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A thermodynamic theory of Miriam |

Young Star

A thermodynamic theory of Miriam

IN A NUTSHELL - Samantha King - The Philippine Star

Miriam Santiago is the wild card. She throws a proverbial monkey wrench into the works.


Miriam Santiago is a ball of energy. She’s a little bit like the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland, a lot like the implacable Queen of Hearts. She’s both excitable and colorful; at home in the glittering, scandal-ridden world of Philippine politics, where she claims to eat death threats for breakfast without so much as batting an eyelash. Jurisprudence is her bread and butter, verbosity her shield and sword. She fluctuates between die-hard conviction and well-timed ambivalence; once claiming that she’d jump headfirst from a helicopter if Estrada were to be removed from power, only to later quip, “I lied,” when pressed for a reply after his ouster.

She’s your typical politician; spewing political cant and harboring political ambitions, painting herself with partisan intrigues every time a new president comes to power. She’s supposedly no different from the rest of the madding crowd — except when she is.

Before Miriam Santiago, Congress was a humdrum place, operating under the classic rule of “live and let live.” Under this principle, a politician can stay at rest and conserve his strength forever, maintaining a state of equilibrium where there is neither loss nor gain of energy. In this state, any change that occurs in one direction is balanced by an equal change in the opposite direction. In short, it’s a happy place where nothing much of import happens. For so long as everyone minds his own business, nobody gets hurt.

But Miriam is the wild card. She throws a proverbial monkey wrench into the works, as any piece of news about her has shown. Unflinching, unapologetic, and at times politically incorrect, she’s the bit of friction that chafes everyone the wrong way — or the right, depending on whose side you happen to be on. A jab at Ping Lacson’s gender preference after the release of yet another, convoluted “Napo-list”; an uppercut to Enrile’s entire political existence, from the martial law era to the present time; a roundhouse kick to the stage four lung cancer that scarcely seems to affect her alacrity…  Love her or hate her, it’s impossible not to have an opinion about her.

By sheer force of personality and chutzpah, Miriam generates enough energy to overcome Congress’ self-satisfied state of rest. In much the same way as the First Law of Thermodynamics, which says that energy is never created nor destroyed, so goes the trajectory of Miriam’s tireless political career. She was a trial court judge, a professor, an immigration commissioner, and an agrarian reform department secretary. She ran and lost in her presidential bid in 1992, then went on to serve nearly 15 years as a senator. She’s sampled each political dish at least once, proving the principle that energy never truly dies, but is merely transformed and reallocated.

Then there’s her usually outrageous behavior, which treads lightly on the concept of entropy, embodied in the Second Law of Thermodynamics: basically, the universe, when left to its own devices, always has the tendency to move from order into disorder. As disorder increases, entropy increases. The chaotic state of your bedroom is one example, the state of P-Noy’s presidency, another. You may think entropy can be reversed by simply reorganizing everything — cleaning your room, for instance, or continuing the witch hunt for violators of the “tuwid na daan.” But that reorganization would require energy, which creates heat or movement or sound, which in the end creates more entropy. You can’t escape entropy, and neither can you escape the irrepressible 69-year-old senator that is Miriam Santiago.

Long after triteness kicks her in the nads, Miriam will live on, engraved in the hearts of social media users everywhere, her quotable quotes archived and stored on many an Internet site and word doc file. Like John, Paul, George, and Ringo — who are always strangely referenced by their first names — Miriam will always remain Miriam.

So yes, her term will still end by 2016. But she’ll probably stick around long enough to grace us with more tips about telling the truth, wayward senators, and laughable assassination plots. Long live Miriam.

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