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Gloria Arroyo grieves death of ‘true friend, loyal ally’ Miriam Santiago

Former President Glroia Macapagal-Arroyo on Thursday said she was grieving the death of former Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, whom she described as her "dear and true friend and loyal ally.

"Senator Miriam’s life is the epitome of courage, brilliance, eloquence, dedication to public service and commitment to good governance," said Arroyo, who is currently Pampanga congresswoman and Deputy Speaker. 

"The Philippines has lost a truly outstanding and irreplaceable leader in Senator Miriam!" added Arroyo, saying the lawmaker would be missed.

Arroyo said she was extending her deepest sympathies to Santiago's husband Atty. Jun Santiago, their children and their whole family.

The former senator, 71, died in her sleep at 8:52 a.m. on Thursday after battling stage 4 lung cancer. She passed away at St. Luke's Medical Center in Bonifacio Global City, Taguig.

A known administration ally during the term of President Arroyo, Santiago once rushed to the former chief executive's side and said her [Arroyo's] right to privacy was violated when her mug shots were leaked and published by the media after her arrest in 2011. 

In December 2015, Santiago, during her presidential campaign, said she believed "justice has been denied" Arroyo, who faced plunder charges in connection with the P366-million Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office fund scam. 

At the time, Santiago said she was in favor of sending Arroyo home and just putting Arroyo under house arrest.

"Parang cruel and unusual 'yan," said Santiago. "Halimbawa, ako, nanay na ako at may mga apo na ako, ihihiwalay mo ako sa pamilya ko, 'yan ang pinakamasakit na parusa sa akin."

Santiago, however, did not always agree with the Arroyo administration's actions. In December 2009, Santiago criticized Arroyo's Proclamation 1959 that placed Mindanao under martial law and suspended the writ of habeas corpus, due to the November 2009 Maguindanao massacre.

Santiago, however, did not pin the blame on Arroyo, but instead on her advisers.

"They [advisers] should be taken out and shot and then they should be buried with a backhoe," the feisty lawmaker said in jest, referring to how the 57 victims of the November 23 massacre in Ampatuan town were killed and disposed.

Ex-VP Binay: Miriam was caring, sincere

Former Vice President Jejomar Binay, meanwhile, conveyed his condolences as well to the family of Santiago.

"Our prayers go to Jun and her family," Binay said Thursday, in a statement released to media.

"I join the nation and the Filipino people in mourning the death of Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago. We will remember Miriam for the fiery and sharp rhetoric that has defined her public persona. Those of us who have known her since college will remember Miriam as a caring and sincere woman whose discipline and intellect made her one of the nation's greatest leaders," he added.

Mar Roxas: She was always kind

One of Santiago's rivals for presidency in the May 2016 elections, former Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, on Thursday said the former senator was "always kind and gracious" to him.

"One of a kind public servant, fiery fighter against the corruption she saw, warm friend and supportive mentor, loving mother and wife. Indeed she lived in life what she often orated on the campaign - Captain of her ship, Master of her soul," Roxas said in a Facebook post.

"Maayo nga panglakaton palangga inday Miriam. Sui generis talaga siya... Adios inday Miriam. Halong pirme," he added. —With a report from Amita Legaspi/KG, GMA News