MANILA – Malacañang on Thursday said it welcomes moves in the Senate to grant the late Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago the Quezon Service Cross, the highest award the republic accords its civil servants.
Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said Santiago’s contribution to the country is “beyond question,” adding that President Rodrigo Duterte “highly respects” the late senator.
“The Office of the President welcomes moves to confer the late Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago the Quezon Service Cross,” Abella said in a news conference in Malacañang.
“We look forward to receiving the resolution of the Senate,” he said.
Abella made the statements on the eve of Santiago's first death anniversary on Friday. She had succumbed to lung cancer at 71.
Duterte and Santiago were among the friendlier rivals in the five-way race for the presidency in May 2016. A show of mutual admiration during one of the debates spawned the viral hashtag "DuRiam."
Duterte's youngest son, Sebastian, had his picture taken with Santiago before another debate, and asked her to give his father the "fight of a lifetime."
Senators Grace Poe and Sonny Angara earlier filed separate resolutions "urging" the President to confer the award on Santiago, who had "dedicated her life to public service through her work in all the branches of government: judicial, executive, and legislative."
"As a Senator for three terms, Santiago consistently filed the highest number of bills and resolutions," Poe's resolution read.
"Throughout the nearly 5 decades she served the public, Miriam Defensor Santiago exemplified academic, professional, and moral excellence - values that she herself demanded not just from fellow public servants, but also fellow Filipinos," Angara said in his resolution.
According to the Official Gazette, the Quezon Service Cross is unique in that the President nominates Filipino citizens for the award and the conferment has to be approved by Congress.
There have been at least five recipients of the Quezon Service Cross since its creation in 1946, namely revolutionary Emilio Aguinaldo, diplomat Carlos P. Romulo, the late President Ramon Magsaysay, slain Senator and martial law opposition leader Benigno Aquino Jr., and the late Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo.
Santiago, known for her fiery and impassioned interpellations at the Senate and funny pickup lines in speeches, spent much of her life in public service.
She served as presiding judge of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court, immigration commissioner, agrarian reform secretary, and senator from 1995 to 2001 and from 2004 to 2016.
Among laws Santiago authored were The Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act, The Data Privacy Act, The Cybercrime Prevention Act, The Anti-Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance Act, The Anti-Bullying Act, An Act Restructuring the Excise Tax on Alcohol and Tobacco Products, The Fair Competition Law, The Intellectual Property Code, The Oil Pollution Compensation Act, The Biofuels Act, The Anti-Torture Act, and the The Magna Carta of Women.
Santiago was the first Filipino to be elected 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 chronic fatigue syndrome.
The tough-talking senator also received the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Government Service, the Asian equivalent of the Nobel Prize, "for bold and moral leadership in cleaning up a graft-ridden government agency" when she sat as Immigration chief in 1988.