THE late senator Miriam Defensor Santiago should have been given the admiration, love and recognition she well deserved while she was still alive, and not when she was dead, her husband Narciso Santiago Jr. said Friday.
“The love and praises should have been given to her when she was still alive because her life, just like the life of President Duterte, was spent for the service of the country and the people,” he said as he arrived at the wake of his wife at the Immaculate Conception Cathedral Grottos in Cubao, Quezon City. “But those were not given while she was alive.”
He later apologized for being emotional.
Senator Santiago, a former Quezon City judge, was dubbed the Iron Lady of Asia, and served all three branches of government during her long career in public service.
In 1988, she won the Ramon Magsaysay Award for government service with a citation “for bold and moral leadership in cleaning up a graft-ridden government agency” when she was head of the Bureau of Immigration.
She became senator in 1995 and authored the most number of laws and bills in the entire history of the country.
In 2012, she became the first Filipina and the first Asian from a developing country to be elected a judge of the International Criminal Court.
Supporters, politicians and government officials flocked to her wake Friday.
Among those who paid their last respects were Santiago’s running mate in the last May national elections, former senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr.; former senator Pia Cayetano, now Taguig City
representative; Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista; former Pampanga representative Mikey Arroyo; former House speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr.; former Pampanga mayor Jerry Pelayo; United Kingdom Ambassador to the Philippines Asif Ahmad, and members of the Youth for Miriam Movement.
“It was of great honor and pride that she gave me the chance to be her running mate. She did not have the patience for weak [people],” Marcos said.
At 71, Santiago passed away in her sleep at St. Luke’s Medical Center, Global City in Taguig Thursday because of a lingering case of stage four lung cancer.
Rissa Ofilada, Defensor-Santiago’s legal counsel, said there will be no necrological service for her at the Senate.
She advised mourners that the late senator would want them to donate to foundations in her name, instead of bringing flowers to her wake.
She said Senator Santiago, who just wanted to make the country better, lived a full life, and that she was satisfied with it.
“My last exchange was, of course, she couldn’t talk anymore the last time I saw her. I just hugged her and kissed her, and said, you know… ‘It’s about time for you to rest, may be, and I’ll take care
of everything, so go if you need to,’” she said.
“But the last time that she was really happy, she was telling me, ‘You know, Rissa, I lived a full life. I have my family. I have my career. I served my country.”
Despite her busy schedule, the senator would always find time to meet with her husband, Narciso Jr., to share snacks, said Ofilada, the family’s spokesperson.
“When we were still at the Senate to go home, the couple would see each other at Red Ribbon [bakeshop] to eat ensaymada. Before parting ways, they would kiss one another while I was there. At first, I would get embarrassed, but I was able to overcome this,” she added.
Senator Santiago’s remains will be interred at the Loyola Memorial Park in Marikina City on Oct. 2. She will be buried beside her son Alexander.