Press Release
August 7, 2015


Amid the early start of the election season, Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago on Friday challenged those who have declared their intention to run for president in 2016 to push for the passage of at least three pending measures which she referred to as "sincerity bills."

Santiago, who announced that she might join the presidential race with her cancer in check, said voters can test the sincerity of her potential rivals by asking about their positions on the Anti-Political Dynasty Bill, the Anti-Premature Campaigning Bill, and the Anti-Epal Bill.

"Self-interest naturally ensures that politicians who will be adversely affected by any of these laws will actively campaign and even vote against it. But if these early presidential contenders mean what they say in media, they must lobby for these bills," the senator said.

None of these bills have been identified as priority measures for the third regular session of the present Congress - not even the Anti-Political Dynasty Bill, which President Aquino mentioned during his last State of the Nation Address in July.

Santiago, for her part, has constantly asked her colleagues to act on these measures, which have been languishing at the committee level since they were filed.

She has two versions of the Anti-Political Dynasty Bill in the 16th Congress: Senate Bill No. 55, filed in July 2013, and S.B. No. 1580, which expands the prohibition up to the national level, filed in September of the same year. If approved, the bills will prohibit relatives within the second civil degree of consanguinity or affinity from running for public office at the same time, within the same province, city, or municipality, or from occupying at the same time national positions such as those in the House of Representatives and the Senate.

"The Constitution regards political dynasties as evil, but the battle against such evil must now be led by the Congress, many of whose members suffer from a conflict of interest on the subject of political dynasties," Santiago said.

She also filed S.B. No. 2445, or the Anti-Premature Campaigning Bill, in November 2014. If approved, it will prohibit candidates and even prospective candidates from campaigning or partisan activities a year before the elections.

Santiago said the bill will correct the doctrine resulting from the 2009 case of Peñera v. Commission on Elections, where the Supreme Court ruled in effect that the offense of premature campaigning has been repealed by Republic Act No. 8436, or the New Poll Automation Law, as amended.

The Peñera case resulted in candidates engaged in early campaign advertising. Some incumbent officials, either elective or appointive, have even been accused of using public funds to advertise themselves under the guise of infomercials.

"The prohibition against premature campaigning will level the playing field for candidates, to equalize the situation between the popular or rich candidate, on one hand, and lesser-known or poorer candidates, on the other," Santiago said.

Also relevant in the coming elections, the senator said, is S.B. No. 54, or the Anti-Signage of Public Works Act, which she filed in July 2013. It is more popularly known as the Anti-Epal Bill, and was originally filed during the 13th Congress.

If enacted, it will prohibit public officials from affixing their names or photos on signage announcing a planned, ongoing, or finished public works project. It will also prohibit signage crediting a public official for any government project.

"Crediting individual public officers instead of the government fosters and promotes a culture of political patronage and corruption. It diminishes the concept of continuity in good governance in the mind of the public," Santiago said.

The senator remains on medical leave due to lung cancer, stage four, but in July said that she was "elated and gratified" by results of a pre-election survey where she ranked second among potential presidential aspirants.

Santiago also announced that cancer growth on her left lung has been arrested, citing findings of New York-based oncologist Mark Kris, with whom she had a special consultation in Manila.

The senator's supporters responded positively to the news, especially when she posted by the end of July that she was choosing a running mate. "If I were to run for president in 2016, who should my vice president be?" Santiago said on Facebook.

Some 65,000 of Santiago's three million followers on Facebook liked the post, while some 900 shared it. Among the popular names floated as Santiago's vice president are Sen. Grace Poe, Davao Mayor Rody Duterte, and Camarines Sur Rep. Leni Robredo.

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