Press Release
January 26, 2015



Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago: The most important points are, first, we are going to pay a very high price for peace in Mindanao, whether we pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law as an ordinary law or as a constitutional revision, and second, there is a possibility that with or without the BBL, the Bangsamoro territory might decide to secede because of developments after the BBL action has been taken.

On the suspension of BBL hearings:

That is counter-productive. What happened recently in Mindanao is still a matter of confusion. The main sources for the news items were unable to identify the real cause of the firefight between, on one hand, the government forces, and on the other hand, the rebel fighters. Some conjecture that there was simply a lack of coordination. Others surmise that it was simply a fight over the cash reward that was being offered for the head of some rebel leader. We don't even know exactly what happened there and it would be precipitate to suspend the hearings.

In fact, the hearings should continue with even more vigor because nothing will affect the hearings, not even these unfortunate incidents of violence. It cannot be used as an argument that we need to pass very quickly the BBL, because that will be to railroad a law, at the very least, and a constitutional amendment, at the very best, and the product of any juggernaut is always regrettable. So what we are trying now to show is that in addition to the empirical fact taken up by the two committees, this committee, the committee on constitutional amendments, will have to thresh out all theoretical and academic points of law which are not necessarily understood by the layman, but which, if overlooked, may result in more violence in that area [Mindanao]. So we take it that that incident of violence might be isolated. Secondly, at least in the case of my committee, that incident of violence reflects poorly on those who will be proved to have started it.

On issues of the BBL:

Ang malaking problema lang naman dito sa BBL na ito ay ganito. It was negotiated by two unequal parties. The first party is the Republic of the Philippines, a state recognized by the rest of the international community. The other party is not a state. We don't even know if it's a substate. It's just a group of rebel leaders. So we cannot call it a treaty. There is no binding nature consonant to the binding nature of a treaty between the two parties because they are unequal, so will not call it a treaty. I will call it a compact; it's like a contract.

Secondly, the BBL is an expression of a very strong desire for peace in Mindanao but history shows that peace at any price is a principle that will never work. Look at World War II, that's how it started. At first, the historical figures believed that if they kept on giving in to Germany, they would push the prospect of war backward. But the contrary happened: They accelerated World War II. So we are not going to follow the principle of peace at any price.

Number three, there is a big problem of secession staring us at the face. There have been comments during the hearing this morning that what appears to be structured or organized by the BBL is not a mere region of local autonomy as provided for in our Constitution. The basic constitutional provision is regional autonomy in certain regions of our country. "Autonomous regions" is the term that is applied. The problem with the BBL is that it appears to be going beyond what is in the constitution as the proper powers that can be reserved for the autonomous regions. That is the main concern of the three committee chairs here. I was with the chair of the local government committee, Sen. Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., and the chair of committee on peace, unification, and reconciliation.

Do we expect the BBL's constitutionality to be questioned immediately after we pass it?

That is a very real possibility. I can say, almost without fear of contradiction, that if the Senate in plenary session receives the report of the three committees and votes in favour of the bill in the same way that an ordinary bill is passed, almost certainly, someone will immediately run to the Supreme Court. It will breed more delay in the process. If the BBL proponents remain adamant about the issues raised today by the legal eagles of our country, that will certainly lead to Supreme Court adjudication. It will also not help solve the problem of the outburst of violence in Mindanao, for example, because it will only delay the process.

There is an interesting point to be raised here. You will notice that in the copy of the Senate bill when it was certified as received, there are 13 signatures. This means that the Bangsamoro Basic Law, as a bill, was filed by no less than 13 senators, which is a majority of the 24 senators. You will ask yourself, why is there a need to conduct hearings when it has already been filed by a majority? Why not go to the voting process? The answer to that is there are many, many items, which may appear small but which are gargantuan in consequence, implied by the BBL. Perhaps if they read our consolidated report, where I will summarize the arguments that have been raised here by no less than some of our most brilliant minds in law today--led by Justice Florentino Feliciano, including Justice Vicente Mendoza--I'm sure that those who signed as co-authors might be willing to change their minds.

As it is worded, can the BBL stand legal scrutiny?

No it cannot, at least in my humble view. It is more than a novel proposition. It is like cloud computing. You know, when you sit down in your computer and you need to know the materials and resources in front of you, and sometimes you reach out to the cloud when you run out of ideas. That's what happened to the BBL, I think.

You can see it like this: The President of the Republic of the Philippines believed that he can act on behalf of the entire Republic of the Philippines on his own, without anything added to him. That is not so. The Philippine president does not control Philippine domestic and foreign policy. The President shares foreign policy powers with Senate, in the first instance. Secondly, this act of, in effect, instituting another state within the Philippine state requires action not only by the executive branch but by all three branches of government and, in fact, by the entire population. That is spoken of by the Constitution in the provision, "Sovereignty resides with the Filipino people and all government authority emanate from them." Where did sovereign authority emanate? That was mistake number one.

Number two, the Philippines, in its sovereign capacity enters into negotiations with a group that is motley. They represent one faction among several factions fighting in Mindanao. So we cannot say that it is a fight between Muslims and Christians or a fight between factions among the Mindanao population. This is a much more complex issue. It's a question of whether in the form worded in the BBL, it lies within the power of Congress to grant certain enormous and potentially dangerous powers to another part of our country. Plus, for something more easily understandable, can we have a parliamentary form of government in an area while the rest of us have a presidential form of government? No. That can happen only if there is a federal form of government, because every state is then free to form its own form of government. We are not a federal government. We're a unitary government, so we cannot have what they call an asymmetrical relationship. That is not allowed in constitutional law and simply by the mere logic of the facts involved.

How is your health condition?

Iyon lang naman pala ang tanong mo, bumaba pa ang boses mo. Akala ko you were asking about my sex life. I'm doing very well under my present medication, but you can notice for example that I am always out of breath and I cannot always call to mind a word that I want to use. Otherwise, I am going forward. I can read my books very well. I still maintain my intellectual acuity. I don't mistake other people for my husband, for example. I'm quite sure who he is. I expect to be able to resume my duties and to run for president if I get well, simply because it's boring, boring, boring. The landscape is boring. Who are you going to choose for president, aber, Sandra (speaking to GMA 7's Sandra Aguinaldo)? So I might as well give you someone who can write a book like Stupid is Forever.

On holding Makati Mayor Junjun Binay in contempt:

It is time. And besides, we have precedence, in the case of Arnault v. Nazareno concerning the so-called Tambobong estate, wherein a resource person refused to answer a question posed to him at a Senate hearing and the Supreme Court upheld the penalty on that person until, in the words of the Supreme Court, he has purged himself of the contempt. Meaning to say, until he has complied with whatever it is he failed to do that invoked the ire of the Senate body. Otherwise, no one will respect our hearings if we don't have that punitive power. Since we are asking for the truth in order to help us get to the facts that will form the basis of the bills that we formulate, we should have punitive power over those who do not wish to cooperate.

So I think it's time. Besides, this case has dragged on and on and on. I just wish that would roll out a huge scroll, read all the sins of the Binay family, and forward it all to the Ombudsman because there is nothing we can do anyway. Hindi kami NBI eh; Senado kami. Baki kami ginaganyan? Ang tagal tagal pa, installment basis pa ang kasalanan nila. Ilista mo na lang lahat 'yan. Pagkatapos, kapag meron kang testigo, ilista mo rin sila at ipadala mo sa Ombudsman. Anyway, whether we finish those hearings or not, it cannot end more than at the point where we decide, if at all, to refer the matter to the Ombudsman.

Is it reasonable to recommend arrest for Binay?

Yes, he's been given enough notice.

On the risk of an arrest generating public sympathy for the Binays:

That is a risk politicians are willing to take. Remember that the Senate is a group of politicians. They're already assessed this; politicians are very good at reading the public pulse because they all want to run for re-election. So they already know what the public reaction will be but they have announced that they will take proper action and cite the appropriate persons in contempt. They have already issued the warrant and store them there in the holding cell downstairs. It's like challenging the power of the Senate. Without any hesitation, I can say that this will trigger litigation in the Supreme Court. It will raise old issues in that old case of Arnault v. Nazareno.

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