Press Release
November 26, 2012

Budget Interpellation Questions
By Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago

Office of the Vice President FY 2013

1. It is public knowledge that most of Vice President Binay's family members are in politics. In fact, his daughter, Nancy, is running for senator in 2013. The Constitution, Article 2, Section 26 states: "The State shall guarantee equal access to opportunities for public service and prohibit political dynasties as may be defined by law." No less than the Constitution prohibits political dynasty, and yet, the Vice President's family continues to contravene the highest law of the land.

In a report by the Philippine Daily Inquirer last 10 November 2012, Vice President Binay was quoted as saying that the anti-dynasty proposals were "only being pushed by people who are perennial losers" in elections. I am the author of an anti-dynasty bill in the Senate. What is the Vice President's proposal in eradicating the excesses caused by political dynasties?

2. The Office of the Vice President (OVP) has been very active in campaigning against human trafficking. What steps have your office taken or implemented to curb the rise of human trafficking in the Philippines?

According to various media reports, the Philippine Embassy in Kuwait has been barred from directly sending information on cases of Filipino migrant workers to the Office of the Vice President (OVP). The directive was allegedly issued by Ambassador Esteban Conejos last July, just before he left the Department of Foreign Affairs' Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs (OUMWA). Conejos is now the Philippines' Permanent Representative to the World Trade Organization. In his memo to the Kuwait post, Conejos reportedly cited the sensitivity and confidentiality of OFW cases in instructing the embassy to stop directly forwarding reports to the OVP and other agencies. According to Conejos, communicating through the proper channels would "prevent confusion" among relatives of Kuwait OFWs involved in various cases handled by the OUMWA. Conjeos added that, "Each case has certain particulars and peculiarities that need not be discussed with OVP especially when these involve the privacy of OFWs and their NOKs (next of kin)." What would have made Conejos issue that directive? Were certain operations by the Embassy in Kuwait with regard to OFWs compromised because of interference by the OVP? What protocol does the OVP adopt with regard to handling sensitive issues involving OFWs.

3. According to the 2011 Commission on Audit report, the OVP has actively built more housing units for the poor and has distributed Transfer Certificates of Title (TCT) to qualified families. Around how many housing units was built for the poor? In what areas were most of the TCTs distributed? Does your Office take into account "professional" illegal settlers and syndicates? If yes, what steps have your Office taken to stop their proliferation?

There have been reports that professional illegal settlers would sell the land they acquired under the Community Mortgage Program to syndicates, and these syndicates would rent out the land to other poor people. Politicians are allegedly coddling these syndicates because they bring in the votes from the poor settlers. Is there a way to monitor these activities? Has the OVP investigated the existence of these syndicates and brought a case against them?

Presidential Communications Operations Office FY 2013

In July 2012, I filed Senate Bill No. 1859, also known as the "Plain Language Act". The bill aims to have government documents issued to public be written clearly and in plain language. The bill defines "plain language" to be language that the intended audience readily understands and uses because that language is clear, concise, well-organized and follows the best practices of plain language writing. The purpose of the bill is to improve the effectiveness and accountability of government agencies to the public by promoting clear communications that the public can understand and use.

Question: Since I will have to refile this bill for the next Congress, how does the Presidential Communication Operations Office effectively articulate government's programs to the public in terms of the use of language, more importantly those without access to Facebook and Twitter?

The Judiciary FY 2013 SUPREME COURT

1. The nation observed the third anniversary of the Maguindanao Massacre, and has been frustrated over the slow pace of the proceedings of this controversial case. How did the Supreme Court contribute to the speedy disposition of the Maguindanao Massacre case?

2. The Supreme Court recently issued a status quo ante order (SQAO) to allow party-list groups seeking for the reversal of the Comelec's decision to disqualify them for running for Congress in the 2013 elections. This SQAO temporarily restores the accreditation of these party-list groups until the SC resolves their cases in the high court. The Comelec replied, saying the SQAO will not affect the COMELEC's work in disqualifying groups that do not represent marginalized sector from joining the 2013 elections. How does the SC anticipate the SQAO to affect the list for party-list choices in the ballots for the 2013 elections?

3. The Judicial Bar Council allowed for the live media coverage in its interviews for candidates for Supreme Court Chief Justice. The JBC did the same thing in interviewing candidates for the slot Chief Justice Sereno vacated when she became Chief Justice.

a. How does the SC view the live media coverage of the interviews of its prospective members?

b. Does the SC approve of releasing into the public the records and even results of tests such as psychological test that were presented or discussed in the interviews covered live by the media?

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