September 19, 2012
Transcript of interview with Senator Santiago
*Please refer to audio files sent earlier
On withdrawing her invocation of Sec. 20 against the appointment of DILG Sec. Mar Roxas before the Commission on Appointments
Sen. Roxas is one of the senators I'm closest to and he is from the Visayas. Roxas is also a Visayan name, and I also come from that region. I really didn't want him to be collateral damage to my ongoing battle/ tussle with Malacañang. I just wanted to prove the principle that Malacañang, under the Constitution, has no power to block an inquiry in aid of legislation under the Constitution by just ordering cabinet members not to attend. They can invoke executive privilege but it will depend on the Senate committee to either accept the invocation, or question it, and we shall all go to the Supreme Court. It cannot be just as simple as telling the cabinet members not to attend. I wasn't able to elicit very much from the hearing because I could have done that by questioning the cabinet members.
Kaya lang, ngayon, kay Sec. Roxas, talagang mabigat ang loob ko doon. Una, malapit ang loob naming sa isa't isa. Even his wife is very close to me. So he doesn't deserve that type of treatment. Sabi ko nga, naging collateral damage siya. He's innocent but he gets whacked in the head because I'm conducting some other battle. And secondly, wala actually namang kwenta iyon dahil the Senate will already be on break. Under the Constitution, the president can issue to him an ad interim appointment, and he could take office immediately on Saturday until the Senate resumes session.
Nag-usap ba kayo ni Sec. Roxas before the CA hearing?
We just greeted each other when we were about to come in here.
Nag-sorry ba siya?
No. He already wrote that letter to me like that excuse (letter) of other cabinet members who I invited. Sinabi niya na mayroon siyang prior engagement. Lahat naman kami sa public life mayroong prior engagement, but in my case I have to prioritize. For example, if I am going to only attend a meeting or deliver a speech, and I am called, let us say, to a committee hearing where I am a chief player, then I will just cancel everything.
Before I came here, I studied the rules of the Commission on Appointments. A motion for reconsideration is not allowed in the committee level. But there is no similar rule at the plenary level. So I thought to myself, "Ah, puwede pala mag-motion for reconsideration." So I was already ready. Kapag motion for reconsideration, you just ask, "Anong damage dito sa public service?" And Sec. Roxas said immediately, "Wala naman po ma'am kasi puwede naman ako magassume on Saturday."
Will you still invoke Sec. 20 for Sec. De Lima and Sec. Paje?
Let me think (about it). Magkaaway po bayo ni Sec. Roxas?
Hindi, bati kami ni Sen. Roxas noon pa. Parang sayang na i-oppose ko siya just for principle's sake tapos kailangan talaga siya sa public service. I would be the first to say that public service needs someone like Sec. Roxas. I think he declared in the investigation report of the Committee on Appointments secretary that he owns about 200 million. Besides, we all know about the Roxases and the Aranetas (is that) they are very rich people. In his actuations when we were together in the Senate, he never exhibited even the slightest semblance of interest in what he could possibly gain in the legislation we were both sponsoring or we were both supporting. So kumbinsido ako that he is honest; tapos, competent naman. Nagtapos sa Wharton School of Finance, e napaka-prestigious ng Wharton. Hindi ka makapasa doon kung hindi ka naman marunong na tao. At saka iyong track record niya as cabinet member is totally devoid of any exhibition of failure to do his job. He has been an overachiever.
So your reconsideration might not apply to other cabinet members?
That's right, maaari kanya lang dahil unique ang position niya.
Mayroon bang nag-intervene in behalf of Sec. Roxas?
Nobody, wala. He just filed a motion for reconsideration. I knew, I could sense, because they are all my friends, that the members, both from the Senate and the House, wanted me to reconsider. I could sense that it was not a popular move though they would accept that I would do it out of principle not because of any vindictive motive because Mar and I are actually very close. We were together in the JPEPA.
Papasok ka ba mamaya sa session?
When our session begins again--after two weeks--I will attend the session.
Will you talk to the other cabinet members if they invite you?
Yes, of course. I have to be a reasonable person. I cannot just erect a wall against me and say that I retreat from the world. I'm a politician I have to be in the world. So, if that is what it takes for good governance, then I will accept any initiation. I'm not going to ask for anything, just to be clear, because I don't need anything! I'm already leaving politics, I don't know when. If the ICC calls, I have to go and run to them.
On Sen Trillanes as backchannel to talks with China
It is always essential in international relations that the other side should know who is the person calling the shots. Before you sit down at the table, each side should know who is the ultimate authority. Otherwise, there's no point of talking and talking and you don't know if it is going to be approved by some higher authority, who is unnamed, so that is the first thing you do. So if there are backchannels, in effect, the result would be to derail the integrity of the talks because each one of you will be suspecting that the other is negotiating on the one hand with you and on the other, with another one in your book. They are always suspicious that the other party is trying to divide and rule.
So dapat walang backchannel?
Yes. I fully support the Foreign Affairs secretary. If you are secretary would you want someone who is acting beyond your authority or even beyond your knowledge?
If DFA Sec. Del Rosario resigns it will sound like he is really incompetent, because there are charges that he might be incompetent on this respect. So you have to stay there and fight the good fight.
Is Sen. Trillanes capable of backchanneling?
Maybe he was requested to interfere because he is a member of the navy and it might turn into a naval dispute.
On the feud between Sen. Trillanes and Sec. Albert del Rosario
That's error number one. Never show the enemy that you are breaking ranks! Always present a united front to the enemy no matter how bitter your bickering might be. It will always capitalize on that.
So tayo ang talo doon?
Friday, January 20