunder of the P60 billion Road Fund from the road users tax,” Santiago said in her letter.

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MIRIAM TO PUNO: WHY ONLY NOW?

15 Sep

Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, a former RTC judge, questioned the motives of DILG undersecretary Rico Puno in apparently withholding information about alleged attempts by jueteng fixers to influence him, and in revealing the information only a few days ago, when media began to focus on him

“If it is true that he has been approached by jueteng fixers, why did he not kick and scream immediately?  Those fixers who allegedly contacted him are guilty of the crime of corruption of public officials,” Santiago said.

Santiago said that Puno’s press statement on the alleged fixers was already an admission of the truth that there is a resurgence of illegal interest in jueteng.

“One factual issue is whether Puno listened in silence to the propositions of fixers.  If so, his conduct is remiss, because he should have alerted the national police on the identities and addresses of the fixers so that they could be arrested before they could resume jueteng in their localities,” she said.

Santiago added that it was “improper and questionable” for Puno to keep to himself the many overtures on jueteng he claims to have received.

“The basic factual issue is whether he merely listened in silence, or whether he accepted the proposals, and edited the facts so as to escape personal criminal liability,” she said.

Years ago, as a freshman senator, Santiago practiced what she preached when she revealed in plenary session that immediately after her election, a number of fixers went to her office and offered her kickbacks for every public works project under her pork barrel funds.

At that time, Santiago’s report was confirmed by then Sen. Juan Flavier, who also said that he received similar offers from building contractors, after he was elected.

Santiago recently filed a resolution for the Blue Ribbon Committee to investigate allegations by retired Archbishop Oscar Cruz that certain personalities close to President Aquino are actively participating or receiving monthly “kickbacks” from jueteng operators.

“I support Msgr. Cruz in his crusade.  If his word were to be taken against the word of Puno, I will accept Msgr. Cruz anytime.  He was a respected professor at the Maryhill School of Theology when I took my masters there,” Santiago said.

Santiago is on sick leave for chronic fatigue, but told media she would try to attend the Blue Ribbon hearings scheduled for next week.

“However, I have an energy window of less than an hour.  So my presence will be iffy,” she said.

MIRIAM URGES SENATE BLUE RIBBON TO INVESTIGATE OFFICIALS CLOSE TO AQUINO FOR JUETENG

14 Sep

Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago today called on the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee to investigate officials close to the Aquino administration for allegedly coddling jueteng operators.

In Senate Resolution No. 167, which she filed yesterday, Santiago said that jueteng, although illegal, has been a source of lucrative illicit income since time immemorial for certain public officials in any administration, notably the DILG secretary, his undersecretaries, and other subordinates; the PNP chief, the regional and provincial police directors, and other subordinates; and certain mayors and governors.

According to Santiago, big-time jueteng operators have lost no time courting certain influential people in the Aquino administration to serve as protectors and coddlers of jueteng.

“Jueteng cannot flourish in a province if it is not protected by corrupt government officials,” Santiago said. “It’s either certain officials are benefitting through bribes and pay-offs, or are purposely not doing anything to eradicate jueteng.”

The Office of the President earlier challenged retired Archbishop Oscar Cruz, head of the NGO Krusadang Bayan Laban sa Jueteng, to name the government officials close to the present administration who are involved with jueteng.

Santiago said that the Office of the President’s statements were “a standard defense which is unacceptable because identifying jueteng operators is the task of the DILG and PNP chief.”

“One of the most pressing challenges to an administration that adopted anti-corruption as a political platform should be the elimination of jueteng and the immediate removal from office of people surrounding the President when this early, such people are already raising suspicions about their complicity in jueteng, because of their lack of competence, experience in anti-jueteng work, and notoriety,” Santiago said.

Announcement

8 Sep

Aspiring participants for November’s 6th International Conference of Tibet Support Groups in India have until Monday, September 13, to submit their application letters and résumés to mdsmedia@miriam.com.ph.

MIRIAM FILES BILL CRIMINALIZING ENFORCED DISAPPEARANCES

3 Sep

Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago is pushing for the passage of a law making enforced and involuntary disappearances a crime.

Santiago’s Senate Bill No. 1455 seeks to impose penalties against perpetrators of enforced or involuntary disappearances, and also provides for the compensation and rehabilitation of the victims and their families.

“Cases of involuntary disappearances are usually filed under kidnapping, murder, or serious illegal detention. They are some of the cruelest forms of human rights violations and our laws should recognize this distinction from other offenses,” Santiago said.

Enforced or involuntary disappearances involve the deprivation of liberty by agents of the state, and the refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty or concealment of information on the victim.

The Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance (FIND) reported 1450 documented cases of enforced and involuntary disappearances in the country as of September 2006.

“Crimes committed by agents of the state against the very people they have sworn to protect are reprehensible acts that must be punished severely. If agents of the state use their powers to mastermind and execute wrongful and cruel acts that deprive the people of their freedom or life, they must be held liable both criminally and civilly,” Santiago said.

Under Santiago’s proposed law, those found guilty causing the enforced or involuntary disappearances will spend 20 years and one day to 40 years in jail, while those who attempt the act or conceal the crime or the criminal will face incarceration from 12 years and one day to 20 years. Victims and their families, on the other hand, are entitled to compensation and rehabilitation from the government.

The bill also instructs the Commission on Human Rights to conduct regular, independent, unannounced and unrestricted visits of inspection to all places of detention and confinement.

Santiago, an acknowledged international law expert, also said that the passage of her bill anticipates the compliance of the country to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances which obligates state parties to prevent and suppress enforced or involuntary disappearances.

The Philippines is yet to sign the said international instrument.

“In observance of the International Day of the Disappeared last August 30, I urge the President to sign the convention and certify it urgent for Senate ratification,” Santiago said.

The International Day of the Disappeared commemorates for the victims of enforced and involuntary disappearances around the world.

“Our observance of the International Day of the Disappeared last week stems from the fact that there are still unsolved cases of enforced and involuntary disappearances in our country and these human rights violations continue to this day. I dream that there would come a time that we need not commemorate such a day anymore,” Santiago said.

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