LAGUNA, Philippines – The money that candidates hand to voters during the campaign? Presidential candidate Miriam Defensor Santiago reminded the public those could be the same government funds that these politicians have stolen.
She has a word for it: "perpetual plunder."
"Alam mong nangyayari ay kinukuha nila, ninanakaw nila ang pera sa gobyerno. Tapos 'pag nanakaw na, 'pag nag-eleksyon uli kunwari ibibigay o ibabalik uli ang perang ninakaw nila sa mga botante," the feisty senator told students of the University of Perpetual Help in Biñan, Laguna, on Tuesday, March 1.
(What's happening is, they steal money from government. Then when it's election season, they give back to voters the money that they stole.)
Santiago, known for her witty pick-up lines, also amused her young audience with jokes mocking corrupt public officials.
"Sabi ni Juan: Noong 2013 tumakbong mayor ang tatay ko. Pedro: Wow, ano bang ginagawa nya ngayon? Juan: Wala, nanalo siya eh."
(Juan said: In 2013, my father ran for mayor. Pedro: Wow, what is he doing now? Juan: Nothing, because he already won.)
She pulled another one: "Tanong: Kung ang opposite ng 'pro' ay 'con,' ano naman ang opposite ng 'progress'? Sagot: Congress."
(If "pro" is the opposite of "con," what is the opposite of "progress"? Answer: Congress.)
In the end of her brief speech, she vowed not to back down in the fight against corruption even if she remains to be a "middle class" Filipino, unlike her colleagues and rivals who got rich allegedly by amassing wealth from government.
"I won't back down whatever they do to me. I have challenged them a number of times to a brawl, they don't want to. It's really hard if you see people beside you getting rich while you remain where you used to be," she said in Filipino.
Santiago belongs to the "poorer" half of the 24 senators based on their 2014 Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN). She has a net worth of P73 million.
Her running mate, Senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr, ranked as the 3rd richest senator with at least P200 million in net worth.
Consolidating youth vote
Her camp earlier said that the senator will focus her campaign on the youth by granting speaking engagements rather than going around local government units.
Santiago topped pre-election polls conducted by several universities, such as the University of Asia and the Pacific (UA&P), Holy Angel University in Pampanga, and the Colegio de San Juan de Letran campus in Calamba.
She got a voter preference of 43.2% in UA&P, 40% in Holy Angel University's poll and 58.48% in Letran–Calamba.