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

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 . . .

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

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.”

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DILG + PNP = JUETENG

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

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.