Miriam Santiago
File photo: Philippine presidential candidate Miriam Santiago arrives at St Louis University during an election campaign for the May 9 election, in the mountain resort of Baguio city in northern Philippines in April, 2016 Erik De Castro/ Reuters

Miriam Santiago, one of the major figures in recent Philippines political history, has died at the age of 71. Santiago was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer in 2014. She succumbed to the disease on Thursday morning (29 September) in a hospital in the capital city of Manila, her family confirmed.

Born in Iloilo city, Santiago was known as the 'Tiger Lady' of Filipino politics due to her strong stance against graft and corruption. She also received a judicial position at the International Criminal Court.

A statement from Senate President Pro-Tempore Franklin Drilon said: "Today marks one of the saddest days in the history of our country. It is with an extreme sense of loss and grief that I join the entire country in mourning the passing of my close friend and colleague, former Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago, whose unique brilliance, wit and charm endeared herself to each and every Filipino from all generations and from all walks of life."

"There is no senator, past or present, who can match Senator Santiago's uncommon brilliance and fiery dedication to her principles and beliefs. She was an intellectual giant and a legal luminary whose wit and words benefited this nation and its people so many times over. She's a loss to the country. She will remain an inspiration to all of us," the post by Drilon on Facebook stated.

He also expressed his condolences towards Santiago's husband and family.

Filipinos and supporters of Santiago flooded social media with tributes, with many referring to the late senator as "the best president we never had".

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

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

Ruby Ann del Rosario from Manila added: "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."