Santiago: Aquino government has not achieved anything in stopping corruption

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) – Presidential candidate Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago once again slammed the current administration for failing to put an end to the country’s corruption problem.

“The Aquino administration has not achieved anything in stopping corruption except for the imprisonment – over which it had nothing to do – of the two out of the three senators, remember, they are senators, for plunder,” the fearless veteran senator told CNN Philippines Chief Correspondent Pia Hontiveros in an exclusive one-on-one interview aired on Saturday (May 7).

Santiago was pertaining to Senators Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. and Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada who are detained at the Philippine National Police (PNP) Headquarters over graft and plunder charges for their alleged involvement in the multimillion-peso pork barrel scam.

The other legislator, Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, was allowed by the Supreme Court (SC) to post bail due to his poor health.

Santiago said cases against the embattled legislators have to be “heard and tried speedily because delayed justice is justice denied.”

Related: Sandiganbayan cancels Revilla’s plunder pre-trial anew

“Otherwise, I don’t see any major overhaul of our bureaucracy in terms of plunder,” the People's Reform Party standard bearer said.

Santiago also took a side swipe at Enrile, whom she described as “very deceptive.”

“I cannot reconcile the fact that first he was ailing in prison because he was in prison for plunder and then when he was granted permit to get out of prison, he walked in to the senate chamber and was ready to work,” Santiago said.

She advised the 92-year-old senator to stop engaging in politics and just enjoy his remaining years in the company of family and friends.

Also read: Juan Ponce Enrile: From hero to zero?

If elected president, will Santiago prioritize addressing corruption?

Santiago, as the then commissioner of Immigration and Deportation, received the 1988 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Government Service, for “her bold and moral leadership in cleaning up a graft-ridden government agency.”

But she would not prioritize solving the country’s perennial corruption issue if elected president.

Related: Corruption provides heat to vice presidential debate

“I’m not going to prioritize the problems... I’ll have to tackle them head on all at the same time,” the feisty government official said.

What if she loses? Santiago says she wants Duterte or Roxas for president

Despite being at the tail end of presidential surveys, Santiago said she does not believe the results of these commercial mock polls.

As a matter of fact, Santiago said she was informed by her campaign team that her name was not included in one of the surveys. She said she wanted to ban such opinion polls but she was outvoted in the Senate.

WATCH: How surveys are carried out

But should Santiago lose in the May 9 polls, she said she would pursue a career in international law, rest, and play with her grandchildren, who all expressed intention to go to law school as early as 8 years old.

“This is my last presidential campaign, I will no longer seek elective office after this,” Santiago said. She still hopes third time is the charm for her.

Santiago said if she does not become president, she wants either survey frontrunner Rodrigo “Rody” Duterte or Liberal Party’s Manuel “Mar” Roxas II to take on the job.

She explained Duterte is the kind of “strong, decisive leader” that the Filipinos need, and that he is able to produce results, as seen in his performance as Davao City mayor. She also defended Duterte’s controversial remarks saying all citizens have a right to freedom of speech as guaranteed by the 1987 Constitution.

Meanwhile, she said Roxas can be the autocratic leader and intellectual who is “willing to listen to all sides.”

Amid health issues, can she function as president?

Santiago, who was diagnosed with advanced (stage four) lung cancer in 2014, earlier said she is “perfectly normal” because of the new anti-cancer pill she is taking.

But she admitted she occasionally has to take short breaks to catch her breath and her sense of balance is “very precarious” – she would sometimes stumble and fall in the bathroom.

The presidential aspirant maintained, she can perform all functions of the highest official of the land. “I can. Otherwise, I wouldn't run,” she said.

Banking on the youth’s vote, as evidenced by her lead in the mock polls of different colleges and universities, Santiago said the young people’s idealism will help develop the country.

“In the end, elections, just like all other political processes, are intended to show that in the future, anyone of us can rise up in the world and say, ‘I am proud to be Filipino’,” Santiago said.

Quiz: Which presidential candidate matches your views?