MANILA President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday conferred posthumously the prestigious Quezon Service Cross on the late Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago whom he described as his friend and a "learned human being".
Duterte handed the award to Santiago's husband, Narciso, with lawmakers led by former President and now House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo witnessing the awarding ceremony held at the Rizal hall of the Palace.
Today, we are gathered as one grateful nation to honor an esteemed lawmaker, constitutionalist and stateswoman, our beloved Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago, Duterte said in his speech.
I am deeply honored to lead the Filipino people in conferring on the late Senator the Quezon Service Cross - the highest recognition for outstanding civilian service by the Republic of the Philippines, he added.
Duterte recalled how he and the late lady lawmaker campaign for each other during the 2016 presidential race which he won by six million votes over his closest rival Mar Roxas of the erstwhile ruling Liberal Party.
During the campaign, she was campaigning for me, I was campaigning for her. In short, so magandang laro iyon.(so it was a good game), Duterte said.
And simply because I hesitated to ask questions because I would not maybe just be able to answer her correctly. And I was more or less hesitant that I'd be corrected in public even in the question itself. So, I just said, 'How can I ask a question from a learned human being?', he added.
Duterte is hoping that the life of Santiago, known as Iron Lady of Asia due to her no-nonsense drive against graft and corruption, would serve as inspiration to every Filipinos to use their talents in serving the country.
I am hopeful that as we recognize her exemplary contributions to society, she will serve as an inspiration to a generation of Filipinos who will use their talents for the benefit of the country and their fellowmen, he said.
The President said Santiago's shining example should serve as the legacy that we will leave behind to future generations of Filipinos.
Let her memory serve as the light that will guide us towards a more progressive, inclusive and equitable society, Duterte said.
Proposed by President Manuel Roxas in honor of President Manuel L. Quezon, the Quezon Service Cross was created by virtue of a joint resolution enacted by both houses of Congress in 1946.
Santiago is the first female to be given the Quezon Service Cross Award which the top recognition a Filipino can receive from the government.
Before Santiago, five famous personalities have been given the prestigious award since its inception in 1946.
The Quezon Service Cross have been awarded posthumously to former Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo on Nov. 26, 2012, former Senator Benigno Aquino Jr. on Aug. 21, 2004; and, former President Ramon Magsaysay on July 4, 1957.
Former President Emilio Aguinaldo and former United Nations General Assembly President Carlos Romulo received the award during their lifetime on June 12, 1956 and Apr. 12, 1951, respectively.
Unlike other state honors and decorations, the Quezon Service Cross can only be awarded with the concurrence of both houses of Congress and the President of the Philippines.
For Santiago, Duterte endorsed her name to Congress for approval in 2017 with the Senate approving it on Dec. 11, 2017 and the House giving its concurrence on Feb. 20, 2018.
Santiago was considered as one of the most intellectually brilliant leaders of the country, having served in all three branches of government judicial, executive and legislative.
She served as presiding judge of the Regional Trial Court, commissioner of Bureau of Immigration, secretary of Agrarian Reform and a senator for three terms.
Santiago also worked abroad as legal officer of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland and as a consultant of the Philippine embassy in Washington D.C.
She was the first Filipino and the first Asian from a developing country to be elected in the United Nations as judge of the International Criminal Court in 2011. Unfortunately, grave illness forced her to waive the privilege of being an ICC judge.
She was a University of the Philippines law professor for 10 years and had filed the highest number of bills and authored some of the most important laws in the Senate.
The pride of Iloilo had received prestigious awards throughout her 46 years of public service.
Santiago ran but lost in the 1992 and 2016 presidential elections.
Among the prestigious awards she received include the Outstanding Young Men Award for Law in 1985; the Outstanding Women in Nation's Service Award for Law in 1986; Ramon Magsaysay Award in 1988; Most Outstanding Alumna in Law from UP; and, the Philippine Judges Association Hall of Fame in 2015.
Santiago, considered the leading expert of her generation in constitutional law and international law, died on Sept. 29, 2016 after a two-year battle with lung cancer.
Other present during the awarding rites include Senators Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel, Manny Pacquiao, Francis Escudero and his wife Heart Evangelista; Nueva Ecija Rep. Estrellita Suangsing and Davao City Mayor and presidential daughter Sara Duterte. (PNA)
Source: Philippine News Agency i