FORMER Sen. Leticia Valdez Ramos-Shahani succumbed to colon cancer yesterday. She was 87.
Shahani’s daughter, Lila, in her Facebook account, said Shahani “left the body, by the awful grace of God, at 2:40 a.m. this morning, just a few hours after my 50th birthday.
“Bereft and full of grief, but still strangely peaceful in the knowledge that she is now free from all suffering,” Lila said.
Shahani, the youngest sister of former President Fidel V. Ramos, was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer in May 2015. She died at the intensive care unit of St. Luke’s Medical Center in Taguig City, where she had been confined for a month.
Malacanang expressed sadness over the passing of Shahani.
Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella, in a statement, recognized Shahani for her tireless service to the country as a senator and in various positions in government under different administrations.
“The Palace is saddened by the news of former Senator and career diplomat Leticia Ramos Shahani’s passing... Our condolences and prayers to the family and friends of the former Senator. She was a profound humanist and her voice will be missed,” Abella said.
Former President and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada said Shahani “never rested until her term as senator ended, she continued serving the Filipino people. She’s a big loss.
“On behalf of the City of Manila, we convey our deepest condolences to the family of Sen. Leticia Ramos-Shahani. The Filipino nation lost a true-blue public servant, a fierce defender of women’s rights, a seasoned diplomat, and a devoted environmentalist,” said Estrada, who served with Shahani at the Senate from 1987 to 1992.
Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon said Shahani was a “celebrated legislator, diplomat, writer and academician who represented the very best of Filipina skill, intelligence and determination.”
As a neophyte senator in 1995, Drilon said he had the honor of serving with Shahani, whom he remembered “as a determined and hardworking lawmaker, who tirelessly championed the passage of key legislation that benefit and positively influence the lives of our people up to this day.
“I will be forever proud that during my time as Senate President in the 16th Congress, I led the chamber in honoring the life and works of Senator Ramos-Shahani with Senate Resolution No. 87, which she personally received from us,” said Drilon.
He added that Shahani “remains a shining example of a public servant who our present and future leaders must strive to emulate. While we are saddened by her passing, her legacy will continue to inspire our nation and our people.”
Sen. Grace Poe said the nation had “lost a formidable advocate of women’s rights, a staunch environmentalist and a seasoned diplomat.”
“From her extensive career in the foreign service to her stint in the Senate, Manang Letty demonstrated how public service should be: sincere, dynamic and exemplary,” said Poe.
“She is an inspiration to generations of women because of her steadfast principles and decisive actions. Our deepest condolences to the Ramos-Shahani family,” she added.
Sen. Loren Legarda described the late senator as “one of the finest and most distinguished legislators we ever had.”
“I mourn the passing of former Senate President Pro-Tempore Leticia Ramos-Shahani, who was also an advocate of cultural preservation, environmental protection and women’s rights,” Legarda said. “Manang Letty, thank you for your untiring service to the Filipino nation. You will be missed greatly.”
Shahani held various positions in government after passing the Philippine Service Office Examination.
She was ambassador to Australia from 1981 to 1986 and served as secretary-general of the World Conference on the UN Decade of Women in Nairobi, Kenya in 1985. Shahani left her UN post and returned to the Philippines to become the Deputy Minister for Philippine Affairs after the 1986 EDSA Revolution.
In the Senate, she authored landmark laws such as Republic Act 6725, Strengthening the Prohibition of Discrimination Against Women in the Workplace; RA 8353, Anti-Rape Law of 1997; and RA 8505, Rape Victim Assistance and Protection Act of 1998, among others. She also introduced the inclusion of the mandatory five percent allocation in the budget of every government department and agency for gender and development.
Among the recognitions conferred on Senator Shahani were the French Legion of Honor, Order of Commander, conferred by President Jacques Chirac in 1996; United Nations Population Award in 1996; Rafael Salas Population and Development Award in 1996; Lazo de Dama de la Orden de Isabel la Catolica, conferred by King Juan Carlos I of Spain in 1996; Gintong Ina Award for Public Service in 1990; and The Outstanding Women in the Nation’s Service (TOWNS) in 1974, among many others
Shahani was born on September 30, 1929 in Lingayen, Pangasinan to Foreign Affairs Secretary Narciso Ramos and Angela Valdez.
She graduated elementary and secondary level at the University of the Philippines. She finished her Bachelor of Arts in English Literature at Wellesley College in Massachusetts and her Master in Comparative Literature at Columbia University in New York. She earned her Doctor of Philosophy in Comparative Literature after defending her doctoral thesis with highest honors.
Shahani was a former dean of the Graduate School of Lyceum of the Philippines. She taught English Literature, French, Spanish, Comparative Literature, Humanities, Social Psychology and others. She was a former member of the faculty of the University of the Philippines from 1954 to 1957, Queens borough Community College, New York in 1961, Brooklyn College, New York in 1962 and New School for Social Research, New York from 1962 to 1967.
She married Ranjee Shahani, a former Indian writer and professor with whom she had three children – Ranjit, Chanda and Lila. – JP Lopez