This is one instance when I hope Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago was only joking—her revelation in a presscon at the Senate last Wednesday that she has Stage 4 lung cancer. But even if it’s only a joke, it’s still a cruel one. Lung cancer is a dreadful disease that I won’t wish even on ill-disciplined people with coughing fits who remain addicted to cigarettes.
Senator Miriam often jokes about threats to her life from the many enemies she has created. She often said she was eating death threats for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and that she was not at all concerned over her security.
“What’s the big deal? If we die, we can only go to a higher level. Maybe, there are no politicians in the higher level, which is an added blessing,” she explained.
She could also joke about death in general, not hers. When there was a bombing incident at the House that killed a number of people, including Rep. Wahab Akbar of Basilan, she shrugged off fears that there was a move to kill all congressmen and senators.
“And that’s not because I’m against the idea,” she added.
She sought to calm the nerves of those who were saying there was an emerging pattern of terrorism.
“We will have to wait for some senators to be assassinated to show a pattern of terrorism,” she urged.
The lady senator wants everything in order. She stressed this at her Wednesday presscon: “I have believed in discipline all my life. Even my cancer cells are showing excellent discipline.” She went on to “praise” her cancer for being “well-behaved.”
She doesn’t know why she developed cancer as she neither smokes nor drinks.
“I don’t even commit adultery. I only tell lies to my husband,” she added.
That she could still maintain her wit despite her frail state of health bespeaks of a steel nerve. Should we now call her “Woman of Steel?” Definitely, she has a more legitimate claim to the title than the so-called “Man of Steel” who always wilts when faced with a crisis.
She always has strong words for those who are busy doing other things while she’s delivering a speech on the floor. When she speaks, she demands attention—and rightfully so for she’s one of the more cerebral members of the Senate.
She’s acerbic against those who disagree with her, whether they be nominees to the Commission on Appointments or legislators. One of my favorites is her description of then Rep. Benigno Simeon Aquino 3rd of Tarlac as “a sorry excuse for the scion of a great man” whom she would want to educate “if he is educable.” I wonder if she still believes so now that this “sorry excuse for the scion of a great man” has become the president.
She seldom minces words and this makes her a fearful adversary in debates. This also created for her a number of political enemies. It’s a tribute to her political pre-eminence that six political parties supported her reelection bid in 2010. She was the common candidate for senator of presidential aspirants Manny Villar, Erap Estrada and Gibo Teodoro. The support by three tickets in the same election is totally unprecedented in Philippine political history.
She’s one of the legal eagles of the Senate. She got it right when very early on she opined that the Disbursement Acceleration Program of Malacanang was unconstitutional. She’s saying the same thing for the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement between the Philippines and the United States. The constitutionality of these two agreements is being challenged before the Supreme Court and she predicts that the government will lose in both cases.
She did the Philippines proud when she got elected to the International Criminal Court. Many thought this meant she would give up her seat in the Senate. However, she never took her oath as justice of the ICC because of her Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. This ailment has kept her from being as active as before in floor and committee deliberations. She had also complained of hypertension and hypothyroidism. Now, the Big C.
I join millions of her followers in praying for her success in battling this dreaded disease. And if she does succeed, I hope she would no longer run for president. Though she said Wednesday that she might, I want to believe that that one is truly a joke.