Press Release
January 11, 2013


Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, who is engaged in a word war with Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile - on the use of Senate savings - was mobbed by some 2,000 students of the CEU where she spoke Friday, 11 January, on charter change.

Observers, who included the CEU faculty led by President Cristina Padolina, as well as the media, said that in effect the students' show of support proved the popularity of Santiago's argument that Senate savings should not be used as Christmas gift for senators.

Santiago, before her lecture, told the students that Enrile allegedly insulted her "on a personal level" as reported by a news story in a major daily (Philippine Star).

"I will not exchange personal insults with him, because what is at issue is a paramount constitutional question. He should answer me in legal terms, not in vulgar terms of a fishwife," Santiago told media at an impromptu press conference.

Santiago challenged Enrile to a debate on the constitutionality of the use of Senate savings, for cash of P1.6 million per senator given last Christmas except to four senators - Santiago, the two Cayetanos, and Trillanes.

Santiago, a constitutional law expert, said that she would like to file a petition in the Supreme Court to raise the constitutional issue, but she might be called for duty at the International Criminal Court at any time.

"The issue of using savings for distribution to high officials at yearend deserves to be given full study by the Supreme Court. I hope that a lawyer's group would file such a petition under the principle of transparency," she said.

At the beginning of her lecture on charter change, Santiago said there is no hope for charter chance, because President Aquino has reportedly said that chacha is not a priority in the next three years.

"Pres. Aquino has good reasons not to prioritize charter change, because some estimate place the cost of a constitutional convention at some P8 billion," the senator said. But Santiago said that if charter change were to take place, she would advocate the following changes:

Make the Constitution brief; Strengthen the mechanisms for a people's initiative so that bills that Congress do not want to pass, such as the anti-political dynasty law and the freedom of information law, can be passed directly by the people;

Regionalize the Senate and the party-list system to avoid the practice of electing people who are nationally popular but possess little qualifications for important public offices; Impose academic qualifications on all high public officials; Provide a mechanism to prevent politicians from lining their pockets with pork barrel; Give to an independent and prestigious constitutional commission the power to appoint members of the judiciary; and

Find the balance between nationalist provisions of the Constitution and the demands of a global economy.

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