Press Release
August 8, 2013


Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, who is on sick leave for chronic fatigue with heart problems, said she went into "heart attack mode," after Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile cited what she called "an anachronistic provision of the Constitution, with Enrile completely clueless about its limitations."

Santiago was referring to a debate on the Senate floor last Tuesday (August 6) between Enrile and Sen. Antonio Trillanes, who delivered a privilege speech asking for a Senate probe into the 1994 MWSS resolution reportedly allowing two water concessionaires - Manila Water and Maynilad - to pass on to consumers someP15B in corporate income taxes and other expenses.

Her staff said that at the time Santiago learned of the debate, she happened to be wearing a Holter monitor, which cardiologists use as a portable ECT, to indicate the frequency and duration of cardiac rhythm disturbances.

The Enrile-Trillanes debate involved the provision in the Bill of Rights stating: "No law impairing the obligation of contract shalls be passed."

Enrile called this provision as "one of the most sacred provisions of the Bill of Rights," and strongly opposed a Senate probe on the water concessionaires. Furious in what she called "Enrile's blissful ignorance of the law," Santiago said that in the 1992 case ofJuarez v. Court of Appeals, the Supreme Court already ruled: "The impairment clause is now no longer inviolate; in fact, there are many who now believe it is an anachronism in present-day society. . . . These agreements have come within the embrace of the police power."

Santiago traced this police power limitation on the so-called "contract clause" or "impairment clause" as far back as 60 years ago, with the decision by the Supreme Court in the landmark 1953 case of Rutter v. Esteban, ushering in a consistent line of cases holding that police power prevails over the contract clause.

Santiago then cited the 1993 case of PNB v. Remigio, where the Supreme Court ruled: "The constitutional guarantee of non-impairment of obligations of contract is limited by the exercise of the police power of the State, the reason being that public welfare is superior to private rights." Santiago went on to cite the 1995 case of Conference of Maritme Manning Agencies, Inc. v. POEA, where the Supreme Court similarly ruled: "The freedom of contract is not absolute; all contracts and all rights are subject to the police power of the State and not only may regulations which affect them be established by the State, but all such regulations must be subject to change from time to time. . . . ."

The senator defined "police power" as "the inherent and plenary power of a sovereign to make all laws necessary and proper to preserve the public security, order, health, morality, justice, and general welfare."

Santiago said that the Supreme Court has consistently upheld the police power of the state over the contracts clause, even as late as the 2010 case of Surigao del Norte Electric Cooperative, Inc. v. Energy Regulatory Commission, where the Supreme Court held: "It has long been settled that police power legislation adopted by the State to promote the health, morals, peace, education, good order, safety, and the general welfare of the people prevail not only over future contracts but even over those already in existence, for all private contracts must yield to the superior and legitimate measures taken by the State to promote public welfare."

The senator said that because "Enrile had never even bothered to do his homework on constitutional law," the result was that he was merely engaging in "bluffing and bullying Sen. Trillanes, who is a non-lawyer."

"The Enrile speech was an egregious example of ignorance of the law, used as a tool to bludgeon the heads of non-lawyers. I am very disappointed that none of the lawyers in the majority coalition to which I belong stood up to unmask Enrile's ignorance," Santiago sad.

After the debate, Enrile lost and Trillanes, won when the resolution was referred to the Committee on Public Services.

Santiago scoffed at Enrile's boast that if he would be allowed to appear in court, he would certainly defeat Trillanes.

"He does not want the Senate to conduct an inquiry in aid of legislation, which is one of our duties. Instead, he wants Trillanes to file a case in court, which is no longer part of our legislative functions," she said.

"Under the Senate Rules, that kind of boasting and self-praise at the expense of another senator who is a non-lawyer, constitutes unparliamentary language because it offends Sen. Trillanes and the Senate as a whole," she said.

Santiago's family has a history of genetic heart disease with her two younger brothers, both lawyers, having died of heart attacks in their sleep.

While Santiago has a doctorate in constitutional and international law, Enrile has a master's degree in tax law and finance. The two have been at odds since the administration of President Cory Aquino, when Santiago served as cabinet member and immigration commissioner.

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