Press Release
January 11, 2013

Transcript of interview of Senator Santiago

The basic legal and moral issue is when the Constitution provides that savings can be used "to augment other items", can the savings be used among the high officials of that office itself--for example in the Senate, can the Senate President use the savings as part of Christmas bonuses to the senators in the guise of so-called "additional MOOE"? The first relevant factor there is why give additional office expenses to a senator when the year is over? In the next year he will get his own MOOE. Very clearly, MOOE is a code name for the fact that the Senate President is giving to every senator additional pork barrel to be spent at the discretion of the senator.

The Commission on Audit chair does not want to go to the constitutional issue--and that is correct because the constitutional issue can only be settled by the Supreme Court. It is not this opinion or that opinion that will prevail in the media--it is what the Supreme Court will say. That should be authoritative. Unfortunately, I cannot bring a case anymore because I might be called anytime to the International Criminal Court in The Hague. In fact, I know that this March the ICC will call several new judges for duty in The Hague. I might be one of them, I might stay longer, I might even stay until 2016, so I don't really know what my status is. That is why I cannot bring the case to the Supreme Court.

The question here is: If the Senate does it, since it is authorized by the Constitution except that you have a question of what is the meaning of "augment other items"? Of course if you take a liberal view, it can include MOOE, but the thing is, the MOOE is needed at the start of the year, not at the end of the year because the office is closed at the end of the year. When January begins and the Senate gives money to the senators, there's money for their MOOE, so why would you give them additional MOOE at the end of the year? That is very clear. It is evident proof that this is simply a guise--a disguise in fact--for giving money to the senators. The question is, sometimes Senate presidents give additional MOOE in June. That might be acceptable. We don't really know until the Supreme Court says so.

I was personally insulted by the Senate President, but I will not reply by insulting him on a personal basis because it would make the whole constitutional issue frivolous. All these personal attacks against me are frivolous, sham, and dilatory. I challenge everybody who is attacking me. Just answer the legal issue: Are savings, which the Constitution intends should augment other items in the budget, validly spent when those savings are used at Christmas to pay so-called additional MOOE, when the year has already ended and the office expenses have already been taken care of? Let us just answer this question.

My own proposal to a rational and sober conclusion is let us appeal to the Commission on Audit to upload together with the Civil Service Commission all information on the total income--not only the salary--but everything in cash or in other forms like checks for every senator and for every other high public official para makita kung magkano talaga ang total na tinatanggap ng bawat senador buwan-buwan o taun-taon para wala tayong duda na nagnanakaw pala sila o lumalabag sila ng batas, at, gaya nito, para wala tayong pagkakataon na atakihin ako just because I'm citing the Constitution. I think many people know that I'm a student of Constitutional Law, at natural lang na mag-cite ako ng Constitutional Law. So I would like to know where is the law that gives the Senate President the power to make any discrimination efforts against certain political enemies, including myself and three others. According to him he has total and absolute discretion with the use of Senate funds. The Senate funds--I would like to remind the press--are the funds of the taxpayers. They are not the fund of the Senate President. So why will he exclude us? That is a violation of the equal protection clause. I don't mind about the PHP 1.6 million, but I do mind the constitutional issue.

No. 1: What is the meaning of "augment other items"? Pwede mo bang gamitin ang pondo ng publiko para ipamigay mo kapag Pasko?

The moral issue: Pwede ba iyan na kayo-kayo ang magdedesisyon na ang savings ng opisina ninyo ibibigay niyo sa sarili ninyo? Makatarungan ba iyan?

Pagkatapos sinabi niya walang makakapigil sa kanya kapag hinati niya ang savings. Apat kaming excluded. Suppose he excludes everybody except himself, his Pro-Tempore, and the Majority Leader: makatarungan ba iyan? We have to explore this novel theory of the Senate President that he can use the savings of the Senate for any purpose on any basis without any published criteria and no one can question him.

Pati pala iyong Php250,000 na ipinaliwanag sa staff ko na "Personal Cash Gift" ng Senate President, hindi naman pala galing sa Senate President personally, kung hindi savings niya sa office niya as Senate President. Savings pa rin iyon, savings ng Senado, savings ng Senate President. Sabi ng staff ko "Personal Cash Gift", sabi ko kung personal iyan, ibig sabihin hindi ko i-liquidate iyon. Kung ganyan, hindi natin tatanggapin. Basta pera na hindi ili-liquidate, o kinakailangan ng resibo para mapatunayan mo na ginastos mo for a public purpose, hindi natin tinatanggap. Tinatanggap natin kung sinasabi na "liquidate it" or "give official receipts" for whatever you spend it on. Tinatanggap din natin kung para sa lahat ng senador. Ganun ang instructions ko sa staff ko. Kaming mga senador, hindi namin tinatanggap nang personal itong mga chekeng ito. Maraming cheke iyan e, kaya may opisyal kami sa staff na ang trabaho ay tumanggap ng cheke at magliquidate ng mga ito. My criteria are as long as it is given to all the senators and as long as liquidation is requested--that is the meaning of what the Constitution when it says "as long as vouchers are presented". That's why some of the senators who were asked said "No, I didn't get the Php 1.6 million" dahil hindi pa siguro bukas ang opisina nila, wala pang pagkakataon ang kanilang mga financial directors or auditors na magreport sa kanila kung ano ang natanggap ng opisina nila.

On Sen. Enrile's counterattacks against her

Bakit ako ngayon ang pinagpapaliwanag? Bakit hindi siya ang magpaliwanag? The media are being misguided because we are now going to focus on me when the legal issue is focused on his actions. He wants to turn the tables. It has become a custom in the Senate, but you have to draw a line. When will I raise my voice? They ask me why did I not complain before. Suppose, for the sake of argument, that I did not complain before. What stops me from now complaining dahil ngayon ko lang naintindihan? Bakit sila, hindi rin sila mag-complain din? Bakit si Sen. Enrile noong hindi pa siya Senate President, bakit hindi siya nagreklamo noon?

Nakikita niyo sa sarili ninyong mata ngayon ang mainit na pagtanggap sa akin ng mga estudyante ng Centro Escolar University. You can see how enthusiastic and warm they are to me because of this controversy. That's the public showing support for my position. Kahapon inatake niya ako, wala akong sagot doon. I'm not even going to file a case for an ethical conduct with the ethics committee of the Senate, because the level of the dialogue will sink to the level of the vulgar. Ayokong we'll act in fistfights insulting each other. That will not enlighten the Filipino public. Ang punto ko ay ganito: bakit ang savings na dapat ay napunta sa Senado as an institution or as an agency, napunta sa mga senador, by giving the abusive amount, the unconscionable amount of P1.6 million? Bigyan ang senador ng P600,000 puwede pa iyon, but P1.6 M is unconscionably high to get from the taxpayers' fund. That is my point. Kaya huwag niyo akong tanungin kung bakit noon hindi ako nagreklamo. What I'm saying is, let Enrile be accountable to the people, and his cohorts as well!

And I'm telling the students in this very warm, if not thunderous ovation that they are giving me in the midst of all of these issues, I am telling the students, use the social media, kasi siya ang ginagamit niya corrupt media.

On rumors of replacing the Senate President

Well that depends on the senators. Nobody can predict how the senators will act. We don't even know what the basis of their actions will be--if they have any moral scruples, if they are bound by their political allegiances--hindi natin intindi iyan e, that is all beyond my control. It's not as if I want to replace the Senate president, I've got a job waiting for me in the ICC. It's even higher in the eyes of the international community than the mere post of a Senate president in a developing country.

Labing-limang senador daw ang against kay Enrile as SP, kasama ka ba doon?

Walang nagcontact sa akin. Hindi ko intindi kung meron nga o wala. Noon pa hindi ako nakikialam sa reorganization. I've made that very clear to my colleagues.

What do you think is the reason of the Senate President for giving away P1.6 million?

First of all, the good will of the senators. A Senate president lives and dies on the opinion of his fellow senators. Kaya hindi siya hari na mataas siya at lahat ay susunod sa utos niya. He is sitting on a throne made of knives. Anytime, he can be overthrown--a paranoid fear of every Senate president. Bakit ko gugustuhing maging Senate president? I got my job in the ICC by means of academic qualifications. I was subject to interrogation by the best international lawyers in the whole world. And I won number one in the General Assembly. Hindi ako nagcorrupt ng media doon.

Is the P1.6M a bribe?

Draw your own conclusions. Sabi niya gifts daw niya iyon, hindi daw iyon bribe. Sana tiningnan niyo kanina kung ano ang reaksyon ng mga estudyante. Dito maliwanag e. Do you think I can bribe those students to give me that type of reception?

He's accountable to public opinion. As I said, someone can bring a case to the Supreme Court, but I can't. E kung tawagin ako ng ICC? Ang alam ko this March tatawag na ang ICC ng new judges. Hindi ko alam kung kasali ako doon o hindi. Hindi ko mapursue ang litigation sa Supreme Court, so let's just leave it to the public, kamukha ng ginawa ni Jose Rizal sa Noli Me Tangere. Sabi niya, yung mga may sakit na malubha, yung nakahahawa pa, ilathala natin sila, iexhibit natin sila sa hagdanan ng simbahan. Ayaw ng mga taong lumapit sa kanila, pero makikita ng taong bayan kung ano ang mga sakit nila. Iyan ang ginagawa ko. Bakit naging kasalanan ko ngayon iyon? Murahin ako? Wala namang taong gustong minumura siya. Dapat ang aming debate tungkol lang sa Constitution. It should all be based on legal provisions. Meron siyang side niya, meron akong side ko. Ok lang sa akin iyan. Pero murahin ako on a personal level is not befitting a Senate president, and I refuse to debate on those terms. I challenge him to a debate in legal terms alone, in any forum in the Philippines covered by the media.

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