The highs and lows of Miriam's hearing
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2012-09-16
The September 14 Senate hearing conducted by Senator Miriam Santiago had its low points and its high points. Its low points however tend to overshadow the high points because of the numerous violations of the principles of fairness, decency, the rules of evidence and the presumption of innocence of the accused. 

Consider these observations:

Low points 

1. Senator Miriam Santiago introduced charges against Rico Puno based on an anonymous letter. This is worse than the Nazi era because in Nazi Germany they would at least present false witnesses. In that hearing, Santiago simply accused Puno on the basis of an anonymous letter. The Senate hearings were never intended to be a venue for smearing people’s reputations on the basis of anonymous letters.

2. Sen. Santiago had inferred that the unproved allegations of Retired Archbishop Oscar Cruz against Puno in September 2010 are solid because of the totally irrelevant point that Cruz was already nearing that fateful meeting with his Maker. It’s as if she didn’t know that — like fruits — some people got rotten when they aged. She asked Cruz to confirm his previous unproved allegations against Puno, as if the verbal reconfirmation proves anything.

3. Sen. Santiago concludes by inference, not by facts. She trumpets her qualifications as a lawyer then caps her point with histrionics that really prove nothing. She asserted that jueteng cannot thrive without a top-level protector then she inferred that Puno, possibly even higher officials, were jueteng protectors. Even a freshman law student would know that her accusation has no basis or validity.

4. Sen. Santiago twisted Puno’s explanation to make it appear he overextended himself as BAC (Bids and Awards Committee) observer. She limits a BAC observer’s role — interprets an observer to one of just being there but cannot do anything, not even suggest an improvement. That’s an idiotic notion. Puno would not have been made an observer if he couldn’t contribute. She also disregarded Puno’s Usec (Undersecretary) supervisory powers.

5. Sen. Santiago injected snide remarks — “Maniwala naman ako (Can I believe that?)” ­— that suggested prejudgment of the BAC headed by General Emelito Sarmiento, a respected officer without a spot in his record.

6. Like her opening speeches at the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona, her premises are mainly directed at tainting Puno and the administration.
7. She imposes her personal interpretation of what an observer can or cannot do, the same with consultants. She does not allow Puno to fully answer her questions about the Israel trip and then she issues a remark that would constitute prejudgment.

8. Santiago’s source for the questions on the Glock deal sounds more like a demolition white paper that was made by a resentful losing supplier. Yet she defers to it like it was Gospel truth.

High points

1. Jueteng was identified as a major political player, with an estimated P30 billion a year income. It’s an illegal entity that has to be dealt with decisively by the State before it extended itself into being a political and economic player, as what’s now suspected. With the billions the jueteng lords have, they could put their man in Malacañang Palace and the two Houses of Congress.

2. The information given by Archbishop Oscar Cruz that jueteng payoffs are coursed through Pagcor (Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation) should be looked into. It’s a plausible explanation. In the US, the Italian Mafia used Las Vegas as the means to legalize their incomes from criminal operations.

3. Per Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, jueteng is not an easy problem to solve. It could tie up the entire PNP to the disadvantage of other crime fighting activities. The AMLA (Anti Money Laundering Act) could be the more effective deterrent when jueteng lords are caught like Al Capone, an Italian ruthless mobster who was convicted for financial irregularities.

4. Rico Puno and Gen. Emelito Sarmiento, BAC chairman, were able to explain the points that were used as material for controversy. The BAC process was well explained. Puno was able to categorically deny the allegations against him. No proof to doubt Puno was ever presented.

5. The hearing gave the poisoned public mind the important perspective to the PNP arms requirements. What’s regrettable is the Chairperson’s attitude and antics.

6. Sen. Cayetano was refreshing in his fairness and relevant questions. He didn’t resort to antics and was all business. Cayetano made a good clarification — there are cases when biddings are not applicable, as when the police force specifies certain requirements that can only be bought from one supplier. Cayetano was able to get Gen. Sarmiento to clarify that the internet price and bid price were different because of variances in qualifications, country requirements (taxes, duties), added specifications and freight costs.

After she closed the hearing, Sen. Santiago held a press conference where she underscored the negative impressions that she hurled against Rico Puno. She wasn’t able to prove anything during the hearing then she calls a press conference to reinforce her unsubstantiated innuendoes.

Clearly, Santiago’s target wasn’t just Rico Puno. It was President Benigno S. Aquino III (P-Noy). Unless Sen. Santiago hates Puno because of kinship with Ronnie Puno — whom she suspects engineered the 1992 cheating operation — it didn’t make sense to make such an effort to further embarrass the former Usec.

During the post-hearing press conference, Santiago revived her “real big backer” charge against Puno — making it appear that some shadowy big boss could influence P-Noy. That is hitting below the belt.

After what Senator Miriam Santiago demonstrated during the Corona impeachment trial, and now during the attempted lynching of Rico Puno — she should drop all pretenses of being a lawmaker and an officer of the Court of Law. She qualifies more as the blood lusting head of the quintessential lynch mob.

The downside of this hearing conducted by Sen. Santiago is while it proved nothing — it provided the media that participated in the vilification of Rico Puno another source for restating their vicious and unkind lies.

* * *

Shakespeare: “Madness in great ones must not unwatched.”

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