Press Release
September 24, 2012

Transcript of Senator Santiago's interview

On Sen. Trillanes as backdoor negotiator

In the first place, the secretary of foreign affairs must know what's going on, whether it is explicit or implicit, meaning to say whether it is publicized or kept under wraps. In any event, it is not relevant to the leadership of the secretary of foreign affairs. It is important that everything should be known by the secretary so that he will have complete input to help him in the decision-making process. It appears that Sec. Del Rosario was caught off-guard, so I can understand fully well why he is miffed about the whole secret that was kept from him.

Now we have a case where nobody knows who initiated this backchannel procedure. According to Sen. Trillanes, it was Sec. Ochoa who asked him, but Malacañang claims it was Sen. Trillanes who volunteered to do so. Apparently, he has been going there a great number of times. When we talk of Amb. Sonia Brady's notes, these are notes that are meant to be reported to the secretary of foreign affairs. That is the standard procedure for all diplomats when they meet someone from the home country, most especially in their assigned country, they will always put down in writing their notes on their conversation because they have to report to the secretary of foreign affairs. Apparently, it was only after Sec. Del Rosario received the notes from Amb. Brady that he learned that there was such an operation, and of course that is shocking to any department secretary, that there is an operation within your department of which you are unaware and have been deliberately excluded from the process.

This is entirely unfortunate because now Sen. Trillanes's cover has been blown. He can no longer be an effective backchannel negotiator. He may as well be a formal negotiator for the Philippine panel. His contacts or channels in China will no longer have the same effectiveness until this was reported out in the Philippine media because the Chinese Communist Party will know the moves of the Philippines in advance. This is a faux pas in diplomacy by the Philippine government. We don't even know who tapped who because that seems to be a point of contention.

But President Aquino defended Sen. Trillanes

But apparently there were parameters to his authority. He was limited only to Panatag Shoal. He had no authority to speak on other subjects. As to whether he was successful as a backchannel operator remains to be seen because even that is a subject for debate. We don't even know, if, for example, he was responsible or partly responsible for the back out of about thirty ships there, leaving only two or three. I just feel that this is a calamity in the order of a disaster for Philippine diplomacy.

On whether the reports that Sen. Trillanes got his intel from the PROC Liberation Army is a danger to national security

You can't really tell unless you have access to all the secret and confidential documents, and you have faith in the sources because each document would always name the source, and these sources are similarly classified into A1 source up to F6, very reliable to least credible. So we cannot say outright whether the question should be answered in the positive or the negative. This is really a cloak and dagger operation.

Do you think Sen. Trillanes should continue talking to his Chinese contacts?

That depends on the President because you have only one spokesperson for foreign affairs, and that is the President of the Philippines. With respect to treaties, the Senate has participation but the accepted doctrine is that the President speaks for the entire country. Now, as I've said, Sen. Trillanes's cover has been blown. His effectiveness depended on great part on the secrecy of the negotiations. If that is the case, he is no longer as effective as before. He may as well be part of the panel the Philippine government sends to negotiations with the Chinese panel.

Assuming we don't know Sen. Trillanes's participation in the negotiations, is it regular for him to go to China at all? There are criticisms that he shouldn't be part of the negotiations since he is a legislator.

If he was authorized by the President, moreso if he was requested to assume this role, then there is nothing wrong because we cannot compartmentalize a public official. He can be elected to the legislative branch, but he can be of service to the country in another branch as long as he has full authority. But, in any event, apparently, he first went to China and there he made his first contacts. He then came back to the Philippines and thereafter served out his role as a back channel negotiator. If there was any question at all, it will be "What was he doing in China the very first time that he made contacts?" Normally, if you are a senator, you form part of a delegation extended to the legislature in general. You will not have time to develop channels especially since the topic is super secret. That would be difficult to imagine. Let's say you have three days for a conference; it would be very difficult to cultivate your eight channels or contacts in a highly confidential way in the time period of the seminar or conference you are attending. So that in itself raises some questions. This is a dilemma in the form of an enigma.

This whole thing started with the Cam Sur Bill. Was there any pressure from the Senate leaders to pass the bill?

No. In my case, I was the chair of the secondary committee. Under the Senate Rules, the chair of the secondary committee must submit a report to the chair of the primary committee. So I submitted my report recommending the division of the province to the chair of the primary committee Sen. Marcos. Eventually, I think, he decided as chair of the primary committee that he would more or less adopt the report of the secondary committee. That is how it stood. We were about to vote on that measure before we adjourned because apparently, if we don't get it approved by a certain date, they can no longer file their certificates of candidacy. That is why they are lobbying so furiously among the senators and you could visibly see them here. But the Comelec chair has announced that he is willing, if the Senate approves the bill by October 8, to move back the deadline of filing the certificates for candidacy. So there is still a strong possibility that the province will be divided.

Paanong nangyari na Camarines Sur ang pinagdidiskusyunan, na bigla na lamang napunta sa Tsina ang usapan?

That's because, I think, that when Sen. Enrile announced that another senator has called him by phone that there was a brewing coup against him, I think the name of Sen. Trillanes was mentioned as one of the coup leaders or the brains of the coup. So Sen. Enrile was already miffed at him, and he used this occasion because he knew that Sen. Trillanes was going to deliver a privilege speech about Camarines Sur. Kaya hinanda na niya talaga.

On an ambassador's notes

They are always confidential. They are only written for the eyes of the secretary of foreign affairs through his discretion, can report them to the president or not. But in any event, the public is not supposed to know about these notes, because diplomacy has always been conducted sub rosa. There's a difference between the relationship that it ought to be and the relationship as it actually is. So it's a function of an ambassador--like ambassador Brady, one of the most competent, brilliant diplomats ever seen--it was her function to take notes of every major conversation with every major public official of the Philippines or of China and report them to the secretary of foreign affairs. The question is, why did the senate president obtain a copy of that report which is not meant for him and how did he manage to do that? That must never be revealed! We must never tell our antagonist or the other country which is having a difference with us on any matter of foreign policy, what we are doing or what our real sentiments are or what our real goals are. These are basic principles on international relations.

On China's possible reaction

They're enjoying the show! Now they are plotting how to maximize it!

How can we remedy the situation?

The best procedure when there is a case of extreme urgency or confusion is everybody should zip their mouths. Nobody should talk.

Lumapit ba sa inyo si Congressman Villafuerte?

Oh yeah. I think he is approaching everybody. He tells every senator that he approaches, "I am lobbying," or "I am here for the bill on the division of CamSur into CamSur and Nueve Camarines." He is very open about it, but we are used to this. We are used to congressmen coming to our offices.

On Sen. Trillanes calling Sen. Enrile a GMA lackey

I think that was radical to the extreme. In the first place, it is very difficult to find proof that there was a conversation between two persons to whom we are not privy. Sen. Trillanes is not known to be particularly close to Sen. Enrile or Pres. Arroyo and for him to know about this communication, which would have been conducted in secret, would have been able only through underhanded means, meaning to say, they tapped somebody's telephone. How can you prove this? How can you make a claim like this?

Meron daw siyang source na senator na mismong tinawagan ni GMA.

Ah, well then, he would have a legitimate witness if that is the case, but the senator himself has to say it; otherwise, Sen. Trillanes is simply guilty of hearsay.

Wala po kayong natanggap a tawag mula sa former president?

No, absolutely not! (laughs) It's always hard to call me in my house because I am always in the house of my grandchildren.

On PDEA Deputy Director Gadapan

I watched on TV the proceedings, and I am very upset, because, as a cabinet member, when I was kicked out of the cabinet by the President, I didn't say a thing to the public. I just said I was fired. But in his case, he went to the public and accused his immediate boss of this and that. So the question arises, don't you appreciate the fact that as a presidential appointee, you serve at the pleasure of the president? He doesn't have to prove anything. The president doesn't have to present any evidence of wrongdoing. He just has to say, I lose confidence in you; that is his prerogative, because his appointment power is plenary. It is absolute. Secondly, he is primarily occupying a confidential position. That is, in administrative law, an exception to the rule that you cannot be dismissed from service without due process of law. Due process simply means that you will be given notice and hearing. That does not apply to a presidential appointee. You don't have to be given notice, which is what he was complaining today about, and you don't need to have a hearing. You are not entitled to it. So that to me is very unseemly, and is not conduct becoming of a PMAer. Plus, he keeps on harping about the wife of Gutierrez. Assuming for the sake of argument, since I don't know what the facts are, a public official's spouse can be guilty, for example, of unpaid loans or debts, alcoholism or drug addiction or she can be a sex maniac. She can be any of those things but those do not affect public service at all unless you can show that she intervened in her husband's office. But apparently, she hasn't. I asked for evidence and he said, some people will come and testify that she introduced herself as the wife of the PDEA director general, but most people do that and it is not a crime. I'm very happy, for example, to acknowledge that I am the wife of my husband.

Ginagamit yung Senate as a forum to collect the loan?

Yes, insofar as he said I will call this witness, but I told him, you are using the Senate for credit collection. We're not a credit collection agency. Go to court and sue her. Do not drag her name unless you have evidence that she used PDEA funds. The main thrust of my interpellation is this, you are saying that the wife of your boss, whom he holds to account for his dismissal, is a confirmed casino addict. What about you? There's a tape of you in the casino networking with the drug lords. In what way are you networking? You cannot work in another way but go to the casinos? But why since you are so visible there? What kind of networking did he embarked on? Then he must be spending money since you have to play games in the casino. He denied that. But there's also the charge that he was initially working for a private bank, and he was removed for habitual gambling. So it looks like there's a pot here calling the kettle black. And we haven't even heard from the kettle yet.

So you're not convinced na nasa casino siya to strengthen his contacts?

No, I can't imagine! Me, for example, as immigration commissioner, I don't go out to the field and arrest the pedophiles in Laguna myself, because I would be a dead giveaway. They will say, immigration agents are coming here so let's get rid of all our paraphernalia. It does not, for me, coincide with the realities of law enforcement.

One of them has to be proved either right or wrong. Hindi puwedeng there's an agency where there's a question mark over the head of the agency or over the next ranking official who was removed, because otherwise the agency will get demoralized. Plus remember, their area of jurisdiction is drug enforcement and this is very complicated dahil ang laki ng pera involved. I was challenging Mr. Gadapan, who used to hold the rank of assistant secretary for operations in PDEA, why in Makati--and this is carved in stone--there are so many hang-out places for the young where you just walk into a store, you don't use a code, you don't need a referral, you just go straight to the bar and ask for the drug of your choice and you can buy it over the counter; then you go into the bathroom and inhale or ingest your drug and then you go out there, and nobody bothers you. And this is so open and so public. I really dread for the parents, especially for those in subdivisions around Makati, because anytime during the party, the innocent child might be induced to the introduction to drugs by this simple method. Why don't they round up everybody? And they say, but it takes time. Anong it takes time? When I was immigration commissioner, we just conducted dragnet operations. If we were in one location, we just arrested everybody in that location, of course after full operation. So in just one night you can arrest and close everybody. That is my main concern about drugs.

Well, I heard reports about it. One evening when I was adventurous, I went there and I could see the person beside me could buy the drugs freely, no questions asked. I was there in that vicinity!

Hindi kayo namukhaan?

It's dark and nobody expects me to be there. I went to the bathroom and I saw people drawing lines there.

A long time ago or very recently?

A long time ago. But I was told that until now that is still the practice. I wanted actually to volunteer to become director of PDEA. I'm not kidding.

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