Press Release
October 27, 2015

Statements made by Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago
during the Philippine Chamber of Commerce
and Industries Presidential Forum

27 October 2015, Marriott Grand Ballroom, Pasay City

My administration will bequeath to the next President a better and stronger nation than what I will inherit from this administration. In 2022, I will turnover to my successor a nation that is more prosperous, a people more united and prouder of their leaders, and political institutions that are more stable.

I commit to invest in people, in public infrastructure and in political institutions.

I commit that the Philippine economy will grow faster than ever before, that it will be truly inclusive by making sure that real incomes of workers will increase over time.

We will achieve the goal of higher and sustained economic growth by investing heavily in public infrastructure. Our roads, bridges, urban transit systems, airports and seaports are crumbling. We need to build them up at par with, if not better than, our ASEAN neighbors.

We need to prepare our people for a more modern, more competitive global economy. We need to educate them, take care of their health, and feed them so they will become productive members of a growing work force. Only by investing in people can we truly make growth inclusive. Only if the young are educated and healthy can they benefit from growing economic prosperity.

We will continue to support the Conditional Cash Transfer Program but we will plug the program's leakages. We will also reduce the cost of running the program by involving local authorities in implementing it.

We need a vibrant and more productive agriculture hand in hand with a strong manufacturing. So we have to invest in agriculture productivity enhancing projects - irrigation, farm-to-market roads, water impounding facilities, post-harvest facilities, new seed varieties and research and development.

We will invest in political institutions. It's been thirty years since we restored democracy in the Philippines. Yet, political institutions remain shaky. There exist no stable political parties in the real sense of the word. The Filipino people cannot hold accountable a political party for the mistakes of its candidates because it disappears as soon as the offending elected official leave office. This has to be corrected by passing a law authorizing the use of public funds to support dominant political parties.

I will support the recent Supreme Court decisions on PDAF and the DAP. They espouse the appropriate roles of the President and Congress in the use of public funds. The decisions ought to be supported not resisted.

When elected, my first act is to have the Freedom of Information Act (FOI) enacted into law. This is an important tool to promote public accountability.

I will restore meritocracy in government. Political parasites, incompetents, and unproductive workers will have no place in my administration.

I will recruit the best, the most competent, the most experienced, the most honest men and women to assist me run my administration.

The Filipino people will feel secure under my administration. They will feel secure at home, on the streets and their place of work. My administration will aggressively fight the war against illegal drugs that proliferate in most cities and towns in the country.

We will run the government's finances responsively. First, we will reform the 19-year old tax system, making it fairer, more responsive to changes in the economy, simpler to administer, and in sync with our ASEAN-5 competitors.

Second, we will right-size government. We will start by conducting a swift review of ALL programs and projects of government. A Task Force will be created for each major department as soon as we get elected. We will hit the ground running on Day One (July 1st 2016). But there will be no slowdown in government operations.

Third, we will keep government deficits manageable by keeping it below three percent of gross domestic product (GDP), even as we aggressively build public infrastructure.

On her health

I had just filed my certificate of candidacy at the Commission on Elections and someone wrote an open letter that says, "If you're really healthy, if you're really free from cancer, why don't you show all your medical records to the entire public?" I ask you: Have you seen a provision in the Constitution requiring a candidate to show medical records? There's no such thing.

But, assuming, for the sake of argument that these records exist and I am willing to turn them over, although with all the concomitant burdens--first, the financial burden; pangalawa, kakalat nang kakalat iyan hanggang sa hindi na natin alam kung alin diyan ang totoo; at pangatlo, para maintindihan ninyo, hindi papayag ang ospital na maglabas ng medical records kung hindi papayag ang pasyente--ano naman ang karapatan ng isang tao na naglalakad diyan sa kalye, at bigla na lang siyang tatanungin, "May medical records ka ba? Kasi mukha kang taong may medical records eh." Papayag ba kayo?

Isa pa, bakit ang aking medical records magiging paksa ng usapan natin tungkol sa pulitika? Ang pulitika ay tungkol sa peace and order. Ngayon, pilit ako na dinadala sa pulitika. Kapag inilabas ko ang lahat ng medical records ko, hindi na ang well-being ng ating bansa ang pag-uusapan kundi ang well-being ng aking mga kalaban sa pulitika. Kaya, umpisa na lang, ayaw ko dahil, una wala ito sa batas, at, pangalawa, wala itong maidudulot na kagandahan sa ating gobyerno.

Ako ang nagka-cancer, ako mismo ang nagsabing nagka-cancer ako, at ako mismo ang nagsabi na doon ako sa St. Luke's Global City nagpagamot. Ako rin mismo ang nagsabi na ang doktor ko, ang dating Health Sec. Esperanza Cabral, oncologist si Dr. Gary Lorenzo, pulmonologist si Dr. Ruth Divinagracia.

Sabi 'wag ako iboto dahil maari akong mamatay. Kung ganoon pala ang ikinakampanya nila, eh ngayon pa lang maari akong mamatay! Puwede ako masagasaan ng bus o jeep diyan sa labas. Gusto lang nila ako siraan! Besides, can't you see me? Can't you see that I can stand straight and I can look you in the eye? What else do you want? Why are you so nasty? What government do you want to grow into if this is your attitude? Magtulungan tayo. Let's have a sense of shared destiny, not shared destruction. 'Yan ang problema sa Pilipinas eh.

On running alongside Sen. Marcos

It's not my function to defend [Sen. Marcos]. He should defend himself. I think he is capable of defending himself. He is perfectly capable of intellectualizing the situation he is in.

He was my student at the U.P. College of Law. I saw Mr. Marcos in class as more than an average student. As his former professor, I just think he does not devote enough time to his homework. He dropped out of class.

I have not seen prima facie evidence that he killed someone, raped someone, or burned a house, that he violated the Penal Code. Wala namang alegasyon na siya mismo gumawa. Noong Martial Law, maliit pa lang siyang bata.

There is no allegation that he himself sinned against his neighbor. We are going against what the Bible said: "The sins of the father should not be visited upon the son." I am a church-going Catholic. I weighed these matters very carefully, I assure you. I wrote an entire book on theology and religion, and that's my humble conclusion.

Bigyan natin siya ng pagkakataon dahil nanalo naman na siyang senador. Nanalo siya--ibig sabihin the greater majority do not have opposition to his being a public servant.

On Sen. Marcos covering up for Marcos crimes

That's possible. In fact, the voting might show that it is likely. But unless I see prima facie evidence, I cannot be guided by thoughts that are negative against a fellow man. We cannot punish someone on the basis of suspicion. I can't support that as a lawyer.

On customs administration

I understand the present system is chaotic. The many legislation and issuances affecting customs and tariffs have to be codified in one document and it has to be updated in the light of recent trade agreements. Hence, we need this Act.

Let us not have the illusion that the approval of this Act is a magic bullet that will solve the corruption at the Bureau of Customs. The solution there is to appoint a few good men to run BOC and for Malacanang to stop meddling with BOC. Corruption at the BOC will cease only if not tolerated by Palace officials.

On tax reforms

The Philippine tax system is 20 years old. It needs to be overhauled. But major tax reforms are best done at the start of each administration when the President has the clear mandate from the voters. I promise to reform it within six (6) months of my administration.

The objectives of the reform are: (a) to make the tax system in sync with its ASEAN-5 competitors; (b) to make it administratively simple (c) to make it fairer; and (d) make it responsive and higher yielding in order to finance the increasing needs of a growing economy.

There will be a lot of benchmarking with other ASEAN-5 peers. For the first three years, my administration will aim to shoot for the average number of steps. On years four to six we should try to be better than our ASEAN-5 neighbors. Cutting red tape at the local government level will be my top priority. Well performing local government units (LGUs) will be rewarded with additional intergovernmental grants.

Regulations at the Bureau of Customs and the regulatory bodies (ERC, SEC, BSP, DENR, and others) will be reduced drastically.

On infrastructure investment

The Philippine government should set aside at least 5% of its resources for public infrastructure for it to catch up with its ASEAN-5 neighbors and to sustain strong growth. Its poor public infrastructure is a major constraint to growth.

Among the major projects are the following:

- A modern, international airport

- An entirely new railway system from Manila to Sorsogon

- A modern, integrated urban transit system in Metro Manila with lines reaching urban communities in Bulacan, Rizal, Cavite and Laguna

- One mixed-use government center (with adjacent residential, commercial, and entertainment facilities) in the National Capital Region

- One mixed-use government center (with adjacent residential, commercial and entertainment facilities) in each of the 17 regions.

- One major project per region for the 17 regions

- One major project per province (81 provinces)

For maximum impact and in response to the greater sense of urgency, these projects will be done simultaneously. Some will be done on pure PPP, some hybrid type (government will finance the construction and then will bid out the management and maintenance of the project after construction), and some by government through the usual public procurement procedure. In order to make the facilities affordable to citizens, the government will not require a premium from winning contractors.

In fact, in some cases, because of external benefits such as reduced traffic, lower pollution, etc., government subsidy maybe allowed in some of these public infrastructure projects.

On the financing side, we estimate that we have to allocate an enormous amount ranging from P819 billion in 2017 to P1.3 trillion in 2022. But we cannot build modern infrastructure on the basis of promises alone. It will have to be financed through better tax administration, tax policy reform, and government borrowings.

On economic liberalization

The first best solution is to amend the restrictive provisions in the Philippine Constitution which have discouraged the entry of foreign investors into the country. Compared to its ASEAN-6 counterparts, the Philippines has attracted the least Foreign Direct Investments. That is proof enough that we are lagging behind.

[Speaker Feliciano Belmonte's] proposal is to amend [the provision on foreign ownership] not by amending the Constitution, but by adding certain provisions there: the phrase "as the law might provide." So he is calling for an amendment to the Constitution, but in another way. I don't know if the young people in this country would agree to that proposal, because it places the Constitution at the mercy of politicians. I don't know if the young people today wish for our Constitution to be dictated to by foreigners. All of these have to be studied, possibly by means of a referendum.

First of all, we have to look at the figures for Foreign Direct Investments. If the figure is rising, then we are doing something right. If not, then there is something we are not doing that some countries have already done. I would say that these will become a subject matter between lawyers who specialize in comparative law--in that way, we will realize, or I hope manage, to make a conclusion on how they were able to increase Foreign Direct Investments in the country.

Final statement

The Freedom of Information bill deserves to be passed first if only to enhance transparency and public accountability. The posting of information on the official websites is not a substitute for the FOI bill. What is posted on the website is discretionary. The administrator chooses what information to disclose and what to suppress. With the FOI, concerned parties can ask specific information from department secretaries or agency heads, and the latter are duty bound to comply. That is what the public wants. That is what enhances transparency and accountability--not the selective posting of public information.

Ladies and gentlemen, come, join hands together, and let us face the future without flinching and with full faith and confidence that God will be our guide in our country.

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