Miriam comeback story takes center stage
Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte is now the undisputed survey leader in the presidential race, but — behind the scenes at the University of Pangasinan here in Dagupan City, at least, before the start of the last official presidential debate — the loudest welcome was reserved for Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago.
The ailing senator, fighting a very public battle against cancer, returned to the game-changing debate scene after missing the second leg, in Cebu, and many in the audience seemed genuinely eager to see her after her absence. Many stood up and craned their necks when she entered from the right side of the university gym, and cheers swelled as she made her way to the front. She looked much better, much more in fighting trim, than her appearance at the first debate held in Cagayan de Oro in February.
She easily exchanged pleasantries with Duterte and erstwhile front runner Sen. Grace Poe at the center aisle.
Santiago, who is making her third run at the presidency, excused herself from the March 20 debate conducted by TV5 and Philippine Star in Cebu City to say she was taking an experimental drug and needed time.
When she answered the first town-hall question, about what the next president can do for Filipino fishermen in the West Philippine Sea being harassed by the Chinese coast guard, by saying one option for her would be to call our coast guard and bomb (“bombahin”) the harassing vehicles, the audience laughed. It was, perhaps, a sign that the feisty senator of old was back.