Presidential aspirant Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago said she is “hurt” with the survey results which showed her as lagging behind other candidates despite a strong endorsement by young voters. (Paulo C. Rizal/

The late Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago guested at the Presidential Forum at the University of the Philippines in Mindanao in Bago Oshiro, Tugbok, Davao on April 20. Santiago succumbed to lung cancer Thursday, September 29. (Paulo C. Rizal/

DAVAO CITY, Philippines — Philippine politicians remembered former Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago as the “Iron Lady” and one of the brightest senators in the country.

Santiago, 71, passed away Thursday morning. She had stage 4 lung cancer.

President Rodrigo Duterte, in a statement said Santiago left “a sterling career in public office.”

“She is best remembered as a graftbuster “eating death threats for breakfast”, earning her the title of “Iron Lady of Asia”. A constitutionalist, she had always been an advocate for the rule of law,” Duterte said.

“Rest in peace, Madam Senator. May your legacy continue to guide this nation for many years to come,” the President said.

Despite her health condition, Santiago ran in the presidential elections in May this year. She may have lost to Duterte, but the two politicians were always seen as good friends even praising each other during a Presidential debate.

Santiago’s last visit to Davao City was during the presidential forum sponsored by the University of the Philippines in Mindanao on April 20.

Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella described Santiago as “a shining light in Philippine political annals.

“She had a profound influence on millenials and the youth – constantly challenging pre-conceived notions – political and social. Her passing signals the passing of an era of politicians with wide-ranging intelligence and the courage to express their true conviction,” Abella said.

Left’s ally

Santiago was also considered as an ally of progressive lawmakers in the issues related to the Visiting Forces Agreement and US military intervention,  and pork barrel.

Bayan Muna Partylist Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate said Santiago is an ally “against onerous foreign treaties like the VFA and Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement.”

“The Iron Lady is gone, but she had a good-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”,” Zarate said.

Gabriela Women’s Party also expressed deep sorrow over the passing of Santiago.

“Women remember her for her courageous stand for sovereignty in repeatedly calling for legislative actions against unfair and invasive military treaties with foreign powers, such the calls to review Visiting Forces Agreement, leading the Senate in voting to declare invalid and ineffective the Enhance Defense Cooperation Agreement, and investigations of repeated violations of our national dignity, including the murder of Jennifer Laude,” said lawmakers Emmi de Jesus and Arlene Brosas.

De Jesus said Santiago spent a good part of her stint in the Senate advancing bills for the protection of women, children and families.

“She penned a parallel resolution in the Senate to support the House Resolution authored by Gabriela to call for the end to privatization of public hospitals. We worked together in pushing more bills to address legal inequality and many deficiencies of women’s access to health, justice, and services,” she said.

Social Welfare and Development Secretary Judy M. Taguiwalo  said Santiago lived a meaningful life.

“She has long become a positive role model for young Filipinos, especially young women, for her strength of character, sharp intellect, and staunch defense of Philippine sovereignty,” she said.

Co-senators mourn Santiago’s death

Senator Alan Peter Cayetano said he remembers Santiago as among the best and brightest advocates for change.

“Despite her own personal battles, continued to fight for the rights and welfare of our people. She will be remembered for her strong stand against corruption and for her outstanding performance as former chairperson of the Senate foreign relations committee,” Cayetano said.

“I will never forget what she once said, about how she was “a staunch believer in God, and the triumph of good over evil,” as she encouraged our people “to remain adamant that good will triumph over evil, and that good governance will triumph over corruption”,” he added.

Neophyte senator, Leila De Lima also described Santiago as “a respected institution, not only in the country, but also in the international community.”

“She has personified the strength of women: to be a wife and mother, a success in her career, and a powerful social force for nation-building. In the midst of the political crisis that we have been experiencing as of late, her death is a sobering reminder that while our time on earth is fleeting, our service to our countrymen is eternal,” De Lima said. (

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