Press Release
October 24, 2013


Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, reacting to a recent speech by President Aquino, said that he is "mostly correct" in insisting that the first item of business concerning the pork barrel scam should be to jail, if warranted, the senators and representatives charged by the NBI with plunder before the Ombudsman.

"Pres. Aquino's priorities are correct. For purposes of deterrence, it is more efficient and bloodcurdling to send senators to jail, if they are guilty of plunder. Analyzing and retrofitting the pork barrel system should come later, because it will take more time and requires highly technical skill," said Santiago, a former multi-awarded RTC judge of Quezon City.

Santiago repeated her advocacy that "justice delayed is justice denied," and urged public support for the Ombudsman in resolving the preliminary investigation so that if merited, criminal cases can be filed in court this year.

Dilatory Tactics

"Clearly, the persons in interest are availing of the hoary courtroom tactic by the defense to delay the case, so that the endgame will never be reached. Trial courts all over the country are too familiar with this tactic to lend credence to the various efforts of persons in interest to distract public attention and resort to technicalities," the senator said.

Santiago said that, having been an RTC judge herself, just like the Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, she knows that preliminary investigation should not be treated as a full-scale trial, but basically as an examination of the affidavits of the complainant and the counteraffidavits of the respondents.

"If the public supports her, the Ombudsman can actually finish the preliminary investigation in only two or three months. The justice secretary should no longer entertain any motion for reconsideration, because the justice department already reviewed at length the NBI evidence. And if public pressure continues, the moment the persons in interest are charged in the Sandiganbayan, it can immediately order their suspension from office and bail hearings can begin right after new year," she said.

When media asked whether preventive suspension might disable the Senate from constituting a quorum, Santiago said: "Dura lex sed lex. If that is what the law provides, the lack of a quorum is not a reason for disobeying the law. The Senate itself can change the rule on quorums to enable the Senate to function."

Santiago said that the three senators already charged with plunder - Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, and Bong Revilla - are expected to be jointed shortly by other senators, as soon as the justice secretary finds the NBI reports to be sufficient in substance.

"The senators suspected of plunder have lost their moral right to steer the debate from the PDAF to the DAP. I myself believe that the DAP should be abolished for being unconstitutional. But I will not allow my colleagues to deflect their criminal liabilities concerning PDAF by harping on the DAP system from which they themselves profited," she said.

According to the budget secretary, the biggest recipients of the controversial DAP, receiving P100 million each, are the following senators: Juan Ponce Enrile, Franklin Drilon, and Francis Escudero.

"They can shout to high heavens about how useful their projects were, but that is begging the issue. The issue is whether the DAP is constitutional, whether those senators received kickbacks from their bonanzas, and why those three were favoured over the rest by receiving double the amount," she said.

No to Pork Barrel

However, contrary to Pres. Aqino's stand, Santiago said that it is not an excuse for pork barrel to be retained, just because it will help to ensure the reelection of incumbent representatives.

"To help the best and brightest to get elected to public office, it is not necessary to convert the office of the congressman into a local DSWD with freebies for all constituents. That is a matter for campaign finance reform. Ideally, government should finance and strictly regulate campaign advertising. In other words, government should subsidize campaigns, to make sure that candidates do not resort to vote-buying using pork barrel which are public funds," she said.

Santiago said there is no provision in the Constitution stating that distribution of freebies in the community is part of the function of a lawmaker.

"Candidates should win on the basis of academic excellence and professional excellence. They should not win reelection by using pork barrel to bribe voters. That system is corrupt and breeds a culture of dependency on the person rather than on the institution of government," she said.

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