Press Release
May 11, 2006


Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, a member of President Arroyos delegation to Saudi Arabia, said that she and other senators plan to participate in a constituent assembly, if the Supreme Court rules that it is constitutional.

At the sidelines of the state visit, President Arroyo agreed with me that the two issues of a peoples initiative and a constituent assembly will be ultimately settled by the Supreme Court. If the Court rules that it would be legal for Congress to vote together instead of separately, then some of us administration senators will participate in the constituent assembly, Santiago said.

Santiago joined the delegation as chair of the Senate committee on energy, and as co-chair of the Joint Congressional Power Commission.

In three separate meetings with the Filipino communities in Riyadh, Jeddah, and Dammam, Santiago reportedly proved to be the top crowd drawer.

President Arroyo reportedly introduced Santiago at the Dammam meeting as the superstar of the Senate, evoking even more thunderous applause from the OCWs.

The Middle East newspaper Arab News in its Wednesday issue said: Arroyo came with Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, whose entry was warmly welcomed by the crowd.

Santiagos support for Arroyos charter change program is viewed as a political coup, not only because of Santiagos drawing power, but also because she is a widely acknowledged expert in constitutional law.

The senator taught constitutional law in U.P. for some 10 years, and has written several casebooks on the subject.

Santiago interrupted her Senate sick leave to accompany the delegation, so that she could be present at separate bilateral meetings with King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, and with Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz.

However, Santiago skipped the last half-day of the state visit, bothered by her heart condition known as arrythmia, presumably aggravated by the desert heat which rose to 42 degrees Celsius.

Delegation members said Santiago and the President seem to have become close friends, with President Arroyo bursting into girlish laughter when she was in Santiagos company.

On condition that the Supreme Court will uphold the constituent assembly, I shall vote in favor of abolishing the Senate, and changing to a unicameral parliament, as a gesture of support for President Arroyos program of governance, Santiago said.

Santiago a laureate of the Asian Nobel Prize known as the Magsaysay Award said she learned to admire Arroyos diligence and perseverance during the state visit.

She gave a classic Santiago quip: Pardon my Oxford English, but President Arroyo busted her tail trying to obtain repatriation of some 500 OCWs, an oil supply guarantee, and observer status for the Philippines in the OIC. Our state visit was unmitigated hard labor.

Santiago said that one of the insuperable obstacles to charter change is the alleged presidential ambition of certain senators.

I dont think any of the presidential wannabes can exceed President Arroyos qualifications and experience. Shes got my vote, said Santiago, who was a wildly popular presidential candidate in the 1992 elections.

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