2 senators seek Quezon Service Cross for Santiago
If Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago were alive today, she would surely scold her colleagues in the Senate for attempting to flatter her with a move to posthumously accord her the highest civilian service award.
But they are going ahead with it anyway.
Two days before the first anniversary of Santiago’s death, Senators Grace Poe and Sonny Angara on Wednesday brought to the Senate floor two resolutions urging President Duterte to confer on their late colleague the Quezon Service Cross in recognition of her exemplary contribution to the nation.
The Quezon Service Cross, the highest national recognition of outstanding civilian service in the country in memory of the late President Manuel Quezon, is granted by the President with the concurrence of the Senate and the House of Representatives.
In her sponsorship speech, Poe cited a memorable quote from Santiago before her death after a two-year bout with lung cancer: “I have no illusions about myself, about my life, about leaving a legacy, or making a mark in people’s lives. We are so insignificant. We are only here for a blink.”
But Poe said Santiago was wrong. “As insignificant as we may all be, her contributions were not,” she said.
In pushing for conferment of the award to Santiago, Senate Resolution No. 508 presented a list of her service, spanning 46 years in the three branches of government, including her work as a law professor and a constitutional expert and the important resolutions and laws she filed and authored as senator for three terms.
The resolution also noted that throughout her career in public service — as presiding judge of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court, immigration commissioner, agrarian reform secretary and senator, she embodied academic, professional and moral excellence, the same values that she demanded of leaders.
The resolution said that bestowing the award on Santiago would ensure that her legacy of “dedicated, outstanding and selfless” public service would endure for Filipinos to emulate and so that her crusade against corruption and steadfastness on the rule of law would ring across generations.
“I filed this resolution because I believe that we need to show our people that not all politicians are crooks. On the contrary, there are many in [the] government who remain true to their oath and who uphold public interest over their personal interests,” Poe said.
Lone dissenting vote
Angara, who cosponsored the resolution, said in jest that if Santiago were alive today, “I am sure that she will cast the lone dissenting vote, and will berate me for trying to flatter her.”
Angara said that even if Santiago once said that “we are a speck in a speck in a speck … we have to be aware that we do not count for anything,” she was still one speck that counted for something.
“She was one speck that made the lives of so many other specks much, much better,” he said in his cosponsorship speech.
In an interview with the Inquirer, Poe said recognizing Santiago’s legacy was not just to preserve her memory but also to serve as a guide and inspiration to the current and future generations.
“If there was anything Senator Miriam stood for, it was perhaps her fearlessness, her courage in divulging what she believed was the truth, for standing by her beliefs … especially now in the Senate where I feel that most of us have to take a stand on very difficult issues,” she said.
She also told her colleagues that amid the burning issues hounding the country, “she is turning in her grave and probably rolling her yes, too. Crooks in [the] government should not even dare visit her resting place.”
“She said, ‘When I die, never come to my grave. My heart might beat again,’” Poe quoted Santiago as saying once.
In urging her colleagues to support the resolution, Poe described how Santiago brought color and drama to even the most mundane hearings in the Senate.
“She believed that head-bashing was the best strategy to fight graft,” she said.
“She did not mince words in calling certain incorrigible people ‘fungus faced,’ ‘discombobulated moral retardates,’ or ‘miserable intellectual amoeba.’ She even challenged a certain senator to a boxing match,” Poe recalled.
“Love her or hate her, it is undeniable that no one was safe from her scathing remarks; her targets ranged from those who used the wrong tense and grammar to those who cited wrong constitutional provisions or who dared cover their ears in her presence,” she added.
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