Press Release
November 27, 2009

Transcript of Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago's interview

Under what party are you running?

I am running under the People's Reform Party because I am the founding President, and of which the national president is Dr. Esparanza Cabral. That's why she is with me. She's been with PRP ever since it was found.

Are you going to support in particular any presidential candidate?

I have accepted the flag of guest candidate for all the political parties except the Liberal Party, because I was invited. This is my way of sending the message that I am willing to serve, that I no longer wish to be president myself, but whomever the people choose to be President will have my unstated support on service.

I don't know. These people invited me. Every time an invitation is rendered I'd always answered in the affirmative. But I have no invitation from the LP.

Where does your loyalty lie?

It will always have to be the Constitution. I am there to serve as the gadfly of the President in case he or she does not fully understand the Constitution or has overlooked something there. It would be my painful job at times to remind him of the Constitution but I am prepared to do that, to assume that role.

On the Maguindanao massacre

The act of massacre is in effect steeping with impunity in the face of the rule of law. Can you imagine that in the 21st Century, someone has the mentality to prepare well in advance the murder of at least 57 people and the destruction of several vehicles and expects to get away with impunity without any criminal liability? This is Neanderthal brutality. We could accept it if it happened among cave people or among cavemen. But we cannot accept that it has happened in the 21st century. In case of doubt, because of the beastly manner in which the clan has perpetuated, I think that the better choice should be between two crimes, the higher crime, or the bigger crime should be written in the complaint. Anyway, there's nothing binding about tagging it as a case of multiple murders of war because the prosecution is always free to amend the complaint even without authority by the judge before the accused enter his plea. And also, I wish to emphasize that not only the principal suspect should be treated as principals in the crime of terrorism but also the members of the police and perhaps of the military. Under the Anti-Terrorism Act or the Human Security Act of 2007, they should already have conducted surveillance because even the civilians knew of the impending catastrophic disaster.. They should have followed the law and made a written application to a certain division of the Court of Appeals to be given authority to set aside the anti-wiretapping law. They could have conducted surveillance including tapping the wires of the suspects and they could have prevented this massacre. They actually deferred to do so. Everybody knew about it except perhaps these policemen. If I were a doctor, I would charge them with being blind, deaf, and mute, but you see they are not, so they should be immediately investigated for their own criminal liability and not just preventive suspension - for what?! the people are dead! - for failing to comply with their duties under law, for failing to provide surveillance since it was already widespread knowledge in the entire province that people were going to die, and in fact, that they were going to the first backhoe massacre in the history of the world. They should have immediately taken the complaint to the Court of Appeals and simply file a written application.

That is a suspicion that cannot be avoided. As a former RTC judge, I have to remind myself and the public that we must keep an open mind because everyone enjoys a presumption of innocence. But since there were already intimations particularly from the Ampatuan clan that they were going to do something drastic not only with the safety but also with the lives of their political opponents, it was incumbent upon the police and the military to have stopped this impending catastrophe. If they had only done their job I think those people, if it were not a crime, should be made to stand and watch as a backhoe digs a grave for all these military.

Should early elections be conducted in Mindanao ? Should extraordinary measures be taken?

Not at all, no. Justice delayed is justice denied. I am not in favor of any extraordinary procedures just because there have been extraordinary conditions in that province, otherwise, we would be giving way to the mindset of the perpetuators. They want to create widespread and extraordinary fear and panic. So if we do things out of the normal, people will sink deeper into fear and panic.

I think the trial should be conducted in Manila . The Constitution provides that the Supreme Court can order a change of venue any time to avoid a miscarriage of justice. As I said, the basic principle of our justice system as embodied in the Constitution is "justice delayed is justice denied." If you commit a crime at night, there would be no fiscal who would conduct a preliminary investigation. Instead, there would be an inquest fiscal who would conduct a sort of very brief preliminary investigation and then order that they be detained, and this happens all the space of 12 hours at night time. So I don't see why the suspect was not detained immediately within 12 hours because that is SOP.

We have to make sure that justice is even handed. We cannot treat the suspect here or the victims here in a manner separate from people who are implicated in a crime and who are placed under normal procedures. We should not take extraordinary procedures. This is a classic case of what human rights lawyers call the dilemma of peace versus human rights. There are some who say we should have peace at any cost in Mindanao so let us treat everybody with kid gloves so they will not further the flames of clan or tribal warfare, and there are some who say no human rights is a priority value and we must place a protectional reservement of human rights above these, so let the Filipino people decide.

But in my case, since I'm a lawyer and a former trial judge I say just look at the law! Why do you have to look at many many other things? The law says in 12 hours the inquest must be made, and then file or conduct a preliminary investigation the next day. That should have been done. What's been keeping them? I don't accept any explanation. There is no acceptable explanation for the murders. This is a matter so important that the highest officials in the PNP and the military in our country should resign. Why weren't they able to discipline their workforce there? If they already knew that the military or the police were already bought by a certain clan there then why did they not remove the forces there? You cannot have a military or law enforcement contingent under the thumb of a local war lord. They do not have the guts to do so. They should resign.

What about the DILG secretary?

I have an entire vocabulary reserved for him. But why hold a press conference and say, "I will recommend to the President preventive suspension because we actually don't have any power over these people"? Wala pala siyang kapangyarihan e bakit pa siya nagpatawag ng press conference para sabihin na "wala akong magagwa"? And this is wrong protocol because when you make a recommendation to the president, you keep it confidential so that if she overturns your recommendation there will be no embarrassment on any side. Here, he is placing the president under pressure. This, of course, the president will resent. So I wish people will stop to enter the stage at this point. This is too important. We are talking about the lives of 57 people - they're dead! As in dead as a door nail. This is not a question of what you could have done, this is a question of what you should have done! You should have ordered surveillance of these suspects long before since they were already making public threats. Why did you have to wait until the whole world was focused on this gruesome brutality and associate the Philippines with it before you make useless declarations to the general public? Kung ako yung fiscal, dose oras tapos na ang inquest ko. May kaso na at ihahanda ko na yung aking preliminary investigation para nakadetain na. Dapat ganoon iyon.

Why run for senator and not president?

Let us just say that I've suddenly realized that I am an impotent creature in a universe that is characterized by billions of suns and trillions of planets so I'm so insignificant that sometimes I just wish to end it all. I want the planet to stop so I could get off, especially, get off from the Philippines . I don't really see why you have a genius for making big problems out of small things. The big problem is making the Filipino feel confident of himself and ready to serve the world. That is the big problem. It is not the economy - "I will give you jobs.." Every candidate will give one million jobs, or today it has already multiplied to millions of jobs. You can't do that, you can't pluck it out of mid-air. You cannot make promises. You cannot praise yourself - I am an expert on praising myself - but I no longer want to do so.

You are adopted by what parties?

In the chronological order in which I was invited and accepted: the party of Sen.. Estrada, the party of Sen. Villar, the administration party, which is under Sec. Teodoro; the LDP of Sen. Angara, and the NPC, although they have as yet no presidential candidate, as a senator. What I will do is in March maybe I'll be delivering one or even two commencement addresses everyday. But in the other months of the campaign period I will go with the party that has the available itinerary for that period and I would like to do it at random so that I would have gone with each of these parties. I'm going to tell the people, you decide who your president will be, I'm simply saying whoever the president might be, I'm willing to serve very humbly.

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