MANILA – Former presidents Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Joseph “Erap” Estrada on Thursday mourned the death of former Senator Miriam Santiago, whom Estrada described as an “irreplaceable” public servant.
Estrada, who was re-elected as Manila mayor last May, said no female senator can top the record of Santiago, who had filed the most number of bills in the Senate and was the first Filipino to be elected as judge of a United Nations-backed court.
“Para sa akin, sa kasaysayan ng Senado ng Pilipinas, sa lahat ng babaeng senadora, wala nang tatalo –- pinakamagaling na ang ating yumaong senadora [For me, in the history of the Philippine Senate, out of all the female senators, no one can beat –- the record of our departed senator is the best],” Estrada told DZMM’s Dennis Datu.
“She’s a big loss, not only to the Philippine Senate but to our government. Masyadong magaling at hindi umuubra sa kanya ang mga corrupt [She was exceptionally good and corrupt officials could not make their way around her],” the mayor added.
Estrada added that while he is saddened by Santiago’s death, it may have also been God’s way of easing her out of suffering from her battle bout with cancer.
Arroyo, meanwhile, expressed her sympathies to the family of Santiago, whom she called a “dear and true friend and loyal ally.”
“Senator Miriam's life is the epitome of courage, brilliance, eloquence, dedication to public service and commitment to good governance. The Philippines has lost a truly outstanding and irreplaceable leader in Senator Miriam,” she said.
In her 18 years of service in Congress, Santiago had filed the most number of bills in the Senate – including Anti-Political Dynasty Bill, which seeks an end to political dynasty in the country, and the Anti-Signage of Public Works Bill, which aims to bar politicians from claiming credit for projects built with public funds by putting their names on signages.
She is also the first Filipino and the first Asian from a developing country to be elected in the UN as judge of the International Criminal Court, which hears cases against heads of state.
Cited “for bold and moral leadership in cleaning up a graft-ridden government agency,” Santiago was also cited chosen as laureate of the Magsaysay Award for Government Service, the Asian equivalent of the Nobel Prize.
Santiago will be buried beside her son, Alexander, according to her brother, General Benjamin Defensor.