Press Release
February 3, 2010

Transcript of Sen. Santiagos interview

On Patricia Ann Paez's ad interim appointment

In the first place, it was actually a tempest in a teapot because she is not even being appointed as an ambassador; she is only being appointed as Chief of Mission, which is a far lower position. Secondly, the president did not appoint her. The president merely recommended her. So you have to give that to the president that she obeyed the bureaucratic procedures. As the nominee stated, there were other presidents who just made directly the appointment without even going through the bureaucratic requirements of that particular department. In this case, the president did, and apparently there is nothing in the law to prevent it from being extended to her on the basis of exceptional meritorious service. The president would be the best judge because she was the actual boss of this nominee for several years.

Actually, the very involved explanation about it, there was some snafu there. She was not invited to take the Foreign Service Exam which she should have by their own board so that was the reason why she could not claim the three year residency requirement. She has been more than three years in the foreign service itself and it was not her fault that she spent three years in Malacañang because there was that snafu as I said on whether she could take the next foreign service exam or not. There's a bureaucratic ladder in the civil service exam. We're all supposed to be appointed from the lowest then go slowly year by year to the higher position. But, that rewards non-performance because you just sit there, achieving nothing for your department, and then by sheer passage of time you become eligible for appointment over the heads of those who were working day and night. You know you have to balance these things. In administrative law, there's always room for the innovative, for the creative otherwise, it would result in demoralization because all young men and women fresh from college graduating with honors would feel very inhibited by this kind of system. Then, they would resign and go to the private sector.

On Sen. Villar's privilege speech yesterday

I knew that was coming. Well, hindi naman pambabastos but he just did not want to get into a verbal tussle. He absolutely did not want to cross swords with others who can be more volatile, let us say it that way. And Sen. Villar is not a debater. He does not enjoy exchanging barbs with his enemies or scoring points off them either. I would say that he has at least discharged his public obligation to explain his side because the public has been hearing only the negative side and have wanted him to make a response so that the public can make a reasoned judgment at least on the two sides that they have heard. But in his case, it would have been better if he had engaged in interpellation on the condition that there shall be no argumentative question. Argumentative means that there are several answers to the question and you should not seek to pin down the person to give your correct answer. That is called argumentative in a trial court.

Under the Rules of Court, when an argumentative question is foot to a witness, the Court may sustain an objection on the ground that it was argumentative. It would have been difficult to convince our colleagues yesterday not to raise argumentative questions. I think that was his fear, that he would be drawn into a verbal tussle, into verbal fireworks that will only release heat and sound but no light for the public. It would not enlighten the public. I think that all of these should be a lesson to all of us particularly to those of us who are in government. Maybe there should be a mutual free zone during the campaign or just shortly before the campaign when no accusations against potential candidates or against incumbents can be made. Lets say, during the period of the campaign, maybe during the election period which is longer than the campaign period, there should be no complaints against these people on the basis of alleged disqualification from public office because that would only invite nuisance complaints and see how bitterly divided the Senate has become as a result.

Does this policy have to be legislated?

Yes, we have to pass a law about it. I'll try and bring it up if I ever get reelected because I don't think it serves the public that we air all of these. We are in fact inviting the public to make a judgment on the basis of media reports. But that is not the best basis. I think we should have a moratorium on these kinds of accusations and counter accusations just before a campaign period.

On the suggestion that presidentiables should inhibit themselves from voting on the ethics committee report

They're not going to inhibit themselves because they're also as committed to their various positions. They're all glued to their positions and you cannot unstuck them anymore. This is all partisan politics. Even if we were inclined to apply judicial standards to the case, it can no longer be possible because we have all made our political alignments.

In my case for example, out of necessity I have to be aligned to a political party. I cannot possibly run all by myself. I did that already foolishly for several times and I learned my lesson. So now that I am with this person, I cannot possibly turn my back on him. What would that say of my loyalty or my value of loyalty? I would not be able to approach his case with an open mind because I've already made preconceived conclusions with respect to his innocence because I am riding on his ticket. And in the same way, you can reverse the principle and apply it to those who are against him. So, you cannot expect justice in a very charged atmosphere like this.

That is the reason why, under our Constitution, the Supreme Court has the power to transfer a case from a district to another if they think that justice can no longer be administered. That is exactly the case here, justice is no longer available here. Everything has become politicized. You can no longer avoid a political center of gravity here. Everything is viewed through the political lens. Even I, as a former trial judge, can no longer adopt a completely objective standpoint because I'm already running with a certain political party.

A conscience vote is not possible. In my case for example, a conscience vote would be a movement to abstain from voting and then I would be open to the charge of abandoning my public duty. And if I cast a vote, then I myself would be the first to doubt whether I was objective, sufficiently. We have to determine whether which side won. We are counting noses. That is to say, the numerical equality here is very pronounced. We are just one vote ahead of each other. What will be the voting this afternoon? Everyone has to vote. You cannot just stay away and say I don't want to make enemies so I'll just not vote. I think that will be abnegation of official duty as senators.

It will be like this. There are 23 senators minus Trillanes, that's 22, minus Ping Lacson, that's 21. So if we divide unevenly, it would be 10-11. We don't know who's the majority or minority until after the voting this afternoon. If my group becomes the minority, then we shall question why the career and the entire lifetime of a person no less than a former Senate President would be left in the hands of only one senator. In effect, that will be the result. If the result is 11-10, in effect there's only one person there who makes the decision. He might miss the person. If the people really wanted him to run in the first instance. He goes through life already with that kind of a blemish on his reputation. A censure you might say is a very light penalty, but imagine if its blown up on a three inches on a headline in a newspaper and imagine that its repeated 24/7 throughout our radio and TV stations. So you cannot make that kind of a decision based only on majority vote that's why I've always insisted that it should be a two-thirds vote.

On Sen. Lacson fleeing the country

He's finally accepted reality. I'm running away from the country because I might be arrested and I'll post bail and in that case I'll have to be thrown into the nearest jail. That is a horrifying prospect. I should tell you because when I was a young lawyer, a special assistant to the justice secretary, I was assigned to the ocular inspection in Bilibid and I know for a fact that freshman inmates are immediately beaten up just to prove who's the boss and sometimes raped and to put a spirit of humility in them. You don't want to go to Bilibid. Food is completely covered and I wanted to check what the food was and they had to drive the flies away. People are not fully cognizant of the horrors of detention. I'm saying detention because you will go to jail under these circumstances only as a detention prisoner because you are not yet a convicted person. Supposed you are acquittedóbut you've already been beaten up; you've lost several teeth; or you've lost an eye; or you've been raped; and other trials and tribulations. It's a very primitive condition. That's why he has run away because he has no other choice in law.

Out of respect for the law, he should have remained until arraignment. Once you appear then your trial will continue to go on notwithstanding that you have become a fugitive. But if there's no arraignment, the case will only be archived; it will not proceed so the public will never know. Therefore, he should be here by arraignment so that the court will acquire jurisdiction over him then the case can just proceed. The prosecution will present evidence against him and his defense will present evidence in his favor. After arraignment, he can then flee to a foreign country. And if he is convicted, let us say, then he cannot serve the warrant against him. So that would have been the ideal. But sometimes people just will not appeal at the arraignment anymore, because they're just too afraid of the prospect. Double murder is not bailable.

If Sen. Lacson stays out of the country for an extended period of time, would he be expelled from the Senate?

Well, a case would have been filed against him in the Committee on Ethics and we'd have to go through thise whole rigmarole again. Also, if he stays in Australia, since we cannot serve our Philippine warrant of arrest against him there since that is against international law what the Philippine government can do is send operatives to just secure him secretly but of course the Australian government will make nominal protest because of the violation of their national sovereignty upon instructions of the Philippine government. It depends on their relationship otherwise we can ask for his extradition but that would take a long time.

Would Sen. Lacson still be entitled to his funds as senator?

In the case of Sen. Trillanes, that is what is happening right now; the precedent has been established. He'll be entitled to whatever is given to a regular senator who reports for work until the end of his term. Unless of course he is convicted then that would be the end. The warrant has not been issued. All these is an anticipation of the fact that the Department of Justice will file the complaint against him in court and once its filed in court, just the clerk of court will issue the warrant automatically.

Normally, people who think that they would be harassed or will be hounded will no longer wait for the formal issuance because it might be too late. All your avenues for exit might be blocked so you just prefer to go into hiding the moment that you are already convinced that a case would be filed against you in court and the warrant might be issued, it might be issued in the middle of the night.

How can a warrant of arrest for Sen. Lacson be enforced?

We have to go through the extradition process. Before extradition became popular in international law, governments would send their secret agents and then pick up the person without notifying the country of refuge who just make a nominal objection. But this has been replaced by extradition. However, the problem with extradition is a course of hearing process. The fugitive has to be given notice and hearing. In that case, it might be that the witnesses have already been killed. Justice delayed is justice denied.

For political asylum, you have to prove that you are undergoing political persecution. That is a requirement of political asylum under international law.

He is not yet convicted, he's only the accused. He has the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. If the Senate wants to expel him, that is the worst punishment that the Senate can impose, it first has to go through the Committee on Ethics and then it has to go to third voting.

I absolutely predicted that he would skip town like six months ago because he has no more choice. Administration is going hammer and thumbs against him and they keep issuing press releases about further evidence or testimony that they have been able to acquire. So all these leads to the conclusion that the prosecutor's office, which is incidentally under the Office of the President, will of course recommend that he should be prosecuted and file the case in court. Automatically, a warrant shall be issued, since it is a non-bailable offense he has no more time. He has to flee before the warrant is issued.

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