Miriam Defensor Santiago
She did it in 1992. And then in 1998. Fast-forward 18 years she’s doing it again. Will the proverbial third time be charming to Miriam Defensor-Santiago?
Illustrious, no doubt
Santiago might be one of the few Filipino politicians whose record of achievements is difficult to dispute. The 70-year old senator, prominently described as ‘feisty’, has served in all three branches of government — as a regional trial court judge, a cabinet secretary, and now a senator. A lawyer by profession, she graduated cum laude from the University of the Philippines College of Law .
Santiago was awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Government Service in 1988, capping the long line of recognitions that she had earned up to that point. In 2012, she was elected to serve as judge in the International Criminal Court (ICC), from which she eventually stepped down due to what her camp describes as chronic fatigue syndrome. Her most work in the Senate includes key legislations on issues like reproductive health, climate change, sin tax, women’s rights, renewable energy, and cybercrime prevention.
Santiago had vied for the presidency twice before. In 1992, she lost the election by a very small margin to eventual winner Fidel V. Ramos in a result she and her supporters attributed to massive cheating. She also lost her 1998 bid to then-Vice President Joseph Estrada.
‘A Better Philippines’
Santiago has proclaimed that the Philippines would be better if she were to be president. Banking on a long career in government, her law expertise, as well as her personal reserves of courage; Santiago’s platform focuses on fighting corruption.
She intends to do this by implementing anti-corruption laws more strictly. Santiago also believes that more women in Congress can lead to less corruption.
Other important points of her platform include reduction in social inequality through key legislations and a more effective use of government funds, a nationwide insurance fund for flood victims, and more effective legal assistance fund for overseas Filipino workers.
Tandem with Marcos
Santiago, who is from the People's Reform Party (PRP), is running with Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. from the Nacionalista Party (NP).
Pundits are taking Santiago to task for partnering with Marcos. Some accuse her of reneging on her anti-corruption advocacy. Others recall that she was a Cory Aquino appointee early in her own career. With the campaign in full swing, Santiago may find herself needing to justify her choice of a running mate better to voters.
Pick-up Lines and Social Media
Though Santiago’s political career may have taken off before many in the millennial generation were born, she endears herself to them via her ‘pick-up line’-peppered speeches.
Santiago is a favorite in campuses nationwide due to her witty speaking engagements. Her quips and jokes have trended multiple times on social media, and a number of books based on them have become best-sellers.
Santiago even recently remarked that social media will help her win the Presidency. Whether ‘tweets’ and ‘likes’ are enough to catapult her to Malacañang will be only be confirmed on election day.
Perhaps the most prominent issue raised against Santiago is the possibility that her recent poor health might compromise here performance in office. While on medication for stage -four lung cancer back in 2014, Santiago already hinted that she would run for president should she “defeat” the disease – which she claims to have done.
Her infrequent public appearances, however, have made some supporters uneasy with the thought that she may be incapable of mounting a competitive campaign. How she will deal with her health issues moving forward is, for now, an open question.