Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago’s passing is a loss not only to Philippine politics but also for every Filipino who has been touched by her brilliance and feisty brand of public service. Netizens hail her as the “best president we never had,” a true testament to her legacy.
Let’s have a look back on the life of the Iron Lady who has inspired us to always take the high road, despite countless obstacles.
Brief history of public service
Apart from her outstanding services abroad, Senator Santiago served in all three branches of the Philippine government.
In the executive branch, she was the immigration commissioner who once said that she “ate death threats for breakfast.”
These came from the actions she’s taken to address the Philippines’ then reputation as “the fake passport capital of the world.” She directed raids with alien criminals, syndicates, including alien pedophiles, and the Yakuza.
She also served as the Agrarian Reform Secretary, and sought rights for farmers to own their land under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).
In the legislative branch, she was a senator for three terms. Her excellence and outstanding service made her the most awarded public official in the country today.
One of her most notable advocacies was her stand against corruption. In 2012, she exposed senators who were involved in the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam.
During the Senate probe, she never failed to compel the audience with her barrage of questions and at times, scathing remarks.
“He is a man who has grown so old in government corruption that I believe he was a waiter during the Last Supper,” the late senator said in a speech during the 2013 National Student Conference, pertaining to Senator Juan Ponce Enrile.
Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago’s legacy lies strongly in the following laws she authored:
- The Magna Carta of Women ensured to protect and fulfill the rights of women in the country.
- The Reproductive Health Act of 2012, or R.A. 10354, fought for the reproductive health education and universal access to methods of contraception, despite active opposition of religious institutions in the country
- Archipelagic Baselines Act of 2009, or the R.A. 9522, which defined the country’s “Regime of Islands,” the areas over which the Philippines has sovereignty and jurisdiction. This became “one of the major basis for the country’s claims on maritime sovereignty” including the West Philippine Sea, Scarborough Shoal, and Kalayaan Group of Islands.
- Climate Change Act of 2009 or R.A. 9729, which mainstreamed climate change into government policy formulations, establishing the framework strategy and program on climate change, creating for this purpose the climate change commission, and for other purposes
- The UniFAST Act or R.A. 10687, which provided a comprehensive and unified student financial assistance system for tertiary education (UNIFAST), with access and appropriation of funds for quality education.
- Cybercrime Act of 2012 or R.A. 10175, which protected the country and its citizens from cybercrimes
Senator Santiago has inspired people, especially the youth, to strive for excellence and, believing in the popular Mahatma Gandhi line, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”
- “I’ve always been very clear on what I am supposed to do as a public official and I don’t care what happens to me in the process because I have great trust in the Filipino people. Whether they are the rich or the very poor. Whether they are the retirees or the students in the universities. I trust that there is an inherent level of intelligence that is insulted when someone who tries to do good is character assassinated. So, that’s where I reached the conviction that I just must do what the right thing is. That way, I will have peace of mind.”
- “You know, if you shut down all the TV cameras, the proceedings will be finished in one week, but people want more than 15 [minutes] of fame.”
- “Seize this opportunity. We can change the system. We can change ourselves. If you want to change the world, we must start with ourselves. Change the Philippines and begin with yourself. What we want is to have the Filipinos share a sense of common destiny.”
- “We must have faith in ourselves. I have been to several countries, I have competed with other nationalities, and I tell you that in so far as natural resources are concerned, there is no better than the Filipino. Magaling ang Pilipino! There is nothing to hold the Filipino back except our own lack of self-confidence.”
- “This is goodbye. I shall not importune you any longer. I shall fade into the night like Batman.” –Santiago, during her last press conference as agrarian reform secretary in 1990. (Source: Rappler)