Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago was elected judge of the International Criminal Court by the Assembly of States Parties at elections held Monday, 12 December at the United Nations, New York.

Santiago is the first Filipino and the first Asian from a developing state to serve as ICC judge, thus earning a place of honor for the Philippines in ICC history.

Together with five other new judges, Santiago will take her oath of office this March, but will not immediately assume her post in The Hague, Netherlands, until the ICC calls her to report for duty.

Thus, it is likely that Santiago will remain as a senator in the next six months or even longer, depending on when she is called to The Hague.

The senator said she expects to play an active role as a trial judge in the impeachment case against Chief Justice Renato Corona, and to urge her fellow senators to pass the Reproductive Health bill, of which she is the author and co-sponsor.

“This is a victory for the Philippines in the international legal community.  The tribute belongs to President Benigno Aquino, who nominated me; foreign affairs secretary Albert del Rosario, who maximized his unerring generalship over all Philippine posts abroad; foreign affairs undersecretary Rafael Seguis, who was the campaign manager; and most of all to Ambassador Libran Cabactulan, the Philippine Permanent Representative to the United Nations, who was the model diplomat in networking with the UN ambassadors.  All members of the Philippine mission (embassy) in New York did splendid field work,” she said.

Santiago placed No. 1 in the first round of voting, followed by a candidate from Trinidad and Tobago.

At this writing, the second round and possibly other rounds still need to be conducted, in order to complete the number of six new judges.

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Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, a constitutional law expert and former RTC judge, said that efforts to force Chief Justice Renato Corona to inhibit himself in the Gloria Arroyo cases would result in a “damaged democracy.”

“Those crying for the inhibition of the Chief Justice are trying to be a law unto themselves.  They seek no less than the unconstitutional power to determine who will judge what cases.  The Constitution does not grant that power to anybody, no matter how strident or self-righteous,” she said.

Santiago insisted that pressuring any judge or justice to inhibit himself directly violates the principle of independence of the judiciary.

“If a howling mob is allowed to pressure the chief justice or any justice to inhibit, that would serve as a calamitous precedent.  Any litigant would then be able to pressure an impartial judge to inhibit, in order to obtain a group decision from the substitute,” she said.

Santiago noted that the senior associate justice, although an Arroyo appointee, proved in his later decisions to be an arch-critic on Gloria Arroyo.

 “In effect the pressure on Corona to inhibit is an effort to substitute him with Carpio.  If it can be said that Corona might be biased in favor of Arroyo, it can also be said that Carpio might be biased against Arroyo.  We cannot allow the composition of the Supreme Court in a certain case to be determined by an unelected exterior group on the basis of the group’s own political biases,” she said.

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Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago filed the Philippine Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) Policy and Plan Act of 2011 in recognition of World AIDS Day.

Senate Bill No. 3072 seeks to establish a National HIV and AIDS Plan that will create a road map on HIV and AIDS with clear strategies, targets, framework, and funding. The bill also hopes to correct the inadequacies of the existing law in addressing the HIV epidemic.

“The HIV and AIDS Prevention and Control Act (Republic Act No.8504), enacted in 1998, was once hailed as a model legislation, but the spread of HIV is outpacing the 13-year old law. The preventive interventions that it prescribes are no longer fully aligned with what years of experience and evidence on HIV prevention recommend,” Santiago said.

The senator also said that the HIV and AIDS Prevention and Control Act lacks enabling mechanisms to enforce its human rights provisions. According to her, the law also failed to provide clarity on the continuing confusion around the structure governing the country’s HIV response.

“The response to the epidemic has been marked with complacency, lack of political leadership, and reckless disregard of evidence-informed strategies and approaches that could prevent the spread of the virus,” Santiago said.

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