Press Release
May 30, 2006


Prolonged public service seems to be taking its toll among working mothers.

Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, who has just returned from a month-long sick leave for hypertension, was forced to rush home from the Senate Monday evening, because of a relapse. She was absent yesterday (Tuesday) on doctors orders.

Santiagos poor health is raising eyebrows, following the announced plan of Labor Sec. Patricia Sto. Tomas to resign because of stress.

Both are working mothers: Santiago has four young children, while Sto. Tomas lives with her three grandchildren. Both have been in public service since leaving college.

The two are close friends, with Santiago publicly praising Sto. Tomas as a jewel in the cabinet, and the countrys finest technocrat today, at a recent budget hearing.

Together with Dr. Esperanza Cabral, the new social welfare secretary, the three ladies form a close circle of the countrys most powerful women. They were seen in a friendly huddle at a recent budget hearing.

A working mother needs a wife of her own, Santiago quipped.

Santiago said she is considering resigning from the Senate, where her term lasts until 2010. But she said that she will at least wait for the charter change issue to be resolved, and in the event, for a new charter to be put in place.

I am an elected official. I cannot just quit because it suits me. I have to answer to a national constituency, the senator said.

Santiago said she tried to dissuade Sto. Tomas from resigning, but became convinced that the latter deserves a stress-free workplace, after learning that like her, Sto. Tomas had to send her siblings through college.

Working mothers just get tuckered out. Government should consider a one-year sabbatical for working mothers who have served at least a decade in public service. This is common in academe, said Santiago, who taught law in U.P. for 10 years.

The senator said that although the Senate calendar provides for breaks, it only means that there are no sessions, but senators like her continue their paperwork and relentless public appearances.

Just being honest in public service, like Pat and Espie are, is already a burden in itself. This becomes a double burden in politics, which makes it necessary to compromise on national policies, Santiago said.

Santiago said that like Sto. Tomas, she would like to take a break and write, although she has already written some 30 college textbooks.

Celebrity is just another name for a loss of serenity. You get both bouquets and brickbats, and if the criticism is hurled out of malice, you have to grapple with the problem of evil in the world, the senator said.

Both women have suffered recent family losses: Santiago her adult son, and Sto. Tomas her husband.

You grit your teeth and soldier on, but the world is hollow, Santiago said.

Since the Senate convened in 2004, Santiago, as foreign relations chair, has successfully sponsored the ratification of international treaties, the only feat that the Senate could boast of, amid calls for its abolition.

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