(Editor's note: The following is a full transcript released by the Philippine Senate of remarks made by Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago on the issue of today's hearing on the necessity for amending the 1987 constitution. Senator Santiago is the Chair of the Committee on Constitutional Amendments, Revision of Codes and Laws).
On this morning's Senate committee on constitutional amendments hearing on the necessity of Charter change
Palagi na lang sinasabi na magkaroon tayo ng Cha-cha, pero wala namang katuturan iyon e kasi una, hindi nila naiintindihan kung ano ang ibig sabihin ng constitutional law, at, pangalawa, may political agenda, may mga motibo silang pampulitika tungkol sa charter change. Pero ngayon, ang dating chief justice ng supreme court, na wala naman sa pulitika, ay nagmumungkahi na palitan na ang konstitusyon, kaya yan ang dahilan kung bakit ang senate committee on constitutional amendments ay nag-umpisa ng mga hearing, at minabuti namin na makinig muna sa mga talagang marurunong na tao. Sila na siguro ang pinakamarunong na dalubhasa sa constitution at wala sila sa pulitika: itong dating Chief Justice puno, dating Chief Justice Florentino Feliciano� sa abroad, iginagalang iyang si Justice Feliciano, dito lang sa ating bayan hindi siya kilala. Tapos si Justice Mendoza , si dating UP President Dr. Jose Abueva, si Dean Merlin Magallona ng UP College of Law, at si Prof. Rodolfo Azcuna na naging kasapi ng dalawang constitutional commissions. Ngayon makikita niyo itong mga dalubhasa mukhang gusto talaga nilang palitan ang ating Saligang Batas, at karamihan sila gusto ng parliamentary form of government.
Ngayon meron isang siguro siya na ang pinakamarunong at matalino sa lahat dahil siya na rin ang pinakamatanda sa kanilang lahat, sabi niya huwag tayong magmadali na buksan natin ang exploitation of natural resources o ang paggamit ng ating likas na yaman na ibigay natin sa dayuhan sa paniniwala natin na magkakaroon tayo ng kapital, huwag tayong magmadali diyan sabi niya. Kaya he is warning us about the desire to subordinate our national interest for the sake of getting the dollars from foreign investors.
Are we going to see Charter change during the Aquino administration or is it going to start after?
We'll probably finish it if that is the consensus of the Senate. The House has a very big contingent here, and they are very interested in Charter change, and we will probably finish and then start the initative if it is accepted by the majority of both the Houses. We'll probably start it by the election of the members of the constitutional convention that should coincide with the 2013 elections kasi magastos masyado to hold a separate election. And then after that we have to give them a deadline for writing a new constitution, then we can have a plebiscite. Sabihin na natin siguro na bago umupo ang susunod na pangulo,kung magigigng prime minister man siya o magiging presidente pa rin, baka mag-umpisa iyan sa kasunod na presidente kay Pres. Aquino.
After the past attempts to amend the constitution, how confident are you to succeed this time?
Hindi naman ako confident kundi we are trying to determine whether, first, the wise men in our country who are not motivated by anything personal and also the young people are interested in charter change. Kaya nakita mo nag-overflow an gating crowd dahil kinumbida natin ang lahat ng student leaders, so almost lahat ng mga pamantasan dito Metro Manila and they all came in the Senate building very far from the business district and the university belt. Titingnan natin kung ano ba talagang gusto ng mga marurunong at magagaling na tao at lalo na ang mga kabataan sa ating bansa. Hindi dapat ang mga pulitiko ang mag-decide nito.
Are you for the parliamentary mode of government?
I am in favor or a parliamentary system dahil sa atin, una, karamihan ngayon ng mga bansa sa buong daigdig may parliamentary system na. Tayo na lang ang nagiging presidential dahil gaya-gaya tayo ngayon sa Amerika. Masyadong makapangyarihan ang presidente sa presidential form of government, whereas ikumpara natin sa parliamentary, walang single na tao na kaya niyang magmando sa buong bansa kundi it would be a sharing of power between the legislative and the executive branches of government.
Are you in favor of a federal form of government?
Yes because it is very expensive to maintain two Houses of Congress. We should have only one, maybe the Senate elected by region or by certain groupings that are geographical in nature.
Are you in favor of constitutional assembly?
I don't think that the people will accept that. That is my perception of the youth's pulse, ayaw nila na dahil mukhang aayusin lang ang pagbago ng ating Saligang Batas para makinabang lang ang ibang makapangyarihang tao. Kaya mas maganda talaga iyong pinili ng mga tao. Of course may mga pulitikong nagsasabing walang kwenta ang argument na iyan dahil ako rin ang pipili kung sino ang candidate for the position of delegate to the constitutional convention. Eh di tingnan natin. Baka nagpapalit na. We must not underestimate the Filipino electorate.
What is the next move after the hearing?
Mag-uusap na kami sa aming committee. Pagkatapos, kung iyon ang pasya ng mga kasamahan ko, tatayo na ako dito sa sahig at mag-sponsor na ako ng resolution for a constitutional convention or whatever might be the form that the members of the committee will decide upon.
When do you see that happen?
Soon. I am always one to want things to finish quickly. It will either die or flourish quickly.
Will the issue of Congress voting jointly or separately crop up?
Magkikita kami ng equivalent ko sa house, the chair of constitutional amendments para magkasundo na kami bago pa man kami magpalawak ng aming aktibidades.
On the proposed Constitutional Courts
It is an excellent proposal really dahil karamihan sa mga bansa sa mundo na naikot ko noong kandidato ako para sa International Court of Justice, napansin ko dalawa ang korte nila: meron silang Supreme Court, which is the ultimate court of last resort for questions of ordinary law, at merong silang Constitutional Court na ang trabaho lang talaga ay mag-interpret at mag-apply ng Constitution kasi bago ka maging constitutional law expert kailangan mag-focus ka lang doon. Hindi pwedeng expert ka in some field gaya ng criminal law or civil law at bigla ka na lang naging expert sa constitutional law. Kaya meron silang (SC) backlog kasi minsan meron palang constitutional issue sa isang kaso, halimbawa kasong kriminal may dalubhasa sa criminal law, pero kapag nakita na niya ang constitutional issue tatagal na ang kaso dahil pag-aaralan pa niya ulit iyon. Kaya dapat talaga meron tayong Constitutional Court dahil hindi mga kaso ang kanilang mga desisyon kundi ang mga pilosopiya ng bansa and the abstract views of our judicial system.
Is Cha-cha is the solution for the country's problem?
Not necessarily, but I am willing to take the risk dahil hindi naman magic ang constitution na kapag pinalitan mo agad mawawala ang widespread poverty and particularly corruption. Hindi naman maidudulot ang transparency or anti-corruption or honesty in governance ng ating Saligang Batas. Kinakailangan dinidibdib natin an gating Saligang Batas. If the people do not internalize our Constitution, we will always have a culture of corruption like we do now because people think that the Constitution is far away and is apart from their everyday lives. Dapat iyan it should be internalized in our hearts and in our minds.
The president said that Cha-cha is not one of his priorities.
Sa kanyang executive branch iyon. He doesn't speak for all the branches of government. He only speaks for his executive branch. Maaaring maging priority yan para sa legislative branch kung iyon talaga ang gusto ng aming mga kasamahan sa House of Representatives because the Senators always try to be sensitive to what our colleagues in the Lower House want.
Priority ba ng Senado ang Cha-cha?
That will be determined by certain Senate officials but as chair of the Senate committee I will certainly sponsor the resolution that is consented to by my colleagues. Once I can find a majority vote, I will immediately sponsor it.
Will you be seeking the views of those who oppose Charter change?
I already know what the disadvantages of revising the Constitution are. I don't really need to contact them or give them opportunity to give their views I already know what the negatives are.
On Sen. Lacson's claim of a PNP slush fund
Well, he is the former PNP chief so therefore we must presume that he is correct in what he is saying. There is no proof that what he is saying is incorrect or false so I presume what he is saying is correct because he was actually there and he says he was offered also a send-off present but he declined it. So presumably he is correct but we need a whistleblower, an actual eye witness just like Lt. Col. Rabusa.That's the problem with corruption: we need an eye witness. If we don't have that, it's all just talk because you cannot prove anything. I hope that Sen. Lacson can at least persuade those people who are retired like himself to come out and tell the truth. I already implied this during the hearings of my committee concerning the Euro Generals. Sinabi ko nang may limpak-limpak na pera diyan sa pulis pero walang pumayag na maging eye witness ko. I could not substantiate my claims.
Dapat na ba itong isama sa senate inquiry?
Wala pa tayong whistleblower. They (the accused) will simply come here and deny everything.
How about Sen. Lacson?
He would definitely be the equivalent of an expert witness because he was a former PNP chief.