MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago is eyeing the presidency in 2016.
The senator and legal expert made the announcement herself in a press statement on Wednesday, July 22. Quoting her doctor, Santiago said she has "licked cancer."
This is the first time the senator clearly expressed interest in the presidency after months of speculation, and hinting at a candidacy. In March 2014, she said she was not keen on running because of financial constraints.
She said back then: "There are excessive estimates of P15 billion to P20 billion for the 2016 elections. I was not a member of the pork barrel scam so I don’t have this amount. I never sold my body so I don’t have this amount!”
The senator announced in July 2014 that she has stage 4 lung cancer, and is on leave from the Senate. She turned 70 in June.
Santiago said she is "elated and gratified" by her doctors' statement that her lung cancer has been "controlled," and by the results of a survey naming her one of the top 3 presidential bets.
The senator ran for president in 1992 but lost to Fidel V. Ramos in an election she claims was rigged.
Santiago's statement comes after a consultation with her doctors including renowned medical oncologist Dr Mark Kris, chief of the Thoracic Oncology Service at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York.
Kris had a consultation with Santiago and her Filipino doctors – former health and social welfare secretary Dr Esperanza Cabral, oncologist Dr Gary Lorenzo, and pulmonologist Dr Ruth Divinagracia – on Friday, July 17.
Santiago's statement read, “Kris said that although no patient can be pronounced cured of cancer, Santiago, while following the medical prescriptions of Kris, has been able to control the cancer, meaning that cancer growth in her left lung has been arrested.”
Santiago said her medical team conducted tests at the St Luke's Global City Medical Center in Taguig including PET (Positron Emission Tomography) and CT (Computed Tomography) scans, which Kris “had already fully studied in his New York clinic.”
The senator hailed Kris' credentials, saying Sloan Kettering is the world's oldest and largest private cancer center. The hospital is ranked number one for cancer care in the US.
Santiago recently released a video on Facebook showing her exercising by walking two kilometers daily.
The senator then said she was “happily surprised” by a Publicus Asia survey showing that she ranked second among possible presidential bets.
Santiago said the survey listed the following aspirants in order of voter preference: Senator Grace Poe, Santiago, Vice President Jejomar Binay, Senator Francis Escudero, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, and Interior Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas II.
With the exception of Poe as the current front runner, the survey results she cited differed from those of the Social Weather Stations poll conducted in June, which showed her tied with Senator Francis Escudero in 6th place among potential candidates in the 2016 race.
The senator pointed out that all of the names in the Publicus Asia survey are in active government service except for her as she remains on leave.
“To remain in the consciousness of voters despite an absence of over a year is certainly a challenge, including remaining in public service. And I consider it in that light,” Santiago said.
The senator is an expert in constitutional and international law, having authored several books on the topics. A former Quezon City Regional Trial Court judge, she was elected a judge of the International Criminal Court but stepped down because of her illness.
She is a champion of the Reproductive Health law, the most prolific senator, and a strong critic of the pork barrel corruption scam that implicated 3 of her colleagues including archenemy Senator Juan Ponce Enrile. She is also a recipient of the Ramon Magsaysay Award for government service.
Famous for her wit, pick-up lines, and sense of humor as much as her feistiness, Santiago is also the author of two bestselling joke books. She enjoys a strong online following, especially among the youth. She is the self-styled “most influential senator on social media” with 1.4 million Twitter followers, and 2.9 million Facebook likes.
She said then: “The question of the public is: Who should we vote for in 2016? We can see that all of the senators and congressmen are all stupid and when you tell on them, they get mad. We need situational leadership. The President should go to them and challenge them to a fistfight. You cannot negotiate with these people.” – Rappler.com