Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Miriam's Last Stand

Santiago’s antics during the Erap trial would already have shown how the provocation tends to lie completely with her. It’s a good reminder that her pretensions to brilliance, which is where she gets off thinking she has a right to lecture others on the finer points of law or ethics, are just that: pretensions. It’s neither borne by her legal nor political life. Getting a grade of 76 in the bar exams is not a masterful legal achievement, and I don’t know why the lawyers she waylays in the impeachment court do not demur by saying, “I’m sorry, Madame, but having gotten 77 in the bar exams, I do not see myself as needing your hectoring to pass this test.” And goading the unshod, or rubber-sandaled, masa to sugod-sugod Malacañang, and defying the authorities to arrest her afterward, gun on the table, only to turn to the other side faster than you can say “Brenda,” is not a sign of ethical behavior, let alone a sane one.

Conrado de Quiros, Contempt

When Miriam Defensor-Santiago had floated her Presidential aspiration last year, I knew it was motivated by some unfinished business. After all, among the candidates running for this national election, she was - if whispers are to be believed - robbed of the Presidency the first time she ran for office. In 1992, she lost to FVR by some 1 million votes. With rampant cheating prevailing during the last days of the canvassing, (including the Dagdag-bawas scheme done by some fixers in the Comelec) it is possible that she could have won that election.

Three years later, she entered politics again and ran for senate. Miriam was able to secure a seat in the upper chamber of congress. From being a graft-buster with a cabinet-level position during the first Aquino presidency, she became an elected official. A generation of voters would then know her as a Senator, and she is, without a doubt, will stay associated with being a lawmaker no matter the person sitting in Malacanang.

However, the trouble with Miriam is that her loyalty could be swayed by the wrong people. What is worse is that she would use the technicalities of the law to her advantage. This behavior was evident during the Erap impeachment trial when she sided with the president who had a hand (and probably more) on the Jose Velarde scandal. I remember how she fiercely defended Estrada, even voting against the opening of the second envelope that will further implicate the president. This has enraged the people as the evidence on that envelope contained information that will no longer be available for scrutiny. Within days, a revolution would take place in Edsa and Erap had no choice but to vacate Malacanang and hand over the Presidency to GMA. 

Miriam was undaunted.

Four months later, I remember seeing a grainy video recording of her, exhorting the protesters at Edsa 3 to storm the Palace and remove Gloria Macapagal Arroyo from power. It didn't succeed, and with her losing the Senate seat during the election of 2001, Miriam retreated from the public eye. She would only resurface three years later when she got elected to the Senate once more.


The Miriam narrative, as I would like to call it, is like a tale of a protagonist who had lost, and won admiration, only to lose it again for her habit of leaning towards the characters belonging to the perverted side of history. Her association with Erap, with Gloria, and now with Bongbong Marcos leaves you without a reasonable doubt that she can trade principles for political survival. But like any other person, she too has a soft side, and when she exposes this to the public, the nation responds with compassion. When her son committed suicide, after being humiliated by professors while being interviewed at the UP College of Law, public sympathy was with her. This sympathy would eventually lead to the partial restoration of her image. In 2004, and again, in 2010, she would be elected as a Senator of the republic. Even I, who has a historic distrust with the senator, would overlook the truth and put her name on my ballot.

Pero hanggang dun na lang.

Miriam will go down in history as one of the colorful characters to grace the Senate. I will always cherish her feistiness, her pedestrian language when interrogating witnesses during Senate inquiries, her social media savviness, her legal acumen, the laws she had authored and passed in congress, and many other things both good and bad. But her decision to run together with the dictator's son and her refusal to reveal her medical condition after declaring "victory" against cancer leave a bad taste when one contemplates whether to support her Presidential bid or not. There is simply too much at stake, and given her performance in the last Presidential debate, the fire in her belly is no longer there. It feels like she merely wants to run in search of validation. 

I have much respect for her supporters - both online and offline - for holding still. But by judging the outcome of the surveys, as well as how her campaign is going, I am seeing that this is Miriam's last stand.

There is nothing for her beyond this election.

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