Miriam: 'I will never quit!'

ABS-CBN News

Presidential candidate Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago gestures as she gives her closing remarks during the 3rd PiliPINASDebates2016 at the PHINMA-University of Pangasinan, Dagupan City on Sunday. Jonathan Cellona., ABS-CBN News

Miriam stutters from time to time during debate

There is no stopping Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago from seeking the presidency in the May 9 elections. This, she made clear at the third and final leg of the PiliPinas Debates 2016 on Sunday.

Santiago, who missed the second Commission on Elections (Comelec)-sanctioned presidential debate last March 20 to undergo a clinical trial for a new anti-cancer pill, did appear stronger in the debate held at the PHINMA University of Pangasinan and organized by ABS-CBN, Manila Bulletin and Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP) on Sunday.

It was noticeable, however, that Santiago had to pause from time to time as she answered questions and presented her platforms during the debate, which had a town hall format.

The senator, known for being feisty and fearless, also stuttered at times, with her voice trembling. She also had to sit when it was not her time to speak.

During her five-minute closing statement, Santiago lashed out at those allegedly spreading black propaganda against her that she had already withdrawn her candidacy for the presidency.

"For those who think that I should withdraw because I have once been a cancer patient, this is what I say: I am now normal. I can think and I can act and I can pray.

"Ngayon, gusto niyo akong mag-urong. Ang sagot ko sa kanila: I will never quit! I will never stop! I will never withdraw!" Santiago said to the loud cheers of her supporters.

LUNG CANCER

It was in July 2014 when the 70-year-old senator announced that she had been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. In October 2015, she claimed having "conquered" the disease and announced her intention to seek the presidency for the third time.

READ: Miriam to skeptics: Why are you so nasty? 

Santiago narrowly lost to Fidel V. Ramos in the 1992 presidential race. She has repeatedly claimed she was cheated by Ramos. In 1998, she placed 8th in a 10-person contest which saw then Vice President Joseph Estrada win the presidency by a wide margin.

Santiago has not been very visible in the campaign trail with her running mate, Senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. But she has not been tight-lipped on the issues hounding her political rivals, particularly what she calls the scandalous amounts they spend for their election campaign.

READ: Miriam twits pres'l rivals: I plead guilty to gross poverty 

ACADEMIC, PROFESSIONAL, MORAL EXCELLENCE

Santiago, in her closing statement, called on Filipinos to choose wisely who they would vote for to become the country's next leader.

"I have already shown you that I am what I am now, I am what I was today and what I will be tomorrow. We are not looking for an ordinary leader or an ordinary manager or administrator, we are looking for the president of the Philippines," she said.

She went on to reiterate what she believes as the most important requirements to qualify for the presidency -- academic, professional and moral excellence.

Santiago boasted that in her younger years, she always graduated with honors.

She graduated valedictorian in elementary and high school, and earned her Bachelor of Arts degree, magna cum laude, from the University of the Philippines (UP). She also graduated from the UP College of Law, cum laude.

She is also a holder of three honorary Doctor of Law degrees from the University of San Agustin, Xavier University, Ateneo de Cagayan de Oro, and Centro Escolar University.

"Hindi naman pwede na yung naupo sa likod, yun ang magiging presidente ng Pilipinas," she quipped.

She also pointed out that she has received the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Award for Government Service "for bold and moral leadership in cleaning up a corrupt agency."

"Meron ba silang ganun?" she asked of her four presidential rivals, Vice President Jejomar Binay, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, Senator Grace Poe and former Interior Secretary Mar Roxas.

"We can fight corruption. I have shown it in the Immigration Commission," added Santiago, who has described corruption as the root cause of poverty and the other problems hounding the Philippines.

READ: Miriam: Most PH problems are caused by corruption 

"We all want to change the world for the better, but the person who prayed should be emulated. He said: God, preserve this country and begin with me."

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