Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago has formally relinquished her position as one of the justices of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, Netherlands.
In a letter addressed to ICC president Sang-Hyun Song, Santiago cited her health as the reason for her decision.
“Since I was elected in December 2011, I have secured neither alleviation nor nor treatment from the medical profession for my illness, known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome,” Santiago said.
ABS-CBN’s Pia Gutierrez was the first to upload a copy of Santiago’s resignation letter through her Twitter account.
Santiago was the first Filipino and first woman from Asia to be elected to the ICC. She was scheduled to take her oath of office by March 2012 but she failed to do so because of her fluctuating blood pressure. Also, the impeachment proceedings against then-Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona was also in full swing during that time.
Since getting elected, her resignation from the Senate has been the subject of intense speculations from various quarters. At one point, Santiago wrote a letter to Commission on Elections Chair Sixto Brillantes clarifying that she does not intend to step down from her Senate seat prior to the 2013 midterm elections.
“The ICC Charter, also known as the Rome Statute, provides that any incumbent judge shall not be allowed to retire, until he finishes any trial where he participated,” the senator explained.
Despite getting elected to the ICC, Santiago retained a high profile in the Philippine Senate. She’s one of only three senators to vote for the acquittal of Corona at the conclusion of his impeachment trial. Later in 2012, she played a leading role in the eventual passage of Republic Act 10354 or the Reproductive Health Law.
Although her lingering illness forced her to go on an indefinite leave for much of 2013, the media focused on her highly-publicized word war against Senator Juan Ponce Enrile as well as her grilling of Janet Lim-Napoles during a hearing late last year.
Road to 2016?
Had she assumed her position as an ICC justice, Santiago would have been away from the country for nine years, effectively removing her from the Philippine political scene. Now, her decision to give up that post will widen her options for 2016.
She’s now serving her second term in the Senate, which means she cannot run for reelection for 2016. She can choose to retire from public service or run for higher office.
According to a recent Pulse Asia survey, she’s ranked third in the list of presidential contenders. Santiago may be turning 69 later this month, but her connection to the youth is very strong as proven by the warm reception she receives during speaking engagements around the country as well as her loyal following in the social media.
However, if she eventually gets persuaded to run, her health will definitely surface as a campaign issue.