Transcript of Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago’s Interview28 November 2007
On the UN findings on the extrajudicial killings in the country
It is both good news and bad news. The bad news is that it says that it does not believe the Armed Forces of the Philippines ’ explanation about extrajudicial killings and people who have disappeared as part of the purge of the Communist Party. Instead, it appears, according to the report, that those people who have died or disappeared have been victims of military abuses.
The good news is that the report does not say either that it is official policy of the Arroyo administration to liquidate leading members of the extreme left. After all, the Communist Party and the NPA have been declared terrorists by other countries. In that sense, the report is even-handed. One thing that we can consider as a plus for the Arroyo administration is that it invited Mr. Alston to come here. He could not have come, under UN rules, unless an invitation has been extended by the administration. This is evidence of the good faith of the Arroyo administration.
What will happen here is that in his capacity as a fact-finder, he will submit this report. In fact, his report is just the final draft of his preliminary draft since the procedure is that the rapporteur must first issue a preliminary draft for comment by the host state before he can draft the final form. This is the final form of the report, but he will now submit it to the Human Rights Council in the UN, which will take it up and decide 1) whether the findings and facts are judicious, meaning if they are reliable, and 2) what action should be taken or recommended by the Council to the General Assembly with respect to the Philippines.
Can it be reversed?
Yes, because it is yet not binding to the Human Rights Council. He is merely an agent or a subordinate of the Council. He is bound to submit it for the Council’s assessment and for their action, whatever it might be.
What can the government do about it?
The government will have to make a more determined effort to educate the rank and file of our soldiers that violence should not be used as a measure for counterinsurgency unless it is employed in self-defense. It cannot be a strategy or a tactic to kill people anonymously to put the fear of the military in them. It is not allowed by the constitution and international law.
There are many ways of issuing instructions to soldiers. You can either talk verbally to them, or you can give them instructions in the form of body language or discreet implications employed n verbal instructions. If the administration makes it crystal clear that it will not tolerate these practices, that should filter down to the ordinary soldier.
The rapporteurs of the United Nations are among the most qualified in their fields of work. The usually come from the academe and have no political power.
In the whole, I find the report to be acceptable.
On the government’s efforts to help the OFW in death row in Kuwait
The case emphasizes the importance of a transfer of sentenced persons treaty, which we just have concurred with respect to Spain . We already have concurred such a treaty with respect to Hong Kong and Thailand , and we hope to concur in the very near future with Canada and Cuba , but most importantly with the Middle Eastern states.
There is nothing we can do on a legal level when the court of another country sentences a
Filipino for crimes as defined in that country. This is only an appeal from one head of state to another. There is no legal force. It may have some legal force. But the best thing to do is to work for a TSP treaty if we cannot get executive clemency from that state.
On the objection from the Chiong family to the passage of the RP-Spain TSPA for allegedly favoring Larreñaga.
It is perfectly understandable. In fact, that is the reason why Sen. Estrada abstained because the Chiong family apparently were ably to contact him. In the case of Sen. Arroyo, he also abstained because his wife, I believe, is one of the counsel of one of the parties in the case. Basically, there is no objection to the TSPA per se for any country, but there is of course objection on the part of the victims’ family. However, our attitude in the Senate was that one case cannot possibly prejudice the fate of seven Filipino prisoners in Spain .
During the interpellations, I did find out that according to Human Rights Watch, the jails in Spain are also congested, overcrowded, and there are not enough facilities for the number of prisoners.
On the postponement of the Comelec’s budget defense in the Senate
Whenever they do not want to appear, I will always want to discipline them. Because Comelec is not ready for budget defense today, I am recommending that we should lop off Php 277 million. That would only leave them Php 4 billion (original proposed busget is Php 4.277 billion). I think, out of basic courtesy to the Senate as an institution and to the fact that the senators prepared interpellation and, in my case as subcommittee chairperson, defense. They should have at least the respect to prepare themselves. You give an excuse slip during final examinations day to the teacher and say “I am sorry I will be absent because I am not prepared for the test.”
On the rush sale of geothermal plants
All I am saying is that I refused to be rushed on these sales. (They are saying that) The motion to accelerate the sale is based on the concept of privatization which is already mandated by law. I refuse to accept that argument because these are multibillion entities, such as Transco. You get one-tenth percent of billions and you get multimillions.
If this sale, based on these conditions, pushes through will there be kickbacks?
I am afraid so. Because why hurry it? The basic philosophy of Epira is not privatization. It is not to give our state assets to private individuals, but to reduce the cost of electricity in the country. This is because according to our lawmakers at that time private owners would run their businesses more efficiently and that would result to lower electricity rates. But as I’ve shown in my letter to the House panel of the Powercom, that is not necessarily the case with the sale of the geothermal plants. If you quote the price in dollars, what happened with the IPPs will happen all over again, because if you do, whenever there is a currency fluctuation it is the consumer who will have to make the so-called adjustment mechanism, which is actually an increase in the price of electricity.
I do know, as an experienced warrior in this field, that someone is going to make money here. I just want the public to be aware of that, because maybe their propaganda might be so effective that they would begin to charge the JCPC of inaction. No we are not. We are studying every case.