Monday, March 05, 2012

Santiago the gadfly

This is my column today.

The irrepressible Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago is once again in the maelstrom of public opinion. She, once again, lost her temper at the impeachment trial last week, called the prosecutors “g*go”, and berated them publicly for dismal performance. She also exchanged heated arguments with private prosecutor Vitaliano Aguirre after he covered his ears in public purportedly to avoid “hearing her shrill voice” and, after Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile banged the gavel to declare a recess, reportedly confronted Aguirre by standing in front of him daring him to say something to her in person. The behavior was classic, very classic Miriam Defensor Santiago.

The repeated use of the words “once again” in the preceding paragraph is deliberate. This is not the first time that the senator made a spectacle of herself. It won’t be the last.

Which is why I am stupefied that people are going berserk over Santiago’s behavior. Oh come on, she got elected as senator and continue to hog the limelight precisely for being a political gadfly and for not mincing words in public. This is a woman who has never been known to do things in moderation; she has never been known to shy away from confrontations even if it reduces her to a caricature.

Wasn’t it just a few months ago when she called some people epal for claiming credit for government projects and displaying their photoshopped images in huge billboards across the country? We applauded her for that. Didn’t she get acclaim for calling some congressmen fungus-faced? In fact, I first heard of Santiago in the eighties when as a regional trial court judge she presided over the subversion case of directors Behn Cervantes and the late Lino Brocka. The two raved endlessly about the way Santiago bravely made mincemeat of the military’s attempt to fudge evidence against them.

Admit it, people. Without her outbursts, the Corona impeachment trial would not have lasted this long because we would have died from boredom a long time ago.

But as some people pointed out to me after I published a post about Santiago in a social networking site, am I not bothered that she called the prosecutors gago in public? Oh please, let’s stop pretending that our leaders are still capable of civility or niceties when dealing with their detractors or foes. Matagal na tayong nagbabastusan sa bayan natin. I can give you many examples such as when the prosecutors and defense panels make pronouncements or attack each other in media deliberately ignoring specific instructions from the impeachment court to stop subverting itself, or when the President picked Conchita Morales Carpio to administer his oath of office, or when the chief justice struts in public like a politician rather than highest magistrate in the land.

It amuses me no end when I come across comments in various social networking sites that put Santiago to task for not showing (or earning) respect and then in the same vein attack her using the foulest language and the most convoluted logical acrobatics. Many people put her down for saying “g*go” in public, and then let loose a volley of invectives directed at her.

Besides, I am not sure that I would not have done the same thing if I were sitting as a judge in a trial where the prosecutors distinguish themselves for rank incompetence. The prosecutors were strutting all over the place just a couple of months ago, swaggering with confidence and braggadocio about “hundreds of witnesses and tons of evidence.” It turns out they had nothing because they wrongly assumed that the chief justice would resign to avoid humiliation. Unfortunately, the chief justice has been unmasked as having a face just like theirs - thick as hide. Actually, I use even more incendiary language to describe Rep. Niel Tupas and company for wasting precious time and money on an impeachment complaint that they couldn’t prop up.

Do I like Santiago? Not specifically. But I think she is the most truthful person in the whole impeachment court. Call her arrogant, crazy, emotionally unstable, intellectually snobbish. But we all can live with a little provocation every now and then to jolt us out of complacency.

If only people were honest with themselves, they would admit that they hate her for her latest outbursts simply because these did not help the prosecution, otherwise, she could have burst a vein, done hara-kiri, or regurgitated invectives that would have put a Tondo criminal to shame and we would have given her a standing ovation. Really, guys, if she does the same thing to the defense panel next week, would we still be calling her the same things?

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