MIRIAM Defensor-Santiago died in her sleep on September 29, after succumbing to cancer. She rose to national prominence when then president Corazon Aquino appointed her first as immigration commissioner and later as agrarian reform secretary. She was a contrast to Cory’s motherly persona, as she boldly pursued to rid her offices of graft and corruption.
Riding on her popularity, she sought the presidency in 1992 against some of the biggest political names contesting including Fidel Ramos, Eduardo Cojuanco Jr, Ramon Mitra, Imelda Marcos, Jovito Salonga and Salvador Laurel. Ramos won with 5,342,521 votes (23.58%). Santiago obtained 4,468,173 (19.72%) and Cojuangco 4,116,376 (18.17%).
She became senator in 1995. Still intent on becoming president, she campaigned the second time in the 1998 election against Joseph Estrada (10,722,295 39.86%) where she poorly placed 7th with 797,206 (2.96%). She served three terms in the Senate.
That she agreed to run the third time for the presidency having Ferdinand Marcos Jr. as running mate may have surprised many. But I bet she was just paying her dues to the Marcoses, as it was Ferdinand Marcos who appointed her as RTC judge in Quezon City early on in her government career, and her husband, Mariano was a bureaucrat of long standing in the Marcos regime serving as head of the Land Transport Office.
It was in the Senate that Santiago made her mark. Among the substantive laws she authored were: Reproductive Health Act of 2012, Climate Change Act of 2009, Renewable Energy Act of 2008 and Archipelagic Baselines Act of 2009.
But what made her compelling was her wit, her distinctive English diction and strong personality.
The Philippine Senate before Martial Law produced some of the most important political figures and intellectuals of the past generations. When you mention their names there is that sense of awe and respect worthy of demigods: Lorenzo Tañada, Jose W. Diokno, Benigno Aquino Jr, Claro M Recto, Raul Manglapus, Gerardo Roxas, Sergio Osmeña Sr., Manuel L Quezon and Eva Estrada-Kalaw.
Post-Martial Law, intellect and statesmanship did not count so much, as entertainers and sports personalities infested the halls of Senate.
Luckily the Filipino people elected worthy legislators. Let us count: Joker Arroyo, Nene Pimentel, Tito Guingona, Rodolfo Biazon, Juan Flavier, Renato Cayetano, Neptali Gonzales Sr., Marcelo Fernan, Raul Roco and definitely, Miriam Defensor-Santiago.
As to the present Senate? There is so much to be desired.