MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte hailed the late Ilongga senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago who dedicated almost five decades of her life in serving the public.
In a speech during the conferment of the Quezon Service Cross at Malacañang on Monday, Duterte said the contributions of Santiago must be remembered by the Filipinos.
“Let her memory serve as the light that will guide us towards a more progressive, inclusive and equitable society,” Duterte said. “She embodied the standards expected of a public servant.”
Santiago dedicated her life to public service for almost 50 years.
“Her skills and intellect had been honored by various organizations in the country and the world,” said Duterte.
The Ilongga senator was given the citation, the highest award that the Republic of the Philippines can bestow to any Filipino, after being nominated by Duterte last year.
Santiago was the sixth recipient of the award created by then President Manuel Roxas on Aug. 2, 1946 aside from former President Emilio Aguinaldo, diplomat Carlos Romulo, the late President Ramon Magsaysay, former senator Ninoy Aquino, and the late Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo.
“I remember fondly well Ma’am Miriam. The many times we met in the public she spent time to say hi and have a conversation with me,” Duterte said. “In fact, I am hesitant to talk to her sometimes because I am worried about being corrected.”
Santiago served as a presiding judge of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court, commissioner of the Bureau of Immigration and secretary of the Department of Agrarian Reform before entering politics.
Santiago then served as senator from 1995 to 2001 and from 2004 to 2016. She also ran twice for the presidency but both times she was unfortunate. In the 2016 Presidential polls, the Ilongga finished at fifth place.
Santiago also became the first Filipino to be elected as judge of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in Hague, Netherlands in 2011. She stepped down from the post in 2014 due to chronic fatigue syndrome.
Santiago, who passed away on Sept. 30, 2016 due to lung cancer, was also a recipient of the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Government Service in 1988 when she was still with the Immigration bureau./PN