DOH honors health champion Miriam Santiago

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Health (DOH) on Friday, September 30, remembered the late senator Miriam Defensor Santiago as one of the country's prime health champions.

"Her departure is not the end of the things she started in defending the rights of the Filipino people especially [with regard to] access to quality and equitable health care. This is only the start and a challenge to DOH [to pursue] her battle," Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial said in a statement.

Santiago died Thursday morning, September 29, two years after she announced she was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. (READ: 'The Iron Lady is dead': Filipinos mourn death of Miriam Santiago)

DOH lauded the senator's contributions to the crafting of laws "which served as basis for the foundation in establishing Universal Health Care."

One such law is Republic Act 10354 or the reproductive health (RH) law, which Santiago co-sponsored.

In January, the staunch RH advocate even condemned the removal of a P1-billion allocation for contraceptives in the 2016 budget, calling the budget cut "immoral."

"The P1-billion budget cut threatens to deprive some 7 million women of reproductive health services. This abandonment is immoral in a country where some 200 out of 100,000 women who give birth die," Santiago said then.

On Friday, the health department also remembered how, in 2012, Santiago pushed for a Senate version of the sin tax law which emphasized that 85% of collections from excise taxes should be used for government health programs, while 15% should be used to help tobacco farmers shift to alternative crops.

The sin tax law was enacted in 2012 and has since contributed to the increase of DOH's yearly budget. 

DOH also enumerated other health bills Santiago pushed before her term as senator ended:

"It was a well-fought journey, Ma'am. You will always have our utmost gratitude and respect," Ubial said on Friday. (READ: Duterte on Miriam's death: May your legacy guide PH)

Santiago's body is interred at the Loyola Memorial Chapel and Crematorium in Marikina. She will be buried on Sunday, October 2, at the Loyola Memorial Park. –

Jee Y. Geronimo

Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.