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Miriamâs timeless magic
Santiago
STAR/File

Miriam’s timeless magic

(The Philippine Star) - June 15, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — To those who admired and loved her, she was a “political prophet,” a timeless legacy that every Filipino should be thankful for.

Her foresight on any issue, particularly the pandemic now claiming thousands of lives in the Philippines and millions more in other countries, was impressive.

Former senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago would have turned 76 today, June 15, had lung cancer not defeated her in 2016 in her long and fearless battle to live.

The “Iron Lady of Asia” and the “Dragon Lady” had shown Filipinos how a good battle was worth fighting for.

“The Miriam magic is forever,” said Jam Krisette Núñez, a 27-year-old young professional.

“Her timeless magic on stressing the country’s need for a health care system and effective response to emergencies never ceased. She had foreseen that we would need a law relating to that in the future. That’s how her magic works,” Núñez mused.

Núñez was referring to the “Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act” which was filed by Miriam in the Senate eight years ago to strengthen the national response and preparedness for health emergencies, such as those resulting from natural disasters and severe weather, recent outbreaks and pandemics, bioterrorism, mass casualties, chemical emergencies and radiation emergencies.

At that time, health experts from around the world started emergency meetings on a “mysterious virus” that had become a global concern – the spread of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome or MERS. Unfortunately, the bill rotted in the Senate until her death.

The bill called for the drafting of a “National Health Strategy for Public Health Emergencies” and the creation of a Medical Reserve Corps composed of volunteer health professionals, among others. She proposed that the Medical Reserve Corps be called into duty if needed during public health emergencies.

“Who would have thought that her proposed measure on the pandemic would be relevant in our ongoing fight against the COVID-19 virus and other natural disasters the country is experiencing now?” Núñez asked.

Miriam’s legal brilliance, strong and fearless personality and speaking prowess, Núñez said, are what make the Filipino youth remember her.

”We rarely see a politician with a broad and bold voice to answer detractors and correct the flaws and corruption in the country. Her image boosted women’s ability to speak out and be fearless,” Nuñez quipped.

“She’s still remembered as a brilliant gem of the Philippines. We miss that kind of magic gem now,” she said.

Epifania Saclamitao, a 73-year-old retired teacher, agreed. She said people who are desperately trying to find a solution to the COVID-19 quagmire greatly miss Miriam’s wisdom.

Saclamitao boasted that she had always voted for Miriam in all senatorial elections that she was a candidate.

She described Miriam as a genius who was “ahead of her time” and that she loved listening to Miriam, especially whenever the senator explained the pros and cons of a particular issue.

“Hindi siya one-sided kesehodang may tamaan siya. We miss her wit and intelligence. Wala na tayong pambato ngayon. Wala na halos kumukontra ngayon, amen na lang ng amen,” she said.

“She was very frank and brilliant parang si (Ferdinand) Marcos. Walang  kodigo kodigo. Very fluent. Pero pag nagalit, grabe, lalu pag sinungaling at alam niyang hindi totoo, magtago ka na. Sayang, wala na si Miriam. Wala ng magbubuko sa mga kalokohan,” she added.

If Miriam were alive, President Duterte would have listened to her views on how to address the pandemic, Saclamitao said.

Sherwin Bata, a news reporter from dzRH, said he wanted to thank the senator if he could only talk to her in person.

“To the president we never had, people might not know how hard it was for you to fight corruption, and how corrupt politics destroyed our nation,” Bata said.

“You were so brilliant, so magnificent, and we just hope that someone as good as you would rise in the Senate again and continue your legacy,” Bata also said.

Abroad, Miriam was the first Asian to be elected as a judge of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the first Filipino elected as a commissioner for the International Development Organization. She had also worked as legal officer at the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva, Switzerland.

Back home, Santiago was a special assistant at the Department of Justice during the pre-martial law years, a judge at the Quezon City Regional Trial Court, a commissioner of the Bureau of Immigration, a secretary of agrarian reform, a Ramon Magsaysay Awardee for Government Service, the Asian equivalent of the Nobel Prize and the sixth and only woman in history to receive the Quezon Service Cross, the highest recognition service by the Republic of the Philippines.

Rhuenah Gersava, a 46-year-old dentist from Pasig, said the government would have been better prepared to address the pandemic if Miriam were around, given the late senator’s credentials as a public servant.

“If she were alive today, we might have a better health care system and would be strategically prepared against COVID-19,” Gersava said.

“To the best president we never had, happiest birthday in heaven,” she added.

MIRIAM DEFENSOR-SANTIAGO
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