‘A failed state’
MANILA, Philippines – A veteran of the Estrada trial, Santiago has issued statements both critical and supportive of the Supreme Court. The former trial court judge insists on impartiality and due process.
On a lighter note, Santiago invited Corona as a guest in the renewal of her wedding vows in June 2011. The event was described as a “powerhouse cast” of celebrities and politicians.
Santiago was elected as judge of The Hague-based International Criminal Court in December 2011. She said she will still be able to participate in the impeachment trial because it may take months or a year before she assumes the post.
In 2010, Santiago accomplished a one-of-a-kind feat. She ran under 6 political parties, the first senatorial aspirant to do so according to GMA News. These parties were: People’s Reform Party, Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (guest candidate), Nacionalista Party (guest candidate), Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino (guest candidate), Nationalist People’s Coalition (guest candidate), Lakas-Kampi-CMD (guest candidate).
Education: Bachelor of Political Science, UP-Visayas; Bachelor of Laws, UP-Diliman; Doctor of the Science of Jurisprudence, University of Michigan law school; Master of Laws, University of Michigan law school
Professional background: Served as Agrarian Reform Secretary, Commissioner of the Bureau of Immigration and Deportation, Judge of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court, and professor
Current term: 2010 to 2016
Eligible for reelection? No. She is serving the second and final term of the 2-consecutive terms allowed by the Constitution. She served at the Senate for the first time in 1995. When her first 6-year term ended in 2001, she ran for reelection but lost. She ran again in 2004 and won a 6-year term, thus beginning a new 2-term cycle. She was reelected to her second term 2010.
Political Party: People’s Reform Party (PRP)
The Philippine Daily Inquirer categorizes Santiago under the bloc of the Nacionalista Party. This includes Senators Manny Villar, Joker Arroyo, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Loren Legarda, Alan Peter Cayetano and Pia Cayetano.
Role in the Estrada impeachment trial:
Santiago voted against opening the controversial second envelope allegedly containing incriminating evidence against Estrada. The 11-10 vote triggered a walkout of prosecutors and the People Power uprising that ousted Estrada.
Santiago is perceived to have supported Estrada but she denies this. She says she only wanted due process to be followed because the second envelope was not included in the original list of evidence. She told the Inquirer in December 2011, “There was nothing wrong there. People thought we were just defending [Estrada] but they were wrong.”
A memorable moment was when Santiago had a group of spectators thrown out of the session hall for standing “just to look at me in a provocative way.”
Position aired and published on Corona or on issues related to the Articles of Impeachment:
Santiago supported the Supreme Court decision upholding the appointment of Renato Corona as chief justice. She said in a statement, “The problem with the critics is that they mistake the law as it is …. A line has to be drawn between the rule of law and the dystopian concept of freewheeling ethics.”
Santiago called the SC ruling that eventually favored the Philippine Airlines over its former pilots, “extremely unfortunate.” She said the High Court violated its rules in allowing a second motion for reconsideration.
She said, “The Supreme Court is unfortunately teetering on the abyss of incredulity. Public credibility must be maintained at any cost …. I am angry because I fear citizens would turn (their) back against the bulwark of civil liberty.”
Santiago supported the UP College of Law, which criticized SC Justice Mariano del Castillo for plagiarism. The SC ordered the professors to explain why they should not be sanctioned for issuing a statement on the issue when a probe was underway. She said plagiarism is a serious matter equivalent to forgery.
On the TRO that lifted the travel ban on former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the senator praised the SC for issuing the TRO. “The Supreme Court did a good job, that was an exhibition of judicial sagacity and sobriety.”
She criticized the government for defying the SC, likening the airport standoff to a “very bad” movie about authoritarianism. She was quoted in the Inquirer as saying, “I feel grief-stricken. I feel like slashing my wrist. I feel like slitting my throat. That is what we were taught in law school. We simply have to obey the law no matter how we feel about it.”
As early as December 2010 or a year before Corona’s impeachment, Santiago already warned against efforts to impeach the Chief Justice. Santiago was reacting to rumors that lawmakers planned to impeach Corona over the SC decision striking down the Truth Commission.
In a statement, Santiago said that if Corona is impeached, the Philippines will become a failed state. “The executive and legislative branches are political in nature but the judicial branch is nonpolitical. If the chief justice is removed for political reasons, then that would be a signal that even the judicial branch has also become political. That would be the end of our democracy as we know it today.”
Santiago also criticized fellow senators and groups that called for Corona’s inhibition from Arroyo-related cases. She called the move “arrogant and supercilious.”
In a statement, she said, “If a howling mob is allowed to pressure the chief justice or any justice to inhibit, that would serve as a calamitous precedent. Any litigant would then be able to pressure an impartial judge to inhibit, in order to obtain a group decision from the substitute.” – Rappler.com
Sources: Senate website, Website of Sen. Santiago, Press statements of Sen. Santiago, Philippine Star, Philippine Daily Inquirer, ABS-CBN News, GMA News
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