Transcript of today’s press interview with Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago27 September 2007
On the possible impeachment of Comelec chair Benjamin Abalos
Impeachment is not strictly a legal or judicial process. It is part judicial and part political. That (impeachment of Abalos) would depend on whether they can raise the numbers in the House of Representatives. Well, there is already a ground because under the Constitution, an impeachment proceeding can be initiated on the ground that there is betrayal of public trust and that there has been culpable violation of the Constitution.
On her statements at yesterday’s ZTE hearing
I will never denigrate the Chinese because I married one. My husband is a Yap, his mother was Chinese. I’ve always been a great admirer of Chinese civilization. I made a trip to China when I was not a public official to see their historical monuments and imbibe their culture.
We were talking about a Chinese contract. My point was if you are a public official and there’s a pending government project with you, to socialize with any of the parties of the contract is very suspicious.
Tomorrow, I will write a letter to the Chinese ambassador.
On the JPEPA
If this were a boxing match, this is already round three of the JPEPA. I already gave the first two rounds to those against the JPEPA. Today, I still give round three to those opposed to the JPEPA. They were presenting the cases of other countries in Southeast Asia which also have economic partnership agreements or EPAs with Japan. Not only that, but they also presented empirical evidence, meaning to say, the experience of these other countries which have EPAs with Japan, showing that there is serious danger that there might be importation of hazardous wastes into our country, notwithstanding our domestic laws on toxic wastes and on ecological management. What we wanted the administration to do was to refute the empirical evidence and not just talk theoretically. Theory is far removed from reality. Again, the administration was unprepared. They didn’t even have prepared statements. We were only treated to what in effect were speculations that it will not happen. What we need in our Senate hearings is actual evidence in actual histories of countries that have EPAs with Japan.
I’m afraid we only have two more hearings left. So far, those opposed to the JPEPA has already won the majority of the rounds, three out of five. I’m afraid that this agreement may not even muster a majority vote in my committee, much less a majority vote in the Senate itself. It will be my obligation as committee chair to defend this treaty. Right now, I am not receiving enough solid arguments that will enable me to persuade the Opposition who are in the majority of the Senate. If I cannot defend this treaty, it would get rejected in the Senate floor. So I would request advice from my colleagues if we even still need to file a committee report. Of course, under the Senate rules, we must file a committee report, whether for or against. But we can just not submit a report, meaning to say, the report will be negative. I’m afraid I would have to take a straw vote first among the committee members. A number of them have approached me during the course of the hearings to tell me that they are not convinced. Certainly, I will not go against the express sentiments of the committee members because I will be outvoted in the plenary session anyway. The power of the committee chair is vast, but it is also limited.
We prefer to just not submit a report. We can say that the Senate committee on foreign relations is not submitting a report although it has already concluded its hearings. That is a diplomatic way of saying that we recommend that the treaty be rejected.
In today’s hearing, even an administration official expressed doubts as to whether they should endorse the treaty at all. Senator Roxas has privately expressed skepticism over the treaty, even though he was originally a supporter of the treaty.