Press Release
May 24, 2011

Transcript of Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago

On the living-out privileges granted to some inmates from Bilibid prison

That's a very hoary malpractice in Bilibid. Apparently, no Justice secretary is able to stop this malpractice. There are always orders to obey the law, but the director of the Bureau of Corrections or Bureau of Prisons, as he was once known, seems always fallible to pressures exerted upon him. If continually over the years the directors of the Bureau of Corrections deem that it is a necessary anomaly, then we might as well legalize it. The rule is if we cannot stop a practice which is not advantageous to society, we might as well regulate it. That is sometimes the last ditch attitude of the law. We might as well regularize this practice and promulgate rules on how we should choose these people, because apparently the government is unable to stop it unless the Justice secretary holds office there. This is a very blatant malpractice and ordinarily, the Bureau director would have to face administrative charges, but apparently, these are not forthcoming because that would have to come from either the president himself or the Justice secretary; or he (the Bureau of Corrections director) should be facing criminal charges, but since the office of the prosecutor is also under the Justice secretary, who is apparently waiting for signals from the president, then those (criminal charges) are not forthcoming either.

I think that Mr. Diokno should, of his own volition, tell the press what are the urgent necessities that compel him to grant these extraordinary liberties. When a person is convicted, we ordinarily presume that he will be put away for life. The question will be overwhelming in the minds of the public on why certain people are given these so-called living-out privileges. Very obviously the answer that will come foremost to the mind of an ordinary man in the street is, "was there money involved?" If we cannot stop it, we may as well promulgate regulations on who should be responsible. It will be like bail on recognizance. That is to say, there should be at least one person in society who will say, "If anything goes wrong, you can put me in jail instead of that person." That's what should happen because we've been trying to stop this malpractice for decades but until now we're still faced with the practice. Apparently, it is a very dead law.

What should be done to the officials who allowed the release of Gov. Leviste?

I think they have already forfeited their right to be heard because this problem has gone on for many years, even decades. If they have any excuses or rationalizations, the public has heard it already. We've only been treated to more of the same. As they say in English, same difference! There is no difference between their arguments and the arguments 30 years ago on why these people are given living-out privileges.

If it is only a question of money, then they should be brought to court for bribery, but as you know, bribery, the exchange of money, is very difficult to prove in court. If there are minimum security prisoners who can be trusted to report because they are afraid of the heavier consequences if they default on their recognizance, then we could just adopt a modified form of recognizance system that is to say, as I said, a guarantee of a respected person of the community that if a person goes missing, that respected person of the community will go to jail in his stead or will pay a stiff fine.

On the alleged overstepping of Philippine airspace by Chinese pilots

I don't think we should adopt a hair-trigger response to the so-called sightings of the Chinese because we don't have the military muscle to back up our brave words. In the first place, we don't even have a radar so we don't know if they really overstepped our airspace boundary. How can we make a claim if we don't have the high-tech equipment to backup our claim? Secondly, I think that China is trying to prove by all of these encroaching into our space territory that it is continuing to claim ownership. You see in international law, one of the ways of proving ownership is continuous exercise of rights of ownership. Maybe they wanted it to be said on record that they at least complied with the duty to keep on monitoring their so-called property. We've already filed a protest with the United Nations on their so-called nine dotted map, which includes the Kalayaan islands as part of their territory. They're claiming a bigger group of islands called the Spratley islands but which in their language they call the Nansha islands, and our Kalayaan islands happens to be part of that little archipelago. So we've done what we should be doing and in addition we should of course file a diplomatic protest. But we cannot make a mountain out of a molehill because we do not have, as I've said, the military muscle; we do not have a radar to prove that they've overstepped our space territory. We don't have high-tech equipment to detect them. It just so happened that the pilots of our fighter planes looked up and saw them (Chinese planes) up there 5,000 feet above. We do not have the equipment to monitor, much less to intercept these airplanes. So we'll be left with nothing but our brave words. That's why our only option will be to file a diplomatic protest. This is all a game. China is just playing an international relations game with us and the rest of the claimant states, like Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia, and Vietnam.

I do not have any personal incentive in defending China. In fact, they voted against me in the International Court of Justice on the ground that I am a good friend of Dalai Lama, which it abhors. But in international relations we have no choice. We'll just have to satisfy ourselves with diplomatic protest until we are able to beef up our air and naval facilities.

Why not just agree to a joint exploration and development of the region?

That's very easy to say, "Let's have a joint exploration and development of the region, which is very rich in mineral and oil resources!" But that is going to be hellish in implementation. It's going to be extremely difficult.

On RH bill

We only have two weeks left and now we have a spate of anti-RH bill measures called unborn child bills. I understand there are three versions pending. I wish they were filed earlier because the procedure in the Senate is that we're going to consolidate all of these bills to just one series of committee hearings. Now, apparently, the committee will have to stop dead in its tracks, retrace its steps, and hold a hearing just to hear the pros and cons of the unborn child bills. That will result in delay. However, if that is denied to the authors of these unborn child bills then they might create such a procedural fuss even if in recess that will result in even longer delays. My advice is just give them at least one public hearing. But I really don't see how you can compromise them with the present RH bill because they are like two trains on the same track charging against each other. In this case the result might be a big bang in the universe so we might as well just hear them.

On the President's performance rating allegedly slipping due to the media's reports

This is a normal source of friction between the incumbent president and his group, and the media. Media is always literature in a hurry, that's the nature of journalism, so media can be forgiven for these little slips of error or erroneous judgments on the spot. I think that will just iron itself out after a while. Anyway, media will fall in love with the president, who, for example, falls in love with himself. That is his remedy. You should try and encourage the President to be in a good mood so he will be in a romantic frame of mind. Otherwise, we will have a very irritable president and this irritant between the media and the president will continue.

On the President's request to the media not to meddle in his private life and love life

When you enter the public service you just lose your right of privacy so you might as well put up with it.

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