MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday posthumously conferred on late senator Miriam Defensor Santiago the Quezon Service Cross, the highest award the republic accords its civil servants.
Duterte’s conferment makes Santiago the sixth and only woman to have received the award.
In his speech during the conferment ceremony, Duterte recalled his brief moments with the late senator, adding the latter was an exemplary citizen.
“Throughout her life, Senator Santiago profoundly stirred our nation, especially the youth, to challenge preconceived notions on political and social issues,” Duterte said.
“I am hopeful that as we recognize her exemplary contributions to society, she will serve as an inspiration to a generation of Filipinos who will use their talents for the benefit of the country and their fellowmen.”
Santiago’s widower, Narciso, accepted the posthumous award. He thanked the President for bestowing the award to the late senator.
“I would like to express our regrets for the early passing of Miriam because she could have done much more for the Filipino people and the country,” Narciso said.
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.
Duterte, who had amiable interactions with Santiago during the May 2016 presidential campaign where they stood as opponents, nominated the late senator for the award last year.
There have been at least five recipients of the Quezon Service Cross since its creation in 1946: 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 launched another presidential bid in the 2016 polls but lost to Duterte. She passed away September last year after a bout with lung cancer.
Before entering politics, Santiago served as presiding judge of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court, immigration commissioner, and agrarian reform secretary. She then served as senator from 1995 to 2001 and from 2004 to 2016.
Among the 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, in 1988 when she was chief of the Bureau of Immigration "for bold and moral leadership in cleaning up a graft-ridden government agency."