Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago cried foul over reports that so-called VIP prisoners enjoy extravagant accommodations in jails.
“How can there be justice in our correctional system when we have a double standard between poor and rich inmates?” the senator asked.
Santiago cited news reports of rich high-risk prisoners in the New Bilibid Prison staying in airconditioned rooms, enjoying contraband supplies such as illegal drugs and alcohol, and even taking in sex workers.
Some VIP inmates reportedly drive around the penitentiary grounds in golf carts, electric motorcycles, and tricycles.
It was also reported that the maximum security compound has its own dress shops, wet and dry markets, fruit stands, as well as facilities such a jazz bar, plaza, and tennis court.
“These prisoners are supposed to be experiencing punishment for their crimes, not taking a vacation. They are making a mockery out of the justice system by turning our jails into their own private resorts,” she said.
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.
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.
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.
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.