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Rites mark Miriam’s 1st death anniversary

The nation will commemorate the first death anniversary of former senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago today. Philstar.com / Efigenio Toledo IV, File

MANILA, Philippines — The nation will commemorate the first death anniversary of former senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago today.

Santiago, dubbed the Iron Lady of Asia, died at the age of 71 exactly a year ago today after a bout with lung cancer. She served in the Senate for 18 years.

The Senate is seeking to posthumously bestow the Quezon Service Cross, the country’s highest civilian award, on Santiago for her 50 years of selfless service to the nation.

Sens. Grace Poe and Sonny Angara filed separate resolutions asking Malacañang to confer the highest civilian recognition award on the lawmaker.

Poe said the state should confer the Quezon Service Cross to the “brilliant and exemplary public servant” for her “immeasurable contributions to the nation” and dedicating 46 years of her life in public service fighting graft and corruption in government.

“There are many in government who remain true to their oath and who uphold public interest over their personal interests,” Poe said.

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Santiago served in the three branches of government: presiding judge of the Quezon City regional trial court, commissioner of the Bureau of Immigration, secretary of the Department of Agrarian Reform and senator for three terms.

Angara said the late senator was also known as a law professor, a constitutional expert and “as a fictionist who wrote short stories.”

Santiago had the distinct honor of being the first Filipino and first Asian from a developing country to be elected as judge of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in 2013.

Nearly three years after she was elected as jurist in the ICC, Santiago served notice that she would step down from the post she never assumed, citing health reasons.

“She deserves the Quezon Service Cross. Because rare is the Filipino who had served in the judiciary, the Cabinet and the legislature, and rarest is the one who served in all with brilliance and distinction. She was in a class of her own,” Angara said.

In his resolution, Angara said the late senator “exceeded the qualifications” set for a Quezon Service Cross recipient, of having served “in such a manner and such a degree as to add great prestige to the Republic, or as to contribute to the lasting benefit of its people.”

Only five Filipinos have been thus honored since its creation in 1946 – Carlos P. Romulo, Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo, former president Ramon Magsaysay, former senator Benigno Aquino Jr. and former interior secretary Jesse Robredo.

The Quezon Service Award is the country’s highest honor conferred by the President with the concurrence of the Senate and the House of Representatives on citizens who have given “exemplary service to the nation.”

Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III threw his full support for the conferment of the award to Santiago.

Sens. Juan Miguel Zubiri, Risa Hontiveros and Leila de Lima also issued statements backing the resolution.

The measure is expected to be passed next week.

Malacañang, for its part, said there is no question on Santiago’s contribution to the nation.

“The Office of the President welcomes moves to confer the late senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago the Quezon Service Cross,” presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said.

“The late senator’s contribution to the country is beyond question. The President highly respects the lady. We look forward to receiving the resolution of the Senate,” Abella said.

Even as she was suffering from lung cancer, Santiago ran for president in the 2016 elections.

Though she landed in fifth place, Santiago earned the respect and admiration of the nation for her gutsy attitude.

Her youth volunteers during the elections have organized a program and mass at the Loyola Memorial Park today to commemorate her first death anniversary. – Christina Mendez

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