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Miriam Defensor Santiago

MIRIAM Defensor Santiago was many things to many people.

She was known as a feisty senator, spirited, pugnacious, thus difficult for those who faced her and her probing questions. With her solid background on law, particularly constitutional law, her mastery of the language, and her intuitive grasp of human nature, she was a formidable foe to anyone who tangled with her in Congress and elsewhere in the halls of public service.

She had close rapport with the young people of the country, so that in the last presidential election campaign, she led in surveys among university students. She was popular in social media, with millions of supporters in Facebook and Twitter.

The many laws she sponsored reflected her wide range of interests and advocacies. She championed women’s rights and thus helped in crafting the Magna Carta of Women as well as the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act.

She valued education and so she pushed for the Unified Student Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education Act.

She saw the great vistas being opened by the new information technology and so she advocated the establishment of a new Department of Information Technology. She saw the Philippines with its unique position in the South China Sea and she drew up the Archipelagic Baselines Act. She saw the country in relation to the world of humanitarian law and thus helped craft the Philippine Act on Crimes Against Humanitarian Law. She also saw the country against a backdrop of endangering climate change and led the drafting of the Climate Change Act and the Renewable Energy Act.

Miriam was a senator for most of her official life, but she also served as judge, as immigration commissioner for which was awarded a Ramon Magsaysay Award for Government Service, and as secretary of agrarian reform. She was also a columnist of the Manila Bulletin’s Panorama magazine writing opinions in her column “Overview” in 1985-88.

She thus saw and lived at first hand the importance of press freedom as a basic right of citizens in a democracy such as ours. She championed the Freedom of Information bill in the Senate, a measure for whose approval we continue to wait after so many Congresses. In her tribute to Senator Santiago the other day, Sen. Grace Poe expressed the hope that this Congress will finally pass the Freedom of Information bill; it would be a fitting tribute to her memory.

Miriam Defensor Santiago has passed away, leaving a legacy for all Filipinos to value. Her place of honor is assured in the history of our country.

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