Press Release
October 3, 2016

Sponsorship Speech
On Resolution No. 181 Honoring the Memory of Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago on Her Passing

Senator Juan Miguel F. Zubiri

Mr. President, like you, our colleagues, and the rest of the nation, I received the news of Senator Miriam's passing with disbelief, followed by a rush of sadness. It is difficult to imagine her any different from the strong, fierce, and indomitable lady that she was throughout her life, whether in and out of the public eye.

We feel it strongly when we meet a Grand Lady. That is what happened to me when I first met the feisty and truly honorable Miriam Defensor Santiago in the Senate. She made the Senate a hall of greatness and respectability.

She had always been popular as a brilliant and bold lawyer who made a name for herself in our Alma Mater by earning a Flat One. By that alone, she was already awe-inspiring. I was proud that I shared her Ilonggo roots.

We know her well by her assertive principled voice. That voice talked of complex issues that she dissected and clarified for colleagues and for the masa equally.

She was the epitome of women empowerment - a trailblazer in the legal profession and government service, which were traditionally perceived as the domain of males. She held the distinguished accomplishment of being one of the few public officials who rendered full and meaningful service in the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government. Perhaps she will be remembered best for her three terms of service in the Senate, being instrumental in the passage of landmark laws such as the Magna Carta of Women, the Philippine Act on Crimes Against International Humanitarian Law, Archipelagic Baselines Law, Climate Change Act, Renewable Energy Law, among countless others.

She famously said that she, "ate death threats for breakfast," which is by the way one of my favorite quotes from her, because she was objective, fair, and straight, regardless of which branch of government she served. Her leadership was fearless, her honesty and integrity were unquestionable. She was incorruptible.

I remember her fondly for welcoming me warmly in the Senate, which was special for me being a non-lawyer. It meant so much that she didn't treat me as a despicable "humungous fungus," as she would sometimes joke. I thank her truly for supporting me, even though sometimes we debated on some issues when I was the majority leader during the 14th Congress. I distinctly remember that she was not in the pink of health in 2013, but she volunteered to shoot a video endorsing my candidacy. I was proud and humbled that this Grand Ilongga lady approved of me.

She fulfilled her roles as best as she can : as an obedient daughter, a brilliant student, an outstanding public servant, a sweet wife, and a loving mother to her children and even to her extended family including us in the Senate.

I remember she used to call me palangga all the time and hold my cheek in her hand each time. Being known as the Iron Lady of Asia but many do not know that she was very malambing and warm like a mother to her colleagues.

Sen. Miriam stood in this chamber and walked these halls, leaving vestiges of her courage and brilliance. Let us honor her by upholding her legacy of true and genuine public service. Hers are awesome shoes to fill, but in her memory, let us aspire to live up to the standard she has set for members of this august chamber. I was actually expecting to meet her on October 5.

Like the rest of you, I wish she were still with us. We will miss her but we have to accept that she has simply passed on ahead of us. We express our sincerest condolences to her family during this difficult time. We will miss you Palangga Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago. And I am honored to have stood with you in this August chamber.

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