Press Release
August 27, 2009

Transript of Sen. Santiago's interview

On the VFA hearing

Nancy Gadian was not testifying from her own personal knowledge. This is a requirement in the Rules of Court for judicial proceedings. But in non judicial proceedings, like in Senate hearings, even if you call her testimony hearsay, it is still part of the vital information the Senate needs to know in order that we can act properly on the issue.

Besides, there are exceptions to the hearsay rule. She is, for example, testifying as to the background contemporaneous events that took place during the course of her discovery that American troops are allegedly invited with Filipino troops when they engage in combat operations. The thing really is this, madalas tayo nagtatanong, non-combat lang ba ang ginagawa doon sa Mindanao ng mga American troops?

Ang pagkaintindi natin na sa VFA, ang mga American troops ay puwedeng pumunta dito sa atin basta huwag lang sila magengage in combat, kaya ang non-combat puwede na. Ngayon, dapat iyan ay babala sa atin na ang VFA masyadong depektado kasi una, ang pangalan niya ay Visting Forces Agreement. E bakit labindalawang taon na e andito pa rin sila? Hindi na bisita iyon. Pangalawa, ang kanilang term is not military exercise. Nowhere in the VFA do you find the term military exercise. Yan ang impression ng Filipino, basta engage in military exercise ay puwedeng sumali ang mga sundalong Amerikano. Pero wala yung ganitong usapan sa VFA. Ang ginagamit (na term) ay "activities" ng mga Amerikanong sundalo.

In other words, the VFA is very very vague. Una, hindi sinasabi kung gaano katagal ang Visiting Forces Agreement. Pangalawa, hindi sinasabi kung ano ang ibig sabihin ng "activities". Kaya maaari sa interpretasyon ng mga Amerikano. Ang activities na pinapayagan sa VFA ay kasama ang combat operations.

Ang aking ebidensya na siyang ikinagimbal ko ay mismong testimony ng unang commander of the Joint Operation Forces in the Philippines ng mga Amerikano at ng mga Pilipino. Sabi niya noong 2004 na ngayon ko lang nabasa--si Col. David Maxwell, 1st American commander of the JSOTF--sabi niya ay mali ang sinasabi ng mga Pilipino na sa ilalim ng kanilang Konstitusyon na kaming Amerikano ay hindi puwedeng sumama sa kanilang combat operations. Basta meroong treaty ay puwede na kami mag combat sa Pilipinas. In effect inaamin niya that they are engaging in combat operations. Aminado siya. Yun ang (nakasulat) sa sarili niyang article in a military journal. Tapos ininterview pa siya ng isa pang diyaryo at sinabi niya, "Actually, we are engaged in combat, in the guise of an exercise." Ito na mismo ay admission ng mismong pinuno ng itong Joint Special Operation Task Forces na talagang nakikisali sila sa bakbakan, na hindi lang sila nagtratraining o nagpapayo o kaya nagtuturo.

On the termination of the VFA

The better procedure there is to ask for renegotiation but we already did that and they refused. So we can go through that procedure but we know that they will never renegotiate it because they got exactly what they wanted. They wanted an open-ended agreement; meaning to say, that it does not say when it will end except that it cannot be cancelled by either party if it gives notice within six months time. And except that, it says, the Americans can engage in activities. There are two kinds of activities that are allowed: activities authorized by the Philippine government and activities that are under the contemplation of the VFA. I don't know what those words mean.

On what the Senate can do with regard to the VFA

The Senate does not have the power to abrogate any treaty. Our only power is to concur with the ratification of a treaty, but we can pass a "Sense of the Senate" resolution. If the Constitution gave to the President the sole power of making treaties then there will be no jurisdiction, authority, or even persuasiveness, and any resolution of the Senate. But out Constitution explicitly provides that the treaty maiking power should be shared between the President and the Senate. The President may ratify but the Philippine Senate must concur. So, kung papasa kami sa Senado ng Sense of the Senate resolution that the VFA should be abrogated, sana naman ay pakinggan kami at bigyang bigat ang aming sinasabi dahil sa Saligang Batas, hinahati ang kapangyarihang ito sa Presidente at Senado.

When will the Senate pass the Sense of the Senate Resolution?

If this hearing taken over by my co-chair would need to be reset then we would have to wait for a few more weeks. But if not, and I'll start it next week.

Sen. Santiago's reaction on Usec. Adan's denial

He is not there 24/7. He stays in Malacanang all day long and he's just receiving reports from his field officers. A report may not necessarily be flawed in the view of a commander if it reports what is going on, but it does not report what is not going on. Sasabihin ng kaniyang mga inferior officers, "Wala kaming sinabi, dahil wala ka namang tinanong."

Is Maxwell's admission sufficient?

Yes, because it was never denied by the US Armed Forces. He wrote an article in something called the Military Review, which is published by the US Armed Forces and then he was quoted in a newspaper interview, I believe by the Los Angeles Times.

When is the executive session?

We can consider it a completely different matter. We don't have to wait for it. It is not a decision based on whether the VFA should be abrogated or at least reconsidered.

On the Con-con resolution from the House of Representatives

That becomes a factual inquiry for the Comelec to decide. First of all, in practical terms, you first go to the Comelec and say, puwede pa ba nating ihabol ang halalan para sa mga delegado dun sa Constitutional Convention. Ang sabi nila, hindi na puwede dahil magiging masyadong mahaba na ang balota at malilito na ang botante. Kung ganun ang sagot ng Comelec at talagang hindi nila kaya, e di, mas ipilit natin iyan at ipasa natin iyan kasi tingin ko hindi iyan maipapasa sa Senado because it takes a Joint Resolution. Pero kung maipasa man iyan at talagang imposible para sa Comelec hindi mo naman maparusuhan at hindi mo naman mapilit.

Basically, the Senate, I think, in the majority, does not have any substantial objection to the idea of a Constitutional Convention as long as it takes place after the elections.

On President Arroyo admitting to US President Obama that she is stepping down in 2010

She said it because the US President was talking about the global war on terror. And she was saying, in effect, I will help as long as I can, and that is in the context that she added the statement "I'll be out of office by July 2010." But President Obama did not have any particular response at that point.

On whether Erap's implication in the Mancao slaying will affect his ratings

He would have to overcome it. We don't know how it will affect the public. It is like the ethics case against Manny Villar. At first, it affected his ratings and they went down. But it appears that the public, after hearing more evidence on the complaint, on the contrary, now disregard the charges against him. That may happen also to President Estrada, but we don't really know. If we follow the Villar complaint, for example, it might affect his ratings temporarily, but then again, as more evidence is presented, this would be evidence for the prosecution. Once the evidence for the other side, the defense, is presented it might happen that the public will begin to lose its attitude of certainty and become in effect confused or uncertain about who is telling the truth and then maybe it will not affect President Estrada's ratings after all. If we go by the Villar experience, in the long run it will not affect his ratings.

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