Miriam Santiago: Philippine senator and ex-presidential candidate dies

Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago at the Senate probe. Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Miriam Santiago succumbed to lung cancer on Thursday

Philippine senator and former presidential candidate Miriam Defensor-Santiago has died aged 71.

The former judge succumbed to lung cancer on Thursday morning and "died peacefully" in hospital in the capital city, Manila, said her husband.

Mrs Santiago ran for president in the elections in May, but ultimately lost to Rodrigo Duterte.

Ill health plagued her election campaign but she insisted that she was fit to hold office.

She had also sought the presidency in 1992 and 1998.

Born in Iloilo city, Mrs Santiago announced to her supporters in 2014 that she was suffering from stage four lung cancer.

She turned down a judicial position at the International Criminal Court because of her illness.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Santiago's ill health was a source of concern during the 2016 Philippine presidential election

Her weakening health was a source of concern in the run-up to this year's Philippine presidential election, where she was often seen sitting down and resting during televised debates.

Analysis: Rico Hizon, BBC News

Known as the Iron Lady of Filipino politics, Santiago was a feisty senator who took bold stands on major issues like corruption and defence agreements. She will also be widely known for never backing down from a good fight.

She was both known and feared for her quick wit and her even quicker tongue in court and at rallies.

In my days starting out as a reporter in the Philippines, I remember she was always accommodating. She would joke gamely with the Philippine media.

Her trademark frank and fearless style often came across in interviews.

'The best president we never had'

Filipinos have flooded social media sites with tributes to the late senator.

A Facebook post from the GMA News agency drew more than 300,000 reactions and close to 50,000 comments.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Santiago turned down an offer by the International Criminal Court because of lung cancer.

Many described her as the best president the Philippines "never had".

"We just lost a great woman, a great Filipino and a great public servant. Rest in peace, madam senator," said Facebook user Cedric Pazcoguin.

"My heart is broken but I am finding comfort to the fact that she passed away peacefully in her sleep. Rest in perfect peace - our nation will surely treasure your legacy forever," wrote supporter Ruby Ann del Rosario from Manila.

"You could have been one of our greatest presidents. This is a very sad day for the Philippines. We lost a gem," said user Kharl Ferrer.

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