April 26, 2016

On the Rebuttal from Miriam Defensor-Santiago for President's Facebook Page

Earlier today, "Miriam Defensor-Santiago for President" (MP) issued a counter-statement regarding a ThinkingPinoy article entitled "Here’s Miriam Defensor-Santiago, only because you insist". The complete MP rebuttal may be found here.

In this article, please allow me to address their points one by one. For easier reading, quotes from the MP post are in green, while my replies are in regular black.

Let's go.

The First Paragraph

“A blogger who thinks he knows everything, masquerading under an elitist pseudonym, is reviving old age black propaganda against Sen. Miriam Santiago. This can only be interpreted as a sign that they now consider Sen. Santiago a major threat to their candidate, especially with reports of people switching sides amid the international fiasco involving their candidate.”
ThinkingPinoy begs to disagree that the pseudonym "ThinkingPinoy" implies elitism, as the capacity for meaningful thought is expected in every self-respecting Filipino citizen, regardless of background. At best, this accusation of elitism, based solely on one's claim to have the ability to think, reeks of intellectual elitism that should not be encouraged in any form of civilized discourse.

And while we're still at it, I would like to believe that this was written without the Senator's imprimatur, as such an intelligent person will surely find no need to resort to argumenta ad hominem to get points across.

You are free to name-call all you want. While I do not agree with what you say, I respect your right to say it. The constitution itself allows that, and that constitution covers every Filipino like me.

On "False Information and Inconsistencies"

MP: ThinkingPinoy said that the first article he could find of Miriam’s condition was in a July 2015 article where Miriam declared to have beaten cancer. That can only mean his researching skill is far below the average person. Miriam first said of her cancer in 2014. It was widely reported and quite impossible for him, as a thinking Pinoy, not to find any reference to that report.”
As was stated in the original TP article, “Stage 4 (NSCLC) 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 making it to July 2020.”

The term "modest assumption" implies a best-case scenario.

That is, assuming that Miriam contracted Stage IV non-small cell lung cancer (S4 NSCLC) earlier than July 2015, that new piece of information only reinforces the argument that 2016’s vice-president, which may be BBM or Chiz, will become the president before 2022.

MP: … [Cancer] can reemerge anytime. I’m quite surprised the ThinkingPinoy does not know this. There is no definitive cure for cancer at the moment. All cancer survivors are called survivors not because 100% of their cancer cells have been exterminated, but because they have beaten down the cancer cells to submission, and stopped their progress.”

This statement is self-defeating. Yes, the progress of cancer can be stopped, but MP conceded that it “can reemerge anytime.” What if it reemerges on the day before China bombs our coast guard vessels? Or the day before a major earthquake decimates Manila? Or the day before a stock market crash?

I wish Miriam the best of health, but there's a line that divides reality and optimism. In this case, it's established medical science, through the American Cancer Society, who drew that line [ACS].

MP: In medical parlance, a cancer patient must achieve complete remission and labeled NED (no evidence of disease) before they can be called survivors. Sen. Santiago attained NED status and it is disrespectful at best to still consider someone a cancer patient when they have already survived the ordeal.”
NED implies remission [ACS], however, I cannot take MP’s word for it, as even MDS herself categorically refused to release her medical records [Rappler]. I will not risk the future of my country on the words of a persons who refuse to provide reliable documents to back their words up.

On the "Second Debate and the Clinical Trial"

MP: Already a cancer survivor, Miriam was invited to participate in a clinical trial for a new wonder pill that has the potential to rehabilitate the physical body back to normal and completely eradicate her cancer cells, 100%. It was a decision she had to make not only for herself, but to millions of other cancer survivors around the world, hoping that this new medical advancement will put the possibility of cancer recurrence to nil."

That's the problem: it's a clinical trial. The drug is not proven to be effective on human beings, that's why that pharmaceutical company called for human test subjects. In this case, it's MDS.

Kahit brand name nga ng gamot na 'yon, wala pa e.

On Cancer Victims's 5-year Survival Rates

MP: In a display of his ignorance about cancer, TP said he is 99% sure that Sen. Santiago will die within 5 years. I wish he met my lovely grandmother who died in 2011 after a 27 year battle with stage-4 cancer. Or Joey Albert, diagnosed with two different cancers beginning in 1995, and still puts on a good show on her concerts today, 21 years later after she was diagnosed.”

Statistical outliers do exist, TP never denied that, in the same way that even the best justice systems occasionally convict innocent men. However, science dictates that a vast majority of NSCLC survivors do not make it past the 5th year which, in this case, is 2020, at the latest.

Using MP’s reasoning, should we believe that MDS will exceed 5 years because 1 in 100 NSCLS survivors make it?

If we go by that kind of logic, we should also believe that most convicts are innocent because 1 in 100 of them are wrongfully convicted.

No. That isn’t how statistics work.

On Absences versus Productivity

MP: Miriam, as a very hardworking individual, excelled in all the positions she held. As senator, she is the most decorated, most accomplished and the top performer, year on year. In 2014, Miriam attended 3 of the 84 senate sessions, and still delivered the highest number of bills and resolutions, a feat not match by anyone else. She knows that she can do her job while recuperating and regaining her health at home. Now that she has nursed her health back to normal, the presidency will be a walk in the park.”

Are we expecting a work-from-home president if MDS wins in May?

No, that is unacceptable for me. However, I respect the decision of Pinoys who find that rate of absences acceptable: it just so happens that a work-from-home president is not my cup of tea.

On Erap and the Second Envelope

“In a 1989 New York Times article, Miriam said corruption is hard to crack in the Philippines because of the concept of ‘pakikisama’ of which she does not practice. She can be friends to anyone, but she will surely call you out once you commit something wrong. It therefore does not go to her character to label her as an ally of anyone.”

I would love to believe so. But apparently, an exception  would be her running mate, Bongbong Marcos, who even had the gall to bar the return of stolen P1.9 billion [Rappler] to PCGG.

MP: The Erap Estrada impeachment trial is the first ever impeachment trial in the Philippines. There were a lot of things to be learned from it, and it became a de facto precedent for cases of the same nature, except the trial came to an abrupt end and no verdict was reached.
At the time, not far from having been a trial judge, Miriam wanted to strictly apply the rules of court, especially the rules on the admission of evidence. When the prosecution presented the evidence (the second envelope) to the court, they presented it as evidence not related to the articles of impeachment they submitted. In legal context, that evidence is inadmissible since it is not part of what was alleged in their complaint. Presented with this scenario, Miriam voted that the prosecution first amend their article so they can make the evidence legally acceptable and then they can present and open the envelope. But before she could explain her vote, the senators who were in favor of opening it walked out of the senate hall and proceeded to the streets, thereby starting the so called EDSA 2.”

MP’s line of reasoning implies that Erap should remain president just because evidence suggesting his betrayal of public trust does not directly address the initial complaint. That’s exactly the kind of problematic value judgement that I called her out for.

Suppose a President Duterte is accused of, say, genocide, and an impeachment trial ensues. Now, assume further that someone introduced evidence that he stole P1 billion from the national treasury. Should we acquit him and allow him to continue his term, just because plunder wasn't in the complaint?

I understand MDS' inclination to follow court rules, but I believe that public interest is more important than blind faith on procedure.

MP: During the Corona trial a decade later, Miriam acknowledged that the Erap impeachment was a blot in the legal history of the Philippines. She concluded that the more evidence admitted, the more the people will believe the trial is legit and fair. It can be said therefore that the Erap trial was a learning experience for Miriam. However, the prosecution during the Corona trial was also forced to amend their articles of impeachment if they want to present evidences unrelated to their complaints. The technicality Miriam wanted to exercise during the Erap trial still stand for the Corona trial.”

Exactly my point. With that statement, Miriam tacitly admitted in 2012 she was wrong in 2001.

On the 'I will jump head first' Rhetoric

"MP: Miriam is fond of using rhetoric to deliver her points more effectively. She even said that, like your presidential candidate, she uses hyperbole to get the public's attention. To quote her: "We are best friends (Duterte).... Sometimes we descend to the level of hyperbole. You exaggerate...so it becomes more effective.

If you cannot consider this a hyperbole, how come you absorb without fail Duterte's?”

When Miriam said that helicopter statement, it’s clear to me that she means “Erap will never be deposed”, yet he was deposed. No one in his right mind will believe that line literally.

However, that line, uttered in the middle of the impeachment trial, shows the patent bias of a senator-judge who the public expects to be impartial. Miriam is so proud of her law background, why didn’t she realize that when she said those words?

Duterte's hyperbolics, on the other hand, has nothing to do with my reason for supporting him. I support Duterte because he's the only viable non-oligarchic candidate. Unless his hyperbolic language starts to suggest an inclination to perpetuate elite rule, that language won't affect my choice.

Moreover, take note the two words "viable" and "non-oligarchic". Miriam, while non-oligarchic, is not viable per health issues.

On "Miriam will call you out"

MP: Miriam is known to call out people misbehaving and acting improperly, especially if they are committing the blunder on her privilege speeches or while holding a quorum. She first did it during the impeachment trial of Erap Estrada when she called the attention of the audience who were standing up and laughing when was on the podium talking. She did it again during a committee hearing some years later, calling the attention of a cameraman who she asked to get out of the premises. She did it a few more times, and her propensity to call out people misbehaving and breaking rules is perfectly within her character, and not a result of her being ‘napahiya’.”

I actually appreciate MDS when she calls people out for their bullshit. I appreciate her for doing that.
However, If that’s how you understand the situation vis-a-vis the 2001 Erap Impeachment Trial, then I respect that per Freedom of Speech.

However, Inquirer reporters, who were actually present during the trial, beg to disagree. According the article entitled “Miriam goes ballistic; 3 spectators expelled” [Inquirer]:

Santiago’s outburst came after Senator Raul Roco talked to prosecution witness… about the nobility of the law profession. It was an apparent dig at Santiago who had expressed that Banal…quit a high-paying job… to transfer to… a lower-paying job.”

On Court Technicalities

MP: Speaking of which, ThinkingPinoy questioned why Miriam is so keen in exercising court technicalities. This has been addressed by Miriam during the Corona trial, where she mentioned that the court is precisely a body of technicalities, which makes its use imperative. Technicalities in law can be annoying for non-lawyers, but they keep our judicial system organized and civilized. If admitting evidence in court will not become technical, it will create an environment where anyone can submit evidence without basis, without authentication and with malice, which will defeat the purpose of conducting a fair trial and arriving to a fair verdict. In this case, an individual will be deprived of his right to a fair trial, and can result to society crumbling to the whims of the majority.”

Yes, that is correct, but only for purely judicial proceedings.

By Miriam's own admission, impeachment is both quasi-judicial and quasi-political [GMANews], making MP's line of reasoning in the quoted paragraph inapplicable, as Miriam's insistence on technicalities goes totally contrary to the quasi-political nature of the impeachment proceedings.

On the CID / Immigration Chief Issue

MP: In 1989, Miriam became the commissioner of Immigration and Deportation. At the time, it is widely known as one of the most corrupt government agency. The Philippines was also known at the time as the Fake Passport Capital of the World. On her first day as CID Commissioner, she ordered reorganization within the department… ”

TP chose not expound on that in the article TP wrote last time. Let me just concede on that point and accept MP's explanation for the CID issue.

On Black Propaganda

MP: And here's her message to black propagandists like you:

“Tangkaan na nila na ang buhay ko. Siraan na nila ng siraan ang pangalan ko. Basta hindi ako aalis sa gobyerno natin. Hindi ako hihinto. Hindi ako uurong. Hindi ako susuko. Dahil ano sila, sinusuwerte?”

In fairness to Senator Santiago, she has taken a more brazen stance against corruption since the aftermath of the Erap Impeachment Trial, and I commend her for that. I appreciate your passion for defending your political choices. At last, Filipinos are starting to care about what goes in our government.

However, let us be clear about the definition of black propaganda.

“Black propaganda is false information and material that purports to be from a source on one side of a conflict, but is actually from the opposing side. [Doob 1950]”
The definition stated above require information to be false to be considered black propaganda. However, TP makes it a point to back all his claims with verifiable and reliable news sources.

I would like to enjoin MP to list down at least a few bits from the previous article that has no credible backing from a reputable news site or a scholarly publication, and I will be more than willing issue an apology.

Final Note

The original TP article was written with the objective of  reminding voters to always evaluate their options with a healthy dose of doubt. Despite being a Duterte supporter, ThinkingPinoy calls out some Duterte supporters who blindly support their candidate without exerting any effort to think critically.

In the same way, I am reminding MDS followers that, contrary to popular belief, MDS is no political saint either. This is not to imply that MDS followers should withdraw their support. Instead, this is to help MDS followers make the better-calculated electoral decisions than one that disregards a substantial chunk of her political history into account.

Truth be told, without her health issues, MDS would have been an easy second choice for me, if not the first.

Without any attempt at sounding patronizing, I sincerely (and without echos) appreciate the rebuttal issued by the "Miriam Defensor-Santiago for President" facebook page.

Should MP decide to rebut this rebuttal, I will be amenable to addressing that too.


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