10/13/2015
Would Miriam make a good president?

"If I become president some time in the very near future, this country will be much better than it was before."

That was Miriam Defensor-Santiago, right before announcing that she is, indeed, running for president in 2016.

"Today, this country suffers from the malaise of plunder. Plunder is when you look at a person and the person looks at you and you feel like eating each other up. It’s like cancer. The one thing bad about cancer is it tends to eat up its neighbor."

That was Miriam Defensor-Santiago, the new great hope for the Philippines.

Now that Rodrigo Duterte has shuttered, once and for all (again), any hopes for him to run for the presidency, breaking the hearts of (at least) thousands who are hoping his tougher-than-tough-love policies would turn the country around, here comes another political figure, promising to do the same things, albeit through different methods.

Miriam's years as a judge, government official, and legislator, are defined by her no-nonsense, methodical approach - and later, for her way with words, and her outspoken pronouncements, all teetering close past the line of decorum and etiquette. And somehow, that has endeared her to a particular kind of voter, the kind that's jaded after years of politicians constantly calculating their actions for less risk, more impact. Someone like her, a maverick who speaks her mind - she should be a good president, right?

It's easy to see why her kind appeals. People will say the system is rotten, that the system needs an overhaul from the inside, and not the sort that involves a roomful of people deliberating. Miriam, with her sharp tongue and sharper mind, would wreak havoc on a complacent system of governance. That should be what we need. Duterte, with his tough stance on order - tough to the point, some say, of extrajudicial - would wreak havoc on a system that favors the entrenched. Heck, even Bongbong Marcos - a man who some seek to discredit solely because he's the son of his father - would wreak havoc on a system that chooses to love itself and forget all the others.

Yeah, that's the appeal. Think of the last three presidents we've had. Erap fostered a drinking-club atmosphere when he was president, giving favors to friends (despite what he said when he was sworn in) and even amassing wealth for himself. Gloria, swept into power through a series of protests against that drinking club, chugged through the goodwill and ended up building a community of sorts herself, only with allegations of electoral fraud thrown into the mix. Even Noynoy, who promised to change the way government works - as if he's got some magic powder or something - ended up just chasing after his enemies and turning a blind eye on his friends.

Sure, there seems to be more positive changes under the Aquino administration, but the ordinary voter feels like it's not really something he'll get. Traffic still sucks; prices still rocket ever-so-upward; there are still idiots running government offices. Change? What change? Waze says we have the worst traffic in the world! What change? What hope? I say, we need someone who'll blow things up - and Miriam is it!

Right?

Frankly, I'm not so sure.

Now, I'm not discounting Miriam's intelligence, not her track record. And I could be very wrong here. It's possible I'm just being stupid and naïve. I'm just not sure if we're excited for her for the right reasons. You see, we're excited for her because of her outspokenness, a reputation she has cultivated in recent years, despite spending most of it on medical leave due to cancer. She's built herself up in recent years as one who speaks truth to power in a method accessible to the common man, both by Senate hearings and by pick-up lines during speeches. It's entertaining, but are we really looking to just be entertained? What exactly does that say about our preferences as voters? But I digress.

I'm more antsy about Miriam's political shrewdness. Not that it's a bad thing. You know how politics in the Philippines goes - "you're either with us or against us," especially in recent years; it's all about the numbers and the things you could win when you get enough of them, not about the governing. Again, Miriam's "truth to power" image could possibly shatter this and force people to finally work together. But then again, she's had a track record for, well, being like everybody else. She voted against the opening of the supposedly incriminating envelope against Joseph Estrada during the impeachment trial against him. She was even at the so-called third EDSA revolution, her outspokenness entertaining an increasingly mob-like crowd out to get Gloria Arroyo out and bring Erap back in power. Just three years later, she would run again as senator, under Gloria Arroyo's K4 banner.

There is nothing wrong with being populist. There is nothing wrong with siding with the people when the clamor gets loud enough. But it does not look good, flitting around like a butterfly because one flower looks more attractive than another. You're just not sure where she stands. Sure, she may be smart and she may be brilliant, but what does she stand for? And what does she envision the country to be if she becomes president?

"If I become president some time in the very near future, this country will be much better than it was before."

Yeah, perhaps we should wait for the platforms before we could judge. Already the discourse is peppered with "ew, I won't vote Binay!" and "yes, I will vote for Leni!" and "I might vote for Grace" without nary an idea what these candidates stand for. (Sure, we do have a good idea, but it's nothing to work with yet.) And that's why we're excited for Miriam. We know who she is as a politician: frank, articulate, entertaining. A maverick, possibly. But we do not know who she is - who everybody else is - as a leader.

And your responses...

I feel so bad that Leni had to run, and now Miriam. I may sound selfish but I think they can always do more for the nation even without running for higher office.

Blogger Jacqueline Uy10/14/2015     

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