June 21, 2024

Looking at the profile of the recently proclaimed senators: four actors, two broadcasters, and brother-sister and mother-son tandem making it look like a cottage industry, one can’t help but miss the presence of a true advocate and “solon” (Greek for legislator), the late Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, who has literally made the august halls in Pasay livelier and interesting during her time.
A lawyer, professor, judge, and constitutionalist, Santiago was known for her fierce temper and fiery tongue and when she opened her mouth, whatever she said became a quotable quote.
She was no Bar topnotcher and former Cong. Rex Sulpicio and me (ehem) happened to have obtained a higher Bar rating but because of her wit, she was loved by the young and the masses although bitterly hated by her enemies.
In one of her campaign sorties, she said: “I may not be a genius, but my opponents are certifiable idiots.”
I remember once during a bicameral conference, where I was part of the Lower House contingent designated by then Speaker Jose de Venecia, she asked me where is that “fungus faced” colleague of yours and I can only giggle at her remarks.
At one point in her life, Santiago decided to quit politics and filed an application for the vacant Supreme Court Chief Justice seat. “I do not have any strong desire to remain in government. When my task is done, I shall be happy to leave and enhance my love life with my husband.”
When power play reared its ugly head though obliterating her from the list of nominees, she violently reacted, “I am not angry. I am irate. I am foaming in the mouth. I am homicidal. I am suicidal. I am humiliated, debased, degraded. And I am not only that, I feel like throwing up to be living my middle years in a country of this nature. I am nauseated. I spit on the face of Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban and his cohorts in the Supreme Court, I am no longer interested in the position if I was to be surrounded by idiots. I would rather be in another environment but not in the Sup-reme Court of idiots.”
When she was Agrarian Reform secretary, a few of her employees organized a protest against reforms. She blasted them as “Discombobulated moral retardates! I will exterminate them from the face of the Earth!”
At the Immigration, where employees called for her ouster, she said, “Go stick your finger in the wall socket. I will not spend my adult life answering obviously false charges. But I will exert every effort to resist the charge that I lack sex appeal. They should be chopped into a thousand pieces and fed to the sharks in Manila Bay. But it is problematic whether the sharks will eat them, out of a sense of professional courtesy!”
And when accused of throwing a chair at a protester, “They were not only rebellious, they were malicious to boot. Naturally I got mad, but I restrained myself. No, I did not throw a chair at my employees. The accurate statement is that I may have rearranged the furniture.”
When she said that she will jump out of an airplane without a parachute when Erap (former President Joseph Estrada) got elected, a journalist asked her if she would do what she promised and nonchalantly, she replied, “I lied!”
Speaking of balls, her conclusion after noticing that government novices play basketball, mid-level employees play bowling, and those in the higher offices play golf, “Kapag tumataas ang posisyon mo sa gobyerno, lumiliit ang balls mo.”