Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago remains defiant in her refusal to release even a summary of her medical history, despite calls from several individuals most notably Dr. Sylvia Estrada-Claudio of the UP Center for Women’s Studies. According to the presidential candidate, publicizing her medical records will violate her right to privacy and the doctrine of doctor-patient confidentiality.
Santiago’s lingering health issues has been widely reported for about three years now. For example, she missed the first week of the 2012 impeachment trial against ousted Chief Justice Renato Corona because of hypertension. The following year, the veteran lawmaker began missing lots of senate sessions due to chronic fatigue syndrome, a condition which eventually forced her to give up her seat at the International Criminal Court.
And then, there’s of course her revelation July last year that she is suffering from Stage 4 cancer of the left lung. Even more stunning is her bizarre revelation just two months later that she already “licked” her cancer thanks to a drug called Tarceva (generic name: Erlotinib Hydro-chloride). As early as then, some raised doubts regarding Santiago’s narrative.
At this point, it is worth noting that Tarceva is one of the medications for lung cancer approved by the United States National Cancer Institute (see the complete list here). Testimonials for Tarceva has been greatly positive based on websites like Drugs.com and RXlist.com. In other words, the treatment for lung cancer that Santiago took (or still taking) is a legitimate one.
Despite her condition, Santiago has maintained a high profile. She still managed to accept speaking engagements from all over the country and has worked on two humor-oriented books. More importantly, she has filed the most number of bills and resolutions in the Senate despite her frequent medical leaves.
Nevertheless, questions about Santiago’s health is a valid concern. Two Philippine presidents, Manuel Quezon in 1944 and Manuel Roxas in 1948, have died in office while a third one, Ferdinand Marcos, kept the public in the dark about his deteriorating health in his final years.
Santiago certainly doesn’t want questions about her health lingering throughout her campaign, which will distract the people’s attention away from her platforms. This is what happened during the 2004 presidential elections when Raul Roco failed to adequately explain to the public the status of his prostate cancer (he died of it the following year).
She can follow the example set by former United States Secretary of State and 2016 presidential front runner Hillary Clinton. Last July, her attending physician issued a two-page medical history that detailed all serious health conditions that she had to deal with as well as the medications she took in recent years. The document ultimately concluded that Clinton is “fit to serve” as president.
In conclusion, it would be wise for Santiago to ask her doctors to prepare a brief summary of her medical history just to silence her critics and put the issue to rest. In particular, her camp needs to be transparent about the past and present state of her lung cancer.