Press Release
November 6, 2006

Transcript of Interview with Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago


MDS: Other people seem to be having problems, so its their problems not mine. I have several reasons for accepting the nomination. I did not nominate myself. I was nominated by the so-called young lawyers association of the Philippines, which was also the same group that nominated me last year. so I have definite reasons for accepting the nomination. Number 1 in Philippine culture, it is extremely offensive to reject an invitation or a nomination. It is sort of a loss of face on the part of the people who would have wanted to nominate you. For example a politician like myself can never turn down a request to be sponsor of a wedding, confirmation or baptism. Because in our culture that is an offense. And so would send a proxy if I cannot go personally but I never reject an invitation So in the same way I dont reject their nomination because it seems to me like an insult to the person who presumably studied the matter. The second reason is I would like to establish a precedent that an outsider can be appointed by the president if warrants it, as chief justice of the supreme court. This is the practice in the united states of America where we copied our constitution. Theyve had hundreds maybe even over a thousand chief justices and of these chief justices, only 5 since the U.S. was founded, came from the supreme court itself so the greater majority came from outside. I dont know why we have to insist that only insiders can be appointed or even considered for the position when the constitution does not make any such restriction, meaning to say that the field is wide open and if that is the case there is no more rationale for the judicial and bar council. If this charter change issue ever pushes through in whatever form it might take, then we might as well abolish the judicial and bar council since it has nothing to do, if it is bound according to their interpretation of the law or of tradition, to nominate the top 3 or the top 5 most senior justices, then there is no more rationale or ratio descidende for the jbc to exist. The very reason why the constitution provides for an existence of a judicial and bar council is that so that this group of eminent men and women will exercise the power of discretion over what is called to be the rule of longetivity or the rule of seniority. And speaking of the rule of seniority, it was already disregarded last year when the most senior associate justice was not nominated. The third reason is, apart from giving due appreciation to those who want to nominate me, apart from trying to set a precedent for the consideration at least of an outsider is this, I do not want the job. I have been nominated by young idealistic people and I accepted out of a sense of idealism. The compensation of a senator is very much higher than that of a chief justice. I dont know why Im being attacked or criticized. plus, this of course all belongs to the discretion of the president. I will even raise an ethical question, is it ethical for a senator, who has nothing to do with the judicial process, to comment in public particularly those who have less than complimentary on my nomination. In the u.s. the senators are free to comment on a nominee or a candidate for chief justice because they have the power to consent, the us constitution requires the us president to seek the consent and advise of the us federal senate when the president appoints a chief justice. That is not the case here so it might be unethical for politicians to start gabbling away about a non-political or a justiciable issue a question of who is most fit and this matter should be left completely to the sole discretion of the president. If for example the president thinks she needs me as an ally in the senate and she does not need me as an objective independent non partisan and impartial chief justice, then she can very well tell me so. I would certainly be not offended if president arroyo does not choose me from the top 3 I would be content knowing that this so-called tradition which is nothing but a mental block of some sector genarian has already been broken and somebody more competent or qualified might come along in the future who is an outsider and deserve to be appointed chief justice. If I am not appointed by the president I will remain her loyal and faithful ally. It is so much better to retain a gift of friendship than to gain a post from which I have nothing to benefit from, in terms of power, influence and compensation. a senator is so much more superior than a chief justice. I wont even be the first woman chief justice in the world because at least 2 other countries have already appointed 2 women chief justice

MDS: I did not go out my way to apply for the job. Its not that I am going to reject it if it were offered to me. It is simply that this came out as an initiative of this young idealistic people from the books they have read in school written by myself that I should be in the supreme court. I repeat for the record, I will not consider it offensive if the president does not appoint me. I will remain her administration ally in the senate.


MDS: One does not turn his back on this challenge. Im looking always for a career challenge. I feel that I have done my best in the Philippine senate in the 1 and term that I have served so far Ill be qualified to run for a 2nd term in 2010 when my present term expires. But still I would be happy if I could implement my theories in my 2 volume books in constitutional law in actual practice. And it is not true that I have no experience in the supreme court. I was rtc judge for 5 years but in addition when I was working as special assistant to then justice secretary Vicente abad santos and he was subsequently appointed as sc justice, he requested for my detail to himself in the sc and I did work for him as a clerk, that is to say I acted as his chief of staff, I did not only research, but also actually drafted his opinion. None of which he ever rejected.


MDS: we did talk about it long before I was elected as a senator in 2004. this is not going to come as a surprise to her. And she already Im sure has made a decision just in case my came comes up before her. I will know tomorrow when I meet her at the ledacI will apologize that I have caused her embarrassment by my nomination. Im sure she is going to indicate in many words what she thinks of it and I will take my cue from there. Im neither in a hurry to leave the senate or to enter the sc. I dont really much care. Its a toss up you know. Whether I serve here or there it doesnt really matter.

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