Category Archives: News

141015_C4RH

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

MIRIAM: MOVE PURISIMA TO NEW JOB; WARNS OF BO XILAI CASE

Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago said that in view of the serious charges of plunder and corruption against PNP Chief Alan Purisima, President Aquino should transfer him to an incompatible office.

Under the law, if a public official accepts an incompatible office, he is deemed to have resigned from the previous office, and thus Purisima would be deemed resigned as PNP chief.

Santiago suggested that Purisima could be transferred to the position of Napolcom commissioner, or as assistant secretary of either the DILG or the DND.
Continue reading

MIRIAM WALKS OUT ON LATE SOLONS; ISSUES STATEMENT

MIRIAM WALKS OUT ON LATE SOLONS

Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, chair of the Commission on Appointments’ foreign affairs committee, walked out of her own committee hearing, because the members of the House of Representatives wanted her to wait for all other late members.

Santiago pointed out that some 50 nominees for various posts in the Department of Foreign Affairs had been waiting since 10:00 a.m., and it would be “irresponsible” to make them wait further.

“That would be a classic case of congressional arrogance,” Santiago fumed.

Santiago is known for her punctuality when she presides at committee hearings. Originally, the hearing was set at 10:00 a.m., but by 8:00 a.m., she called the committee secretary to tell the members that the hearing would start at 11:00 a.m., because of the heavy rains.

Santiago cited the Rules of the Commission on Appointments, which provides that during an investigation or hearing, the quorum may consist of the presence of the chair only, the vice-chair only, or three members.

Santiago has observed this quorum for some 10 years that she has been chair of the CA committee on foreign affairs.

However, Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas – who came later than 11:00 a.m. to the hearing –argued that the action on the nominees should be taken only after a committee meeting, which under the Rules requires a quorum of majority of the 18 members.

“I am only on partial recovery from lung cancer. I forced myself to come here, in order to avoid prejudice to some 50 nominees from the DFA. Now he wants all their majesties from the House of Representatives to come at their own sweet time and for all of us to wait at their pleasure. This is legislative abuse,” she said.

Santiago said that the issue is whether the CA Rules should be followed which state that in a public hearing on the DFA, the quorum consisted of only herself as the chair, just one vice-chair, or three members.

After she walked out, Santiago explained the legal issue to the Senate media, and answered questions from them.#

STATEMENT AFTER WALKOUT

I walked out, because of the intransigence and discourtesy shown to me by the House panel of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the Commission on Appointments.

The Rules of the Commission on Appointments describes the quorum at a public hearing, thus: “The presence of the chair; or vice-chair; or at least three members shall be sufficient for conducting public hearings, and acting on motions and other incidents. (Art. 6, “Investigation of the Committees, Sec. 2).

Black’s Law Dictionary 9th edition 2009, defines a quorum as: “The minimum number who must be present for a deliberative assembly to legally transact business.”

Therefore, as committee chair, I am the quorum and possess the power to legally transact business. Today, the panel from the House of Representatives insisted that I should wait for the absentee members who, unknown to me, were reportedly attending a speech by Pres. Aquino.

If they were late, that was their privilege. But I humbly submit that those representatives do not have a right to cause further delay on the nominations of some 50 nominees from the DFA. The hearing was scheduled for 11:00 a.m., and yet at that very late hour, most of the House panel were still absent!

In law, there is a principle called estoppel by laches. This is the doctrine that denies relief to a person who has unreasonably delayed or been negligent in asserting a claim. The representative who raised a question of order tried to read from the Rules of the Commission on Appointments under Art. 4, entitled “Meetings of the Committee.”

Obviously, a “meeting” under Art. 4 is different from a “public hearing” under Art. 6. He tried to argue that the quorum should be a majority of the members.

I have news for him. I have been chair of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the CA for some 10 years. During all that time – nearly a decade – I conducted the hearings on the basis of the provision that my presence alone as chair is a quorum.

Therefore, if he questions my judgment, he is in estoppel by laches, a legal term that means “unreasonable delay in pursuing a claim.”

As a senator suffering from lung cancer stage 4, I purposely willed myself back to work, to show that cancer can be licked. In this spirit, since I am staring death in the face, I will no longer compromise, mollify, or appease those who do not obey the rules. Instead, I will speak truth to power. I will try to help run this government properly, to my last breath.

-End-

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.

Continue reading