Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Santiago's political decision

My October 20, 2015 column.


Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago has always been a political gadfly.  She has never been known to conform to anyone’s idea of what is acceptable, consequences be damned.  She has also been renowned for never holding her punches, often spewing what many would consider outrageous statements.  She has never been known to have long-term loyalties, or to have a core ideology, other than looking at herself as a Messiah of sorts.
It would seem as if Santiago’s main purpose in life is to challenge conventions and in the process, annoy or infuriate others.  Of course there are those who think the world of her, but it would be difficult to find someone other than her family members who has consistently been pleased with her actuations or statements.  Santiago is who and what she is; and it is unreasonable to pick the things about her that we admire and those we find repulsive.
Her decision to run for President, therefore, should not have come as a surprise.  It’s in her nature to be a maverick. 
However, while it really is too early to predict the results of the 2016 elections, I think it’s also important to be realistic.  It is an understatement to say that this election will be steep uphill climb for her.  And while I sincerely pray that she continues to enjoy the medical miracle that she has been blessed with, I am afraid that the rigors of the campaign might be punishing.  I hate being morbid, but we can all draw parallels from what happened to the late Senator Raul Roco.  Still, I will not stand in the way of someone who wants to fight.  I understand just how important it is for someone who has been dealt with something as overwhelming as cancer to want to fight.  My late mentor, Dr. Celia Jessica Villarosa, spent eight years valiantly fighting and overcoming the many challenges that life offered her, including cancer.  To the very end, she refused to allow cancer to define her. 
So yes, I have great empathy for Santiago.  I am even willing to make allowances for her choice of running mate. I think it’s mainly a political decision; the Marcoses do continue to have a solid following in the North and among diehard loyalists.  It’s not much of a consolation, but at least she has brought once again to the surface the horrors of Martial Law and the many reasons why the Marcoses should never be allowed to return to Malacañang.
I will not demonize Santiago for her political choice.  It’s, quite frankly, a futile waste of time and energy.  But I will vigorously question many of her assertions.
Santiago said that the Marcoses, as a family, do not owe the Filipino people any apology. I have mixed feelings about this, mainly because I think the time for apologies have long lapsed.  An apology needs to be sincere, must be offered while it still matters, should include an admission of guilt, and more importantly, must offer amends—all of which the Marcoses are incapable of doing.  Besides, we’re talking of crimes, the scale of which remains unparalleled in this country’s history, so I am afraid an apology will not suffice.  Quite frankly, I would have preferred that they all went to jail.
Santiago also said that Ferdinand Marcos Jr. should not be punished for the sins of his father.  I disagree.  Marcos Jr. may have been a child when his father rose to power, but he was already wearing a military officer’s uniform and wielding a high-powered gun when they were forced out of the Palace by People Power. He was not a passive observant of the large-scale kleptocracy that defined his parents’ conjugal rule; he was a party to it!
I think that the Filipino people have really tried to move on from the horrors of the dictatorship, which is why the Marcoses have acquired some semblance of respectability despite the grave injustice they have inflicted on the Filipino people. We’ve allowed them to return to power.  It would be a major slap on the face of the Filipino people to allow them to return to Malacañang.  First, because such would represent full redemption for the Marcoses and second, because they do not, have not, deserved forgiveness.
But, like I said, I will respect everyone’s right to run for office, or even make utter fools of themselves.  I have bigger respect for the Filipinos’ ability to do what is right—which is to trounce undeserving candidates at the polls in May 2016.

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