Interview transcript – 4 September 2013

These are excerpts from Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago’s press conference after she presided over the public hearing of the the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the Commission on Appointment. It was her first appearance in the Senate since taking a sick leave. 

I was only testing myself for today so I can see how long I can stay in the Senate or whether I can work full time now. I have no announcement to make except that I prefer, as a senator, to be paid just one salary. Ang problema sa senado, marami kaming sources of income, all legitimate. Pati kami hindi nakakaintindi kasi ang dami nami’ng discretionary funds: ang isa ay ang Office of the Senator, ang isa naman ay Office of the Permanent Committee. Both are divided by Personal Services (which means salaries for the staff), and the notorious Maintenance, Operating, and Other Expenses.  I consider them discretionary funds because you spend that money depending on how many staff members you want to have, or whether you want to people them with ghosts; and the MOOE if you want to use fake receipts, and so on. Kaya para wala nang gulo, isang sweldo na lang.

May sweldo kami under the Salary Standardization Law na P 90,000 a month, but our take-home pay is P60,000. For example, me, I don’t want to work for P 60,000 a month. Huwag naman P 90,000. I have worked myself sick. It’s not worth my time. Magpatuka na lang ako sa ahas.

Basta reasonable lang, let’s say P500,000 a month kasi may withholding tax, etc. Para ang mauuwi ng senador is around P200,000. Okay na sa akin na wala akong discretionary, wala na akong power to dispense public funds. Iyon lang iyon, lahat kami, from top to bottom. President, vice president, members of the cabinet, members of the Senate, and the House of Representatives, dapat iisa lang ang suweldo namin.

When I first assumed office, I thought that function shouldn’t be given to me because I ran to file bills and resolutions and to debate legislation. Instead, I was given the task of an accountant. We have to change the Charter in order to make the qualifications for a senator and congressman more stringent. I insist that candidates for senator or congressman should at least be college graduates.

Second suggestion: dapat ang salary ng highest official–which is the President of the Philippines–should be tied to the lowest employee in government who is paid minimum wage. So we cannot increase our salaries as senators, congressmen, or high public officials, unless we increase the salaries of the lowest paid.

Third recommendation: change the Charter so that only taxpayers will be allowed to vote. Kasi kung hindi siya nagbabayad ng tax, mahirap na mahirap siya. Maski sino na lang, basta bigyan siya ng pera, kahit bigyan mo ng konti, that is patronage politics. The taxpayers are being ruled by the choice of the nontaxpayers.

I am now ready to be cross-examined.

On the PDAF scandal

The government should at least file criminal charges against those public officials involved in the PDAF scam because the news reports were based on affidavits executed by eyewitnesses before the NBI. That constitutes evidence already. Their testimonies have strong weight in the law on evidence. If they have executed their affidavits, these affidavits would not take their place because they are still here. They will both testify and confirm their affidavits. If that is the case, that is prima facie evidence. Therefore, the government must file cases in court. If the government doesn’t do that, despite these affidavits, then, anger against the government would remain unappeased.

If there is enough evidence with the NBI and referred to the three-person committee (SOJ, Ombudsman, COA Chair), immediately the case should be referred for preliminary investigation to the DOJ, and once the preliminary investigation is finished, and the recommendation is to file the case in court, then the prosecutor must request the judge to issue a warrant and there would be no bail (plunder is a nonbailable offense). The moment the case is filed in court, the senators would have to be detained, since there is no bail and there is no immunity from arrest.

Kung mabawasan ng miyembro ang Senado, paano na ang functions nito?

Hindi naman kailangan twenty four kami. Why do we need to be twenty four? It’s a question I ask myself very often. Pwede naman kami na dose. It has to be an odd number para hindi even ang voting. That for me is an argument without any basis. We can work with twelve. We can work with six.

 But you will not be able to ratify treaties because you need 16 senators.

Then we can jail eight.

I abolish na natin ang pork barrel. The pork barrel was upheld by the Supreme Court years ago–that is not to say it can never be reversed anymore. As one famous jurist said, the life of the law has never been logic–it has been experience. The logic of the 1980’s when they upheld the pork barrel is no longer the logic of 2013 because of our experience. It did not work. It was abused. Therefore, the only solution to that is to abolish the pork barrel. I am really pissed off whenever a congressman goes on TV and says, “Alam mo 100 na tao ang pumupunta sa opisina ko. Ano na ngayon ang ipamimigay naming gamot, pagkain, pamburol, basketball?” Tumakbo ba sila para mamigay ng ganoon? Kung ganoon pala, dapat  tumakbo sila ng mayor, dahil function ng local government iyan. Kung ganoon, sa tingin nila they are discharging their legislative functions, they have to read again. They are being illiterate. They did not run to give away things. That is patronage politics, pure and simple.

 Our common experience proves that whatever pork barrel funds are called, they do not work. They do not give the money to the public. They give it to the legislators and to their contractors. The root of all evil is the fact that the legislator is allowed to name the contractor. Kausapin niya ang DPWH na he wants to name his own contractor. Kung DPWH secretary ka, at nilapitan ka ng senador who says “I will give your department this and that much money, but I want it to be constructed by my contractor”, mahihirapan ka, papayag ka.

 Will you be attending the Blue Ribbon committee hearings on the PDAF scam?

I want to be present in the Blue Ribbon committee hearing if Janet Napoles is allowed by court to be present and if the whistleblowers who executed their affidavits are present, because then I would try and cross-examine to verify whether their account is true or not. In the case of the COA chair, what is the point of cross-examining an official of the government appointed precisely to act as watchdog over the use of government funds? There is no point.

What will be the first question you will ask Janet Napoles if she attends the hearing?

Ano ang pinakamahal na handbag? Alam niya e. That is a technique in cross-examination: put the witness at ease. Kung takutin mo agad, eh di nerbiyusin iyon. Kung magtataas ng blood pressure iyon, uuwi iyon. Make her feel at home.

Sino ang gusto mo na unang ipatawag?

 The whistleblowers. Because there’s enough evidence there. I don’t need Janet Napoles. We don’t need Napoles to convict the senators or the congressmen. If she testifies against them (legislators), all the better.

People misunderstand this whole thing. I said Janet Napoles cannot be the state witness because the state witness is automatically acquitted the moment she turns into one. Wala na siyang pananagutan kung ano man ang ginawa niya, basta sabihin niya lang ang lahat. Akala ng mga tao, basta hindi siya state witness hindi niya sasabihin ang lahat. Sasabihin pa rin niya dahil she will become one of the accused. Kung hindi niya sasabihin ang lahat, paano niya mae-extricate ang sarili niya sa mga eyewitness testimonies ng nagtetestigo laban sa kanya? She will still be compelled even only in self-defense to name everyone she is colluding with.

Another aspect is this: we normally believe now that Napoles is the mastermind. Pero sa karanasan natin, ang taong walang puwesto sa gobyerno hindi ganoon kalakas ang loob niya kung wala siyang protector na alam niya na napakalakas na tao. Maski anong mangyari sa kanya, kaya siyang ipagtanggol. Kaya lumakas ang loob niya e. You don’t find that lakas ng loob every day. Many people want to be a Napoles, but they don’t have the guts, and they don’t have the protector. Whether she identifies that person or not, she still has to defend herself because she is not willing to go to jail for the rest of her life.

 If Napoles points out her protector, does that mean she no longer is the most guilty, and allow her to be state witness?

Kung iyon ang gawin niya, I will agree that she no longer is the most guilty. But so far, in the hands of the DOJ, particularly the NBI, we have  no such evidence.

Does the COA have evidence enough to charge legislators, negligence, malversation?

We want to catch them at plunder, because that’s what they really committed. There are other escape routes and loopholes if we are using the Penal Code which provides for malversation. Let’s use the special law on plunder. The rule is when there is a conflict between general and special law, the special law prevails.

Hindi po kayo kuntento sa mere malversation?

Hindi, dahil hanggang 20 years lang. Gusto ko life imprisonment. And beyond that, if possible.

Will the PDAF scandal destabilize the Aquino administration?

It will. If the senators and the congressmen are not charged anything, it will show that we, the senators, are a special breed. Magiging ganoon ang mensahe.

There are always saboteurs and provocateurs. They are always there lying in wait for us we are such a poor country and we have major natural resources. That is the biggest danger

Ano ang payo mo sa mga senador na nadadawit sa eskandalo?

Die. Eat blank and die.

Ano naman ang payo mo sa mga hindi dawit sa eskandalo?

Abolish the Congress. Commit mass harakiri. You  owe it to the Filipino people. We should all wear our Filipino robes, bow in front of TV, and harakiri ourselves.

Hindi niyo dadalawin ang mga kapwa niyo senador kapag nakulong sila?

Hindi. Pero papadalhan ko sila ng CDs ng speeches ko.

The whole system is just so bad. That’s why people get sick. I think this is the country with the most sick population in the whole world. We continue to go to work as if nothing happens. We are really really sick. We are morally sick. We are mentally sick. The higher the position, the higher the mental sickness.

Persons 70 years old and above are excluded from criminal liability. Is that a special law or under the Penal Code?

That is under the Penal Code.

Lusot na ba yung senator na yan?

Yung si Ninety? You can say that, but still, he will go down in history after all his boasting and his preening. Ayan, his old age will be his own punishment. Hindi pa siya lusot. His name would be ruined if he is convicted. You no longer have the time to erase that blot in your record.

Who are you referring to?

My best best friend.

I don’t think I will get a standing ovation on Monday if I decide that I can attend the session. I think all their backs will be turned, and they will all be looking at other directions.#

24 thoughts on “Interview transcript – 4 September 2013”

  1. Agree ako sa suggestions nyo madam especially sa “only taxpayers are allowed to vote”. Aside from the idea that madali silang ma bribe, they are the most uninformed people kaya madaling ma loko nang mga politico through their propagandas and advertisements. Sana gawin tong bill.

    Wish all who are in power thinks like you.

  2. Well said Madam Miriam. You are so brilliant. We need people like you in the Senate. Remove all trapos in Congress

  3. agree except re “only taxpayers” be allowed to vote. even the poor pay taxes via VAT/EVAT on consumer goods.

  4. sana naman meron mambabatas na maghain ng panukalang batas na pati na rin lahat ng iskwaters or illegal settlers ay hindi rin papayagan bomoto…katulad ng mga non-taxpayers.. sa pangalan lang na illegal settlers ay dapat hindi sila bigyan ng benefits ng gobyerno kasi nga illegal ang ginawa nila na mang iskwat sa hindi nila pag-aari na lupa… at dahil hindi na sila botante, hindi na sila alagaan ni mayor ng makati, manila, san juan, quezon city, at iba pang lugar…

  5. I also agree with you senator. Majority of the voters are non-taxpayers and they don’t even care about the future of this country. What they only care about are temporary money or help they receive during the election campaign.

  6. Brilliant suggestions Madame Senator! ang galing mo talaga! Sayang at di ka nanalo Presidente noon ibinoto kita… laban ulit!

  7. Brilliant suggestions Madame Senator! Ipakulong ang mga magnanakaw at linisin ang pangalan ng mga institution na pinutikan ng mga mapagsamanatalang senador, congressman at mga opisyal ng gobyerno… Sayang at hindi ka nanalong Presidente noong ibinoto kita… laban ka ulit!!!

  8. maraming kaalaman ang matutunan sa inyong mga artikulo. sana nga lang po, magkaroon kayo ng interbyu sa national television tungkol sa budget, sweldo, at sa PDAF o kung anuman ang kinalaman sa pananalapi ng isang mambabatas (senate at congress) sa magiging mas mauunawaan po ng taogn bayan kung ito po ay maipapaliwanag nyo sa Tagalog para lalo nilang maintindihan.

    Nanawagan lang po ako sa mga estasyon tv o ng rayo kaya, sana bigyan nyo ng pagkakaton na makapagsalita ang ating Senadora para maabot niya ang mga sambayanang Filipino at lalong maimulat ang kanilang mga mata at isipan sa mga katiwalian ng ating mga nakaupo at nailulok nating mga tao ng gobyerno.

  9. You are my idol talaga madam. The whole nation will need you in the Senate. We look forward that you will become a president. Paano nalang ang Pilipinas pag wala po kayo. Good Luck..

  10. Madam..mabuhay po kayo madam..sana lahat po ng politiko e katilad nu na me malasakit sa kapwa niyang pilipino lalo na po ung mga taong walang alam..kaya dapat itapon na lahat ng mga trapong politiko sa pilipinas dahil hnd kayo nababagay sa mga pwesto nu lalo na ang mga kawatan o magnanakaw..

  11. Only tax payers should have the right to vote. Tax payers cares that’s why we pay our taxes. We think and choose, though, for the lesser evil because there’s not much choice/s for now! Our vote is not for sale.

  12. I am praying that the Lord will continue to give you good health, a long life, and an ever alert mind to continue to guide this country and lead it to where it belongs – ON TOP!

  13. You will know when a bright & intelligent human being opens his/her mouth. Unless of course you are not intelligent enough to decipher her true meanings. Straight to the point w/o mincing her words, w/o blinking her eyes & w/ a straight face. That’s you, Sen. Miriam. You never failed to enlightened & amused me. You could, by any chance enter showbiz. No, I recant that. Ang tuwa siguro ng 16 senators if you do & the consternation of the rest of the entertainment world. Keep it up Sen. Miriam, give it to them!

  14. I agree with you that we have the most sick population in the whole world and it’s all because of these sick and corrupt politicians, from the lowest position in the government to a higher up and from all agencies of the government there is a corruption and there’s no way that it will be fixed. I’ll just pray to God to continue to bless those who are innocent and start punishing those who are iinvolved in these pork barrel scam and for Him to start with your bestfriend. God bless Madam, and take care of your health.

  15. Just a question here, sino po ang considered na taxpayers? when in fact everyone can be called taxpayers dahil po majority ng bilihin/services may tax, specifically e-vat.

    #curiousity

  16. agree po lahat ako sa sinabi ninyo. lalo na po sa i-abolish ang congress at senado. sa dami nila kakaunti lang naman ang naitutulong nila sa bansa. pampabigat lang sila sa budget.

  17. Si Ninety is also part of the multi billion peso COCOFED scam together with Danding, Lobregat and Raul Roco. Sana makulong walang pardon dahil sa edad

  18. Dear Madam,

    please lang po, tumakbo na kyo ulit for president itong susunod na election, feed up na kmi sa mga trapo, at mga basura sa gobyerno, kyo na lang ng huli nmin inaasahan,

    nsa likod mo kmi,
    ipag pray ka nmin at ibigay nmin sa iyo ang supporta ng buong puso na hindi nabili ng pera.

    more power to you,

    rfv

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