Press Release
September 27, 2017

on Resolution No. 508 urging the conferment of the Quezon Service Cross to Miriam Defensor Santiago

Good afternoon Mr. President, dear colleagues.

When one thinks of audacity, intelligence, feistiness, integrity, and a wicked sense of humor, one person comes to mind. That person left us about a year ago.

On Friday, September 29, is the first-year death anniversary of Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago. There is no doubt, that her death has caused a void in public service.

She brought color and drama to even the most mundane hearings. She believed that head-bashing was the best strategy to fight graft.

She did not mince words in calling certain incorrigible people "Fungus face", "discombobulated moral retardates", or "miserable intellectual amoeba!" She even challenged a certain senator to a boxing match!

Senator Miriam had an infamous temper and admitted to being intellectually arrogant. She said "All intellectuals are entitled to be arrogant. That's the only way they can educate the non-intellectual. Inggit lang sila!"

Love her or hate her, it is undeniable that no one was safe from her scathing remarks; her targets ranged from those who used the wrong tense and grammar to those who cited wrong constitutional provisions or who dared cover their ears in her presence. Perhaps it was the teacher in her or her being a former judge.

However, the job she cherished the most was as a professor at the UP College of Law. In fact, some of her most famous students include many of our distinguished colleagues, headed by our Senate President.

She was a proud alumna of the University of the Philippines--one of the things I share with her. In one of her speeches, Senator Miriam issued a "challenge to UP students." She said:

"The ideal UP student is not interesting per se. What is interesting is what the ideal student does with his life after graduation from UP. As a rule, any UP graduate will always be characterized by academic excellence and by the courage to take social justice to the next level. If you are to serve your nation, I am here to testify that it will be a rough, contentious, and spirit-crushing journey.

But as a true UP graduate, I insist that I have a role to perform. This role is to stand as one of a gazillion bricks in the cathedral of governance. No one will remember me if I suddenly drop dead tomorrow. But generations after you and me, would be able to put behind the culture of corruption, and build a new shining nation with leaders who are neither dazzled by the material world, nor confused about their purpose in life."

UP had a profound impact on her career as a public servant. She lived her life by its creed of honor and excellence. She is perhaps one of the very few who can claim to have served in all three (3) branches of government--in the Judiciary as Regional Trial Court (RTC) Judge; in the Executive as Bureau of Immigration Commissioner and Agrarian Reform Secretary; and in the Legislative as Senator of the Republic.

Senator Miriam always made waves because of her indomitable fighting spirit. As RTC judge, she ran a very efficient sala, consistently achieving a zero-case backlog in her court and enforcing a "no-postponement policy" to dispose cases swiftly.

As Immigration Commissioner, Senator Miriam "ate death threats for breakfast", and later earned the Ramon Magsaysay Award "for bold and moral leadership in cleaning up a graft-ridden government agency."

As Agrarian Secretary, she sought to stop the practice of "conversion" - wherein landlords sought to convert (or re-classify) their agricultural holdings into commercial/residential/industrial land to escape land reform.

Before death paused for her, she said, "I have no illusions about myself, about my life, about leaving a legacy, or making a mark in people's lives. We are so insignificant. We are only here for a blink."

I daresay, Mr. President, that this is the first time she is wrong. As insignificant as we may all be, her contributions were not.

Senator Miriam, Mr. President, was one of the best and most prolific legislators ever. Year in and year out, she consistently "out-filed" us in terms of total measures filed and total laws passed.

Some of the most important measures which she worked on included the RH law, the Renewable Energy Act, and the Magna Carta for Women. As Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, she spearheaded the approval of international agreements that now benefit our country, such as the JPEPA, revised Kyoto Convention, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, and other treaties.

I only got to know Senator Santiago during her last three (3) years here in the Senate. Her stature and reputation made her intimidating for newbies like me, but for those of us who were fortunate enough to get to know her better, she could also be very charming and sweet.

I still cannot forget the time when Sen. Miriam announced that she would interpellate me on the FOI bill. I never felt so nervous in my life. And just when I thought that I would be shamed and belittled by this intellectual genius, she surprised me by beginning her interpellation with the statement, "I feel very maternal towards you." After that warm greeting, she commenced with her questions which I am happy and proud to say, I was able to respond to.

Later on, our debate moved to a bigger stage. We both ran in the last Presidential elections. Though we were opponents, I found a comrade in her. We were two women trying to make our mark in our male-dominated history. Sadly, it was to be one of her last battles.

When I got to the Senate, not only was Sen. Miriam a political icon, she was also a social media darling and online sensation with her unforgettable pick-up lines, classic "hugot" lines, and witty one-liners.

Gusto niyo ba ng sample? Katuwaan lang! There is nothing like the original of course, but let me just read (into the record) some of her pick-up lines that made her phenomenal:

1.) Ang crush parang math problem, kung hindi mo makuha, titigan mo na lang.

2.) Pumupunta ka ba sa gym? Kasi feeling ko, magwo-work out tayo.

3.) Mag-exchange gift tayo. Akin ka at sa iyo naman ako.

4.) Puwede ba kitang sabayan pauwi? Kasi sabi sa akin ni Senator Miriam, "Follow my dreams."

5.) Kadiliman ka ba? Kasi nang dumating ka, wala na akong makitang iba?

6.) Kili-kili ka ba? Malapit ka kasi sa puso ko.

Students loved her because she gave them ammunition to retort against enemies or unfavorable comments. For example: Kapag sinabihan kang mataba, sabihin mo: "Hindi ako mataba, mahirap lang ako makidnap." O kaya naman: "Hindi naman ako mataba. In fact, I'm so sexy that it overflows."

As with all fighters, she was not without enemies, but she believed that her enemies were the reason God created the middle finger. A staunch anti-corruption advocate, she once quipped: "Ano ang pinagkaiba ng holdaper sa pulitiko? Ang holdaper magnanakaw muna bago tatakbo. Ang pulitiko tatakbo muna bago magnakaw."

But Senator Miriam was more than just her jokes or a sharp tongue. She was more than her legendary beautiful legs. She authored several law books, some of which have been cited by the Supreme Court in its decisions. A giant in the legal field, Senator Miriam was also the first Filipino and first Asian from a developing country to be elected Judge of the International Criminal Court.

To commemorate her death anniversary, I filed Resolution No. 508 urging the President to confer the Quezon Service Cross to this brilliant and exemplary public servant.

The Quezon Service Cross Mr. President is the highest award our nation can give to a civilian. It is conferred by the President of the Philippines - with the concurrence of both Houses of Congress - to citizens whose achievements "are in such a manner and such a degree as to add great prestige to the Republic of the Philippines, or as to contribute to the lasting benefit for the people."

I filed this resolution because I believe that we need to show our people na hindi lahat ng politiko masama. Hindi naman lahat magnanakaw.

On the contrary, there are many in government who remain true to their oath and who uphold public interest over their personal interests.

Senator Miriam used her gift of gab to speak up and take a stand on the burning issues of our time. In fact, with all that is happening in our country today, people ask, "If Miriam were alive, I wonder what she would say." Ano kayang sasabihin ni Sen. Miriam sa mga nangyayari ngayon?

We need to restore honor in the government. Her memory should serve as an inspiration to future generations, especially those who wish to enter public service.

I bet that with everything that is going on in our country, she is turning in her grave (and probably rolling her eyes, too). Crooks in government should not even dare visit her resting place. Ang sabi nga niya, "Kapag namatay na ako, huwag na huwag kang pupunta sa libingan ko, baka tumibok ulit ang aking puso."

Mr. President, Senator Miriam may no longer be with us but her memory lives on. With that, I earnestly ask your support for Resolution No. 508 urging the President to nominate Miriam Defensor Santiago for conferment of the Quezon Service Cross in recognition of her immeasurable contributions to the nation.

Madamo gid nga salamat, Inday Miriam, sa imo pagpangalagad kag pagserbisyo sa banwa. Ikaw naga silbi inspirasyon sa mga kababaihan, labi na gid sa mga babayi nga ara sa pulitika nga tulad ko.

Maraming salamat po.

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