An ‘ordinary public servant’ who did her best (Last of two parts)Cebu Daily News
With 16 years of solid performance in the Office of the Ombudsman in the Visayas, Atty. Virginia Palanca-Santiago appeared self-effacing in her 65th birthday cum retirement party yesterday.
“But there is always an end to everything… I am just an ordinary public servant. I just did my best,” said Santiago in her farewell speech yesterday.
Here is the second part of her conversation with Cebu Daily News reporter Ador Vincent Mayol.
Who is/are your inspiration in doing your job?
I looked up to my parents who, although not professionals, were able to send all of us in school. Me and my five siblings are all professionals.
One is a doctor, another a nurse, accountant, teacher, pharmacist, and me, a lawyer.
My papa is very honest. He was mayor of our town. He worked hard for the town. My mother, on the other hand, worked hard for our big store. I was raised, fearing the Lord. My mother told me ‘Do not do silly things. If you do silly things, time will come that they will go back to you.’
This really registered in my mind. In fact, I relay this to my children. I told them to avoid doing silly things.
Do your job, be good, and do what is right. If you do silly things in this life, they will really return to you in some other ways. It may not come sooner. It might come later but it will come back to you.
“I was just an ordinary woman in our hometown. I never thought I will achieve what I have now. I worked from the bottom. At least I have done something for the government.
What are your plans after retirment?
I don’t know yet. I still have a lot of things in my office that I need to keep. I want to spend more time with my children. I already retired from teaching. I will really be more on service to God, and His Church. Maybe, I will go back to our place and help my people.
Do you have plans to run for a post in government?
As of now, none yet. Even if my father was a town mayor for 16 years, I don’t want to enter politics at this point. I want to visit my son in the US. Hopefully, I can travel.
I’m not sure but I will leave it all to God. I’m asking the Lord God please guide me what to do later on when I retire because we really don’t know what will happen next.
How do you want to be remembered?
No, nothing. It is a job. It is work. I don’t want to seek payment for a debt. I’m paid by the government. If they remember me, well and good. If not, it’s still okay. Because I could not tell anybody to remember me because I was able to help you. It is not good to seek payment for a deed.
What do you think is your legacy in the anti-graft office?
I just won’t answer that. (Laugh). Just ask people what they will remember of me. But what I can see is that I really worked hard in the office.
What is your message to public officials?
I just hope that they will be serving the people, following their oath that they will really be public servants, that they will serve the people but not let the people serve them. Just as what God has said: I came here. He is a king but He served the people. He was a servant. If you want to lead, you should be a public servant.
I hope public officials would no longer do silly things.
I have gone to other countries. I can’t help but compare. There, you can’t see a single individual, sleeping on the street. I hope the government will devote the money for the needy.
Your message to your staff?
They should continue what they are doing right now.
They should have the patience to deal with the problems of the people.
Santiago, a native of Hinunangan town, southern Leyte, graduated Valedictorian at the Canipaan Community School and salutatorian at the Holy Rosary Academy.
Santiago finished cum laude in her Baceholor of Arts -Philosophy at the University of San Carlos. She took Bachelor of Laws at the Ateneo de Manila University and passed the bar examinations in 1972.
The following year, she was employed at the Department of Agrarian Reform. She was a legal officer until she became the head of the office’s legal section.
In 1983, Santiago was appointed as prosecutor in Cebu City. She became a law professor at the USC in 1992.
In 1996, Santiago became a director of the Ombudsman Visayas and was the assistant Ombudsman from 2007 until today.
Santiago is the fifth of six siblings. His father worked as town mayor of Hinunangan, southern Leyte for 16 years. Her mother took care of their store.
Santiago’s was married to the late lawyer Edgar Santiago. The couple has three children’s whom she took care since her husband died in 1992.