Thoughts on Miriam’s Political Expediency

It’s been almost a year since I left Philippine politics. Having unfollowed Rappler, The Philippine Daily Inquirer, and other news channels, I thought I’d get more sensible news from The New York Times,The Huffington Post, Mother Jones, and other American news outlets. I started following American politics where, despite the intense gridlock, there is actually one party that espouses liberalism and cares for the the middle class.

Days ago, I was forced to rethink my decision when Miriam Santiago decided to run for President of the Philippines. Perhaps she can unite this country once more and at least change the trajectory of a nation that is going in the wrong direction. Just look at how frustratingly stupid this country has become. Marcos, a criminal whose family destroyed this country’s fiscal stability is now revered like a saint by majority of Filipinos on social media. Erap, an ex-convict, almost got re-elected as President back in 2010. Gloria Arroyo, another criminal, has gained the sympathy of many for being “illegally detained” according to the United Nations. And the Liberal Party isn’t actually liberal, ffs!

Before her announcement, I was already leaning towards influencing the outcome of the general election in my own, small way, despite not being completely sure about voting for anyone in the presidential race. I have called groups and suggested questions for the presidential debate and called for making a mobile application that helps voters pick their candidate based on the issues that matter to them. I have also thought of making my own facebook group where I’d begin debates about important national issues. And Miriam’s announcement has doubled that list. Right after reading the news, I signed up to volunteer for her social media campaign, and I planned on making digital campaign materials and starting facebook groups specific to each region. That’s a natural, impassioned response for anyone who has seen the degree of foolishness of his fellow countrymen.

I thought, not only will the world elect two female presidents next year (the other being Hillary Clinton), it will hand the presidency to two intelligent leaders who have dedicated their entire careers working for their constituencies.

Like my disagreement with President Obama on the Trans-Pacific Partnership and with Hillary Clinton’s support of American intervention in the Middle East, I too have many differences with Miriam Santiago. Bordering on constitutional fundamentalism, she has opposed impeaching Corona and is against the constitutionality of same-sex marriage. But politics is not about ideological purity and I am not a single-issue voter. It is the art of compromise and seeking common ground with one’s opponents. That is why I have decided to continue my support for her despite choosing Bongbong Marcos as her running mate, the son of a criminal who won’t admit the wreckage that his father has left.

Believing in politics as an exercise of non-partisanship does not justify removing doubts about any candidate. Two possibilities come to mind. Maybe Miriam does share his views, except for the ones about the Martial Law era and a number of minor issues. On the other hand, I suspect that Miriam Santiago is simply using Marcos to secure a solid majority in the next election, given that hundreds of thousands of idiots are calling for his presidential run. Either way, there are a handful of judgement questions that Miriam needs to answer.

1.) How quick is she to compromise her belief in a corrupt-free government for the sake of political expediency?
2.) Did she ever consider that even without Bongbong Marcos, thousands are already on her side?
3.) Did she not think of the university students, mainly in Metro Manila, who were responsible for her success in the nation’s capital back in 1992?
4.) Did she ever consider that many professors in UP and Ateneo might withdraw their support?
5.) Did anyone on her team ever raise the concern that getting Marcos might split the vote instead of boosting it?
6.) Does this not give her opponents enough ammunition to derail her campaign?
7.) How will she answer questions from the victims of the Marcos era, now that she has Marcos on her side?
8.) How can she be proud of standing up to Marcos, as an RTC judge, when she’s comfortable running with someone who shares the opposite views?

Whatever her answers may be, I can still tolerate Bongbong Marcos as her running mate. Why? Becuase she doesn’t necessarily have to agree with him all the time and because of the way our elections are structured. Unlike in the United States where the electoral college votes only for the President and the VP shares the vote, our country elects the President and the VP separately, and they can come from different parties. That may not be good in today’s administration, but it surely is a great advantage for next year’s general elections.

It was such a disappointment to see Miriam take this decision lightly at the same time that Hillary Clinton was killing the 1st Democratic debate in Las Vegas. While I became less enthusiastic, I was determined to vote.

Now, I have changed my mind and I am withdrawing my support for Miriam Santiago, perhaps along with all the others who were flustered with her flip-flopping. No presidential candidate has qualified my simple litmus test of sanity and none of them are qualified to run this country.

Bongbong Marcos is part of the reason, although he isn’t the main one. In response to that Rappler article of a statistics magna cum laude graduate of UPD, I dislike him not because he is a Marcos but because he has called his father’s presidency a success, without any regard for all the people who were killed and suffered in poverty. If he admitted that people should not admire his father’s legacy, why would I hate him even if he were a Marcos? It’s his blind allegiance to his family and his lie about his educational record that disqualifies him from the second most powerful position.

The main reason is Miriam’s latest statement: “I don’t think the Marcoses, as a family, owe us an apology.”

The only acceptable reason for the Marcos family to be spared from making an apology is if they did not directly benefit from the late president’s cronyism. Has Miriam forgotten that Imelda Marcos remains one of the richest lawmakers in the country?

In addition, the Marcos and the Romualdez families have established political dynasties in many parts of the country. By saying that they shouldn’t apologize, has Miriam withdrawn her support for the anti-political dynasty bill, a bill which she herself has authored?

It wouldn’t hurt for Miriam to explicitly say that she is willing to make an exception when it comes to the Marcos presidency. But she has failed at that. She thinks that by having Marcos’ son as VP, she has to defend every part of his record, even his family’s history. Which is a completely irrational move.

I have long been suspicious about Miriam’s record. She was an ally of Gloria Arroyo and she voted against opening the second envelope during Estrada’s impeachment trial. But I ignored that considering her impressive legislative record. Now, that she has associated herself once again with another corrupt family, I am sure that there will be no end to corruption under her administration, especially when it comes to the families whom she is allied with.

Certainly, I’m not looking for a perfect candidate, because there is none. But you don’t have to be perfect to realize that the Marcos family has a criminal liability for many of the ills that are present in today’s society. And I demand the same for the two other corrupt families, the Arroyos and the Estradas. Miriam’s unwillingness to demand compensation from the Marcoses magnifies my disappointment with the generation who witnessed a heinous dictator, but are not speaking out against this disturbing trend of glorifying that bloody part of our history.

Miriam isn’t popular when it comes to tax reform or foreign policy. Her fame rests on repeated calls for accountability from corrupt politicians. By forgoing this one important trait, she has tampered the credibility of almost her entire record.

It’s sad that she committed this huge political blunder just days after millions were inspired by her announcement. She has descended from being the “only, qualified candidate” to being “the lesser evil.” Identifying the Marcoses as evil isn’t hard. It’s as easy as calling the Nazis mass murderers. A mistake in judgement on an issue as simple as this one raises one important question: How will she deal with more complex issues? Will she stick to the Constitution no matter what (which is probably the motivation for her statement) or will she acknowledge that it no longer serves the people and hold the corrupt lawmakers accountable?

I may be accused of nitpicking, which I have initially accused myself of, but I’m not. The Marcos era is not something to be taken lightly like what so many Filipinos have done, because thousands were killed during that time. In fact, it was so diabolical that simple acknowledgement of its evils has become my top screening question for anyone vying for the presidency.

Miriam, having failed this, is thus not qualified to be president of the Philippines, just like the rest of the candidates.

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