MANILA - Standing side-by-side with a force like Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago during the 2016 campaign period was a "privilege" and an "experience that cannot be equaled," the late lady senator's running mate said.
Santiago, who lost her 2016 presidential bid, battled lung cancer while touring the country during the campaign period.
"It was her decision" to press on for the presidency despite her health condition, her running mate, former Senator Bongbong Marcos, said when asked if he ever asked the feisty lawmaker to slow down when they were campaigning.
"It was not in her constitution to stand back and to take it easy. She was always moving forward, she was always addressing head-on the issues. She was always trying to address the problems she saw the Philippines was facing," Marcos recalled.
Marcos said his campaign experience with Santiago "was always a learning experience" as the Iron Lady of Asia demonstrated the rare skill of translating "important issues of the day to the experience of an ordinary Filipino."
"The way she took upon the legal issues and explain it to layman, nothing short of remarkable. She had a very clear way of thinking that went straight to the knob of the problem, but again, always delivered with some personal interjection that would bring some tears to your eyes from laughing," Marcos said, referring to Santiago's infamous one-liners that appealed especially to the youth.
He added it was natural for Santiago to be witty even when they were both serving their time at the Senate.
"We happen to have sat next to each other in the Senate. You can imagine (how I can hear) private utterances and commentaries in the Senate. I'm already smiling just thinking about it," Marcos said, giggling.
"She was one of the very few people who would keep me laughing constantly," he noted.
Marcos said it was an honor to run and sit beside someone who had an "enviable legacy."
Santiago served in all three branches of the government. She was a former presiding judge of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court (judicial branch); immigration commissioner, agrarian reform secretary (executive branch); and a senator for three terms (legislative branch) or from 1995 to 2001 and 2004 to 2016.
She had filed the most number of bills in the Senate. Some of her pending bills are the 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.
Santiago was the first Filipino to be elected as judge of the International Criminal Court (ICC), based in The Hague, Netherlands, in 2011. She, however, let go of her post in 2014 due to her chronic fatigue syndrome.
"She was the proverbial example of somebody who died with her boots on. I cannot imagine her taking a passive role in anything she was involved in," Marcos said.
"Thank God for that because it was to the benefit of the Philippines, it was to the benefit of the people," he added.