Press Release
May 12, 2006


Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago said that the power-sharing arrangement on the Senate presidency is a non-issue, because there will be no more Senate by July, when Congress convenes for its next regular session.

SC Has to Decide Test Case

Between May 15 when the present session resumes, and July 24 when a new regular session begins, the Supreme Court will have enough time to hear and decide a test case on the House resolution to convene a constituent assembly, said Santiago, a widely acknowledged constitutional law expert.

Santiago said that by July 24, Congress presided by the House Speaker, may already turn itself into a constituent assembly (Consa), even if certain senators refuse to participate.

This can take place if the Supreme Court decides that charter change can be proposed by votes of Congress voting as a whole, instead of voting separately.

Ethical Question

Santiago also said that the term-sharing arrangement between Senate President Franklin Drilon and Sen. Manuel Villar suffers from ethical infirmities.

Is it ethical for two senators to sign a written contract to divide a public office between themselves without the participation of other senators? I respectfully submit that it is both unethical and illegal, because the court defines a public office as a public trust. Two senators cannot treat a public trust as if it were their own private property, Santiago said.

Santiago cited the Civil Code, Article 1306, which provides that the contracting parties may establish convenient terms and conditions, provided they are not contrary to law, morals, good customs, public order, or public policy.

Santiago cited the 1994 case of PNB v. Remigio where the Supreme Court ruled that police power is superior to the contract clause, because public welfare is superior to private rights.

The senator also cited the 1990 case of Pakistan Airlines v. Court of Appeals where the Supreme Court ruled: Parties may not contract away applicable provisions of law specially peremptory provisions dealing with matters heavily impressed with public interest. The principle of party autonomy in contracts is not absolute.

Under these Supreme Court rulings, it is contrary to public policy to divide public office between two people, as if they were carving up a piece of land, the senator said.

Santiago said that because the contract was invalid from the start, there should be a new election for the Senate presidency, if the Senate is able to convene on July 24.

Assuming the Senate will continue to exist, Villars group of five senators will no longer vote for Drilon, so the Senate presidency will have to be determined by a rainbow coalition, she said.

Santiago said that assuming for the sake of argument that the power-sharing contract is ethical and legal, then Drilon should turn over the Senate presidency to Villar, under the fundamental principle that contracts are respected as the law between the contracting parties.

The senator also said that a basic policy of contract law is to protect the expectations of parties.

She said another applicable principle is that a contract should be complied with in good faith.

However, the question of whether the Drilon-Villar contract is valid is a non-issue, if the Supreme Court rules that 195 Congress votes are enough to convene a Consa. If the Supreme Court approves the Consa, then it will proceed with or without Senate participation, Santiago said.

Santiago said that she, like Senators Edgardo Angara and Lito Lapid, will participate in the Consa.

I dont want to forfeit by default my duty to help write the new Constitution, she said.

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