THE late senator Miriam Defensor Santiago has made history by being the first woman to be awarded the Quezon Service Cross, the highest civilian distinction given by the Philippine government.
The award was presented to her family yesterday during a ceremony at Malacañang witnessed by President Rodrigo Duterte.
The resolution for the conferment, read out by House Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, recognizes Santiago’s “half a century” of public service in all 3 branches of government.
It praises Santiago’s “exceptional intelligence and skill” and “academic, professional, and moral intelligence.”
Santiago, it reads, “was known to be fearless in her views and always blunt in her words...a paragon of courage and integrity.”
Santiago is also only the sixth Filipino and second senator to receive the recognition.
The other 5 Quezon Service Cross awardees were: Carlos P. Romulo, diplomat and the first Asian to serve as UN General Assembly president, Emilio Aguinaldo, first Philippine president, Magsaysay, Philippine president, “Ninoy” Aquino Jr., senator and democracy icon and Jesse Robredo, Interior secretary.
The late senator’s husband, lawyer Narciso Santiago Jr, received the award on her behalf.
“Our regret is that she passed away early. She could have served more the people and the country. Sayang (It’s too bad),” he said.
It was the Senate, where Santiago served for 18 years, that called on Duterte to nominate her for the Quezon Service Cross back in September 2017.
A few months later, in December, Duterte nominated Santiago, a nomination that got Congress’ concurrence.
Santiago, who died at the age of 71 on September 29, 2016, served the Senate for 3 terms, for a total of 18 years: from 1995 to 2001 and from 2004 until 2016.