Transcript of Sen. Santiago's interview - 13 April 2009
On the VFA
I have called for a hearing on the proposal which seems to be mounting to terminate the VFA. Under its own terms, the VFA can be terminated by either the Philippines or the US for any or no reason, and the termination will be effective after notice to the other party within six months. We don’t need a reason. The real reason is, I believe, that after ten years of operation in our country, the VFA is working more harm than good to the national interest. It is acting as a lightning rod for the enemies of the US , and we are being used as a monitoring station by the US Armed Forces in its so-called ‘war on terror’. According to President Obama there is no more ‘war on terror’ and therefore there is no need for the Americans to stay here.
On the part of the Philippines , what we got was used military equipment—in other words, American junk. I have read the papers this morning and I have discovered that the commitment to give us their used military equipment has been dangled before the Philippine government since the early 1950’s. So every time they want something from the Philippines , they will always offer the same deal. If we let them do something in our territory, they will give us their used military junk. I don’t think that it is consonant with the worldview of the new president, particularly since he has spent his childhood in Indonesia which is one of the closest and most analogous neighboring countries to ours. Therefore I think we should give President Arroyo more resources with which to face up with the US which tends to become arrogant every time it is able to get something out of the Philippines for nothing.
On charter change
In addition, I think the moment the House of Representatives passes the so-called charter change resolution, immediately I, and definitely certain other senators, will rush to the Senate to challenge the House resolution on a petition for certiorari, for example. It is their view that when the Constitution provides that a constituent assembly, composed of members of the Congress sits down to change the Charter, the legislative vote should be three-fourths of the votes of the senators sitting down with the House members—and therefore counted as an ordinary House member—that is for me a completely unacceptable view of our Constitution.
Under the doctrine of necessary implication, you read into the statute whatever is necessary in order to effectuate it. Our Constitution provides for a bicameral Congress, and therefore voting should always be bicameral. It can be held at the same time, but the House would vote among itself, and the Senate should vote among itself.
And even if we are outvoted, I believe that the Filipino voters will never approve in a plebiscite any charter change that has been passed only by the vote of the House counting the vote of the Senate together with itself. That will simply not be acceptable to the Filipino public because the Filipino voter is very jealous of his prerogative to cast a vote in favor of his president.
If we change to the parliamentary system, they will not personally vote for their prime minister, but instead surrender their vote for the prime minister and delegate it to the member of parliament of his district. The vote is the only time the voter asserts his authority in a flawed democracy like ours. Even in the case of the stupid corrupt voter, at least it gives him the opportunity to make money out of the politician that is stealing money anyway in the last three or six years. So they will never agree to the proposal to take away this power from themselves. That is the problem.
Of course there are many arguments in favor of a parliamentary system, but basically we have no background in this process because we were colonized by the Americans like other Southeast Asian country. Therefore, I feel that this will turn, like all great political questions, into a great judicial question. The issue is whether the Arroyo appointees will feel bound to vote in a partisan fashion just to support the president who appointed them to office. I don’t think so.
Is PGMA looking for a term extension?
I think she will want more to leave a good name for herself. As you know, she is faltering in the popularity surveys, and for her to be more than proactive in pushing for a shift to a parliamentary system might spell her doom. So she will have to take this in proper perspective. She will not only be fighting for her political life, but also her reputation in history.
Those congressmen are thinking that they can sell their votes to the highest bidder once they turn themselves into parliament. There will be a campaign among themselves on who will be elected prime minister. What will happen is that the ‘prime-ministerables’ will be trying to buy the rest of the members of parliament. How much will each candidate for prime minister will be willing to pay for each member of parliament? Every member of parliament will be for sale whether actually he or she is not. That is how every candidate for prime minister will view their colleague. The money used to be spent to buy the Filipino voter will now be concentrated on some three hundred people. You want to be a gazillionaire? Run for member of parliament.
Is there enough time for charter change?
No, definitely there is no more time left. Unless you run a gravy train. And I just don’t think that the Filipino is in the mood to go along the shenanigans of corrupt politicians. Why do we have to change right now? Why can’t we change it on, like, 2011 or some other period of time? Why do we have to do it right now? Are we sinking into the Pacific Ocean ? Are we gasping for breath? There is no defense on the question of necessity. Why now? Why so urgent?
Are the congressmen looking for a term extension?
A politician is always a hopeless optimist. He is always an apostle of hope. He is always hoping that things will turn out for the best. Even if they will say right now that there will be no term extensions, they are hoping that once the resolution is passed for charter change, things will somehow change and they can still remain in office. Otherwise they will not be members of the House. You have to be inconceivably optimistic to be a member of the House of Representatives.
On the status of the WB hearings
It was clear that there was no evidence as sanctioned by the Rules of Court. I think that those who won’t agree on how I conducted the proceedings are hoping that they can file the same resolution and have it assigned to another committee, otherwise engage in forum-shopping. At that point, I will put my foot down; I’m going to the Supreme Court and say you can’t do this. In the first place, the legislative committee of the Senate is not the NBI or the office of the fiscal. We are not supposed to be conducting preliminary investigations of criminal cases. We are conducting investigations in aid of legislation. And since the WB doesn’t even want to share any information with us, there is no modicum or scintilla of evidence on which to base any adverse statement against the First Gentleman.
Let the Supreme Court rule on whether if a minority of the Senate thinks that it did not get the political partisan results it was hoping for, it can go and refer the same subject matter to another committee so that they can get the result it wants in terms of political mileage. Are we allowed under the Constitution to do this? The Rules of the Senate provides that the Rules of Procedure will not be strictly followed during legislative investigations except when a substantive right of the accused is involved. A substantive right is any right protected and defined under the Constitution, and one of these substantive rights is the right to be presumed innocent.
Another committee can hold another investigation on another aspect, but you have to examine the process. If it simply results in placing the First Gentleman on the dock again, I will resent it as a lawyer.
I will file a committee report as soon as possible. I’ll simply say that there is no evidence pursuant to the Rules of Court, and my basis will be there is a substantive right involved, and under our own rules, we have to apply the strict procedural rules as provided by the Rules of Court.
Labels: Charter Change, economic affairs, foreign relations, House of Representatives, Miriam, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Visiting Forces Agreement, WB-banned contractors, World Bank