Miriam: Most PH problems are caused by corruption

Kathlyn dela Cruz, ABS-CBNnews.com

Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago answers questions during her guesting on DZMM's Halalan 2016 special "Ikaw Na Ba?" on Wednesday. Photo by Gigie Cruz for ABS-CBNnews.com

MANILA - For presidential aspirant Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago, corruption is indeed the root of all evil.

In an interview on radio dzMM's "Ikaw Na Ba? Para Sa Pamilyang Pilipino" Wednesday, Santiago said that most of the problems and issues hounding the Philippines are caused by graft and corruption.

"Sa tanda kong ito sa gobyerno, I have come to the conclusion na madami ang magulo [at] masalimuot ang ating bansa only because of corruption," she said.

"So if we can stop corruption, we'll stop all the other problems."

If and when elected president in 2016, Santiago said her top priority would be eradicating poverty, which, she said, is the country's "biggest" problem.

"How are you going to stop people from being poor? It's almost like a joke," she quipped, stressing that people are poor also primarily because of a corrupt government.

"Ngayon, meron hong genie sa bote sa may dagat at nang hinaplos-haplos ko, lumabas ang genie. Kako, 'Genie, bigyan mo ako ng solusyon para mahinto ang pangungurakot sa gobyerno.' Sabi niya, 'Kahirap naman niyan, bigyan mo na lang ako ng iba.'

"'Bigyan mo na lang ako ng presidente namin na hindi siya papayag sa pangungurakot.' Sabi [ng genie], 'Yung unang tanong na lang ang sasagutin ko, huwag na yan,'" continued Santiago, who is known for delivering jokes, one-liners, and pick-up lines in her speeches and interviews.

The 70-year-old senator also cited the worsening traffic conditions in Metro Manila, which, she said, are also caused by corruption and not by the increase in the number of vehicles.

READ: Why EDSA traffic has worsened

"Ang problema ay corruption sa traffic. It's not that masyadong maraming tao, o makitid ang daan, o [madaming] sasakyan. It's really corruption," she said.

She went on to note the graft charges filed by the Office of the Ombudsman against former Metro Rail Transit (MRT-3) general manager Al Vitangcol III and five others over the allegedly anomalous MRT-3 maintenance contract in 2012.

The interim contract was awarded to the joint venture between Philippine Trans Rail Management and Services Corporation (PH Trams) and CB&T. One of the incorporators of PH Trams is an uncle-in-law of Vitangcol.

"So kung ganyan ang mga pasikot-sikot ng ginagawa, inevitably magiging corrupt ang pagpapatakbo diyan. Kaya nakita mo, sira na ang mga tren, walang maintenance halos pero may maintenance contract," Santiago said.

She said there is a need to build a new international airport to decongest air traffic, a unified railway system all the way to Bicol, and a unified inter-Metro Manila system.

'NOT ENOUGH'

Asked if President Benigno Aquino III, who campaigned in 2010 with an anti-corruption slogan, has done enough to fight corruption in his six-year term, Santiago said she does not believe so.

"Hindi pa sapat ang ginagawa dahil ang kailangan to fight corruption, you cannot rely on politeness and kindness. You cannot say, 'Please stop your corruption. Thank you,'" the senator said in a sweet voice.

For a president to effectively stop the corrupt practices of government officials, he or she should be ready to sacrifice himself and be prepared to face threats and black propaganda, Santiago said.

She cited the case when she was immigration commissioner wherein she implemented anti-graft and corruption measures that led to the reform of the bureau.

"Kailangan kalabanin mo yan. May tao bang gustong magkaroon ng kalaban? Yan ang problema natin, walang taong matapang sa atin," she said.

CCT, EMPLOYMENT, INCOME TAX, DISASTER REDUCTION

If she wins the 2016 presidential race, among the matters she will tackle in her first 100 days is disaster reduction and management, she said, noting that about 20 typhoons hit the Philippines every year.

She has filed the Flood Recovery Fund bill which seeks the creation of a flood insurance program for residents whose properties are damaged in a calamity, and the Children's Emergency Relief and Protection Act.

Santiago said she will also continue the government's conditional cash transfer (CCT) program to provide assistance to the poor.

She will also focus on employment so that less Filipinos would want to go abroad away from their families just to earn money.

"We are very deficient in work generation, mahina tayo doon. Dapat diyan para mabigyan ng trabaho at di na mangangailangan pa na pumunta abroad, mag-emphasize tayo sa export program," she said.

As for income tax reform, she said she is in favor of lowering income taxes "but there are so many lobbies there, so the next president should be capable of showing moral courage."

READ: 'Pa-pogi': PNoy snubs call for income tax cut

APPROVE OR DISAPPROVE

Meanwhile, Santiago expressed her opposition to the Philippines' Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) with the United States.

She said the EDCA failed to get the concurrence of the Senate and was only signed by the defense secretary and the US ambassador to the Philippines.

"Bakit hindi man lang binigyan ng partisipasyon ang Senado? Nakalagay sa Konstitusyon na no treaty or agreement shall be valid and effective until it has been concurred in by at least two-thirds of the senators of the Philippines," she noted.

READ: Miriam informs SC of Senate stand vs EDCA

During the interview, the senator also said she is against the revival of lawmakers' Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and the privatization of hospitals and markets, saying this will only give more burden on the poor.

Santiago, meanwhile, said she is in favor of Charter change, the passage of the freedom of information (FOI) bill and divorce bill, and the imposition of death penalty on drug traffickers.

A former trial court judge, Santiago explained that the harsher the penalty, the lesser the inclination of an individual to commit a crime.