by CAREN JOY MALALUAN and VON CONSIGNA
Presidential candidate Miriam Defensor-Santiago received a warm welcome from the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) students, faculties, and supporters in the recently concluded BUKLOD-UPLB’s event entitled ‘The Forum’ on Wednesday, April 27.
With an estimated over 2000 audience, the Baker Hall roared as the crowd led by the Youth for Miriam together with the students chanted ‘Si Miriam ang sagot!’ while waiting for the arrival of Senator Defensor-Santiago.
The senator started her speech with her trademark pick-up lines. ‘Sana letter T or V na lang ako, para lagi akong right next to U,’ the senator charmed, sending the audience in laughter.
Santiago however set aside the cheesy lines and took a serious road by making cryptic jabs against her political rivals. The senator said lines like ‘Wala pa silang nagawa!’ and ‘Meron na iba na baril agad ang inaasahan.’ in reference to other presidential aspirants.
On the other hand, she also revealed that someone tried to bribe her through her husband with P300 million in exchange for the withdrawal of her presidential candidacy. On the said bribery, the famous senator told the crowd ‘E, taga-UP ata ako!’ while emphasizing that she cannot easily be lured by the huge amount of money.
Referring to her low position in the national surveys, Santiago strongly criticized the survey results and said that it was paid for while at the same time argued that she is always ranked as number one on surveys made by various universities and colleges.
“Every time mag survey sila dahil bayaran ‘tong mga ‘to lagi akong nasa ilalim. Di bale dahil late ako nag kampanya o dahil may sakit ako. Pero bakit sa lahat ng pamantasan sa ating bansa, saan man mapunta lalo na sa UP campuses bakit palagi akong number one?” Santiago firmly stated.
The senator proved she cannot be brought down by detractors, even surveys that present numbers.
“Pinapababa nila ang rank ko sa surveys para mawalan ng gana ang contributors. Pag walang contributors, walang funding,” she said.
Plans for the Agriculture Sector
The experienced lawmaker also said that she would give priority to the agricultural sector. On how she would fix problems in the agricultural sector, she said that she would factor in all things, like water and irrigation, labor, and research.
“We will prevent the privatization and commercialization of irrigation. My government will also finance the programs of use of new variety of seed and technologies,” Santiago said about her plans for agriculture.
The senator also called for clean, honest, and fair elections. Wrapping her speech up, she asked for the students’ help by saying ‘Ladies and gentlemen of UPLB, help me in this march for truth.’
The event was attended by mostly students and several supporters of Santiago. When asked about what’s her general assessment of the forum, Kathleen Manalo, a batch 2011 student, said “’The Forum’ pero parang hindi naman po forum. ’Di naman rinig, tapos wala pang Q&A. Sayang kasi may maganda siyang nasabi about agriculture. Kaso ayun nga,technical difficulties.”
For Steph, a member of the Youth for Miriam, the forum was overwhelming. She also said that the support shown from the crowd inside the Baker Hall clearly debunks the results of the national surveys for presidency.
“Of course, sa assessment, the Youth for Miriam is very much happy sa overwhelming na pag-welcome kay MDS dito sa forum. Kitang-kita naman natin na hindi totoo yung 3% na survey nationwide. Kitang-kita naman natin na dumadagundong ang Baker’s [sic] Hall sa forum na ‘to,” Steph stated.
Youth for Miriam member Steph was also asked which part of Miriam’s speech was most striking for her. She said, “Sa main point, yung mga pambabatikos sa kanya na hindi naman totoo, yung black propaganda na pinipilit nilang mawala sa survey si MDS.Siguro, humility aside, they are threatened with the force that is “Miriam Magic” that is happening today.”
Meanwhile, BUKLOD-UPLB member Ian Lucas on his favorite part of Miriam’s speech stated, “Gusto ko yung sinabi niya. Kasi nag-invest siya ngayon sa sector of agriculture. Ano ba yung dapat gawin, how to uplift yung mga kapwa nating farmers. Kasi diba, UPLB started out sa agriculture and forestry. Kaya para sakin, relevant na sinabi niya yun, given na dun tayo nagsimula; this is UPLB, center of excellence in agriculture.”
UPLB Perspective also asked BUKLOD-UPLB Chairperson Krissah Taganas on why the event was cut short and the request of the audience for an open forum was not allowed. Taganas revealed that the senator’s staff only told them that there is still an appointment scheduled for the senator by 6pm, but did not disclose where.
After the forum, the senator and her staff left while the UPLB Chorale Ensemble led the students in the singing of UP Naming Mahal. Some students followed Miriam and her staff and got the chance to take selfies and briefly meet the presidential aspirant face-to-face. [P]