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Miriam Defensor-Santiago
The Manila Times and Ateneo Center for Social Policy and Public Affairs

cspmiriam.JPG (15699 bytes)

Genius unbound, the perennial pain


On the most significant problems of the country:

I will ask the Ateneo School of Economics or the UP School of Economics,
now sit down there and do what you've been trained to do. If it sounds
sensical to me, I'll simply say, go ahead, and if there are any
obstacles, it becomes my job as chief executive to remove or reduce those
obstacles. So I'm not going to give you a blow by blow account of every
sector of Philippine society. That's not the function of the Philippine
president. The only correct definition of a president is a person who
will change or will inspire others to support change for the better.

On how she will administer the budget:

The problem is always can we balance our income with our expenses? I do
not claim that I have the final solution to this eternal riddle that
better minds than myself have grappled with over the course of the
centuries. Ang sinasabi ng ating pamahalaan, kailangang mangungutang at
mangungutang tayo, referring to both the domestic and international debt,
because there's not enough money in the country. That is the refrain you
will hear, inevitably, from any administration, isn't that so? If you're
unfamiliar with this refrain, then you should emigrate, because that is
basic here.

On Charter change:

Oh, this is an entirely imperfect document when it was being submitted
for a plebiscite, I was among those who campaigned that it should not be
approved, because it violates what I learned in Constitutional Law. We
are taught that the Constitution must be brief and simple. It should be
understood by the layman, it should not be the exclusive preserve of the
savants of society. It should be brief and simple and understandable.
This present Constitution has the prolixity of a legal code. One of the
wisest men in the legal profession, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.,
said before in a very famous decision, 'The life of the law has not been
logic, it has been experience, and never more so than in the field of
Constitution.' I would have many suggestions for a proposed amendment of
our Constitution, but not at this time, not even after 1998. It takes
decades for a Constitution to prove its worth.

On foreign policy:

I would design a foreign policy based on intelligence, or enlightened
skepticism. I find the current policy to be extremely unintelligent.
I'm very impressed with the ignorance of the Department of Foreign
Affairs acting for the office of the President. For example, in the case
of the Spratlys and the Scarborough conflict, I am absolutely astonished
that there has been no mention of the contiguity principle in
international law, that is so basic among Third World argumentation where
territorial disputes are concerned. Under the Treaty of Paris, Spain
ceded the Philippines to America, then America granted us independence.
Under this treaty, the Spratly islands and Scarborough both fall within
the territorial delimitation of the archipelago of the Philippines... Go
to China and slap them silly. I will amend my answer out of deference to
the intelligencia. I will give a more sober answer. The thing is, to
impress China with the fact, here we have 72 million people, a potential
market of 72 million. So please don't aggravate us.

On foreign economic policy:

I will answer very briefly--I will use my sex appeal. But I will explain.
In international economic relations, in any other aspect of
international relations, the greater part of the negotiations will deal
on the intellectual respect that the party involved is able to elicit
from his co-partners around the negotiating table... What we have to do
is to try and balance our accommodation to the phenomenon of
globalization with our basic duty to protect our own citizens against the
exploitation of others, simply by the imperatives of international
politics. I will not even say that it is wrong or wicked or evil of the
United States or Japan or Australia to pursue these policies vis-a-vis
our own society.

On graft charges against her:

Ginawa na nila lahat ng magagawa nila noong 1992, lahat ng
kasinungalingan nilabas na nila. Hindi lamang ako, pati asawa ko, pati
anak ko, pati nanay ko, pati tatay kong namatay na, pati lola ko na hindi
naman nila nakilala. Buti na lang babae lang ako, pati "querida" ko
siguro hinalungkat na nila kung meron... If we are to take this
seriously, I must insist that in fairness, they should at least present
what they call in law as some probable case. In the legal profession, to
allege is not to prove... Iisa lang ang testigo nila sa kasong ito na
sampung taon na nilang ginagamit sa akin. Iyang testigo na iyan hindi na
iyan makita. He is at large. Hanapin mo iyan at magsusuntukan kami dito
sa harap ninyo.

On agrarian reform:

The two main problems to the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program are
no.1, landlord resistance, and no. 2, the lack of support services.
Landlord resistance is not due to ideological resistance, they accept
that agrarian reform is an idea whose time has come. But there is
landlord resistance because there is a failure of LandBank to pay them
promptly... Plus, there is landlord resistance because of the abuse of
certain people who are both landlords and highly placed politicians...
The second main obstacle to agrarian reform is the lack of support
services. Even if you give a farmer a piece of land, he will not be able
to own it permanently or to benefit from his ownership if you don't give
him credit facilities.

On building consensus for the president's programs:

Hay, madali lang iyan. 'Pag presidente ka everybody's united behind you,
maniwala ka sa akin. Hay, Hesus--lahat ng senador, congressmen,
governors, mayors, magkakandarapa iyan sila, they will push and shove,
they might even commit homicide for the opportunity to lick my boots...
Alam mo, the Philippine President is chosen by the business community.
You think you choose the president just because you have a ballot? No.
This government is determined by certain people we never see. We never
hear from. Sila, sanay sila. Bawat presidential campaign nagbibigay sila
ng pera, alam na nila iyan... Aba, 'pag short list ka masuwerte ka. You
are now entitled to big bucks--real money--mga milyon na ngayon iyon. So
you start receiving P1 million and you say, 'Oh my God, if I'd known it
was like this, I'd never have gone to UP College of Law!'

On her weak points:

My weak point is I have, as you know, a foul temper. I have a tendency
to fly into a rage, inflict physical violence to my environment... I also
tend to be opinionated. But I assure you that before I formulate an
opinion, I try as a scholar and as an academician to read entire
libraries on the topic and to listen to as many people as possible,
regardless of whether they are savants or plain fools. However, once I
have formed an opinion, I no longer want to change it. Only experience
can tell me whether I'm right or I'm wrong. If I'm right, I will gloat a
little bit about it. If I'm wrong, then I will excoriate myself, I will
apologize publicly.

On her first 100 days in office:

Only one plan: I plan to put the fear of God in all government
officials, in all the corrupt, both in the public and private sectors.
The highest dream of my life is to rearrange the faces of the corrupt in
Metro Manila, so that when they wake up and look at themselves in the
bathroom mirror, even they will not recognize themselves. In other words,
stop graft and corruption.

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