Philippines' presidential candidate Miriam Santiago, a former judge who has run for the top office twice earlier

Philippine presidential candidate Miriam Santiago arrives at St Louis University for an election campaign, on April 16, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS

MANILA - Senator Miriam Santiago, 70, is running for the top office for the third time. A cancer survivor, she has missed some public appearances during the campaign, leading to speculation that she would withdraw from the race. Critics have also questioned her choice of running mate.

Her running mate is Ferdinand Marcos Jr

Ever since Ms Santiago and the 58-year-old son and namesake of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos joined their hands together in October, she has had to fend off questions on the alliance. Santiago defended her choice of Marcos as her running mate, saying the Marcoses, as a family, did not owe the Filipino people an apology for the human rights abuses during martial law.

She said it was the elder Marcos and his advisers who made policy decisions during martial law.

"Times have changed. Your opinions and ideologies are different from those of your parents. You always have to adjust to the times," she said.

She has also described the partnership as "strange" but also "a new development that two people from different parties now are running together."

Santiago is running under her People's Reform Party while Marcos Jr is a member of the Nacionalista Party but running as an independent.

Third time's always a charm

This is Ms Santiago's third shot at the Malacañang Palace, the official residence of the Philippines president.

She had run for the presidency in 1992, with former Senator Ramon Magsaysay Jr. as her running mate, but lost to Fidel V. Ramos. In 1998, she ran with former Senator Francisco Tatad as her partner, but lost to Joseph Estrada.

"Third time's always a charm," she said, adding in jest that she said yes to her husband the third time he proposed to her.

A former judge

She was a regional trial court judge before entering politics. She is known for her feisty grilling of witnesses at Senate hearings and for zany quotes like: "I eat bullets for breakfast."

She was elected on her third term as senator in 2010. She was agrarian minister under the Corazon Aquino government.

Cancer survivor

The grandmother of five is a stage 4 cancer survivor, and has had to fend off speculation that she may not last six years to serve out her term - that is, if she wins, which is a long shot.

"It's very hard to change my mind once I decide; ask my husband," she said, addressing earlier rumours that she would eventually withdraw from the race due to her health.

But Ms Santiago's public appearances have been hindered by her health condition. She had to miss one of the three presidential debates.

Her favourite poem is Invictus

The short Victorian poem by William Ernest Henley is her favorite poem. Henley had written the poem after his leg was amputated due to an illness. In a previous interview with the Inquirer she recited the last two memorable lines of the poem: "I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul."

Anti-corruption platform

Her core message is that the next President should be chosen based on academic, professional and moral excellence. The senator is campaigning on an anti-corruption platform. "I will put them all in jail. They can choose: economy class, business class or first class? But they will all go to jail!" she thundered in a recent speech addressing corrupt officials.


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