Press Release
July 29, 2015


"An answered prayer" is how Filipino netizens described Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago's presidential bid, as they urged the most social media-savvy Malacañang aspirant to carefully choose her running mate in the 2016 elections.

Facebook and Twitter users, who earlier complained about the lack of choices in the presidential contest, have been abuzz since Santiago announced that she might run now that cancer growth in her left lung "has been arrested."

"God has answered our prayers," @louiethird tweeted, in response to the senator's update. For his part, Gerry Salazar said on Facebook, "For God so loved the Philippines, He arrested her cancer. There is still hope for our country."

Their sentiments were echoed by many of Santiago's supporters. She now has some three million followers on Facebook and some 1.65 million followers on Twitter, making her queen of social media among government officials.

"Miriam is my president, whatever happens," voter Leshiel Ann Nicor Malte said on Facebook, but even those who admit that they have not registered for the 2016 polls are rallying support for Santiago.

"Senator Miriam, if ever you will run as President for Philippines, this will be the first time in my entire life that I am going to vote. I will assure you, my very first vote belongs to you," Cez Bhing said in a Facebook post.

Netizens have also floated choices for the senator's running mate, noting that, like Santiago, the vice president should have experience in an executive position, conviction against corruption, and clear understanding of the law.

Among the popular suggestions are Sen. Grace Poe, Santiago's colleague in the Senate and also a perceived contender in the presidential race; Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte; and Camarines Sur Rep. Leni Robredo.

"Maybe Poe should reconsider and run for vice president under Miriam Santiago," @katbernardo tweeted. Addressing Santiago on Facebook, Glecs Adolfz said, "Buti pa nga, ma'am, kayo na lang ni Ma'am Grace ang magsama. Baka kahit paano magkaroon ng pagbabago."

Poe has recently been leading pre-election surveys for president, after she hinted that she is not averse to seeking public office. But critics say residency issues might hamper her candidacy. Poe embraced U.S. citizenship for decades before returning to the Philippines upon the death of her father.

In a Facebook post, Rod Diasnes Layco said, "The only two people that may still have the chance to uplift the soul of our nation, Santiago (for president) and Duterte (for vice-president)."

Similarities have been drawn between Santiago, who in 1988 won the Ramon Magsaysay Award for government service, with a citation for cleaning up the graft-ridden Commission on Immigration and Deportation, and Duterte, who is credited for lowering the crime rate in Davao.

"Im praying for a Santiago-Duterte. Now that will be unstoppable," Twitter user @poziattitude. Some of the senator's followers have reservations, however, due to Duterte's alleged disregard for human rights and the law.

A surprise choice among Santiago's followers is Robredo, a lawyer catapulted into the public life due to the death of her husband, former Interior and Local Government Sec. Jesse Robredo.

Replying to a media organization's tweet that asked whom Santiago should choose as running mate, Twitter user @clavenilo said, "Leni Robredo! Women's power! That will surely wake everyone up!"

Robredo is among the more popular members of the House of Representatives at present. Political analysts are however wary about her close ties with President Aquino, in whose Cabinet her husband served.

Santiago is still on medical leave at the Senate, but public interest about her health was sparked by a video posted on her official Facebook page, which showed the senator walking around her neighborhood.

On July 2, a year after she announced that she had been diagnosed with lung cancer, stage four, the senator asked her social media followers to pray for her, especially to St. Peregrine, the Catholic patron saint for cancer. Her request for prayers was among the most widely shared posts on both Twitter and Facebook.

She announced on July 22 that world-renowned oncologist Dr. Mark Kris, chief of the Thoracic Oncology Service at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, pronounced her cancer as "controlled."

Santiago recently emerged the second most popular presidential bet in a survey conducted by Publicus Asia. The senator welcomed the development, which she considered a feat considering that she has cancer.

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