Press Release
May 22, 2006


Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago challenged Congress members to reveal their presidential ambitions for 2010, if any, during the runup debates on charter change.

The Constitution recognizes the right of the people to information on matters of public concern. Hence, the public has a right to know which legislators oppose the shift to a parliamentary system, particularly if they plan to run in 2010 under a presidential system, she said.

Santiago said that a presidential candidacy is a valid ambition, but that legislators have a moral duty to reveal such ambitions in the spirit of transparency.

The senator cited R.A. No. 6713, the Code of Conduct for Public Officials, which provides for a a high standard of ethics in public service, and requires public officers to always uphold the public interest over and above personal interest.

Santiago said that under implementing civil service rules, the state adopts a policy of full public disclosure of all its transactions involving public interest.

The rules penalize any public officer who has financial and material interest in any transaction requiring the approval of his office. Financial and material interest is defined as a pecuniary or proprietary interest by which a person will gain or lose something.

Santiago warned that certain solons might oppose a shift to a parliamentary system, and further oppose Senate abolition, simply because of personal interest.

There is no imperative necessity to have two chambers, because the Constitution imposes virtually the same qualifications for senator and representative, except in age. A senatorial candidate should be at least 35, while a candidate for representative should be at least 25 years old. An age difference of 10 years does not necessarily ensure greater maturity or superior intelligence, Santiago said.

Santiago said that instead of an age requirement, there should be an educational requirement, in addition to the literacy requirement.

Congress members, the president, and the vice-president, should be required to have at least a four-year college degree, which is a requirement even for policemen and school teachers, she said.

Santiago said that theoretically, for the sake of argument only, it would cost about P2 billion to buy enough votes to win, either as president, or as prime minister.

In the worst-case scenario, a person who can buy the presidency can also buy the post of prime minister. So this is not the issue. The real issue is that certain persons who can win as senator elected nationwide, cannot win as representative in a district. Another issue is the high cost of maintaining the Senate, she said.

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