I would not elaborate further on what makes a Miriam Defensor-Santiago. Everyone sure knows that she was once a recipient of the Ramon Magsaysay Award for government service; and once named as among The 100 Most Powerful Women in the World. Miriam, as we all know, is a widely recognized international and constitutional law expert; the senator who has the most number of principally authored bills; an award winning member of the judiciary; an accomplished cabinet secretary during the government of Corazon Aquino; an outstanding academic; a proficient writer; and a notable diplomat.
Time and again, we’re told that she is the president who [really] won in the 1992 elections. Without political machinery, enough resources, and power, she caught the attention of the voting population, more especially of the youth. She won the hearts of the Filipino people through her wit, charisma, and a clean history of public service. Since then, her platform of governance is rooted on eradicating corruption from within the system, saying that it is what perpetuates poverty in the country.
For the third time, she is gunning for the country’s top post. This time, she relies heavily on the power of social media. She will still run under her own political party but has formed a loose coalition with an independent vice presidential aspirant. Like before, she tops presidential surveys on key universities. Only this time, she lags behind in nationwide pulse reports, getting a measly 5 percent [at most] of the voters’ preference. She is the only presidential aspirant who hasn’t done any premature campaigning. She has no TV or radio ads yet. Like in 1992, she has no stable political machinery, enough resources, and power. This time, she seems to have a smaller pot money from the business community, and no visible support from any known political figures and strategists. Having stipulated such incontrovertible conditions, winning the presidency seems to be more elusive for her now than ever.
Truth be told, among all the presidential aspirants, she is the most accomplished. No one comes close. With her notable experience in all the three branches of government, she could be the most brilliant president our country could ever have. She is known for being feisty, outspoken and eccentric, and likewise for having fashioned integrity at all times. The question, however, is why in spite knowing what a Miriam presidency could bring, she remains an unpopular choice for the post?
There could be several factors. Perhaps the most resounding is her battle with cancer, and the reality behind whether she has already been cured or not. She used to have stage 4 lung cancer. But according to her, during a radio interview in early December last year, her doctors said that her cancer’s stable. She asserted on the radio show that she can hurdle all the complexities that nationwide campaigning may bring, as much as the responsibilities of a president should she get elected. Other factors may involve the lingering question on her sanity which has been an ongoing witticism on her; the reproductive health bill which she principally authored in the upper chamber of the house which has been denounced by the Catholic magistrates; and perhaps her strong stance against political dynasties, and corrupt politicians which made her truly unpopular among her peers.
The presidency is not her sole fight. She fights cancer up to this day. She’s been fighting corruption, as much as ignorance, ever since. She fights for the protection of the constitution, and the preservation of our freedom against all sorts of subjugation. She promises to have a government which people can be proud of. She hopes to bring to the Filipino youth an access to quality education.
The Filipino youth still backs Miriam’s presidency, as evidenced in the results of recent electoral surveys held in various universities. But it remains not enough for her to win the presidency, even for the third attempt. Presidency, like everything else, is destiny. She has what it takes: experience, charisma, capacity. But the stars should align with her dream, and the universe has to conspire for her, to make her desire, this presidential desire, real. As poetic as it may seem, I thought it’s what fits the puzzle.
Regardless if she wins or not, we know she would always rise. And that she would always have a place in our country’s history. She could either be a celebrity talk show host throwing pick up lines every now and then or she could be a justice secretary. After all, she has recently been invited to join Bill Gates as part of the International Advisory Council of the International Development Law Organization (IDLO).
Miriam’s fight doesn’t stop on the success or defeat of her presidential aspiration. Her fight is ours. And we shall continue fighting this good fight.