Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago passed away yesterday at the age of 71 after two years of battling cancer.
Santiago died peacefully in her sleep at 8:52 a.m., according to her husband Narciso Santiago. Her remains will be transferred to the Immaculate Concepcion Cathedral in Cubao, Quezon City.
Known for her wit and intelligence, Santiago made her mark in government for her courage and devotion.
She worked in all three branches of government – Judicial, Executive, and Legislative. In the Judicial branch, she served as presiding judge of the Regional Trial Court in Quezon City. In the Executive branch, she served as Immigration commissioner and Agrarian Reform Secretary. In the Legislative branch, she served as senator for three terms.
As senator, she filed the highest number of bills, and authored some of the most important laws.
Aside from being known for public service, she was the first Filipino – and the first Asian from a developing country – to be elected as judge of the International Criminal Court.
She was honored with a Magsaysay Award for Government Service and as one of “The 100 Most Powerful Women in the World” by The Australian magazine.
Despite being diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer in June 2014, Santiago ran for the presidency for the third time last May, placing last in a five-horse race won by President Duterte.
Duterte, now in Vietnam, led the nation in mourning the death of Santiago, a legal luminary and constitutionalist.
“We express our deepest sorrow over the passing of Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago,” Duterte said in a statement.
“She is best remembered as a graft buster ‘eating death threats for breakfast’ earning her the Iron Lady of Asia. A constitutionalist, she has always been an advocate for the rule of law,” the President said.
At the Senate, Santiago’s former colleagues extolled her contributions to nation-building.
Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III described Santiago as “the best president our nation never had.”
“While she did not always win her political battles, she always stood on the side of what was moral, what was legal, what was constitutional, and ultimately what was good for the Filipino people,” Pimentel said.
“Her example will inspire not only many more patriotic Filipino women to go into public service, but countless more of our young who have looked up to her as our moral compass. Rest in peace, our dear senator,’’ he added.
(MARIO B. CASAYURAN)