Two women politicians are getting serious maker over from media mogul GMA-7, Congresswoman Imelda Marcos and Senator Miriam Santiago. Imelda was on TV over the weekend talking about her favorite topic, “talent, power, wealth and her husband as a “hero,” while Senator Santiago earlier was shown on TV imbibing “pick-up lines” of the young generation, and in another interview, she took potshots at her colleagues in the Senate for convicting and ousting Reynato Corona from the Supreme Court.
Senator Santiago is an intellectual fraud. She masquerades partisanship as quest for due process. She erred twice in the sovereign process of holding public officials accountable for their malfeasance in office. The first was when she and some of her colleagues were successful in holding the impeachment of Joseph Estrada in 2001 to a standoff – but the public, in defiance of their position took the matters into their hands and forced Erap out of office. The second was when she tried the same maneuver in the impeachment of CJ Corona this year, but her colleagues, conscious of the public sentiments over Corona’s hedging and hewing over the extent of his undeclared wealth, joined the public’s outrage and dethroned the jurist from his office in a vote that surprised even the skeptics.
Often annoyed by the public’s relentless weighing into the impeachment of Mr. Corona, Senator Santiago preaches that the constituents have already surrendered their sovereign power to their elected officials who alone now must decide the fate of the jurist. She finds solace in the ‘social contract doctrine’ which she theorizes, cannot be revoked by the sovereign people at political midstream. She does not want the public to veto their judgment over Corona, the way the public did in the case of Erap, and warned them not to be rushed into judgment ahead of the judgment of the Senators. But when the conscience of the Senate finally comes to bear, the lady senator conveniently blamed her colleagues in the Senate whom she said had been wined and wheedled by Malacanang to deliver the guilty verdict.
And the media mogul, GMA-7, disseminated Santiago’s embitterment with fanfare!
In another political comedy, Imelda is preaching her favorite topic over the media again. She is incurable of her delusions and her unrelenting claim to innocence.
Serious researchers and writers have documented her avarice and plunder. The western press labeled her ‘madam butterfly’ obviously ascribing to her loyalty to a husband despite his being a philanderer, a murderer and a kleptocrat just like her.
American author, Sterling Seagrave wrote about Mrs. Marcos:
“Her social welfare program included Christmas bags, home gardens, disaster relief, and a project called Save-a-Life-in-Every Barrio, “Culture and art and a taste for the beautiful,” she lectured, “must lead to goodness.”
There were moments when people wondered if such noble sentiments were entirely sincere. In an interview, Jaime Ferrer confirmed that evidence of corruption came in the very first year under the Marcoses. “Imelda had a Christmas drive for the poor, which was traditional job for the First Lady. But all the checks were made out to her and were deposited in her name. They were not used for the poor. Word got around. What I remember is that the following year, San Miguel Corporation did not send checks again. They sent goods.” When there were calamities, earthquakes, typhoons, and eruptions of volcanoes, foreign embassies donated emergency food. A U.S. Embassy official recalled, “We naturally checked to see if Imelda’s people were following through, and discovered that she was withholding our food bags for a day or two till they could each be tagged. ‘A gift from the First Lady.’
The Philippine-American Cultural Foundation had raised 90,000 pesos to build a modest Cultural Center, and Imelda adopted both the fund and the project. “She was familiar with the pain of abortive event,” wrote [Kerima] Polotan, ‘ and knew that many Filipino artist died unheard of because he had none to hear him, and nowhere to be heard.” Imelda declared that it was all to be done without government involvement. However, Ferdinand contributed a stretch of government owned waterfront on Roxas Boulevard, a dramatic site looking across the water to the mountains of Bataan. Imelda commissioned a land reclamation project to expand the waterfront site far out into the bay (the idea had originated with Harry Stonehill). In a matter of months she had raised 35 million pesos. Some came from a benefit show of the musical Flower Drum Song – one night for the wealthy Chinese community, another night for non-Chinese. Caltex and San Miguel beer underwrote the production. Other contributors were collected by personal letter, a call, or supper at the palace. The liberal opposition called her style “indirect coercion, indirect bribery, sophisticated extortion.”
“I’m like Robin Hood, Imelda would say, with a twinkle in her eye, “I rob the rich.. It’s done with smile. It’s the rich you can terrorize. The poor have nothing to lose.”
“After a year, the Center was broke. Imelda seemed stymied by the continual escalation in costs, but it was a problem of her own making. Around her had begun to gather like schools of shrimp a great following of lickspittles, votaries, intriguers, and opportunists. Everybody got a piece of action. A Manila architect described how it happened. “Several key men in the construction industry decided, just for fun, to work out the percentage of project cost that went to kickbacks. The process started at the top when a senior official demands 20 percent.
As the inflated bid work its way on the system from general contractor, to subcontractor, to supplier –each adding .. 10 per cent for himself – the total for kickbacks grows as high as 80 percent of the overall contract costs.” The people Imelda liked most were put in charge of her projects and became instant millionaires. In the Philippines, in polite company they are called tutas (lapdogs), in not so polite company, sip-sips (cocksuckers). They provided her with the beginnings of her own espionage network; what the husbands told Ferdinand, the wives and their lovers told Imelda. These courtiers and courtesans needed nourishment. Culture had become Imelda’s own personal pork barrel, as patron of the arts”. (Marcos Dynasty by Sterling Seagrave, p. 191-92).
When local author Primitivo Mijares wrote “Conjugal Dictatorship” of Marcos and Imelda, overeager sycophants of the couple had Mijares son kidnapped, took out the eyes from their sockets, tortured, killed, and dumped his body along busy roadside, a stage for maximum display of the capacity of the regime to exact revenge from those who opposed the dictatorship. Mijares himself was never seen, but author Seagrave claimed, he came home with a Marcos agent, detained in the “dark room” of Malacanang and let him watch the son being tortured. The death of Mijares’s son bears the same criminal ‘fingerprint’ of the murder of labor leader Rolando Olalia, eyes removed from their sockets, mouth stuffed with rubbish and then dumped.
Politicians like Imelda and Santiago cannot be an object of adulation by the media and offered them to the public as model citizens or public functionaries. They must be exposed for what they are and their phony core values brought to proper light.
The electorate must reject them instead of empowering them with the sovereign zeal.
Why the electorate keeps electing people in the government the likes of Imelda and Santiago, offers an unending paradox. Mr. Marcos explains this paradox himself.
“For the last several days I have been overwhelmed by a sense of frustration because of the implications of the senatorial elections.
[T]he results indicate that the people still do not have the wisdom and the discrimination required for a truly democratic republic. For, the demagogues and the simpletons were elected instead of the highly qualified.
So, the consequences may be dangerous. I now fear for our Republic.”
The above quote, which is full of ironies, was from Marcos diary of Nov. 10, 1971 when his Nacionalista senatorial ticket was routed 6-2 by the Liberal Party candidates. (one Nacionalista was a guest candidate of the Liberal Party, Senator Eva Kalaw. Only Senators Almendras and Maceda, true-bloodied NP survived the LP onslaught).
For once, Mr. Marcos was right. The electorate keeps electing demagogues to high offices — himself, Imelda, Santiago and others like them.