Political rivals pray for Miriam, miss her already

MANILA, Philippines – They might have been at the receiving end of her scathing tirades, but on Thursday, September 29, political rivals of the late senator Miriam Defensor Santiago only had good words for her.

Former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, Senator Panfilo Lacson, and Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II are just a few of the "enemies" that Santiago encountered in her long career in public service. The  3 men expressed sadness over the death of Santiago on Thursday.

They heaped praises on the politician described by her colleagues as a legal luminary and one of the country’s "great patriots." (READ: Senators mourn Miriam's death: One of the greatest, a loss to PH)

Enrile said he would pray for his former colleague and godchild, who later turned into one of his fiercest foes in the chamber.

“Nabalitaan ko kanina at pinagdadasal ko siya. Nakalimutan ko na 'yun. Hindi ako nagtatanim ng masamang kalooban kahit kanino. Ngayon, pinagdadasal ko siya. May she rest in peace and with the Lord. Inaanak ko 'yun eh (sa kasal),” Enrile said in a phone interview with reporters.

(I heard the news earlier and I am praying for her. I already forgot about it. I don't hold grudges against anyone and I pray for her. May she rest in peace and with the Lord. She's my gochild in their wedding.)

The two veteran senators had heated word wars during their stint in the 15th and 16th Congresses.

In 2013, Santiago delivered a privilege speech against Enrile entitled, "Navigating the Crimes of the Plunder Mastermind," where she called him a “psychopathic hypersexualized serial womanizer,” “the icon of shameless lying,” “incorrigible liar,” “the prince of darkness,” “gambling and smuggling king,” and “the drama king of corrupt politics.”

Enrile, in turn, had accused Santiago of being the "grandmama of all falsehood fabricators.”

The 92-year-old Enrile said their conflicts are all in the past, and that he has forgotten them.

“Siyempre, kung may mamatay na kilala mo siyempre malulungkot ka rin di ba?...Pinagdadasal ko 'yung mga naging katunggali ko sa buhay. Wala na. Bunga ng panahon 'yung ganoong pangyayari; nasa tadhana 'yun,” Enrile said,

(Of course, when you know someone who passed away, you would also get sad, right?... I am praying for all my foes in life. That's nothing anymore. That's just brought about by circumstances; it's destiny.)

Enrile said Santiago was a “very articulate” and “very perceptive” person. (Read Santiago's obituary: Miriam Defensor Santiago: God is not out there but in you)

'Already being missed'

Lacson, who was also at the receiving end of Santiago's verbal attacks, joined the nation in mourning the death of the "passionate" Santiago.

Santiago got into a bitter feud with Lacson in 2013. Lacson drew Santiago's ire when he defended Enrile at the height of the Priority Development Assistance Fund scandal.

“We may not be the best of friends when we were together in the Senate in the 15th and 16th Congresses and even before that, but you know, she will always be remembered as passionate, articulate, a renowned Constitutionalist… certified,” Lacson said.

Lacson said Santiago’s brilliance and articulation at the Senate would be missed.

“Even when she left noong after 16th Congress, she’s already being missed. Ngayon pa we all know di na talaga siya babalik (What more now when we know she's no longer coming back)?" Lacson said in an interview.

Meanwhile, Aguirre said the country lost a "great mind" and an "indefatigable leader and public servant."

In 2012, Aguirre came under the spotlight for "standing up" to Santiago when he was among the private lawyers in the prosecuting panel at the impeachment case of the late Chief Justice Renato Corona. Aguirre covered his ears to express his frustration with Santiago, who was berating the prosecution team. (READ: Meet Miriam's nemesis: Vitaliano Aguirre)

Aguirre said he regrets that he was not able to "reconcile" with the senator, who admonished him in the Senate.

"We both have some faults that could easily be forgiven. My regret is that I had no opportunity to reconcile with her. I have much to thank her for what happened to my life after that unforgettable incident," Aguirre said in a text message.

Santiago died peacefully in her sleep early Thursday, said her husband Narciso Santiago Jr, after battling lung cancer for two years. She was 71 years old. – Rappler.com

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is a multimedia reporter focusing on media, technology, and disinformation.