Oct 182014

Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
2008-10-29 01:38
2011-08-30 01:44
Embassy Manila


DE RUEHML #2430/01 3030138
O 290138Z OCT 08
C O N F I D E N T I A L MANILA 002430



E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/28/2018

REF: STATE 112227

Classified By: Ambassador Kristie A. Kenney, Reasons 1.4(b) and (d).

¶1. (U) The following information on Senator Miriam Defensor
Santiago, candidate for a seat on the International Court of
Justice (ICJ), is submitted as requested by reftel. As per
reftel, basic background information on Senator Santiago is
not provided.

¶2. (U) Senator Santiago is a vocal advocate for justice,
human rights, and the rule of law. She is a passionate
crusader against government corruption, and in the rough and
noisy world of Philippine politics, has remained untainted by
corruption scandals. Santiago believes that all Philippine
public officials, elected or appointed, first should have to
pass a civil service examination, and she recently filed a
bill to abolish political dynasties. As Chairman of the
Senate Foreign Relations Committee, she successfully steered
the ratification of the ASEAN charter through the Senate this
year. She lamented the Burmese Junta’s atrocious record on
human rights but expressed the hope that a determined effort
by the Philippines in the Charter’s human rights body would
yield positive results in Burma. Santiago supports the Rome
Statute of the International Criminal Court and filed on
October 22 a resolution urging President Arroyo to transmit
the statute to the Philippine Senate for ratification

¶3. (C) Senator Santiago avidly supported the Senate’s
ratification of the U.S.-Philippines Visiting Forces
Agreement (VFA) in 1999. In late 2005, she initiated a
Congressional move to abrogate the agreement after the U.S.
government turned down the Philippines’ request for custody
over the four servicemen accused in the controversial
November 2005 Subic rape case. After a briefing at the U.S.
Embassy and a visit to the accused servicemen, Senator
Santiago dropped her efforts to abrogate the VFA. In a
recent investigation into the U.S. military presence in
Mindanao and alleged U.S. involvement in military operations
there, she stressed that the claims were not substantiated by
eyewitnesses. The Senator has criticized the U.S. for
exceeding the limits of self-defense by attacking Afghanistan
in the aftermath of September 11.

¶4. (C) Senator Santiago has publicly speculated that a
Democratic victory in the upcoming U.S. elections would
likely result in U.S. policy changes toward the VFA that will
be more favorable to the Philippines because Senator Obama
“grew up in Asia.” She also believes the U.S. will rethink
its position on the Rome Statute in part because of U.S.
attempts to hold Sudan’s regime accountable for its human
rights violations in Darfur. She has said that the U.S.
government’s desire to find an effective forum for
prosecuting Sudanese war criminals will outweigh U.S.
concerns over frivolous or politically motivated prosecutions
of U.S. military and civilian leaders engaged in peacekeeping
missions abroad and lead the U.S. to sign the Rome Statute.

¶5. (C) Senator Santiago is seen as an active legislator,
popular among those segments of the population whose causes
she has championed to improve human rights, governance,
health, and education. For example, she has authored or
sponsored several bills that have passed into law, including
the Anti-Rape Law of 1997 that refined and expanded the
definition of rape; and the Indigenous Peoples’ Act, which
guarantees the integration of indigenous peoples into
mainstream society. On foreign policy issues, Senator
Santiago has shown courage, pressing for needed changes even
in the face of opposition. She sponsored the recently
ratified, and domestically controversial, Japan-Philippines
Economic Partnership Agreement that the treaty’s proponents
hope will boost Philippine exports and allow more Philippine
nurses to work in Japan. Santiago acknowledged opponents’
criticism of certain aspects of the treaty as flawed, but
noted, “Unfortunately we live in the world as it is, not as
it ought to be.” Her defense of the treaty’s
constitutionality persuaded undecided senators to vote in
favor of ratification.

¶6. (C) A strong personality, Senator Santiago has been
occasionally given to acerbic comments. She said in a
televised Senate hearing, “China invented civilization in the
East, but as well it invented corruption for all of human
civilization.” She subsequently apologized for that remark.
After learning in 2006 that her name had been removed from
the short list of candidates for Chief Justice of the
Philippine Supreme Court, she declared, “I am irate. I am
foaming at the mouth. I’m homicidal. I’m suicidal. I’m
humiliated, debased, degraded. And not only that, I feel
like throwing up to be living my middle years in a country of
this nature.”




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