Amid criticisms from advocates of persons with disabilities (PWDs), Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago on Wednesday defended her use of the word “mongoloid” to address her political foes, but vowed to watch her words next time.
Santiago said she cannot be accused of publicly ridiculing PWDs, since she was just addressing corrupt politicians.
“It is unfair and misguided to charge me with intent to violate the law, when my intent was to emphasize my anti-graft stance,” the feisty senator said in a letter to the Members of the Down Syndrome Association of the Philippines, Inc.
On Monday, the group composed of parents of children with Down syndrome, described Santiago as “insensitive” for delivering this remark in a forum last week: “I tell all my enemies who just want to get off me. Stop molesting me, you mongoloids!”
The word “mongoloid” is considered to be a derogatory term for people with Down syndrome.
Santiago also used her constitutional right to freedom of speech to defend her remark.
“The Magna Carta (of PWDs) does not seek to censor the use of the word ‘mongoloid,’ ‘autistic,’ or similar words in any public speech. That would be unconstitutional censorship,” she said.
She added that she just lifted the expression “Stop molesting me, you mongoloids” from a book written by John Kennedy Toole entitled “A Confederacy of Dunces.”
Still, the senator said she decided to “extend the hand of friendship” and promised to watch her words next time.
“Out of goodwill, I will impose self-censorship, by avoiding in future any word that refers to a person with disability,” she said. — Andreo Calonzo/RSJ, GMA News