Ex-senator Letty Ramos-Shahani, 87

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LETICIA “Letty” Ramos-Shahani, a career diplomat and academic who became senator with the restoration of democracy after the 1986 “People Power” revolt, died early Monday after a two-year battle with colon cancer. She was 87.

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Daughter Lila said her mother passed away at 2:40 a.m. in the intensive care unit of St. Luke’s Medical Center at Bonifacio Global City in Taguig.

“It’s difficult but you know all we want now is for my mom not to be in pain and that thought gives us a great deal of peace, that she is no longer in pain,” Lila said in a television interview.

Lila said her mother had stage four colon cancer and underwent chemotherapy and stem cell therapy for two years.

The former senator was doing well but in November, she became too weak for chemotherapy and developed pneumonia.

Shahani was born on September 30, 1929 in Lingayen, Pangasinan to Foreign Affairs Secretary Narciso Ramos and Angela Valdez, about a year apart from brother Fidel Ramos, the former president.

Wellesley alumna

Shahani studied literature at Wellesley, the top women’s college in the United States whose alumnae include Hillary Clinton and Madeleine Albright. She later obtained her master’s and doctorate in comparative literature at Columbia University and the Sorbonne in Paris.

Well-respected in diplomatic circles here and abroad, Shahani became Philippine ambassador to Australia (1978-1980) and Romania (1975-1980), after working in the United Nations’ (UN) Division of Human Rights (1964-68) and the Commission on the Status of Women (1974).

She pushed for the empowerment of women in the international arena as UN assistant secretary general for social development and humanitarian affairs (1981-1986) and secretary general of the UN Third World Conference on Women in Nairobi, Kenya in 1985.

In 1987, she became head of the National Commission on the Role of the Filipino Women.

On June 30, 1987, Shahani began a political career in the Senate, where she served for two terms. She was elected by her colleagues as Senate president pro-tempore in 1993, a post she held until 1996.

Shahani authored landmark laws such as Republic Act 6725, Strengthening the Prohibition of Discrimination Against Women in the Workplace; RA 8353, the Anti-Rape Law of 1997; and RA 8505, the Rape Victim Assistance and Protection Act of 1998.

She also introduced the mandatory 5 percent government budget allocation for gender and development.

Shahani headed Senate committees on foreign affairs; agriculture; and education, culture and arts; and was a member of the Commission on Appointments.

In 2015, the Senate passed Resolution 1396 honoring her dedication as a public servant and contributions to the nation.

In August, President Rodrigo Duterte appointed her to the board of directors of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office in Taiwan.

‘Leading voice in foreign relations’

The Philippines lost a leading voice in foreign relations at a time the country needed it most, said Senate President Aquilino Pimentel 3rd.

Senator Franklin Drilon said Shahani represented the very best of Filipina skill, intelligence and determination.
“Indeed, the late Senator Leticia Ramos-Shahani remains a shining example of a public servant who our present and future leaders must strive to emulate. While we are saddened by her passing, her legacy will continue to inspire our nation and our people,” said Drilon, who had a chance to work with the former Senate president pro-tempore in 1995.

Sen. Loren Legarda expressed her condolences to the family of the former senator, noting that she was “one of the finest and most distinguished legislators we ever had.”

“Her dedication is unmatched, passionately advocating and campaigning for the advancement of her advocacies even after retiring from government service,” she said.

‘Profound humanist’

Senator Grace Poe, whose May 2016 presidential bid was endorsed by Shahani, said the late senator showed how public service should be – sincere, dynamic and exemplary.

“She is an inspiration to generations of women because of her steadfast principles and decisive actions,” said Poe in a statement.

Malacañang called Shahani a “profound humanist and exemplary public servant.”

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