The two officially launched on Tuesday their national campaign in Batac, Ilocos Norte, the stronghold of the Marcos family.
Santiago said that if their tandem wins the elections and something happens to her, the Philippines will be in good hands with Marcos as president.
“If I die before I finish my six-year term, Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. will be able to fit that bill,” she said.
Santiago said Marcos’ youth and idealism are what the country needs right now.
“We need somebody young and idealistic to take over,” she said.
Marcos thanked Santiago, saying he has learned a lot from the lady senator. The two have been seatmates at the Senate session hall for the last five years.
“Kami ni Senator Miriam, lagi kaming magkatabi. Desk mate, kung sa eskwelahan. Sa kanya ako kumokopya,” Marcos said in jest. “But one basic fundamental principle that we agreed upon is that of meritocracy and recognition for excellence.”
Today marked the very first time that Marcos and Santiago were together in a campaign sortie since declaring their respective bids last year.
They flew together from Manila and arrived in Laoag International Airport at around 8:30 a.m.
From the airport, Sen. Marcos went around Laoag City for a motorcade before proceeding to Batac City where they attended a Mass at Immaculate Conception Parish, as a start to the 90-day campaign period.
Together with Marcos Jr. was his wife Liza, his mother, Ilocos Norte Congresswoman Imelda Marcos, and sister Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos.
Their proclamation rally was held at the plaza of Batac City shortly before noon Tuesday.
In her speech, Santiago said she has always admired the Ilocanos.
Ilocos Norte is part of what is called the “Solid North” that can deliver up to 5 million votes.
Santiago also said if she is elected president, all those who stole from government coffers will be put in a brand new jail.
“Mamili sila. May ordinaryo, may business class, may first class, pero kulong silang lahat,” she said to the cheers of thousands of their supporters.
Last week, victims of martial law launched a movement to stop Marcos Jr. from winning the vice presidential race.
The initiative is called CARMMA or Campaign Against the Return of the Marcoses to Malacañang.
Left-leaning groups such as SELDA, Desaparecidos, Bayan, Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), and other victims of human rights abuses said they are opposed to the younger Marcos as vice president because “he is not guiltless as he presents [himself] to be.”
“Hindi namin hahayaan na manumbalik ang mga Marcos sa Malacañang through a presidential bid. Pag nanalo yan bilang VP, isang hakbang na lang ay presidente na,” SELDA Chairperson Marie Hilao-Enriquez said.
The groups believe Marcos and his family have a bottomless war chest that he can use to win the vice presidency.
“There is also the reality that the plundered wealth of the father has been passed on to his children,” SELDA Vice Chairperson Bonifacio Ilagan explained.
Marcos’ refusal to apologize for the abuses and human rights violations during the martial law makes him even more frightening than his father, the groups said.
They also claim the senator was part of his father’s crony capitalism in 1985, when at 26 years old, he was appointed chairman of the board of Philippine Communications Satellite Corporation (Philcomsat) receiving a monthly salary of up to $97,000.
The groups said they will hound Marcos wherever his campaign sorties will be and flood social media with anti-Marcos propaganda.
A nationwide event for CARMMA is slated on February 22 as the grand launch of the campaign. — with reports from Dennis Datu, DZMM; Anthony Taberna, ABS-CBN News