Miriam Defensor-Santiago: A life ‘dedicated’ to public service

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The Quezon Service Cross, the highest recognition that the government can give to Filipino citizens, is the most fitting tribute to the late former Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago for her “legacy of dedicated, outstanding and selfless” service to Filipinos, Sen. Grace Poe said on Monday.

Barely a year after Santiago’s death, Poe filed Senate Resolution 508 urging President Rodrigo Duterte to nominate the highly esteemed constitutional and international law expert, author, professor and mother for conferment of the award, posthumously.

“Miriam Defensor-Santiago has dedicated her life to public service through her work in all the branches of government: judicial, executive and legislative.

Throughout her 46-year career in the public service, Santiago embodied values that she herself demanded of leaders: academic, professional and moral character,” she said in her resolution.

In urging Malacanang to nominate Santiago for conferment of the award that both houses of Congress must approve, Poe cited the late legislator’s “crusade against the culture of corruption, steadfastness on the rule of law and determination to hold public officials to a higher standard [which]reverberate across generations.”

“Bestowing upon Santiago the Quezon Service Cross will ensure that her legacy of dedicated, outstanding and selfless public service will endure for Filipinos to emulate,” she said.

Throughout Santiago’s 46-year career in the government as presiding judge of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court, Immigration commissioner, Agrarian Reform secretary and senator for three terms, she “embodied values that she herself demanded of leaders: academic, professional and moral excellence.”

Santiago was a recipient of the Ramon Magsaysay Award, dubbed as Asia’s version of the Nobel Prize, in 1988 for exemplary government service.

She was elevated to the Philippine Judges Association Hall of Fame in 2015 and was awarded outstanding alumna of the University of the Philippines Alumni Association (Iloilo Chapter) in 2015, Girl Scouts of the Philippines Golden Jubilee Achievement Award for Public Service in 1990, YMCA Philippines Gold Vision Triangle Award for Government Service in 1988, Civic Assembly of Women of the Philippines Republic Anniversary Award for Law Enforcement in 1988, University of the Philippines’ Most Outstanding Alumna in Law in 1988, The Outstanding Women in Nation’s Service Award for Law in 1986 and Outstanding Young Men Award for Law in 1985.

Santiago had consistently filed the most number of bills and resolutions and authored several notable laws including the Reproductive Health Act, Data Privacy Act, Anti-Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance Act, Anti-Bullying Act, Cybercrime Prevention Act, Anti-Torture Act, Law Restructuring Alcohol and Tobacco Excise Tax, Fair Competition Act, Children’s Emergency Relief and Protection Act, Intellectual Property Code, Fair Election Act, Oil Pollution Compensation Act, Biofuels Act and Magna Carta of Women, among others.

As chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee, she sponsored the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, United Nations Convention Against Corruption, International Labor Organization Convention on Migration for Employment, Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement, Revised Kyoto Convention, Association of Southeast Asian Nations Charter, Asean Agreement on Disaster Management and Emergency Response and Asean Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution.

Santiago brought victory to the Philippines in 2013 when she became the first Filipino and first Asian from a developing country to be elected as judge of The Hague-based International Criminal Court, an independent body that prosecutes individuals for the most serious crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

In 2016, she became a member of the International Advisory Council of the International Development Law Organization.

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