Press Release
March 14, 2011

Transcript of interview with Senator Santiago

On the partial committee report of the Blue Ribbon committee

I have signed the report this morning--because I was outside the country last week--where I wrote concurring and dissenting, and particularly specified the comment on the liability of the government officials involved in the plea bargaining agreement are valid. However, they should impute liability only to the chief prosecutor Wendell Sulit and her team, not to the Ombudsman because even under the principle of command responsibility she is entitled to a full and free and fair hearing. For us to be objective and impartial as judges in the impeachment trial, we should make no comment--just like any regional trial court judge in the country--when the case is about to be served to us. It is unseemly and it might cause doubt on the credibility of the report if at this early stage we're already calling on the House of the Representatives to impeach her, meaning to say file the complaint and then transmit the papers to the Senate. How can we be the judge if we, to follow the analogy, as judges direct the fiscal to already file the complaint in our court. That would be highly suspicious in trial court, and also in the same way in the Senate.

Plus, I have been frothing in the mouth that the impeachment is not only a political process, it is quasi-political and quasi-judicial. If it is truly a political process then there is no need for a trial--we should all just count noses. If it is to be quasi-judicial, then we have to have at least the perception of fairness and objectivity on the part of the public.

I would like to know if this is shaping up to be a Liberal Party initiative against the Ombudsman who is associated with the former President Arroyo. If that is the case and that is their view, this quasi-political-judicial proceeding, then what happened to the policy of political neutrality, which is enunciated as a duty of all public officials in the Code of Conduct and standards for all public officials? That is an obligation under the law. Anyone who violates it is subject to criminal liability.

The impeachment process, given today, should be entitled "Apocalypse Me" because we are going to the end of the world of the legal nature of Congress. When will we ever believe that the trial in the Senate is going to be objective if this is the way they present themselves? I repeat, although I am being tiresome, that it is the mandate of the law for every public official in the discharge of his official function to observe the principle of political neutrality. What happens now in the impeachment process? This is because the basic view of certain members of the House that this is a purely political process. That is so wrong. It is quasi-political and quasi-judicial at the same time, so the less you talk about it, the better.

That is my beef against the committee report because in effect it says we senators--who will be the judges--are ordering the representatives--who in effect will be the fiscal--to file the complaint. We cannot even wait for them to file the complaint with us so that we can convict the Ombudsman.

Can the committee report be changed?

That will depend on the attitude of the committee chairperson and the members of the Liberal Party since this is going to be done by voting. Normally we don't interfere with the perception or vision of the chair of the committee but to me this involves a constitutional issue that is why I am raising a big fuss about it.

On the calls for scrapping the plans for reviving the BNPP

There are alarmist calls borne out of superstition and ignorance that we should stop all talk in operating the BNPP. Let us be very, very careful with our facts. For one, there is only a partial meltdown in Fukushima, and that meltdown only resulted in injuries to four people, none of whom suffered any life-threatening injuries. (The nuclear power plant in)Fukushima is far different because it has a very old reactor compared to the BNPP's which is in comparison more modern. The BNPP and its sister plant in Korea have containment units, so if there is a meltdown it will be confined and will not necessarily spread immediately.

Plus, Senate Bill No. 2729, which I have filed in the Senate, only asks for public officials concerned to validate the operability of the BNPP. In other words, we are asking experts in our government to tell us if we can still operate Bataan, check for operability with respect to mechanical, electronic, and structural. There are two stages: the first stage is that they will check, review, analyze and examine, then make recommendations. If the result is "No go", then we will proceed in permanently closing down the BNPP. That is what the bill says. We want it to be closed down permanently if our experts tell us that we cannot operate it. If they say "Go" instead of "No go", then we still have a second part of the process. We are not going to open the plant, but cursorily we have to have all the experts at our command and within our resources validate it first. It is alarmist to say we cannot have a nuclear power plant because look at what happened in Japan. We have to wait for what will be the effect of the partial meltdown in Fukushima before we make any comments with respect to the pending bill. But of course this is the worst time to advocate it. Plus, we are facing this impeachment process. So probably everything will stop in the legislature and high priority will be given to the impeachment process. That's why I've always said the impeachment is so serious. It will put a break on the cog of the government machinery particularly in legislation, so we must be sure that there is sufficient reason for the impeachment.

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