Miriam Defensor Santiago restored the need to tell the truth in many ways. The force of her thoughts weighed heavily on who she was. She was not afraid to say it, and said it often, no matter who got hurt, felt insulted, or was inspired.
Looking back now, we see that she was from that old school that stood proud in a bygone era when politics meant ideas more than soundbites, when advocacies required reading , and the strength of intellect mattered more than a family name, the backing of oligarchs and criminals, or an entertainers’ pedigree.
We have all watched her rise in politics. In the post EDSA regime of the late 1980s she was Immigration Commissioner and one of the bright stars of the Cory Aquino cabinet, her feisty demeanor hoping to bring fruition to Aquino’s centerpiece land reform program.
Her presidential run in 1992 was without precedent, the female stormy petrel from Western Visayas never afraid to call out the powers that were, challenging established machinery, and almost winning it.
Failing to win Malacanang, she went on to be the lioness of the Philippine Senate, her intellectual gravitas and courageous speech a counterweight to the likes of Enrile and Trillanes, Lapid and Sotto and a foil to many of the horsetrading and muckracking that characterized the politics of the 90s and the early part of the century. She was one of the last Senators people elected on the basis of her background.
As she passes on, she brings with her the thinking part of our politics that is sadly castrated by the need to be popular for its own sake, to sound good and play to the crowd. The force of her ideas was stronger than the desire to be liked, and many thought that was good.
With her death, these parts of our politics have just grown smaller.