Category Archives: Legislation

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SENATE SEEKS PH CUSTODY OVER US MARINE

Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said that her committee will conduct an inquiry in aid of legislation on the alleged killing of a Filipino transgender by a U.S. marine in Olongapo City.

Santiago said she will set the hearing after the Senate resumes session, and conduct the investigation on or about Wednesday, October 22.

The senator said she will invite PNP operatives assigned to the case, hotel employees on duty when the suspect and the victim allegedly registered to rent a room at the hotel, as well as family members and friends of the deceased.

Santiago said the timing of the alleged crime is “egregious,” because it came just after the joint military exercises between the two countries, and just before American and Filipino military leaders met on Tuesday, 14 October 2014, for discussions on the new Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).

Santiago, an expert in international law, who had to waive her election as judge of the International Criminal Court because of cancer, said that under the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), the Philippines has jurisdiction over the U.S. marine because the offense was reportedly committed in Olongapo City and is punishable under the Philippine Penal Code.

But the senator was quick to point out that the VFA, paragraph 6, Article 5, provides: “The custody of any United States personnel over whom the Philippines is to exercise jurisdiction shall immediately reside with United States military authorities, if they so request, from the commission of the offense until completion of all judicial proceedings.”

The senator said that this provision should be compared with another provision in the same paragraph which states: “In extraordinary cases, the Philippine Government shall present its position to the United States Government regarding custody, which the United States Government shall take into full account.”

“The disparity is very clear. The Philippines has jurisdiction but, upon mere request by the U.S., our law enforcement is required to immediately turn over the custody of the American military personnel to the U.S.,” the senator said.

The senator went on to point out that should the Philippine Government consider the crime to be an extraordinary case and request custody, the U.S. is required only to take the Philippine position “into full account.”

Santiago heatedly pointed out that when the U.S. makes a request, the Philippines is required to immediately turn over custody of the suspect, but if the Philippines makes a request because the case is considered extraordinary, the U.S. is not required to immediately grant the request, but will only take it into full account.

Santiago said that a prior similar case in 2009, which ended in the promulgation of a Supreme Court judgment in Nicolas v. Romulo, ended in a debacle. In that case, RTC Makati found U.S. Lance Corporal Daniel J. Smith guilty of rape. However, DILG agents took Smith out of the Makati jail and brought him to the U.S. embassy in Manila under the Romulo-Kenny agreement.

Eventually, the Court of Appeals acquitted Smith, after the victim submitted a letter recanting her allegations.

Santiago told reporters that unlike the VFA, the present EDCA does not contain provisions on jurisdiction and custody over U.S. military servicemen who have committed crimes in Philippine territory.

“Presumably, the U.S. military authorities will invoke the terms of the VFA in the transgender case. This is one more reason why we should terminate the VFA,” she said.

In 2009, Santiago sponsored a “Resolution expressing the sense of the Senate that the Department of Foreign Affairs should seek to renegotiate the VFA with the U.S., and in case of denial should give notice of termination of the VFA.”

In her 2009 sponsorship speech Santiago said the VFA should be terminated for the following reasons:

  1. The VFA violates the Philippine Constitution, which provides that the U.S. as the other contracting state should have recognized the VFA as a treaty, not as a mere executive agreement.
  2. The VFA, to use a constitutional law term, is void for vagueness, in that it fails to define the crucial terms “visit”, “temporary,” and “activities.”
  3. The Supreme Court opinion in the 2009 case of Nicolas v. Romulo suffers from doctrinal confusion. The Nicolas majority opinion claimed that the VFA was submitted to the U.S. Senate. This is misleading. The VFA was submitted as a compliance with an American law called the Case-Zablocki Act. This Act requires the U.S. President, through the Secretary of State, to transmit to the U.S. Congress, the international agreements entered into by the U.S. government, or by its officials or agencies, which are not characterized as treaties. Thus, the U.S. government does not characterize the VFA as a treaty. Therefore, the VFA, since it does not comply with the requirement of the Philippine Constitution, is unconstitutional and void in our country.
  4. American military forces constitute so-called forward operating bases under cover of the VFA. These bases are not limited to training and capacity building. They go further by allegedly providing “logistical and intelligence support.” This term is so broad that under U.S. interpretation, it allows actual immersion in combat operations.
  5. Only the preamble, not the text, of the VFA mentions the ancient Mutual Defense Treaty, which does not even provide for automatic U.S. help in case of actual attack on the Philippines.
  6. The alleged financial benefits under VFA for the most part constitute U.S. military junk.
  7. The VFA is a failure, because after 10 years, the AFP has not modernized sufficiently to keep up with our Asian neighbors, and the terrorist groups are still active.

Santiago made the remarks at a press conference with the Senate media after a speech on how to improve the implementation of the RH law, at the auditorium of the Philippine Christian University, attended by university students and sponsored by the Catholics for RH.

MIRIAM SLAMS BINAY FORUM SHOPPING

Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago said that the continued refusal of Vice-President Jejomar Binay to defend himself at the Senate hearing on plunder charges against him is tantamount to “forum shopping,” which is prohibited and penalized by the Supreme Court.

Binay has said that he prefers to defend himself at the Office of the Ombudsman, where the same plunder and other cases have been filed, and has claimed that certain senators have prejudged him.

Santiago said that Binay’s attempt to escape scrutiny at the Senate is similar to prohibited forum shopping in the courts which, according to the Supreme Court, takes place “when a person avails of several judicial remedies in different courts, raising substantially the same issues.” Continue reading

SENATE

MIRIAM WANTS SENATE “QUESTION HOUR” WITH ABAD

Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago wants the Senate to conduct a “question hour” with Secretary of Budget and Management Florencio Abad on the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).

According to Santiago, the “question hour” is provided for by Article VI, Section 22 of the Constitution. Under this provision, the head of a department of the Executive may be requested by the Senate or the House of Representatives to appear and answer questions pertaining to their department.

Santiago filed a resolution requesting Abad to appear before the Senate, and to bring with him a list of the total DAP amounts distributed to every senator and representative. Santiago also wants Abad to specify the projects for which each disbursement from solons’ DAP was released; and to answer questions from the senators.

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MIRIAM: GOVERNMENT THINK TANK SHOULD SHAPE UP

Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago filed a resolution calling for an investigation on the reports that P660 million from the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) given to the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) remain either unspent or unaccounted for.

“The Supreme Court, in separate decisions, has ruled that both the pork barrel and the DAP are unconstitutional. Yet, these funds still rear their ugly heads and wreak havoc,” Santiago said.

According to the COA report, the utilization of the P560 million from the DAP granted to the PIDS and the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) to fund various research, development, and extension projects did not accelerate spending as envisioned in the DAP.

The COA also said that the PIDS has made a bad land investment using P100 million in DAP funds meant for their own office building. The property turned out to be the site of the sewage treatment facility of Philippine Children Medical Center (PCMC), and has been a contentious issue ever since.

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MIRIAM: HEADS SHOULD ROLL OVER CCT FUND LOSS

Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago filed a resolution calling for an investigation on the reports that the Philippine Postal Corp. (Philpost) has accumulated P5 billion in unliquidated cash advances from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

“The question we need to ask Philpost and DSWD is, what happened to the P5 billion?” Santiago said.

According to news reports, these cash advances were meant for distribution to a million beneficiaries of the conditional cash transfer (CCT) program in 9,657 municipalities.

Philpost is one of the monetary conduits used by the DSWD for the CCT component of its Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), which provides cash incentives to marginalized families to encourage them to send their children to school and get regular maternal checkups.

A recent Commission on Audit report found that these unliquidated funds in the hands of Philpost postmasters “exposed these funds to malversation, theft, or other risks.”

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