Press Release
January 20, 2010

Transcript of Sen. Santiago's interview

On the alleged coup d'état against Senate President Enrile

It is a work in progress. I cannot tell a lie: Yes.

That is always happening all throughout the six years of the Senate. No Senate President is ever perfectly sure of his security of tenure. Others are always plotting, and it is always just a question of whether they can get other senators to join them.

Is there time for this?

Maybe they have other things to do with their lives, but in my case it is a waste of my life to pay attention to these developments because we only have a few days of work left. We will be adjourning in two weeks time, and then after that we will be called to session only after the elections have been over and we only have less than a month to work before the new president takes over.

So you are saying that the Senate President shouldn't be comfortable?

No, never. In this kind of a set up we have in the Senate, no Senate President ever sleeps soundly at night because you might wake up and you already have been kicked out.

It had to do with this report against Sen. Villar. The committee chair--meaning to say the Senate president--of the committee of the whole has a report that finds Sen. Him guilty. But since we who are running under the ticket of Sen. Villar for president feel that there is no way that he is going to get justice from this kind of politicized atmosphere, we simply stayed away just to send a message that we do not believe that there would be any semblance of credibility if one presidential candidate is filing a case against another presidential candidate and we are also politicised in this chamber, including myself. I guess that within the party leadership, to which I do not belong, that is viewed as a belligerent act and a declaration of war.

I preferred to stay home and read the Constitution, particularly the provision that prohibits involuntary servitude. The concept of involuntary servitude includes the crime of making a person work whether you are paying him or not, making him work either by means of violence or by means of threats. We have a rule in the Senate which really grants under certain conditions the Senate President to issue a warrant of arrest. There has to be conditions. There has to be a motion, and since it is not debateable, we proceed to voting. And if that motion is upheld by a majority of the senators present, then the Senate president can ask the Sergeant-at-Arms either to do two things: either advise the senators to come because their presence is necessary, or simply to arrest them. I was prepared for a house arrest. I was going to throw my hands to the sky and say "I'm not armed! I'm not armed!"

But that is only a rule in the Senate, and I wonder if a test case brought to the Supreme Court if the court will not proclaim that that Senate rule collides with the Constitutional provision against involuntary servitude. I guess the best way, regardless of the law on the matter, is if a significant number of senators, sufficient to declare a lack of a quorum, are absent altogether, they are trying to send a message to the Senate President and therefore it would be more becoming of a Senate President in an atmosphere where every senator is co-equal with each other to ask what is the problem and whether we can solve it jointly. I don't think that the senators will take very kindly the threat that they could be arrested.

Should Sen. Villar speak on the allegations against him?

Yes, I think so, even only to repeat his point that he did not want to participate because he did not want to submit himself to the jurisdiction of a tribunal from which he had no hope of justice, that is his position. If he declined to defend himself during the proceedings, on the other hand, the committee of the whole was perfectly correct in declaring him either in default or as subject of a trial in absentia. In both civil and criminal cases, the respondent or the accused has the right to remain silent. In a civil case, after the prosecution has rested, then if you don't want to defend yourself you file a motion to demur; or in a criminal case, if you do not want to defend yourself, that also is your right but the trial will proceed in absentia. In this case, Sen. Villar is only availing of his privilege not to defend himself, and the committee of the whole was also correct in proceeding with the conduct of the trial without his participation. So both sides are correct.

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