The Presidency Is A Serious Matter

How serious are some of the candidates running in next year’s elections?

The question has been tossed by a certain Dr. Sylvia Estrada Claudio to Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago through an open letter, which circulated in the social media.

Claudio urged Sen. Santiago to release to the public her medical records to prove that she’s physically fit to take on the presidency, in the event that she wins in the May 2016 elections.

Her call is also seen as a challenge to Sen. Santiago in proving her sincerity to be the country’s next president, an opportunity that she has repeatedly been claiming to have been deprived her, as she was allegedly “cheated” during the 1992 presidential elections.

Among the current batch of presidential wannabes, Sen. Santiago, like most of them, has long hinted of her plans to join the presidential race.

But unlike them, she has kept on saying that it will be dependent on her health condition as she had been diagnosed to be suffering from a “Stage 4” lung cancer sometime middle of last year.

A week or two before the deadline of filing of the certificate of candidacy (CoC), the senator claimed that she has recovered and now cancer-free. This means that she’s now truly qualified to run for the presidency.

Her decision to join the presidential race has surprised some of her colleagues, as they are concerned of her well-being.

Sen. Cynthia Villar was one of them, admitting that she was indeed surprised to learn of Sen. Santiago’s pronouncements.

“[It was] unexpected but you know, we cannot do anything. Siguro, personal decision nya iyon, kung mag ru-run sya sa tingin nya kaya nya [physically],” Sen. Villar said.

Further, her decision on who would be her running mate was also unexpected, as there had been no indications in the past that she would run with a particular vice presidential candidate.

At the onset, Sen. Santiago played a guessing game as to who she had been referring to among the vice presidential candidates who have already filed their respective CoCs. Later on, Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. has revealed that their respective camps have met to discuss a possible alliance.

“I think it was (Sen.) Miriam’s choice, hindi pa yata alam ni (Sen.) Bongbong (Marcos) na sya ang pinili. Highly unexpected ang pag run ni (Sen.) Miriam. Sa bagay, wala namang mawawala sa kanya. Somebody supported him. In politics, everything is addition. I think for a vice presidential candidate, additional support is okay. It’s like being endorsed by (Sen.) Miriam (Santiago). I think it’s good,” Sen. Villar said.

If a particular candidate has a known bailiwick, it may prove to be advantageous to the running mate.

Among the current vice presidential candidates, Sen. Marcos is considered to benefit from the so-called “solid north” votes – or those coming from the Ilocos region.

Four of the other vice presidential candidates — Camarines Sur Rep. Leni Robredo along with Senators Francis “Chiz” Escudero, Gregorio Honasan and Antonio Trillanes IV — are seen to divide the votes in the Bicol region, which is known to deliver a bloc vote as well.

“That has always been his advantage. Sa anim na kandidato, anim ang maghahati, kung may bailiwick ka, advantage mo iyon,” Sen. Villar said.

“How the bailiwick will appreciate, that would be something,” added Sen. Villar, a partymate of Sen. Marcos in the Nacionalista Party (NP).

Another senator, who refused to be named, also expressed doubts whether Sen. Santiago is capable of launching a nationwide campaign due to her health condition.

Prior to her announcement, there had been talks that Sen. Santiago’s condition has deteriorated, only to be negated when she resurfaced in public to launch her second book, “Stupid is Forever More.”

Even Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile, a known nemesis of Sen. Santiago at the upper chamber, was also taken aback by her pronouncements, including her choice of Sen. Marcos as her running mate.

Sen. Enrile — known to be personally close to Sen. Honasan, who is the running mate of Vice President Jejomar Binay, under the banner of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) — was sighted at the vice presidential proclamation of Sen. Marcos, in Intramuros, Manila, last Oct. 10.

“There is nothing better to do according to her, except to run for president. So if she was quoted correctly, then I can base my assessment about the seriousness of her candidacy on the basis of that statement. [But] I’d rather keep my conclusion,” Sen. Enrile said, when asked on whether he thinks that Sen. Santiago is serious on her bid at the presidency.

But Sen. Santiago was adamant, while dodging the call to make public her medical records citing her right to privacy and doctor-patient confidentiality rule that is recognized by the courts.

Appearing at the forum hosted by the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industries (PCCI) for presidential candidates, Sen. Santiago addressed anew the challenge tossed to her by Dr. Claudio.

“Have you seen a provision in the Constitution requiring a candidate to show medical records? There’s no such thing. But, assuming, for the sake of argument, that these records exist and I am willing to turn them over, although with all the concomitant burdens: first, the financial burden; pangalawa, kakalat nang kakalat iyan hanggang sa hindi na natin alam kung alin diyan ang totoo; at pangatlo, para maintindihan ninyo, hindi papayag ang ospital na maglabas ng medical records kung hindi papayag ang pasyent. Ano naman ang karapatan ng isang tao na naglalakad diyan sa kalye, at bigla na lang siyang tatanungin: ‘May medical records ka ba? Kasi mukha kang taong may medical records eh.’ Papayag ba kayo?” she said.

“Isa pa, bakit ang aking medical records ang magiging paksa ng usapan natin tungkol sa pulitika? Ang pulitika ay tungkol sa peace and order. Ngayon, pilit ako na dinadala sa pulitika. Kapag inilabas ko ang lahat ng medical records ko, hindi na ang well-being ng ating bansa ang pag-uusapan, kundi ang well-being ng aking mga kalaban sa pulitika. Kaya, umpisa na lang, ayaw ko dahil, una wala ito sa batas, at pangalawa, wala itong maidudulot na kagandahan sa ating gobyerno,” she added.

‘Sabi ‘wag ako iboto dahil maari akong mamatay. Kung ganoon pala ang ikinakampanya nila, eh, ngayon pa lang maari akong mamatay! Puwede ako masagasaan ng bus o jeep diyan sa labas. Gusto lang nila ako siraan! Besides, can’t you see me? Can’t you see that I can stand straight and I can look you in the eye? What else do you want? Why are you so nasty? What government do you want to grow into, if this is your attitude? Magtulungan tayo! Let’s have a sense of shared destiny, not shared destruction. ‘Yan ang problema sa Pilipinas, eh,” Sen. Santiago said.

Incidentally, while the senator has repeatedly mentioned the names of her physicians, who include former Health Sec. Esperanza Cabral, yet not one of them has come forward to declare that she is indeed already cancer-free.

Whether the challenge of Dr. Claudio is a smear campaign or black propaganda, it seems a legitimate concern to ensure that the elected president could survive his or her six-year term.

What is ironic is that some of the supposed leaders seem to be the ones now making a mockery of the electoral system and the fate of the nation, which in Sen. Santiago’s words, remain to have unstable political institutions.

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