Miriam Santiago now first woman awarded Quezon Service Cross

DISTINCTION. Miriam Defensor Santiago is posthumously awarded the Quezon Service Cross. File photo by Nicci Aguilar/Rappler

DISTINCTION. Miriam Defensor Santiago is posthumously awarded the Quezon Service Cross.

File photo by Nicci Aguilar/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – 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 on Monday, December 3, 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 are:

The late senator's husband, lawyer Narciso Santiago Jr, received the award on her behalf.

Santiago, in an event a few hours before the awarding ceremony, told Rappler he and his family are grateful for the recognition given to his late wife.

"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's legacy

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. (READ: Miriam Defensor Santiago: 'God is not out there but in you')

She ran for president 3 times, most recently in the 2016 elections. Duterte, a fellow presidential candidate, had acknowledged her brilliance during the campaign. (READ: 15 things to know about Miriam Santiago)

She is recognized as a legal luminary who authored or sponsored many landmark bills including the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act, Magna Carta of Women, Renewable Energy Act, Philippine Act on Crimes Against International Humanitarian Law, Sin Tax Law, and Climate Change Act.

But many Filipino millennials know Santiago most for her witty jokes and feisty comebacks, which have been immortalized in two best-selling books, Stupid is Forever and Stupid is Forevermore. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.