ILONGGOS, including those in Negros Occidental and Bacolod City, joined the country in mourning the death of former senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago Thursday.
Negros Occidental Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr. said in a statement that the demise of Santiago “came as a surprise,” especially among the Ilonggos.
“We lost one of the brightest gems of Philippine politics with her passing away,” he said.
Marañon said that Santiago, who earned the moniker Iron Lady, “became the symbol of an empowered Filipino woman. She has the wits and her humor compiled into a written material became a bestseller. She is well-loved by her students and even her critics who accorded her with respect despite her opposite stance on issues.”
The governor said the senator will be remembered for her fighting stance and firebrand rhetoric, adding that “she will certainly be missed.”
For his part, Iloilo Governor Arthur Defensor Sr. said that Santiago’s death is a very sad day for the Ilonggos and the Filipinos as a whole.
Santiago is his first cousin.
“She is an irreparable loss to the country,” Defensor said, adding that “there will only be one Miriam.”
He admired his cousin’s brilliance and wit. He recalled that when Santiago’s father showed him a copy of an essay she wrote when she was still in the sixth grade, he was amazed as it was written like that of a college student.
“Miriam will be a pride of the Ilonggos forever. Her memories will be embedded in the deep recesses of the heart of the Ilonggos and of the Filipinos,” Defensor said.
Bacolod City Mayor Evelio Leonardia said “the nation lost not only a voice in the Senate, but a commanding presence in the Philippine political landscape.”
“We grieve over our loss of Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, but remember her life work as an inspiration for how it is to love our country,” he said.
Leonardia added: “For us Ilonggos, the death of Santiago is mourned twice over. She was an example of how we who were born outside Manila can in fact also rise and become an important voice in nation-building.”
Bacolod City lone district Representative Greg Gasataya said the Ilongga senator served the country excellently.
“In behalf of the people of Bacolod, we condole with the family of Senator Santiago,” the lawmaker said.
Bacolod City Councilor Sonya Verdeflor said Santiago was one of her favorite senators.
“Her death is a great loss to our country. We have learned a lot from her, she is a very hardworking and a very brave senator,” she said, adding that she is hopeful there will be more women senators in the future like Santiago.
Santiago, who was born in 1945 in Iloilo City, died in her sleep at 8:52 a.m. at St. Lukes’s Medical Center, Bonifacio Global City in Taguig City. She was 71.
She announced in 2014 that she was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer but claimed in 2015 that her cancer cells had regressed.
On May 31, Santiago was brought to the intensive care unit of the Makati Medical Center because of pneumonia she contracted, a complication of her lung cancer. Days after recuperating, she was sent home.
She ran for president three times, in 1992, 1998, and 2016, but lost. In the May 9 elections, she was hardly seen in campaign sorties.
She served as senator for three terms. Santiago, whose term as senator ends on June 30, had filed the highest number of measures, including the Anti-dynasty and Freedom of Information bills.
Santiago had a colorful political career for having the distinction of serving in the three branches of government -- a judge during the Martial Law years, she was appointed to Executive positions after the Edsa revolt, and then began her career as senator in 1995.
Santiago was also the one who instigated the Senate investigation on the alleged P10-billion pork barrel scam.
Prior to being a senator, she also became Immigration commissioner and Agrarian Reform secretary. (With reports from Sunnex)