President Rodrigo Duterte has nominated the late Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago for conferment of the Quezon Service Cross, the highest civilian award in the Philippines, Malacañang said Tuesday.
The Office of the Executive Secretary has already transmitted a letter signed by Duterte on Nov. 20, recommending Santiago’s posthumous conferment.
Duterte requested Congress to approve the posthumous conferment of the award to Santiago, saying that “she used her considerable talents for the service of the people and our nation while exhibiting remarkable passion, courage and integrity. She inspired generations of Filipinos to aspire for excellence and remain steadfast against any challenge and adversity.”
Santiago was “an agent of positive and meaningful change in the country,” Duterte said, for having “authored and sponsored laws that strengthened our fiscal position, promoted reproductive health, preserved the environment, safeguarded our women, enshrined human rights, enhanced our education system, gave greater access to information communications technology, protected against cybercrime, and asserted Philippine sovereignty.”
Before Santiago could be conferred with the award, both houses of Congress must approve the nomination.
Only five people have been given the award since its creation—former Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo (November 2012), former Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. (August 2004), former Presidents Ramon Magsaysay (July 1957) and Emilio Aguinaldo (June 1956), and former United Nations General Assembly President Carlos P. Romulo (April 1951).
The Quezon Service Cross is the highest national recognition conferred by the Republic of the Philippines by virtue of Executive Order No 236, series of 2003.
Last September, the Office of the President welcomed moves to confer the Quezon Service Cross to Santiago, then-presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said in a Palace news briefing.
“The late Senator’s contribution to the country is beyond question. The President highly respects the lady. We look forward to receiving the resolution of the Senate,” Abella added.
Santiago’s husband, Narciso Santiago Jr., had lamented that the late senator should have been given the “admiration, love and recognition she well deserved” while she was still alive.
“The love and praises should have been given to her when she was still alive because her life, just like the life of President Duterte, was spent for the service of the country and the people,” he said in October last year at the wake of his wife at the Immaculate Conception Cathedral Grottos in Cubao, Quezon City.
Senator Santiago, a former Quezon City judge, was dubbed the “Iron Lady of Asia,” and served all three branches of government during her long career in public service.
In 1988, she won the Ramon Magsaysay Award for government service with a citation “for bold and moral leadership in cleaning up a graft-ridden government agency” when she was head of the Bureau of Immigration.
She became senator in 1995 and authored the most number of laws and bills in the entire history of the country.
In 2012, she became the first Filipina and the first Asian from a developing country to be elected a judge of the International Criminal Court.
Supporters, politicians and government officials flocked to her wake.
At 71, Santiago passed away in her sleep at St. Luke’s Medical Center, Global City in Taguig. She had terminal stage lung cancer.