To win in 2016, Miriam Defensor Santiago needs to defy history
With each passing day, Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago is sounding more and more like someone who is dead-set in running for president in May 2016. Regarded as one of the most famous politicians in the social media, the feisty senator has given a lot of hints about her plans for 2016.
During a speaking engagement at the Ateneo de Manila University last week, she said: “In the 2016 presidential elections, when I am rid of my lung cancer, I intend to claim the presidency I won in 1992.” She added that if elected, she intends “to appoint a cabinet, half of whom shall be from the youth sector, and half from senior citizens.”
Last September, Santiago went as far as mentioning names of individuals in her wish-list of potential running-mates: first-term Senator Grace Poe, long-time Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, and former Defense Secretary and 2010 presidential candidate Gilbert Teodoro.
The Ilongga legislator is constitutionally barred from seeking another term in the Senate by 2016, which means her viable political options are already limited.
If the Senator is indeed serious in running for president in 2016, she will have to defy a lot of historical odds. First is her age. If she wins in May 2016, she will be 71 by the time she assumes office. Her birthday is June 15, which is just fifteen days before the inauguration.
The oldest person to be elected president is the man Santiago says cheated her of victory in 1992 – Fidel V. Ramos. Ramos, former defense secretary during the term of Corazon Aquino, stepped down from the presidency in 1998. He was 70. (Watch him do push ups and sit ups in this video taken from last year, at 85!)
Sergio Osmena Sr. is the oldest person to become president. He assumed office when Manuel Quezon died of tuberculosis in August 1, 1944. He was just 39 days short of his 66th birthday. Osmena ran for his own term in 1946 but lost to Manuel Roxas. (The fact that Santiago supposedly has lung cancer is a topic worth discussing but not in this post).
For Santiago to be regarded as a viable presidential candidate 22 years after she first sought the post speaks a lot about her political longevity. I can’t help but compare her to Hillary Clinton.
However, the fact is, Filipinos has never elected for president someone who has previously ran for that position and lost. Keep in mind that the Philippines have had fifteen presidential elections since 1935. That’s the second hurdle that Santiago needs to overcome.
We all know that Santiago lost the presidency to Ramos by just 880,000 votes in 1992 (she began her campaign sorties a year before). What many people don’t recall is that she ran again six years after. This time, she finished seventh in a field of ten candidates with less than 800,000 votes.
There are also other politicians who fared worse in their second failed presidential run. Former Senator Raul Roco, a candidate for president in 1998 and 2004, saw his vote share drop from 3.7 million to just 2 million.
Jesus Is Lord leader Eddie Villanueva received close to two million votes in his first run for the presidency in 2004, but he only got 1.1 million votes in 2010.
Another two-time presidential contender is former first lady Imelda Marcos. She ran in 1992, finishing fifth in a field of seven candidates and with 2.3 million votes. Like Santiago, she ran again in 1998 but withdrew her candidacy days before the elections to endorse eventual winner Joseph Estrada.
The third historical trend that Santiago needs to overcome is that no presidential candidate, not one!, has won without a political machinery. All presidents triumphed in the polls with the backing of a major political party.
Emilio Aguinaldo didn’t have to run a national campaign (he was “elected” through the Tejeros Convention of 1897), and so is Jose P. Laurel (he was handpicked by the Japanese colonizers in 1943). Although Ramos’ Lakas-CMD party was still a greenhorn during the 1992 polls, he enjoyed the backing of President Aquino.
Can Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago defy these three historical trends to become the country’s 16th (and third woman) president? Her over two million Facebook followers may already have a ready reply.
There are questions about the identity of the fathers of two former Philippine presidents, Sergio Osmena Sr. and Ferdinand Marcos.