Miriam to lecture Senate ‘drama queens’ on Napoles
MANILA, Philippines – The so-called drama kings and queens of the Senate should brace for a lecture from Professor Santiago.
Sen Miriam Defensor Santiago said she will lecture on the Senate’s power to subpoena once the chamber tackles in caucus the issue of summoning alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Napoles.
In an interview on ANC’s Headstart with Karen Davila on Wednesday, October 3, Santiago questioned why Senate President Franklin Drilon consulted the Ombudsman on whether or not he should sign a subpoena for Napoles.
“If I were asked to sign a subpoena and the reasons given by the chair of the committee asking for subpoena are in my view valid…, I would have signed it. I would not have referred it because that’s watering down, a diminution of the power of the legislative. Why do we have to go to the Ombudsman and say ‘Can we do this?’”
Santiago said Drilon put the Senate in a bind by asking for the Ombudsman’s advice.
“If the Ombudsman says no and you disregard it, what were you asking her for? On the other hand, why would you ask her in the first place, she’s not the arbiter of the legislative’s power to issue a subpoena.”
Drilon initially asked the Ombudsman’s advice on the issue. He asked her for a second time after blue ribbon committee Chairman Teofisto “TG” Guingona III criticized his decision as having undermined the Senate’s power.
After asking for a second time, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales maintained that Napoles’ testimony was not advisable but said she will submit to the “collective wisdom” of the Senate’s members. Morales said Napoles' testimony before the Senate may "prejudice the safety of the witnesses or the disposition of the case."
Drilon then decided to consult his colleagues in a caucus when session resumes on October 14.
Commenting on Drilon’s actions, Santiago said, “I would say that the power, the function of the Senate President is always to lead the Senate and [to] always defend it from those who would encroach on its legislative authority.”
Napoles is the alleged mastermind of an intricate scheme where lawmakers allegedly endorsed her fake non-governmental organizations as recipients of their development funds in exchange for kickbacks as big as 50% of the project cost. Napoles and Senators Bong Revilla, Juan Ponce Enrile and Jinggoy Estrada are among the 38 people facing a plunder and malversation complaint before the Ombudsman over the scam.
‘Napoles testimony not worth it’
Asked whether she will vote yes or no for the Napoles testimony in the caucus, Santiago said she will instead give a lecture.
“We must assert the Senate's power to subpoena although we’ll have to be prepared we won’t get anywhere except you’ll see a number of clowns in the Senate trying to create drama, drama kings because there are so many men there but instead I prefer to call them drama queens of the Senate hearing,” she laughed.
Santiago said while she stands by the Senate’s power to probe the pork barrel scam, Napoles’ testimony will be futile.
“Anong mapapala natin kay Napoles,” Santiago said. “It’s not worth it because she’ll simply say ‘I invoke my constitutional right against self-incrimination. It will be the blue ribbon committee who will decide if she will be self-incriminating herself or not. If we decide there’s no self-incrimination and she still refuses to answer, off to jail she goes. She’ll just transfer her jail to the Senate.”
Senators are divided on the issue of summoning Napoles.
‘Pork destroyed presidential ambitions’
Asked who she is supporting for the 2016 polls, Santiago said, “I hope nobody in the present personalities all elbowing their way to the TV screens, the drama kings.”
“I hope nobody engulfed in this sordid mess. I hope somebody with a sense of idealism left, pragmatism. A sense of constitutionalism, always the first question is, Does the Constitution allow this?”
Santiago said Sen Alan Peter Cayetano, for example, obviously has ambitions for 2016.
“If you are involved in the pork barrel, you have no chance in 2016. This is not an ordinary scandal that will boil over, fizzle down and people forget about it. You see people are angry, the rallies are one after another. If nothing happens here, the administration’s legacy will be destroyed.”
Santiago also called on President Benigno Aquino III to heed calls to give up his so-called pork barrel or the President’s Social Fund and other discretionary funds. The funds remain intact in the budget approved by the House of Representatives.
“Yes, if he wants to set up moral leadership, [he should forego this]. There’s a lot of moral energy in people I don’t think he can ignore it. If he wants to keep his moral ascendancy, motu proprio as lawyers say, he should.” – Rappler.com