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Miriam the meteor: Senators remember late senator's contributions

MANILA — Members of the Philippine Senate on Thursday mourned the passing of former senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, recalling the many times she lit up the country, not only with her intellect and feistiness but with her remarkable contributions and endless antics as well.
Senate Minority Leader Ralph Recto said that Santiago had "brains, beauty and balls", such that those who came after her were "reduced as students."
He said that despite her illness, Santiago was sharper than any of them in the Senate and displayed shrewdness that was "hard to defeat."
"Senator Miriam was one of a kind. And we are lucky that like a meteor that streaks across our skies once every century, we were able to witness her dazzling brilliance during our lifetime," Recto said.
Senator Gregorio "Gringo" Honasan II noted that Santiago will leave behind "footprints" that will be difficult to follow.
The lady senator, he said, has set the bar higher for public service in terms of competence, dedication and courage.
"She belongs to history and future generations of Filipino citizens and leaders," Honasan said.
Saying that "there will be no other" like Santiago, Senator Cynthia Villar thanked the late senator for the memories and friendship.
"Miriam leaves behind a legacy and a body of work that would be hard to beat. She personified legislative vigor and sharpness. She epitomized the Senate's self-designated role as the last line of defense versus threats to democracy and mediocrity," she said.
Villar said that although Santiago could sometimes be "acerbic and brutal", she still vouched for her honesty, for being a loving and caring person and being "bigger than life."
Classmate, teacher
Senate President Pro-tempore Franklin Drilon recalled how he and Santiago were classmates in their undergraduate studies in UP-Iloilo and the UP College of Law from 1961 to 1969, except for one year.
He also noted that she was his editor in the Philippine Collegian and later appointed him as associate editor to work on the student organ every Wednesday evening.
"I would pick her up from the dorm at nine o'clock in the evening and work on the paper overnight," Drilon said.
Senator Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan remembered how Santiago had been his Constitutional Law professor at the UP College of Law.
The Senate, he said, was "blessed" to have had her as she provided "excitement and education on law, vocabulary, and humor."
"We are blessed in that way that once upon a time, there was a Miriam Santiago who became senator and shared her intelligence and insights," Pangilinan said.
Senate President Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III described Santiago as "the best president (the) nation never had."
He reminisced how he met Santiago in Constitutional Law, where he first encountered her "wit and fiery rhetoric".
"I worked with her in the Senate, where she lighted up its august halls with her crackling and slashing wit that won her a legion of followers and admirers," Pimentel said.
He also noted that Santiago's example will inspire not only Filipino women to go into public service, but also the youth who have looked up to her.
Endless antics
Senator Panfilo "Ping" Lacson, who admitted he had not been one of her best friends, said that sessions were always lively with Santiago's presence.
"The sessions were always lively. The passion, and then of course, all the antics. We can always remember that. She will be missed, definitely," Lacson said.
He said that although he knew that she was already suffering from lung cancer, her death still came as a shock.
Senator Nancy Binay enumerated the many positions held by Santiago including her being a trial judge, immigration commissioner, as agrarian reform secretary, and senator.
She said that she was one of those who would "stop and listen to the wise words she would say in the Senate sessions".
"I knew that Senator Miriam would be ready with her witty lines and feisty attitude. Senator Miriam — a brilliant legal mind, a loving wife and mother, and a public servant — would be missed," Binay said.
Senator Grace Poe, Chair of the Committee on Public Information and Mass Media, paused the hearing on the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill for a minute to pray for the late senator.
Poe also recalled how she had "sleepless nights" expecting the feisty Santiago to interpellate her when she was still a neophyte senator about to deliver a privilege speech on the FOI bill but the late senator instead lectured her.
She meanwhile expressed hope that the measure be passed into law in her memory.
Neophyte senator Sherwin "Win" Gatchalian imagined how the current Senate debates would be enriched if Santiago had been in the Senate with them.
He said that he could imagine her "raining fire and brimstone upon her hapless opponents from the Senate rostrum."
"Senator Miriam is now gone, but her indomitable spirit will live on in the hearts of leaders inspired by her legacy to hold themselves to a higher standard of public service," Gatchalian said.
Fighter until the end
Senator Francis "Chiz" Escudero described her as a "national treasure" the country will never forget.
"Her intellect, fire and colorful character will be forever missed in the halls of Senate," Escudero said, also extending sympathies on behalf of his wife, celebrity Heart Evangelista who was a close friend of Santiago's.
"She may have left us but with a great legacy that will challenge the nation to become better for the future of the coming generations something that Senator Miriam has been fighting for," he added.
Senator Alan Peter Cayetano cited Santiago for her exemplary public service and fiercely defending good governance despite her deteriorating health.
"Senator Miriam was among the best and brightest advocates for change who, despite her own personal battles, continued to fight for the rights and welfare of our people," Cayetano said.
He said that he would never forget how she once mentioned being "a staunch believer in God, and the triumph of good over evil".
Meanwhile, Senator Paolo Benigno "Bam" Aquino IV pointed out how Santiago always spoke her mind and fought for what was right.
He further said that her memory will "continue to influence and inspire the current and next generation of Filipinos."
"At times larger than life, she was a true public servant who showed generosity and kindness to younger leaders like myself," Aquino said.
Senator Juan Miguel "Migz" Zubiri noted that Santiago was one of the most brilliant and dedicated public servants, having served in all three branches of the government.
"The Iron Lady of Asia, as she came to be known, was admired for her fearless leadership and unquestionable honesty and integrity," he said.
Zubiri said that more than just a public servant and mentor to him, Santiago was also considered as family.
Youth, women and health advocate
Senator Richard Gordon described Santiago as a woman who greatly valued the country and a role model to youth.
"Senator Santiago was a woman who spoke out with great vigor on the issues that were of importance to the country," Gordon said.
"Senator Santiago. She was a model — through her intelligence, hard work and integrity — to emulate for young Filipinos aspiring for leadership positions," he added.
Senator Risa Hontiveros, also a neophyte, noted that although she never experienced sharing the Senate floor with Santiago, her party Akbayan had the chance to work with her on several important issues.
Hontiveros pointed out that her fellow Ilongga was also one of the staunchest champions of the Reproductive Health Law that had served as her "inspiration."
"The Filipino people lost a champion of women rights and defender of the country's sovereignty. I am saddened that we didn't have the opportunity to work together in the Senate," Hontiveros said.
Senator Juan Edgardo "Sonny" Angara thanked her for the "many years of courageous service to the nation" and noted that she would surely be missed.
Neophyte senator Emmanuel "Manny" Pacquiao said Santiago will always be remembered. He expressed gratitude for her "selflessly serving our country and the Filipino people".
Senate Majority Leader Vicente "Tito" Sotto III was saddened to know that Miriam will now be debating with a much Greater Body than the Philippine Senate.
Neophyte senator Joel Villanueva said that he was out of words to express his gratitude for the "selfless" work she has done for the country. He said his prayers are with the Santiago family.
According to the official Twitter account of Santiago, managed by her relatives, the feisty senator died peacefully at 8:52 a.m. She was 71. (PNA)

Last Modified: 2021-Sep-17 18.18.54 UTC+0800