Press Release
December 10, 2010


Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, a constitutional law expert, said that the Philippines will become a "failed state," if administration representatives succeed in filing an impeachment complaint against Chief Justice Renato Corona.

Santiago discussed at an impromptu press conference today the recent Supreme Court decision declaring as unconstitutional President Aquino's Executive Order No. 1 which creates a Truth Commission.

Earlier in the morning, the senator was mobbed by a hysterical crowd of some 1,000 students at the Centro Escolar University, where she delivered a speech marking Human Rights Day and then took questions from the media.

"The rumor that certain members of the House of Representatives are passing around an impeachment complaint for signature makes people jumpy. If the agitators succeed, the Philippines will definitely become a failed state according to standards set by the international legal community," she said.

Santiago said that impeaching a chief justice by imputing "political motives" behind a decision clipping the President's powers would be fatal to the tripartite system of government.

"The executive and legislative branches are political in nature. But the judicial branch is nonpolitical. If the chief justice is removed for political reasons, then that would be a signal that even the judicial branch has also become political. That would be the end of our democracy as we know it today," she said.

Santiago said there was no need for panic among President Aquino's supporters, because EO No. 1 and its declared unconstitutionality "is merely part of the learning curve process."

Santiago said that President Aquino should not be derided over his judicial defeat, because he is learning on the job and he is handicapped by the lack of a legal adviser with expertise in constitutional law.

"Most Supreme Court decisions turn on a constitutional issue, and logic dictates that President Aquino should have a topnotch constitutionalist in his staff. Of his present lawyers, I would merely say that their doctrinal foundations are horribly inadequate," she said.

Santiago also warned the public that since the case remains pending, there should be no discussion on the merits, but only on the factual circumstances of the case.

"The Supreme Court has the power to cite for contempt any person spouting his own peculiar judicial philosophy while the case is pending. We are all bound by the presumption of regularity. We have to presume that official duty has been regularly performed," she said.

Santiago disagreed with commentators who said that the case was decided on equal protection grounds.

"This is not a case of whether equal protection has been denied to ex-President Arroyo. This is a case of whether President Aquino has power to create an agency without a prior law by Congress authorizing him to do so. This is a case questioning whether the President has legislative power independently of Congress," she said.

Santiago said that President Aquino has no legislative power of his own but under the Administrative Code, he merely has so-called ordinance power, or the power to issue rules and regulations pursuant to a law passed by Congress.

As a constitutional law expert, Santiago lamented the use by the Supreme Court justices of what she called "old equal protection analysis."

"The old equal protection consisted of only one standard - the rational relationship between the classification made by the law, and the national policy that the law seeks to serve. It is disappointing that the justices continued to use the rational relationship test, which is very lenient," she said.

Santiago said that the new equal protection now uses three standards - rational relationship, intermediate standard, and strict scrutiny.

"Since the Truth Commission involves a fundamental interest of the state, the majority should have applied the standard of strict scrutiny, which usually results in striking down the classification. That would have been more consistent," she said.

Santiago said that the pending case will become one of the factors that will influence the electorate in the 2014 elections, three years from now.

"If the voters think that President Aquino is right in his harsh criticism of the Supreme Court, then his senatorial ticket will win in the next election. But on the contrary, if the voters think he is at fault, then they will repudiate his ticket at the polls, and he will become a lameduck president," she said.

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