Every time something goes awry in our government and local elections, the usual comments among citizens are: “I wish Miriam Defensor-Santiago was still here” or “Miriam Defensor-Santiago wouldn’t do that.”
Former senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago was a force to be reckoned with. She’s known for serving in all three branches of the Philippine government. She was outspoken and fearless, which birthed lists upon lists of her best quotes. Many people—citizens and government officials alike—have called her “crazy” because of the way she called out critics and her enemies.
To refresh your memory, Miriam once challenged men to fist fights, an IQ test, and threatened to jump out of a plane without a parachute.
In 2016, Miriam ran against Rodrigo Duterte for the presidency despite her poor health. Later that year, she passed away after her long battle with lung cancer. To this day, her supporters still wish she won the national elections.
This brings us to the most recent midterm elections. You know by now that Duterte-backed candidates like Bong Go, Bato Dela Rosa, and Imee Marcos are in the “Magic 12.” Comelec announced they might proclaim the soon-to-be senators this Sunday—unless someone proves something shady happened during the vote-counting.
Disappointed citizens started tweeting about Miriam, quoting her and saying she’ll be shaking her head from heaven.
"That is the problem with this country, we're all for honest government, and yet the world condems us as one of the most coreupt countries in the world." -Late Sen. Miriam Defensor – Santiago pic.twitter.com/CeYDOCExGI
When Miriam ran for president in 2016, she was automatically favored by the youth. Again, she wasn’t afraid to say what was on her mind, and she didn’t seem to have the same beliefs as frontrunner, Duterte. This was also despite her poor ratings in surveys conducted by Pulse Asia, Social Weather Stations (SWS), and Laylo. It’s kinda the same story as the Otso Diretso candidates who were top picks in university mock polls, but lagged way behind Pulse Asia surveys.
But there was one problem: Miriam’s running mate was Bongbong Marcos, son of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos. The two had apparently been longtime friends in the Senate. They’ve also worked together in pushing for bills like the Freedom of Information Bill.
During the elections, they both questioned Leni Robredo’s lead in the vice-presidential polls and accused the Liberal Party of cheating.In an ABS-CBN interview, Miriam defended Bongbong, saying he won’t be a “laughingstock” in the Philippines if he wins the VP race. She also believed that he shouldn’t be accountable for his father’s sins.
A common excuse for the Marcos kids is they were too young to remember the atrocities of Martial Law—with emphasis on Bongbong and his older sister, Imee Marcos. But decades later, Bongbong has brushed aside any discussion or criticism about his father’s rule. “Let us leave history to the professors, to those who study the history of the Philippines. It is not our job. Our job is to look at what the people need at present,” he told reporters. Additionally, Bongbong’s colleagues and supporters have also been accused of historical revisionism.
Miriam’s support for Bongbong isn’t an isolated case. She supported a referendum to grant the late dictator a hero’s burial (which he eventually got). She also emphasized that the Marcoses “don’t owe us an apology” because “it was not the case that President Marcos, the father, told all the Marcoses to come together and they all decided jointly to conduct certain activities that were later viewed with disinterest or distaste or even outright criticism by other Filipinos. That was not the case, they did not agree as a family to sit down and say: ‘OK, let us do this. Let us set up curfews. Let us regulate the issuance of firearms and so on.'”
If you’ve been seeing posts about Miriam being an enabler of the Marcoses and complicit in giving them a platform again, it’s a valid argument. Believe me, I was a fan of her bravery and feistiness because, at the time, she was the only female senator who caught my attention when I was younger. But with developments in recent years, it’s become difficult to revere her—especially now that Imee will likely be a senator starting next week.
Although, this also isn’t the time to be divided about Miriam Defensor-Santiago posts on social media. Nor should you call someone “dumb” for still supporting her. Educate them, they obviously wanted the right candidates to win, too.
Art by Tricia Guevara
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