Santiago will not quit; 12 senators still in 2013 ballot

Posted on July 05, 2012

VOTERS WILL only choose 12 senators in next year’s midterm polls with an indefinite call for Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago to perform her duties at International Criminal Court (ICC).

“I have no discretion on when I should report to the ICC. This is why I cannot resign from the Senate, until the ICC indicates that I should do so,” Ms. Santiago said in a letter addressed to Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Sixto S. Brillantes, Jr., which was released to the media yesterday.

“Hence, I respectfully submit that even only out of prudence, the 2013 ballot should list only 12 vacancies for senators,” she added.

Ms. Santiago has been requested by the Comelec to decide by Oct. 5 whether she will quit so that the poll body can prepare for the election of a 13th senator next year. The senator’s term ends in 2016.

Last February, Ms. Santiago, a former trial court judge, was elected as one of the six new judges of the ICC, a United Nations-attached body that prosecutes offenses against humanity and war crimes.

Ms. Santiago said ICC President Sang-Hyun Song informed in a letter in February not to “make any irreversible commitments for the time being which could terminate your current professional engagements with a view to future engagement at the court.”

“I took this statement to mean that I should not yet resign as senator,” she said.

The ICC charter provides that an incumbent judge shall not be allowed to retire until he finishes all cases he handles.

“In order to observe the provision that the ICC should consist of only 18 judges, a newly elected judge has to wait until an incumbent judge has disposed of all his pending trials, even if the tenure extends beyond the retirement date of the incumbent,” Ms. Santiago said.

The senator was supposed to take oath as ICC judge in March but this was deferred as she was then suffering from hypertension during the impeachment trial of then Chief Justice Renato C. Corona.

“In hindsight, it was fortuitous that I did not take my oath as judge because it could have disqualified me from remaining as senator,” Ms. Santiago said.

The Senate currently has 23 members after then Senator Benigno S. C. Aquino III won the presidential elections in 2010. -- ASOA