February 29, 2012

Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago is no stranger to jokes regarding her sanity. In fact, she has been repeatedly called Brenda (brain-damaged) and Rita (retarded). There was even a joke that she will be modeling for a watch jointly made by Seiko and Patek Philippe named Seikopatek.

These jokes, notwithstanding, the good Senator has proven herself time and time again as a jurist non pareil and at the same time a legislator of good standing. A Ramon Magsaysay awardee for government service, Miriam Defensor Santiago was a trial judge of note and a professor of constitutional and international law before she was called to a ‘higher calling’. She was first elected to the Senate in 1995 after narrowly losing the presidential elections of 1992. In the four times that she ran for the Senate, she only lost once and, that, as a consequence of her position on the Estrada impeachment trial.

But more than these achievements, what drew all these attentions to the lady senator were her antics bordering on the lunacy. The way she speaks, the sound of her voice akin to that of a fingernail screeching on the blackboard, her choice of English words that can only come from dusty, cobwebbish attics, her high-falluting attitude, and the way she laughs in an unnatural and contrived manner are all good soundbites that never failed to get a laugh or two. Or a mocking remark.

True to form, the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Corona has drawn the best and the worst from Miriam Defensor Santiago. And sadly, the worst always came out on top. Her daily tirades, lectures, bombasts (or whatever you may want to call it) on the prosecution are not lost on the people watching the trial. Of course, the bumbling Mr Tupas and co. and the manner by which they handle their case didn’t help in abating the lady senator’s contempt for them. But this does not excuse Miriam Defensor Santiago, senator or not, in treating the prosecutors in a huff and condescending manner. Senator or not, this is not an excuse for Miriam Defensor Santiago to bully or treat others as an inferior or to grandstand on national tv at the expense of another person.

Lost in all these are the way a public official should act in public or how a person, high or low, should treat a fellow human being. It is a sad commentary that decency is a word largely forgotten in today’s milieu, at least in the Philippine context. And seeing our high officials, elected or appointed, acting in a pompous manner is truly disheartening. Fruit of the poisonous tree, indeed! No pun intended.

It is no wonder that we have been electing the likes of Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago to public posts. Words like decency and respect have been transplanted by corruption and impropriety, by indecency and disrespect. We have grown calloused as a people as to confuse ‘kagandahang asal’ to acts inimical to it. And we wonder why we can’t line up and wait for our turn buying movie tickets?

And when a bully is confronted by someone who has been bullied and tormented for a long time, what are we to do? High or low, senator or not, we all have our thresholds. After all, we are just human beings with all our frailties. Who among us have not a moment of insanity? And when you are confronted by words like ‘gago’ and other demeaning terms on national tv, would you not have snapped? Would you not have snapped if abused and treated as such, even if you are faced by the prospect of imprisonment?

Now, is it too much to ask the lady Senator from Iloilo and Quezon City and her fellow Senator-judges to give a little leeway to Atty. Vitaliano Aguirre II for his momentary act of insanity? A momentary act that the lady senator only knows too well.