April 21, 2016

Here’s Miriam Defensor-Santiago, only because you insist

Due to insistent public demand and allegations of bias, I decided it’s time to address the elephant in the room. This one time, let's talk about her.

Time and time again, ThinkingPinoy has refused to discuss in length anything about Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago. She’s no political angel, but I decided against writing about her up to this point based on humanitarian grounds. After all, it feels horrible to criticize an already-suffering lady.

I have become a political blogger, but I have not forgotten my humanity.

Regardless, many ThinkingPinoy readers misconstrue my disinclination as a tacit approval of Miriam’s presidential candicacy. Hence, let me categorically say that this cannot be farther from the truth.

I really didn’t want to do is, but you guys asked for it. It is thus with a heavy heart that I write this article.

Senator Defensor-Santiago, I am sorry, but the public’s right to information trumps my moral considerations.

Now, let’s proceed.

Miriam’s Health

The first news article of Miriam’s condition that I can find was in July 2015 [Philstar], where she claimed to have “beaten cancer”. Despite “beating cancer”, Miriam skipped the March 2016 Pilipinas debates for anti-cancer treatment [Philstar]. So yes, she still has cancer.

Senator Defensor-Santiago admitted to battling Stage IV Non-small cell Lung Cancer [Rappler].

Stage 4 Cancer victims have a 5-year survival rate of 1% even when treated, according the American Cancer Society [ACS].With the modest assumption that her Stage IV lung cancer started in July 2015, she has a 99% chance of not making it to July 2020.

Let me say this plainly: we are 99% certain that she will die before her prospective presidential term ends.

Miriam suffers from Stage IV Non-small Cell Lung Cancer

Cancer is not like a heart attack where everything is fine then everything is over a second later. Cancer brings a slow and painful death, where the victim gradually deteriorates over years or months until her organs begin to fail.

Now, add the fact that she suffers from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, the same cause of her extremely frequent absences in senate sessions, making her the senate’s top absentee.

Of the Senate’s 83 sessions in 2014, she was able to attend only three [Philstar]. Yes, she was absent in the senate 96.4% of the time. The presidency does not require super-strength, but her condition makes it impossible her to perform even the most basic jobs of the president: attend cabinet meetings, let alone being productive in them.

Moreover, assuming that she wins, it’s a statistical certainty that whoever wins the vice presidency in 2016 will become a president before June 2022. Considering that the trapos Chiz Escudero and Bongbong Marcos are frontrunners, a vote for Miriam is a de facto vote for both.

No. I do not want that.

Her health isn’t a big deal for many of her supporters, but it is a big deal to me given the circumstances surrounding the fact.

  • First, I don’t want a President who is always on sick leave.
  • Second, I want neither a President Marcos nor a President Escudero.
Now, today's voters commonly say, "Sige, may sakit nga, pero hindi naman corrupt!".

Nope. That's wrong.

Funny pick-up lines don't erase the past.

Let's recount her adventures during and after the 2001 Erap Estrada Impeachment Trial.

Miriam de facto lawyers for Estrada

I have lived long enough to witness the impeachment trial of former President Erap Estrada at the dawn of the millennium where dial-up internet was the norm.

In the impeachment complaint, then-President Estrada was accused of:
  • Receiving P545 million in jueteng payolas
  • Owning an unexplained P3.2 billion under “Jose Velarde”
  • Misappropriation of P130 million in tobacco excise taxes
  • Illegally receiving a P189.7 million commission from the sale of the real estate firm Belle Corporation
  • Other offenses.

Miriam manifested patent bias in favor of Estrada during the impeachment trial, where she infamously said:
“I will jump headfirst from a helicopter in Luneta if Estrada gets removed from power.”

She later recanted this promise after Estrada was ousted, saying “I lied!”, followed by maniacal laughter.

Not a helicopter, not head first, but near enough.

Lawyering versus Statesmanship

Being a former RTC judge, Defensor-Santiago insisted on following rules of court by the letter.

Defensor-Santiago’s insistence on technicalities throughout the Erap impeachment trial greatly helped in creating an environment where the question of admissibility of evidence became more important than whether the evidence is true.

Defensor-Santiago prioritized technicality over public interest. That is lawyering for a plunderer. That is not statesmanship.

But why did she do this?

FACT: Miriam was allied with Estrada at the time. Even her husband, Narciso Santiago, was Erap’s DILG Undersecretary [PCIJ]. 

MDS and Jasmin Banal

Miriam basically did her best to defend the plunderer Estrada throughout the impeachment trial, with the most poignant example being her cross-examination of the young lawyer Jasmin Banal. Banal resigned from a law firm after she found it to be setting up dummy corporations for Erap and his cronies, and was serving as witness against Estrada.

Miriam tried to debunk Banal’s credibility through her cross-examination [Inquirer]:
MDS: You and I and all UP law graduates virtually pursue the same career path after graduation. Isn’t that so? We try and get the highest salary we can get."

Banal: That I moved… ugh… again?

MDS: Because according to you, you transferred from a law office with a higher salary to a law office with a lower salary, is that correct?

Banal: Yes.

MDS (sarcastically): Remarkable. Thank you.

Banal was silent.
Afterward, Sen. Raul Roco then asked for time to ask Banal.

Roco: It is the business of a law school to teach law in the grand manner. So that means we as lawyers should be motivated by a sense of idealism, would that be correct?

Banal agreed.

Roco: And when you transferred from a higher-paying job to a lower-paying job, that could be motivated by a sense of idealism?

Banal agreed.

Roco: I thought [I should raise that point] because I was surprised to learn that the usual career pattern of lawyers is going from lower-paying jobs to higher-paying jobs.
Roco essentially embarrassed Santiago after the latter insisted that lawyers should be “mukang pera”.

The Late Senator Raul Roco, one of the best human beings I ever knew

Touche! Some members of Senate audience laughed. After all, you don't see an embarrassed Miriam every day.

Miriam, visibly humiliated, decided to channel her anger to the crowd. The relevant parts of these exchanges are shown in the video below:

Napahiya kasi nagmukhang pera, kaya ibinunton na lang sa audience ang galit.

The Brown Envelope

Defensor-Santiago’s insistence on technicalities led the senators to vote on the opening of the “brown envelope”, which purportedly contained damning evidence against Estrada. After much debate, 11 of the 21 senator-judges, including Defensor-Santiago, voted against opening the envelope [LawPhil], immediately rousing public anger, as the trial was broadcast on live TV.

Public anger on the 11 senator-judges – including Defensor-Santiago – led to the 2001 EDSA People Power Revolution that resulted in Erap’s deposal a few days after the “brown envelope” issue [NIU].

Six years later in September 2007, Estrada was convicted of plunder.

Now, imagine if that brown envelope was opened: the plunder trials would have been greatly expedited, in consonance with public interest.

But no, Miriam believed technicality is more important.

With Miriam's help, it took the government years to resolve the case and put Erap in jail for raping the country's coffers.

To add insult to injury, then-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, upon the recommendation of then-Senator Mar Roxas [Senate], pardoned Estrada [GMA]  in 2007 .

Yes, this was the first time our shitty justice system set a corrupt official in jail, then we set him free barely over a month after he was convicted.


We spent six years and tons of government resources to put the plunderer Estrada in jail, only for Estrada to be pardoned with this idiot's help.

Technicality vs Public Interest

Asked as to why she voted “NO” on the brown envelope, Miriam said:
“At that time, I wanted to apply the rules of court technically… Since there is no allegation of wrongdoing in connection with the notorious second envelope, I voted that we should not open the second envelope until and after the complaint had already been amended...

I was among those demonized because I voted against the opening of the second envelope dahil ang paniwala ng taong bayan, kung ayaw namin buksan ang second envelope na ‘yan, may tinatago kami.”
It was later revealed that the second envelope contained bank documents of a certain “Jose Velarde” [GMA], Erap’s alleged fake identity. The brown envelope would have served as the smoking gun against the plunderer Estrada.

Basically, Miriam said rules of court – technicalities – are more important than pushing for good governance. ThinkingPinoy would have agreed with Miriam if an impeachment trial wase purely a criminal or a civil court case.

But it’s not – and she knew it.

A decade later, Miriam said:
“An impeachment trial is a unique process… [It] is both quasi-judicial and quasi-political. It is not a civil case nor a criminal case. A criminal case is designed to punish an offender and to seek retribution. In contrast, impeachment is the first step in a process that tries to remedy a wrong in governance. [Senate].”

On one hand, Miriam said rules of court require the inadmissibility of the brown envelope. She insisted that following rules of court is reason enough not to open the brown envelope. On the other hand, she admitted that impeachment is not a purely legal exercise, that its goal is remedy a wrong in governance, in contradiction to her previous stance.

QUESTION: Kung sinasabi niyang pinakamahalaga sa impeachment ang pagtatama ng maling pamamahala, bakit niya ipinilit na mas mahalaga ang teknikalidad?

ANSWER: Political Convenience, as she and her DILG USec husband were allied with Estrada at that time.

This is what we can call Political Corruption [TP: Political Corruption].

Immigration Commissioner Miriam Defensor-Santiago

Before becoming a Senator, Miriam was Bureau of Immigration chief in the late 80s [Inquirer], where she got charged with graft. The case dragged on for decades [Supreme Court], with Miriam apparently managing to evade arrest and detention through various legal maneuvers [LawPhil]. The fact that she eventually won a Senate seat helped too, of course.

But I won’t pursue this issue any further.

Let the lady live her days in relative peace.[TP]

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