AFTER two months of absence, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago went back to work on Wednesday but her appearance at a Commission on Appointments (CA) hearing was cut short after she walked out of the proceedings because of the tardiness of some committee members.
Santiago, who was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer in June, was scheduled to hear the appointments of some 50 nominees for various posts in the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) but she decided to postpone the proceedings because some members of the CA’s foreign affairs committee were not around.
“They [nominees]had been waiting since 10 a.m., and it would be irresponsible to make them wait further,” Santiago, who heads the CA panel, said. “That would be a classic case of congressional arrogance.”
The hearing was originally set at 10 a.m. but at 8 a.m., Santiago called the committee secretary to tell the members that the hearing would start at 11 a.m., because of heavy rains.
She started the hearing around 11 a.m. but was interrupted by Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas who questioned her authority to continue with the hearing without a quorum.
Farinas argued that the action on the nominees should be taken only after a committee meeting, which under the rules requires a quorum of majority of the 18 members.
“You are questioning my authority. I will walk out of this meeting,” the feisty senator said before adjourning the meeting.
In a news briefing, Santiago explained that the CA rules allows the quorum to consist merely of the chairman, the vice chairman or three members.
“I am only on partial recovery from lung cancer. I forced myself to come here, in order to avoid prejudice to some 50 nominees from the DFA. Now he wants all their majesties from the House of Representatives to come at their own sweet time and for all of us to wait at their pleasure. This is legislative abuse,” she fumed.
80 percent cancer-free
Also during the briefing, Santiago told reporters that she is still in the period of recovery and that at least 80 percent of her cancer tumor are gone.
But she is not expected to return to work this month because the senator is still in the process of building up her resistance.
According to her, she is still taking the “wonder pill” that was prescribed to her by her doctor after she was diagnosed with the disease.
“There’s still pain, of course, my whole body is painful, my muscles, my legs are painful, there is depression like you lose the will to live or the will to function. But there is also neuromuscular disorder that you might think is not related but it is actually caused by the cancer or medication,” the senator said.
Santiago hopes to return to work on October 20, if her recovery went well.
“No doctor can say that I will be in full recovery, we have to wait for five years. If after five [years], it does not return, I will be cancer-free. But they cannot say I am cured because there is no guarantee,” she said.