Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, who won her Magsaysay Award for fighting governmental corruption, said that President Aquino should set the yearend as the absolute deadline for resolving the entire backlog of cases pending with the Office of the Ombudsman.

“If the President fails to set a deadline, his flagship program against corruption will become unsustainable,” she said.

The senator said that the Ombudsman has a term of seven years, and Pres. Aquino should appoint a “muscular, adrenaline-packed” nominee, because of the high caseload.

Santiago said that the President should order that in the resolution of cases, priority should be given to criminal cases unearthed recently, such as corruption among generals in the military, generals in the police, and officials of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) and Pagcor.

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Interview with Sen. Santiago after her appearance in the Senate Blue Ribbon committee hearing (13 July 2011)

On changing the PCSO’s charter

Dapat lahat ng kinikita ng gobyerno dinideposito sa national treasury. Pagkatapos, ang paggastos sa pera na iyon ay ayon sa budget na una, sinusulat ng presidente tapos binibigay sa House of Representatives at sa Senate. Kaya dapat napupuna at napapaliwanag ang bawat gastos ng pera ng ating gobyerno.

There is no just one set of funds in the national treasury; there are several funds, for example, the charity funds of the sweepstakes. The board is free to authorize the appropriation or the spending without going through Congress and without going to media scrutiny. Meron tayo the Pagcor funds, otro din yun. Just like the road users’ fund noon, binatikos ko rin, dahil only a small group of bureaucrats determined how it should be spent.

My point is there should only be one control over all earnings of the government wherever they come from. It should go to just one fund and this one fund should be the basis of the budget of revenues and expenditures. Iyon lang ang gusto kong mangyari kaya papalitan natin ngayon ang batas ng Pagcor at Philippine Charity Sweepstakes. Hindi na sila puwede gumastos ng pera na sila sila lang. Kinikita nila dapat pumunta sa national treasury. Hindi sila ang magdedetermine, magdedesisyon kung paano gagastusin iyon. Basta ‘pag may kinita sila e deposito nila sa national treasury at isama na nila ang lahat ng pera na kinita ng ating gobyerno. Ang kongreso ngayon ang maghahatol kung saan gagastusin iyon.

On whether the bishops should be questioned further

Iyon na nga sinasabi ko, kasi kamukha ng road users’ fund iyan—tanong dito, tanong doon—sometimes, they’re not related to each other. Kaya mas maganda sana kung pinabigay nalang ng affidavit ang mga bishops because it’s going to take time. If you interpellate one you have to interpellate all of them just to be fair to them. That will take time. They will simply repeat what has already been said in an official letter signed by their CBCP president issued to the chairperson of the Blue Ribbon Committee, and today, read by him again in the public hearing. Basically, this will be a repetitive process.

I personally requested a member of the media plus a member of the staff of chairperson Senator Guingona to witness my blood pressure. My blood pressure reading was 160 over 100. The normal is 120 over 80. So I’m at risk of stroke. I was trying to hurry up with my paper, which was actually only 10 pages but I don’t see why I have to be admonished that I should stop now to give everybody else a chance. If I’m talking in my field of specialty, which is constitutional law, if I am talking in my official capacity as chair of the committee on the revision of laws, then I should be given some leeway, don’t you think? I should be given an extra 2 or 5 minutes, which is what I tried to do.

Is it true that you will file a criminal case against some members of the PCSO for depositing their funds in a private bank?

No. what I was saying was let’s initiate the criminal prosecution now. What I mean is, because the Senate does not have that power, to make a recommendation now without waiting for the rest of the controversial aspects of the so-called PCSO anomaly, to already send recommendations to the ombudsman, to start the preliminary investigation that the PCSO board members and other public officials are responsible for illegally depositing of P1.5 billion of PCSO funds in a private commbercial bank despite the fact that the law provides that whenever a government agency earns money, that money should be deposited in the Landbank or in the Development Bank.


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Statement at the public hearing on alleged PCSO anomalies

held by the blue ribbon committee on 13 July 2011

The Facts

It appears from the 2009 report by the Commission on Audit that the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office charged to its Charity Fund the total amount of P6.94 million for five utility vehicles granted to certain dioceses of the Catholic church.

On the face of each check, in so many words, the following explanation was typed: “Purchase of one unit 4 x 4 service vehicle to be used by the diocese in its various community and health programs.”

Each of the bishops involved used the PCSO grants to purchase the following utility vehicles: a secondhand ten-year-old Nissan Pathfinder pickup; a Mitsubishi Strada pickup; a Toyota Grandia Hi-Ace; a Mitsubishi Montero; and an Isuzu Crosswind.

The COA report said that this action was a violation of the constitutional provision that no public money should be appropriated, directly or indirectly, for the use of any church.

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Miriam fires at Iloilo gun ban

Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago, a constitutional expert, today expressed doubts over the legality of the imposed gun ban by Western Visayas Police Director Cipriano Querol Jr., in eight towns in Iloilo.

The gun ban, which was approved by Philippine National Police Chief Raul Bacalzo, is being implemented in the towns of Ajuy, Sara, Estancia, Balasan, Carles, Concepcion, Batad, and San Dionisio.

The affected towns are all within the fifth congressional district of Iloilo. The stated reason for the ban was to allegedly curb loose firearms and the rise of criminality in those areas. However, the towns of Barotac Viejo, San Rafael, and Lemery, which are all within the same district, were excluded from the ban.

Only members of the PNP, military, and other law enforcement agencies on official business and wearing the prescribed uniforms would be allowed to carry firearms in the eight towns.

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