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Excerpt from an interview with Sen. Santiago – 2 April 2014

4 Apr

Once the Ombudsman files the plunder case in the Sandiganbayan against public officials involved in the PDAF scandal, should the accused senators be immediately suspended from public office?

Yes, that is automatic under the law. Once the Ombudsman files a case before the Sandiganbayan, automatically, instantaneously, the public official is suspended from public office, since plunder is exclusive only to public officials. Furthermore, immediately, the accused should be held in jail unless the evidence is weak. So you see, there is a reversal of the usual attitude in law; we always presume that the evidence is weak because of the presumption of evidence. However, in plunder, notice that the presumption is reversed—we always presume that the evidence is strong, and it is the burden of the accused to show that the evidence is weak if you want to go out on bail.

Oras na masampa iyan—kasi sa ngayon hindi pa naisampa sa korte kundi nabigkas pa lamang ng Ombudsman dahil mayroon pang panahon para magsampa ng motion for reconsideration. Mayroong sariling rules of procedure iyang Ombudsman, gaya nang may sariling rules of procedure ang Sandiganbayan. Dito sa Ombudsman, kung sabihin niya na final na ang kanyang resolution, isasampa na iyan. Kailangang umakyat pa sa Court of Appeals or Supreme Court para kumuha ng TRO—mahirap yatang kumuha ng TRO laban sa fiscal. Unless there is a TRO or other injunctive relief, the moment the case is filed and stamped received by the Sandigan clerk of court, automatically the senator goes to jail and is suspended from public office. If he is found guilty, then of course he goes to jail for a lifetime because we no longer have capital punishment. Ordinarily, that kind of case would be considered punishable by death. He would have to go for the rest of his life, and then all his properties would be confiscated. That would be payback time.

I would like to express my admiration for this kickass resolution by the Ombudsman. It was difficult for her to make that decision because she is up against very powerful people, extremely powerful people. Then again, in a society that has already convicted a president who was ultimately granted pardon and is already trying to prosecute another former president, that is a natural progression, I think, in the attitude of the people. They now understand what is the meaning of the rule of law.

I thought yesterday was a very happy day. This is the first time in history that a Senate President has been indicted. That is an indictment not only of the Senate President involved, but also of the entire Senate. What kind of Senate will elect a Senate President, a man who ultimately turns out to be one of the biggest thieves in the country?

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Interview transcript: Online libel, Cybercrime Law, MCPIF, PDAF Scandal, DAP – 20 February 2014

21 Feb

On the recent decision of the Supreme Court on the Cybercrime Law

Long before the Cybercrime Law was presented to the Supreme Court, I already predicted that some of its provisions would be declared unconstitutional and particularly the provision on libel on the internet. In my view therefore, although the decision is a half-victory for some and a half-victory for others because it just picks out certain provisions as unconstitutional; nonetheless, we still have remedies available. Number one, there can still be a motion for reconsideration of the libel provision and number two the Senate can still rapidly on this new Cybercrime Law that I have filed. I am going to redouble my efforts in view of this decision by the Supreme Court, which I think is unfortunate in some respects. Let me explain.

Under our Constitution, freedom of speech occupies the highest ranking in the hierarchy of values of the bill of rights. So that must stand for something. It’s the very first provision. It says, no law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, the freedom of press, and the cognate rights of individuals and groups within our society. This means, therefore, that number one, ordinarily, a law enjoys the presumption of constitutionality. When you question a law before the courts, the courts must start with the presumption that the law is constitutional. But, because of the priority given by the bill of rights to the freedom of speech, plus the language of the law itself inside the Constitution, which states, no law shall be passed abridging freedom of speech although the courts have allowed libel laws under those provisions. Nonetheless, for me, the meaning of the way that provision is worded and is position as first in the hierarchy of civil and political rights of the citizen is that contrary to the common presumption in favor of laws in general, any law against freedom of speech should be presumed unconstitutional, otherwise, there’s no meaning to that constitutional provision, isn’t that so?

Now, in more technical terms, online libel, as it is presently worded, where the court says, well, if you put it online, it is just like libel in any of the traditional forms of media, makes a gross mistake in the identity of the traditional media against that of the social media. These are two completely different universes. They are not operating within the same universe as traditional media: radio, TV, and print. In TV, radio, and print, once you are maligned, it is extremely difficult to get your side aired. Because, for example, if your enemy is political in nature, the political enemy that you have made could be a crook and he would have much more money than you do, because, precisely, he is a crook. He steals money from the government. So, if he publicizes a libelous article against you, it is very difficult for you to receive equal space and equal time for your time, because the illicit fortune of your enemy makes him so rich that he is virtually outside the rich of our judicial system. But that doesn’t apply on the internet. On the internet, if someone posts a blog [entry] or a tweet, or some comment against you, you have the full right to answer him in kind and you don’t have to pay anything. That is the main difference between [the] internet and traditional media with respect to the crime of libel. It is a wide-open universe unlike the restricted universes of traditional media. To make it more technical, let me just say that the criminal libel provision of the present internet law violates at least two widely accepted principles of constitutional law. The first is the void for vagueness doctrine. As presently worded, the provision on online libel is so vague that you hardly know who are covered by it. Although the Supreme Court has said that it is only the sender who is liable not the person who is commenting or receiving. But what do these words mean? Who is the sender? Is it the service provider, the individual netizen, or if they are a group, how do we identify them? Even worse, if they are not using their true identities, how are you going to go beyond what they professed to be their identities on the internet? That is the main problem today. Identity theft is common on the internet. We’ve never heard of this crime before. So, these emphasize how different the internet is from traditional forms of media. The Supreme Court is treating social media as if it were just a scion or successor or just another classification of traditional media—it is not! Here we have a case that unfortunately, appears to be jurisprudence trailing after technology because of lack of information of how the internet operates in society. That is the first objection: the void for vagueness doctrine. The language of the law that has been passed upon by the Supreme Court is so vague that it becomes illegal since it is a very significant constraint on the preferred freedom of the entire bill of rights—the freedom of expression or the freedom of free speech.

The second objection in constitutional law terms is overbreadth. Sinasakop na niya ang lahat, kaya hindi mo maiintindihan ngayon this law. The basic principle should be that the law should be confined within very strict limits.  Only a certain group of persons are liable under this provision. But this law plus the interpretation of the Constitution makes this field so wide open. It is virtually almost like the void for vagueness doctrine that you no longer have any clear voice or signals on where the line ends or begins. So for these two reasons, the void for vagueness doctrine and the overbreadth doctrine, I humbly submit that the Supreme Court ruling on these particular provisions is erroneous and I call on all netizens to magnify all our efforts and to speed it up as soon as possible so we can either file a motion for reconsideration with respect to this particular libel provision or we can speed it up here in the Senate on the new law that I have filed from crowdsourcing (Senate Bill No. 53, The Magna Carta for Philippine Internet Freedom). It was not me who crafted this law, but all the netizens coming from different professions, naturally, from lawyers, but also from civil engineers, etc.

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MIRIAM: SC HAS POWER TO DECIDE PORK CASES

10 Oct

Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, a constitutional law expert, said in a radio interview yesterday, that under the Constitution, the Supreme Court is no longer bound by the so-called “political-question doctrine,” under which a court should refuse to decide an issue involving the exercise of discretionary power by the executive or legislative branch of government.

Santiago was commenting on the view taken by some pork barrel advocates that the Supreme Court has no power to act on the pending pork cases because it is prohibited by the “political-question doctrine.”

“Constitutional scholars are united in the view that under the present Constitution, the Supreme Court is no longer inhibited from deciding political questions.  The Constitution now provides that judicial power includes the duty of the court to determine whether or not there has been a grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of any branch or instrumentality of the government, even in cases involving political questions,” she said, quoting Art. 8, Sec. 1, paragraph 2.

Santiago said that the cases questioning the constitutionality of pork barrel, or lump-sum appropriations, present a question of whether the political branches of government, meaning the executive and the legislative branches, have committed grave abuse of discretion in spending the people’s money.

She defined abuse of discretion as “a decision that is asserted to be grossly unsound, unreasonable, illegal, or unsupported by the evidence.”

Santiago, the Senate’s constitutional law expert, defined “discretion” as: “the public official’s power or right to act in certain circumstances according to personal judgment and conscience, often in an official or representative capacity.”

Asked by a radio interviewer what advice she will give to President Aquino, who has defended the pork barrel, Santiago replied: “Life is a consequence of our moral choices.”

In the same interview, Santiago said that it is “not feasible” to implement the proposal by former Supreme Court Chief Justice Reynato Puno that a law prohibiting pork barrel or lump-sum appropriations should be passed using the peoples initiative system provided for by the Constitution.

“That is an idealistic and constitutional proposal.  However, I am afraid it will not be feasible, because the number of signatures required on a petition is too high and can be subverted by vote-buying, to convince voters to stay away,” she said.

Under the law on people’s initiative, the people can directly propose and then enact a law, but only after the registration of a petition which must contain at least 10% of the total number of registered voters, of which every legislative district must be represented by at least 3% of the registered voters.

“The Commission on Election says that in the last 2010 elections, there were 50,896,164  number of registered voters, so the petition must be signed by at least 5,089,616 voters,” she said.

Santiago said that it would be too expensive to conduct information and education campaign for voters so that they can understand the meaning and context of an anti-pork barrel law under the system of initiative and referendum.

She said that a better alternative to the Supreme Court petitions and to the proposed petition for initiative and referendum is a Budget Control and Impoundment Act, originally proposed by President Aquino when he was a senator.

“I have already re-filed President Aquino’s original measure, with the permission of his office staff.  It provides that, like its American version, after Congress authorizes appropriations, and the executive department does not intend to spend the budget items for which he is authorized, then the President has to go back to Congress with a request to impound the appropriations.  The power to grant or not the request to impound will continue to belong to Congress.  Thus, such a law will preserve the congressional power of the purse,” she said.

Santiago said that the Senate should prioritize a Budget Control and Impoundment Act, if it is sincere about the budget reforms.

“President Aquino was correct when he was a senator.  The President should not make a habit of requesting large budgets for some departments and then, in the middle of the year, juggle the funds, repackage it as Disbursement Acceleration Program, and spend it the way he wants,” Santiago said.

The senator said that the Constitution authorizes a transfer of appropriations only from savings, which she defined as money saved, particularly sums of money saved on a regular basis, by means of economizing.

Santiago said that the constitutional term “savings,” is a so-called term of art, meaning that it should be strictly construed.

“Under the rules of constitutional construction, as a general rule, a constitutional provision should be construed as mandatory.  There is always a strong inclination in favor of giving obligatory force to a provision of the Constitution,” she said.

Senate BIll No. 404 – Budget Control and Impoundment Act

Interview transcript – 4 September 2013

5 Sep

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.

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Interview transcript: On Margaret Thatcher, oil smuggling, and the party-list system – 9 April 2013

10 Apr

Lady Margaret Thatcher with Miriam Defensor Santiago when Thatcher visited Manila in 1994

On Lady Margaret Thatcher’s death

I’m very sad because Lady Thatcher has died. I met her here in the Philippines. I met her right after I allegedly lost in the presidential elections. She was touring Asia. She showed me extraordinary sympathy and compassion. She had read up on me, which was amazing because she is a global leader, and she commended me for my book called Cutting Edge. She said that she never reads the newspapers when she was PM because they ruined her day.

Margaret Thatcher shakes Miriam Defensor Santiago's hand when they met in Manila in 1994

I idolize her, actually. She is very unique and very brilliant. She started by taking chemistry in Oxford, and then she switched to law, which is very astounding. The kind of mental discipline that is needed to calibrate your brain from the sciences to the more social aspects of society, including social engineering, was amazing. I was very enriched with my experience with her. She was very results-oriented like me. I remember she came down the stairs, she greeted me and looked at my book, and then said “Well, let’s have a picture!”, everyone was standing around hoping to get a word with her and she knew people love to have pictures with her, so immediately we all fell in line. And then there was a certain general who was taking his time, maybe out of shyness. So she said rather sternly to him, “Oh come on, general! Shake a leg!” I love her for that memory.

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Interview transcript – 11 January 2013

12 Jan

The basic legal and moral issue is when the Constitution provides that savings can be used “to augment other items”, can the savings be used among the high officials of that office itself—for example in the Senate, can the Senate President use the savings as part of Christmas bonuses to the senators in the guise of so-called “additional MOOE”? The first relevant factor there is why give additional office expenses to a senator when the year is over? In the next year he will get his own MOOE. Very clearly, MOOE is a code name for the fact that the Senate President is giving to every senator additional pork barrel to be spent at the discretion of the senator.

 The Commission on Audit chair does not want to go to the constitutional issue—and that is correct because the constitutional issue can only be settled by the Supreme Court. It is not this opinion or that opinion that will prevail in the media—it is what the Supreme Court will say. That should be authoritative. Unfortunately, I cannot bring a case anymore because I might be called anytime to the International Criminal Court in The Hague. In fact, I know that this March the ICC will call several new judges for duty in The Hague. I might be one of them, I might stay longer, I might even stay until 2016, so I don’t really know what my status is. That is why I cannot bring the case to the Supreme Court.

The question here is: If the Senate does it, since it is authorized by the Constitution except that you have a question of what is the meaning of “augment other items”? Of course if you take a liberal view, it can include MOOE, but the thing is, the MOOE is needed at the start of the year, not at the end of the year because the office is closed at the end of the year. When January begins and the Senate gives money to the senators, there’s money for their MOOE, so why would you give them additional MOOE at the end of the year? That is very clear. It is evident proof that this is simply a guise—a disguise in fact—for giving money to the senators. The question is, sometimes Senate presidents give additional MOOE in June. That might be acceptable. We don’t really know until the Supreme Court says so.

I was personally insulted by the Senate President, but I will not reply by insulting him on a personal basis because it would make the whole constitutional issue frivolous. All these personal attacks against me are frivolous, sham, and dilatory. I challenge everybody who is attacking me. Just answer the legal issue: Are savings, which the Constitution intends should augment other items in the budget, validly spent when those savings are used at Christmas to pay so-called additional MOOE, when the year has already ended and the office expenses have already been taken care of? Let us just answer this question.

My own proposal to a rational and sober conclusion is let us appeal to the Commission on Audit to upload together with the Civil Service Commission all information on the total income—not only the salary—but everything in cash or in other forms like checks for every senator and for every other high public official para makita kung magkano talaga  ang total na tinatanggap ng bawat senador buwan-buwan o taun-taon para wala tayong duda na nagnanakaw pala sila o lumalabag sila ng batas, at, gaya nito, para wala tayong pagkakataon na atakihin ako just because I’m citing the Constitution. I think many people know that I’m a student of Constitutional Law, at natural lang na mag-cite ako ng Constitutional Law.  So I would like to know where is the law that gives the Senate President the power to make any discrimination efforts against certain political enemies, including myself and three others. According to him he has total and absolute discretion with the use of Senate funds. The Senate funds—I would like to remind the press—are the funds of the taxpayers. They are not the fund of the Senate President. So why will he exclude us? That is a violation of the equal protection clause. I don’t mind about the PHP 1.6 million, but I do mind the constitutional issue: What is the meaning of “augment other items”? Pwede mo bang gamitin ang pondo ng publiko para ipamigay mo kapag Pasko? The moral issue: Pwede ba iyan na kayo-kayo ang magdedesisyon na ang savings ng opisina ninyo ibibigay niyo sa sarili ninyo? Makatarungan ba iyan?

Pagkatapos sinabi niya walang makakapigil sa kanya kapag hinati niya ang savings. Apat kaming excluded. Suppose he excludes everybody except himself, his Pro-Tempore, and the Majority Leader: makatarungan ba iyan? We have to explore this novel theory of the Senate President that he can use the savings of the Senate for any purpose on any basis without any published criteria and no one can question him.

 Pati pala iyong Php250,000 na ipinaliwanag sa staff ko na “Personal Cash Gift” ng Senate President, hindi naman pala galing sa Senate President personally, kung hindi savings niya sa office niya as Senate President. Savings pa rin iyon, savings ng Senado, savings ng Senate President. Sabi ng staff ko “Personal Cash Gift”, sabi ko kung personal iyan, ibig sabihin hindi ko i-liquidate iyon. Kung ganyan, hindi natin tatanggapin. Basta pera na hindi ili-liquidate, o kinakailangan ng resibo para mapatunayan mo na ginastos mo for a public purpose, hindi natin tinatanggap.  Tinatanggap natin kung sinasabi na “liquidate it” or “give official receipts” for whatever you spend it on. Tinatanggap din natin kung para sa lahat ng senador. Ganun ang instructions ko sa staff ko. Kaming mga senador, hindi namin tinatanggap nang personal itong mga chekeng ito. Maraming cheke iyan e, kaya may opisyal kami sa staff na ang trabaho ay tumanggap ng cheke at magliquidate ng mga ito. My criteria are as long as it is given to all the senators and as long as liquidation is requested—that is the meaning of what the Constitution when it says “as long as vouchers are presented”.  That’s why some of the senators who were asked said “No, I didn’t get the Php 1.6 million” dahil hindi pa siguro bukas ang opisina nila, wala pang pagkakataon ang kanilang mga financial directors or auditors na magreport sa kanila kung ano ang natanggap ng opisina nila.

On Sen. Enrile’s counterattacks against her

Bakit ako ngayon ang pinagpapaliwanag? Bakit hindi siya ang magpaliwanag? The media are being misguided because we are now going to focus on me when the legal issue is focused onhis actions. He wants to turn the tables. It has become a custom in the Senate, but you have to draw a line. When will I raise my voice?

They ask me why did I not complain before. Suppose, for the sake of argument, that I did not complain before. What stops me from now complaining dahil ngayon ko lang naintindihan? Bakit sila, hindi rin sila mag-complain din?  Bakit si Sen. Enrile noong hindi pa siya Senate President, bakit hindi siya nagreklamo noon?

Nakikita niyo sa sarili ninyong mata ngayon ang mainit na pagtanggap sa akin ng mga estudyante ng Centro Escolar University. You can see how enthusiastic and warm they are to me because of this controversy. That’s the public showing support for my position. Kahapon inatake niya ako, wala akong sagot doon. I’m not even going to file a case for an ethical conduct with the ethics committee of the Senate, because the level of the dialogue will sink to the level of the vulgar. Ayokong we’ll act in fistfights insulting each other. That will not enlighten the Filipino public. Ang punto ko ay ganito: bakit ang savings na dapat ay napunta sa Senado as an institution or as an agency, napunta sa mga senador, by giving the abusive amount, the unconscionable amount of P1.6 million? Bigyan ang senador ng P600,000 puwede pa iyon, but P1.6 M is unconscionably high to get from the taxpayers’ fund. That is my point. Kaya huwag niyo akong tanungin kung bakit noon hindi ako nagreklamo. What I’m saying is, let Enrile be accountable to the people, and his cohorts as well!

And I’m telling the students in this very warm, if not thunderous, ovation that they are giving me in the midst of all of these issues, I am telling the students, use the social media, kasi siya ang ginagamit niya corrupt media.

On rumors of replacing the Senate President

Well that depends on the senators. Nobody can predict how the senators will act. We don’t even know what the basis of their actions will be—if they have any moral scruples, if they are bound by their political allegiances—hindi natin intindi iyan e, that is all beyond my control. It’s not as if I want to replace the Senate president, I’ve got a job waiting for me in the ICC. It’s even higher in the eyes of the international community than the mere post of a Senate president in a developing country.

Labing-limang senador daw ang against kay Enrile as SP, kasama ka ba doon?

Walang nagcontact sa akin. Hindi ko intindi kung meron nga o wala. Noon pa hindi ako nakikialam sa reorganization. I’ve made that very clear to my colleagues.

What do you think is the reason of the Senate President for giving away P1.6 million?

First of all, the good will of the senators. A Senate president lives and dies on the opinion of his fellow senators. Kaya hindi siya hari na mataas siya at lahat ay susunod sa utos niya. He is sitting on a throne made of knives. Anytime, he can be overthrown—a paranoid fear of every Senate president. Bakit ko gugustuhing maging Senate president? I got my job in the ICC by means of academic qualifications. I was subject to interrogation by the best international lawyers in the whole world. And I won number one in the General Assembly. Hindi ako nagcorrupt ng media doon.

Is the P1.6M a bribe?

Draw your own conclusions. Sabi niya gifts daw niya iyon, hindi daw iyon bribe. Sana tiningnan niyo kanina kung ano ang reaksyon ng mga estudyante. Dito maliwanag e. Do you think I can bribe those students to give me that type of reception?

He’s accountable to public opinion. As I said, someone can bring a case to the Supreme Court, but I can’t. E kung tawagin ako ng ICC? Ang alam ko this March tatawag na ang ICC ng new judges. Hindi ko alam kung kasali ako doon o hindi. Hindi ko mapursue ang litigation sa Supreme Court, so let’s just leave it to the public, kamukha ng ginawa ni Jose Rizal sa Noli Me Tangere. Sabi niya, yung mga may sakit na malubha, yung nakahahawa pa, ilathala natin sila, iexhibit natin sila sa hagdanan ng simbahan. Ayaw ng mga taong lumapit sa kanila, pero makikita ng taong bayan kung ano ang mga sakit nila. Iyan ang ginagawa ko. Bakit naging kasalanan ko ngayon iyon? Murahin ako? Wala namang taong gustong minumura siya. Dapat ang aming debate tungkol lang sa Constitution. It should all be based on legal provisions. Meron siyang side niya, meron akong side ko. Ok lang sa akin iyan. Pero murahin ako on a personal level is not befitting a Senate president, and I refuse to debate on those terms. I challenge him to a debate in legal terms alone, in any forum in the Philippines covered by the media.

Interview transcript – 19 December 2012

21 Dec

On the plans of some members of the Catholic church to petition the Supreme Court to junk the RH Bill once it becomes a law

I’m very happy as a lawyer if they would do that because it would give the Supreme Court a chance to elucidate it or explain further what is the meaning of the doctrine of separation of church and state. We now have a dearth of jurisprudence on that subject. We are not guided by many cases because there are very few cases concerning the doctrine, and all the cases have something to do with limitations on the power of the state. Now I am sure that although they will try to argue that the state has exceeded its powers, the solicitor general on the other hand—who will defend the RH Bill—will also argue that the church is exceeding its own powers. So there will be at least a clarification of the doctrine which I look forward to.

I am of course ready to help defend the RH Bill. I will submit place myself at the disposal of the solicitor general, and I am going to, if necessary, enlist the help of all the experts in constitutional law from UP.

On the opinion that divorce and abortion laws will be tackled next after the success of the RH Bill

No. Abortion, never. I am a very avid supporter of RH, but I will definitely fight to the death against abortion as a lawyer, not necessarily as a religious person. I equate it properly with the crime of murder.

With respect to divorce, I don’t see anything wrong as long as the divorce law will have very strict grounds. In fact there should only be two grounds, the same two grounds that are at present recognized by law as grounds for annulment for marriage, at least recognized in the past—now there are more and more grounds added. So I want to return to the old order where civil annulment was allowed only in two cases: one is an attempt on the life of the spouse by the other, and the other is when one spouse is already living with another person, that is adultery or concubinage. Iyon lang two grounds. On other grounds, I don’t advise it, I will not support it because it might trivialize the institution of marriage—young people might rush into marriage, particularly when they are young, and then change their minds and get a divorce. They will not have the maturity or enough patience to work on their marriage. In effect, if make divorce accessible in substantial grounds, we are telling young people “If you cannot get along, divorce.” Right now, the message of our society is that you cannot get along, try and get used to each other.

But there has to be a limit. For example, when you become homicidal at the sight of your spouse, it’s time to leave each other.

You don’t believe on the psychological grounds for divorce?

That is a slippery slope. Once you go there, it will become open-ended. I don’t think so.

Will a bill for divorce encounter difficulty like the RH Bill did?

Sigurado iyon. The Catholic church will fight tooth and nail even on those two grounds. So I think the best compromise there, since the church itself grants religious annulment in addition to civil annulment, then we’ll just adopt the grounds for annulment of the Catholic church.

On Malacañang calling for reconciliation after the approval of the RH Bill

Yes, that is the better attitude. We should always emulate President Aquino’s example. Winston Churchill said the proper attitude is “in victory, magnanimity; in defeat, graciousness.” We should all try, if we are pro-RH, to try and become magnanimous, and those who are anti-RH should try and be gracious.

 Should you be like that with Sen. Enrile?

I hope so.

On the Chinese e-passports with controversial maps (Interview transcript – 28 November 2012)

29 Nov

I most respectfully recommend that there should be an immediate meeting between the secretary of Foreign Affairs, who is our spokesperson on international relations, and the secretary of Justice with respect to the entry into our country of Chinese nationals bearing the so-called new Chinese e-passports that allegedly show that certain parts of the West Philippine Sea fall under the sovereignty of China, which have always claimed the West Philippine Sea as the South Chinese Sea. That is an upfront to Philippine sovereignty. We cannot stop China from printing any type of passport bearing any kind of legend or photograph it wishes, but we have sovereign power to prevent any person who seeks entry into Philippine territory by any entry point– through sea, land, air, seaport, airport, or by any means of transportation.

We have the power, as long as it is Philippine territory, to reject any national wishing to enter our country with a passport that bears a map that clearly opposes the Philippine claim to the West Philippine Sea. We have sovereignty on certain grounds upheld by international law—historical, document, geographical, etc.—with respect to our claim there. We cannot allow these Chinese nationals to cross borders and enter Philippine territory where there is no dispute, presenting a passport or a document that purports to show that part of our maritime territory is part of the maritime territory of the State of origin. That is a direct assault on our sovereignty. That would be considered an act of aggression. That’s aggressive. I don’t care what they print on their own passport because we cannot infringe on their sovereignty, but I do care, as a Filipino citizen, the moment they come into our country.

If they bear that kind of passport, we will be acting well within our rights to deny them admission into our territory. Turn them back immediately. They should be self-deported upon arrival at the airport. They should take the next flight out of the country if they can afford to do so. But we should not allow them to go out of the airport and roam around Philippine territory carrying that kind of offensive document. You know under the doctrine of sovereignty, every State has in general terms, control over its own territory subject only to the concept or doctrine of human rights. But human rights are not involved here. So there is absolutely no basis in international law to grant basis or even the function of entering our territory to any national who carries an official document, which opposes by means of drawings or maps, our own sovereignty as we claim it in tribunals and discussion centers of the world, such as the United Nations.

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Interview transcript – 27 November 2012

28 Nov

On the RH Bill and the “Catholic vote”

I have always said that it is a political myth because it has already been disproved by empirical experience in actual elections. The candidate the Catholic Church focused on to defeat still won, so there is no such thing as a Catholic vote. We’ve never had it in our electoral experience and to talk about it as if it were fait accompli, as if it were something that happens in our elections, is to mislead the public.

It is said that Catholic clergy has influence over local politics and politicians.

Yes. In fact when I started campaigning, the first stop is always the bishop’s palace or the parish priest. I thought that it was strange and an aberration because elections are a political exercise. The clerics are free to discipline their own constituents or parishioners within the structure of their own religions, but they cannot ask—as the Catholic church is apparently is asking—for preferential treatment as against all the other churches in the Philippines. That will become a step towards establishing an official religion. The Catholic church is not the official state religion. It has to exhibit an attitude of tolerance to the other religions because the rule in constitutional law is the state should be neutral to all religions, plus it must be neutral to those who have no religion at all—the atheists and the agnostics.

 Is the majority of Catholics are pro-RH?

Yes, absolutely, because the surveys say so, and the Catholic Church has not come up with any survey that would be credible that indicates the contrary.

We are looking forward to maybe three weeks after we pass the budget hopefully this week, before we adjourn in December 21 for the Christmas break. We hope we can finish the period of amendments, and even if the President does not certify it as urgent, we can still afford to wait for three days between the approval in second reading after amendments and the approval on third reading, which is just nominal voting.

Do you think there would be voting before the Christmas break?

We hope so. We hope it would be a Christmas present for all infanticipating, for all pregnant women.

Interview transcript – 13 November 2012

14 Nov

Will the hearing on the VFA and toxic waste dumping in Subic continue despite claims that the waste was not toxic in the first place?

Yes, absolutely. You know, there are so many factual allegations, that the first function of a Senate hearing is to find out which one is true, not only this allegation that what was dumped into our waters was not toxic or hazardous. What if it is not toxic or hazardous, why did they have to dump it? The mere fact that they dumped it means that it is not beneficial to our people. What kind of argument is that ‘it is not hazardous or toxic, therefore they have the right to dump it”? The VFA requires that before any vessel, under the agreement, can come to our country it needs a permit of the Philippine government. So the first question there is “Do they have a permit?”.  It is not a question of what they dumped there.

Secondly, it is not a finding. That is just the defense raised by the private contractor. Naturally, they are not going to say “Yes, we dumped toxic waste”. So now it becomes a question for empirical evidence. We have to ask our scientists if that is correct or not. Correct or not, still we have jurisdiction because, by their own admission, the dumping took place within Philippine waters, within waters over which the Philippines under international law exercises jurisdiction.

The second question of fact there is Is it true the first time they were hailed to answer for their efforts at dumping, their lawyer argued that SBMA did not have jurisdiction but only VFACOM, which was absolutely baseless. We want to know if it actually took place because if it did, then there is obviously an effort to skirt the issue by choosing the venue.

First, let’s settle the facts. We cannot take the word of the respondent for it. We have to examine if what he is saying is true. Maybe from his point of view it is true, but from the viewpoint of the Philippine government or concerned parties in the Philippine government, it is not true.

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