Transcript of Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago’s interview5 October 2007
On Administrative Order 197
I have not yet received a copy (but) I can immediately notice that there is a constitutional issue involved. This administrative order might be on a collision course with the constitutional provision of the right of the public to know. It might be declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court on that grounds, so I am already worried as a constitutionalist.
I believe that it could be adequately covered by the doctrine of executive privilege which is already have been upheld by the Supreme Court in that case of Senate v. Ermita. There, the Supreme Court invalidated the Executive Order No. 464 but at the same time it said that the doctrine of executive privilege, which is not a constitutional provision, is applicable but under certain conditions. It even made a special mention of diplomatic secrets and military secrets. In those two cases, the doctrine of executive privilege is mostly applied by the Supreme Court, that is to say it takes the word of the president; but the Office of the President must give certain specific details to explain why it is a secret. It cannot just invoke executive privilege in a general way. It must give enough details without giving away the secret. The issue of constitutionality will hinge on how the administrative order is worded.
In the Senate v. Ermita case, the Supreme Court, in effect, invalidated the language employed by the executive order—it was just too broad, it was not properly invoked, etc. So again, this might be the observation of the court in the hypothetical case that someone brings a case to question the constitutionality of the administrative order; and definitely that would be the threshold issue for any Senate committee to its chairperson who wishes to probe into military activities. Automatically, there would be an invocation of this administrative order, and then at that point the Senate would invoke the Supreme Court decision again, as in the case of Senate v. Ermita.
On the Comelec budget
The Office of the President cut down the Comelec proposed budget by nearly half, from P 8B to only P 4B. Under the constitution, the Senate Finance Committee has no longer jurisdiction to increase its budget because there is a constitutional prohibition.
The important fact about the Comelec is that it spends more or less P 5B whenever national and local elections are held together. So that’s the cost to the Filipino. Every time there is an election in both the local and national levels, immediately that’s P 5B. The Comelec always asks for a budget in the billions for voter validation, but why do we have to spend P 1.5B just to clean up the voters’ list. We’ve been engaged in this project for maybe decades. Maybe we should look for an alternative option for voter validation at lesser cost but with equal effectivity because I don’t really see very much effect on election results as announced, there are always cries of electoral fraud, and one of these frauds are fake voters’ participation or falsification of election document. This is just too big an expense.
On the CHR budget
I gave them instructions, as a constitutionalist, that there should be equal protection between civilian victims and military victims since the public is under the impression that only civilian victims are protected by the commission. There has to be emphasis that the military and uniformed people are also entitled to the protection of the Commission on Human Rights. For example, if they are treated by the combatants against the government in a manner that would be violating the international law on conflicts or the international law on war.
On the ARMM budget
This area, the ARMM, includes five provinces which are always at the bottom of the ranking for social development and for economic development, and yet ARMM for the past many years has always had one of the biggest budgets in the General Appropriations Act. Its budget is far bigger than the budget of the entire Congress of the Philippines, bigger than that of the Office of the President, bigger than that of maybe a dozen executive departments, and yet it remains at the
bottom of the list. So where is all that money going? We would like to know.
Plus, for personal services, the general rule of thumb is that it cannot exceed thirty percent of the total budget. But for the ARMM, it is more than seventy percent! What are all these people doing? I think that they have to produce more results to justify such a huge huge budget.
[ARMM proposed budget for 2008: P8.614B; 2007: P8.292B; P8.292B]
Labels: Adminsitrative Order 197, Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao, Commission on Elections, Commission on Human rights, executive privilege, national budget