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MIRIAM WARNS PLUNDER FUGITIVES OF EXTRADITION

5 Mar

Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago warned those who have fled the Philippines to evade plunder charges in connection with the pork barrel scam, to stay away from the United Kingdom, Spain, and India.

Santiago made this warning as she sponsored yesterday the Senate concurrence in the ratification of the separate extradition treaties between the Philippines and these three countries.

Under the Philippine Constitution, a treaty or international agreement must be concurred in by at least two-thirds of all the members of the Senate to be valid and effective.

“Criminals will have fewer places to run and hide in once these treaties become effective,” Santiago said.

According to the senator, because of easier and faster means of international travel, the flight of rich criminals from one country to another to evade prosecution or commit crime has become more frequent. She said extradition treaties are considered to be the most effective mechanism in obtaining the return of international fugitives in order for them to face the consequences of their criminal actions.

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MIRIAM: WHAT HAPPENED TO MY ANTI-EPAL AND ANTI-POLITICAL DYNASTY BILLS?

3 Mar

Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago lamented that a number of her important bills are still languishing in the Senate.

Santiago, the Senate’s top performer, challenged her colleagues to act on her bills, particularly Senate Bill No. 54, or the Anti-Signage of Public Works Bill, and S.B. Nos. 55 and 1580 or the Anti-Political Dynasty Bills.

“I am disappointed. Without public clamor, these bills will never see the light of day. The committees to which these bills were referred are sitting on them,” the senator said.

The Anti-Signage of Public Works Bill was referred to the Committee of Civil Service and Government Reorganization chaired by Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, while the Anti-Political Dynasty Bills were referred to the Committee on Electoral Reforms and People’s Organization, chaired by Senator Aquilino Pimentel III.

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MIRIAM MIFFED AT YOLANDA BUNKHOUSE OVERPRICING

10 Jan

Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago condemned the unscrupulous acts of entities involved in the alleged overpricing of bunkhouses meant as temporary shelters for the victims of supertyphoon Yolanda (international codename: Haiyan).

The senator filed Senate Resolution No. 436 yesterday seeking for a Senate investigation following reports that some 203 bunkhouses being developed by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) in Leyte and Eastern Samar allegedly do not comply with internationally recognized standards and best practices.

“This controversy multiplies the suffering of our countrymen in the typhoon-affected areas, as they faced devastation from a natural disaster and the evils of corruption,” she said.

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MIRIAM HIGHEST, ENRILE LOWEST IN SENATE MEASURES FILED

23 Dec

Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, downed by chronic fatigue syndrome, still managed to file the highest number of bills and resolutions in the Senate.

Her nemesis, Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile –with whom she has a running word war—filed the lowest number of bills and resolutions for the same period.

As of 19 December 2013, the Senate legislative bills and index service said that Santiago, a perennial topnotcher, filed 618 bills and resolutions, while Enrile filed only 16 such measures.

The top three senators are: Santiago, 618; Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, 543; and Sen. Antonio Trillanes, 249.

The lowest three senators are: Enrile, 16; Sen. Vicente Sotto, 30; and Sen. Pres. Franklin Drilon, 31.

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MIRIAM ON SC STRIKING DOWN PDAF: “THERE’S A GOD, AFTER ALL”

20 Nov

Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, considered the constitutional law expert of the Senate, said upon learning of the Supreme Court decision declaring pork barrel to be unconstitutional: “There’s a God, after all.”

Santiago, almost a year ago, got into a word war with then Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, because Enrile distributed some P2 M in Christmas bonuses to all senators, except his enemies, namely, Sen. Santiago, Sen. Antonio Trillanes III, Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, and Sen. Pia Cayetano.

Santiago attacked Enrile’s deliberate omission of his enemies from the Christmas bonuses, on the constitutional ground that it was a grave abuse of discretion.

In its decision yesterday, the Supreme Court declared as unconstitutional the PDAF-related expenditures, including: “(d) all informal practices of similar import and effect, which the court similarly deems to be acts of grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack of or excess of discretion.”

Because of the verbal tussle over the Christmas bonus, Santiago was moved to request Commission on Audit chair Grace Pulido Tan to investigate and make public a report on the disbursement of Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and similar discretionary funds, spurring the now notorious pork barrel scam starring the alleged mastermind Janet Napoles.

“Enrile’s arrogance has now been declared as bluff and bluster by the Supreme Court. At the very least, he should offer to commit hara-kiri because this dishonor belongs to him,” Santiago said.

After Enrile went on to defend the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), Santiago again rushed to the battlefield, arguing that the DAP is unconstitutional. The Supreme Court is expected to hand down its ruling on the DAP very soon.

“Enrile and I engaged in hand-to-hand combat in December 2012. He tried to bully me with the help of his attack dog, Sen. Panfilo Lacson. Thereafter, I fell ill with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and have been suffering the ailment for nearly a year. Getting sick over the pork barrel scandal was well worth it, now that the Supreme Court has validated my position. This is a vindication not only for me but also for the entire Filipino electorate,” Santiago said.

Letters to the Senate committee on finance on the PDAF in the 2014 budget

13 Nov

Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago’s letter to the Senate Committee on Finance – 11 November 2013

Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago’s letter to the Senate Committee on Finance – 12 November 2013

MIRIAM SEEKS END TO OFF-BUDGET FUNDS, AKA PRESIDENTIAL PORK BARREL

22 Oct

Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, chair of the committee on constitutional amendments and revision of codes, filed a resolution expressing the sense of the Senate that all off-budget funds, particularly the funds from Malampaya, Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO), and Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) should be included in the Budget of Expenditures and Sources of Financing (BESF) submitted annually by the President to Congress.

Santiago, a constitutional law expert, said that so-called “off-budget funds” are unconstitutional, because such funds violate the constitutional provision which states: “No money shall be paid out of the treasury except in pursuance of an appropriation made by law.”  (Constitution, Art. 6, Sec. 29, para.1)

The senator said that these off-budget funds were created during martial law and excluded from the national treasury, violating the “one-fund” concept, which she called a “sound concept that should not admit of any exception.”

“At present, these off-budget funds are under the complete control of the President, without an appropriation made by Congress.  The practice of off-budget funds is an evil that should be struck down on its face for violating the Constitution,” she said.

Santiago said that although it is the President who begins the budget process by submitting annually to Congress his BESF Report and the National Expenditure Program (NEP), it is Congress that possesses the sole power to appropriate the revenues earned by government.

“The BESF Report contains the sources of government revenues and their corresponding amounts, and a proposal on how these funds shall be spent for the next fiscal year,” Santiago said.

However, Santiago stressed that although the BESF Report is supposed to contain all the sources of government revenues, in reality the BESF Report does not include the off-budget sources of revenues, such as the Malampaya Fund, the PCSO Charity Fund, and the PAGCOR Social Fund.

“These three major sources of national revenues are used, distributed, and disbursed, outside the budget process.  The Constitution reserves the budget process for Congress, which consist of elected public officials.  But under the off-budget process, it is non-elected public officials, principally the budget secretary, who decide, on instructions by the President, how these public funds should be spent,” she said.

Santiago said the first example is the Malampaya Fund, consisting of royalties collected by the government from the Malampaya Deep Water Gas-to-Power Project which since 2001, has reportedly earned P170 billion.

But Santiago pointed out that while P.D. No. 910 provides that the Malampaya Fund is intended for energy development projects, the Fund can also be spent “for such other purposes as the President may deem necessary.”

“This allows the President to use the Malampaya Fund to finance projects not related to energy, by merely issuing an executive order without consulting Congress,” she said.

Santiago said the second example is the PCSO Charity Fund under R.A. No. 1169 as amended.

Santiago gave as a third example the PAGCOR Social Fund under P.D. No. 1067-A, which is intended to finance infrastructure and socio-civic projects.

“All three funds – Malampaya Fund, PCSO Charity Fund, and PAGCOR Social Fund – are not included in the annual budget and therefore, are not deliberated upon by the Congress.  Such funds do not go through the national treasury, contrary to the clear mandate of the Constitution,” Santiago said.

PSR No. 304 RESOLUTION EXPRESSING THE SENSE OF THE SENATE THAT ALL MAJOR SOURCES OF NATIONAL REVENUES, ESPE…

MIRIAM BATS FOR TAXI PASSENGERS’ BILL OF RIGHTS

14 Oct

Alarmed with the “horror stories” from taxi passengers circulating in social media, Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago filed Senate Bill No. 1206, or the “Taxi Passenger Bill of Rights”.

Santiago’s bill seeks to uphold and protect the rights of taxi passengers and penalizes both driver and the operator of the taxi cab who violate these rights.

“There are too many disturbing reports of taxi drivers and operators who take advantage of their passengers, from mere discomfort or discourtesy to robbery and physical harm. It’s high time this transport sector shapes up,” she said.

The senator underscored the role of taxis in everyday public transportation, as well as in the tourism industry as a preferred mode of travel by tourists.

“We need to enact a law to protect our commuting public, citizens and tourists alike, from predatory practices of some taxi drivers and operators and raise the service standard. By doing so, we would establish better public perception of the taxi service industry in general,” Santiago said.

The bill gives taxi passengers rights, such as a taxi that is clean, smoke free, and in good repair; a courteous and helpful driver; and the right to direct the route, or expect from the driver the most economical route.

The bill also requires taxi drivers and operators to prominently display the driver’s identification card, with the driver’s and operator’s name, contact details, and ID picture.

First-time violators under the proposed law will be fined up to Php 2,000, up to Php 5,000 for their second offense, and up to Php 10,000 for third and succeeding violations, including suspension of driver’s license.

Displaying the Taxi Passenger’s Bill of Rights inside the taxi will also be required, including information on how to report violations and file a complaint to the Land Transportation and Franchising Regulatory Board (LTFRB). Failure to do so puts a fine up to Php 3,000 under Santiago’s proposed law.

 Senate Bill No. 1206 (Taxi Passenger Bill of Rights)

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

MIRIAM: DAP ILLEGAL; SAPS CONGRESS POWER

2 Oct

Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago said that the scandalous DAP (Disbursement Acceleration Program) is illegal, because it was not contained in the 2011 or 2012 budgets; and because alleged savings were used to augment new budget items which was not previously authorized by Congress.

But Santiago also said that President Aquino should seize this rare opportunity to permanently fix the flawed budget system.

The senator said DAP violates the constitutional provision that: “No law shall be passed authorizing any transfer of appropriations; however, the President, . . . may, by law, be authorized to augment any item in the general appropriations law for their respective offices from savings in other items of their respective appropriations.”

Santiago said that the Constitution allows fund transfers, only if there are savings, meaning that the project was completed, and yet the appropriation was not exhausted; but there are no savings if a project was merely deferred.

The senator said it appears that DAP funds were taken from alleged slow-moving projects.  If so, no savings were generated, and therefore the DAP is illegal.

“The first issue is that the DAP was not taken from savings.  The second issue is that the DAP was not used to augment items in the budget that were previously authorized by Congress.  The alleged savings were used to augment new budget items not previously authorized by Congress,” she said.

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