Lawmakers pay tribute to Miriam Santiago: A 'pillar' of PH politics

MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – Lawmakers grieved over the passing of former senator Miriam Defensor Santiago on Thursday, September 29.

The feisty and esteemed Santiago succumbed to lung cancer, dying in her sleep at the St Luke's Medical Center Global City at 8:52 am. She was 71 years old. (READ: Miriam Defensor Santiago: 'God is not out there but in you')

Most legislators at the House of Representatives consider her one of the "pillars" of Philippine politics, staunch in her defense of the country's sovereignty and revered for her campaign against corruption.

Santiago had been battling lung cancer since 2014, but this did not stop her from running for president in the May 2016 polls.  

She is survived by her husband, Narciso Santiago Jr, and her son, Narciso III. Her youngest son, Alexander Robert, died in 2003.

Read the full statements of congressmen below.

Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, Davao del Norte 1st District

"I extend my deepest sympathies to the family of Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago. With her passing, we lost one of the country's most vocal and feisty defenders of our nation's sovereignty and national interest, as well as one of the most feared campaigners against corruption in government. 

"We would also miss not only her trademark colorful language that stung foes and chastised incompetent officials, but also for her cutting intelligence and wit that endeared her to a horde of youthful followers.

"We will forever be grateful to Senator Santiago for dedicating her life to the service of our nation." 

Minority Leader Danilo Suarez, Quezon 3rd District

"We lost a pillar in the Senate. [With] the passing of the senator and looking at her performance on the background of how she performed during all these years, it may be difficult to find somebody that can somewhat duplicate what she has done. [She is] a good reformist and fiscalizer, and somebody who did not take advantage of her position. Loyal and dedicated as a public servant." 

Deputy Speaker Raneo Abu, Batangas 2nd District 

"We join the nation in mourning the loss of a remarkable parliamentarian, Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago. Her wit and humor will be truly missed. Our sympathies to the family."

Deputy Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Pampanga 2nd District 

"I join the whole nation in grieving the death of a dear and true friend and loyal ally, Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago. 

"Senator Miriam's life is the epitome of courage, brilliance, eloquence, dedication to public service and commitment to good governance. The Philippines has lost a truly outstanding and irreplaceable leader in Senator Miriam!  

"I extend my deepest sympathies to Atty Jun Santiago, their children, and their whole family. She will be truly missed."

Deputy Speaker Fredenil Castro, Capiz 2nd District 

"She is a great loss. With her sterling and exemplary performance as [part of the] legislature, legal mind, and leader, her departure to join her Creator has created a missing link, that finding a replacement is not an easy task."

Deputy Speaker Romero Quimbo, Marikina City 2nd District 

"We mourn the passing of a giant cultural icon. She will be remembered not only for being an unparalleled legislator but for her meteoric personality, her acerbit wit, and deep intolerance for the stupid. Unlike many of her contemporaries, she managed to capture the idolatry of people from all ages, specially the young. Her appeal was age- and gender-proof. I continue to wish that someone, just even a 10th of her, were present in today's political circumstances. Typhoons have Yolanda. Politics has Miriam." 

Cristal Bagatsing, Manila City 5th District

"It's a sad day for the Philippines. We have lost a brilliant stateswoman who has captured the hearts and the imagination of the Filipino people with her courageous yet witty remarks and ideas that helped shape and build our strong nation. She will be greatly missed. #WalaKangKatulad."

Feliciano Belmonte Jr, Quezon City 4th District

"My family and I are saddened by the passing of Senator Miriam Santiago, whom I maintained a cordial relationship with through the years. I was also godfather to her son who passed away. 

"Philippine politics will not be the same without the staunch and feisty Miriam. We will miss her intelligence, wit, and vast legal expertise, which she has shared as university professor and earned for the country the distinction of being the first Asian elected judge to the International Criminal Court.

"It was a privilege to have worked with Miriam and we thank her for her dedication to the country, having served well in the executive, legislative, and judicial branches ofour government.

"To Atty Jun Santiago and the rest of her family who fought this difficult cancer battle with her, my deepest sympathy and prayers."

Teddy Baguilat Jr, Ifugao 

"[This is an] end of an era of erudition, eloquence, and equanimity. Agree with her or not, her thoughts and her means of expression demanded respect."

Rodel Batocabe, AKO Bicol

"We mourn the loss of a distinguished legal scholar and an exemplary public servant who [is] hard to come by in every generation. She will always be an inspiration for our youth and to us public servants."

Sarah Elago, Kabataan

"Maalala natin siya bilang isa sa pinakamahusay nating public servant. Napakatapang, napaka-vocal sa napakaraming issues, lalung-lalo na nakikita natin siyang isang inspiration sa paglaban para sa ating pambansang soberanya. Maaalala natin na isa siya na nanawagan para sa abolition ng mga ‘di pantay na kasunduan ng Pilipinas at ng Estados Unidos. Kaya naman ang mga kabataan ay gagawin siyang modelo at talagang inspirasyon sa pagpapatuloy ng laban para sa soberanya ng ating bansa, sa pagpapatuloy ng laban para sa ganap na kalayaan para sa bansa."

(We remember her as one of the greatest public servants. She was fearless and very vocal on many issues, and most especially, she was an inspiration in the fight to protect our country's sovereignty. We remember her as one of those who called for the abolition of the unequal agreements between the Philippines and the United States. That's why the youth consider her as a model and an inspiration to continue the fight for our country's sovereignty and freedom.)

Karlo Nograles, Davao City 1st District

"Even as a young law student in Ateneo then, I am one of the biggest admirers of former Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago. Her legal intellect is legendary among the young and idealistic, and this is the very reason why the core of her political support comes from the youth. When I entered public service, I came to know Senator Miriam as someone who does not only have a brilliant mind, but also someone who has a pure heart and one with unparalleled compassion to serve our people. I remained a big fan of Senator Miriam and despite our partisan divide, I continued to look up at her for giving life and color to our boring and mundane work as a legislators. Despite her demise,  Senator Miriam's legacy will live forever. Her life will continue to inspire many young people like I was to work hard to serve our people and our nation."

Edgar Sarmiento, Samar

"The people of Samar join the entire nation in mourning the passing of former Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago. Even to a political neophyte like myself, Senator Miriam is an inspiration to do only what is good and what is right.

"She is one of the country's great political figures who worked hard to achieve excellence in all the tasks given to her in the field of public service.

"She will be sorely missed by the entire Philippines not only because of her witty punchlines but because of her selfless dedication to public service. Paalam, Senator Miriam."

Jerry Treñas, Iloilo City

"Up to her last breath, former Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago showed to all of us the grit and the spirit of a true Ilongga. She fought her disease just like the way she fought to change the many wrongs in our present political system. Despite her passing, she is immortalized by everything that she stands for and everything that she did for the country. She will continue to inspire us to fight for what is right even of everybody else thinks otherwise. She will continue to be an Ilonggo pride." 

Sherwin Tugna, CIBAC 

"Today is a sad day for the entire nation as we all grieve for the passing of one of the most iconic personalities in Philippine politics.

"Throughout Senator Miriam's entire political career, she has inspired so many Filipinos, especially the youth. Your wit and brilliance, which we all admired, will surely be missed. Senate proceedings wouldn't be the same without the presence of a feisty legislator like you. 

"Thank you for your service to our country, Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago. May you rest in peace."

Reynaldo Umali, Oriental Mindoro 2nd District

"My deepest sympathy to an illustrious congressional leader and member of the legal profession. She's a great loss to the nation."

Vilma Santos-Recto, Lipa City 6th District

"Sad news. Senator Miriam will always be remembered as a fighter and advocate of our democracy. She's indeed a stateswoman!!! Her death is a big, big [loss] to the Filipino people. Our deepest condolences to her family!"

Tom Villarin, Akbayan

"Senator Santiago defined what a true statesperson should be – fierce but compassionate, strong-willed but gentle in spirit, a principled advocate that never compromises in the face of adversity. Her passing away is a great loss, especially during these troubling times when voices like hers will surely send shivers to the powers that be. I join the nation in mourning her passing."

Carlos Isagani Zarate, Bayan Muna

"The Iron Lady is gone but she had a well-ironed place in our history as a respected jurist, executive bureaucrat, legislator, international law expert, and, of late, a master par excellence in 'hugot lines.' More importantly, though, she's an ally in the campaign against pork barrel and against onerous foreign treaties like the VFA (Visiting Forces Agreement) and EDCA (Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement). To paraphrase one of her hugot lines, 'Mahirap makipaglaro sa'yo ng taguan (It’s hard to play hide-and-seek with you), because someone like her is hard to find. Requiescat in pace MDS!" –

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.