Miriam Defensor Santiago

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Miriam Defensor Santiago
Miriam Defensor Santiago.jpg
Judge of the International Criminal Court
In office
March 11, 2012 – June 3, 2014
Nominated by Philippines
Secretary of Agrarian Reform
In office
July 20, 1989 – January 4, 1990
President Corazon Aquino
Preceded by Philip Ella Juico
Succeeded by Florencio Abad
Senator of the Philippines
Assumed office
June 30, 2004
In office
June 30, 1995 – June 30, 2001
Personal details
Born Miriam Palma Defensor
(1945-06-15) June 15, 1945 (age 69)
Iloilo City, Philippines
Political party People's Reform Party
Spouse(s) Narciso Santiago
Alma mater University of the Philippines, Visayas
University of the Philippines, Diliman
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
Maryhill School of Theology
Religion Roman Catholicism
Website Official website

Miriam Defensor Santiago (born June 15, 1945) is a Judge of the International Criminal Court and a member of the Senate of the Philippines. She is a lawyer, former trial judge, and lecturer on constitutional and international law. She served as the Commissioner of the Philippine Bureau of Immigration and Deportation in 1988 and the Secretary of the Philippines' Department of Agrarian Reform from 1989 to 1991. She is the founder and current leader of the People's Reform Party and is a recipient of "the Asian Nobel Prize" — [1][2] the Ramon Magsaysay Award given by the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation — for government service; she was cited "for bold and moral leadership in cleaning up a graft-ridden government agency" during her tenure as the head of the Bureau of Immigration and Deportation.[3]

Defensor Santiago ran for President of the Philippines in 1992; she led the nationwide canvassing of votes for a few days, but was defeated by a margin of less than several hundred thousand votes. The campaign was reportedly marred by widespread election fraud, notably power blackouts after the first five days. She filed an electoral protest, which was dismissed in 1995 when she ran for and won a seat in the Philippine Senate.[4]

In 1997, the Australian Magazine named her one of "The 100 Most Powerful Women in the World." In later years, Santiago was a keynote speaker of an international anti-corruption conference in Sydney, Australia. As senator, she sponsored and secured ratification by the Philippine Senate of the United Nations Convention against Corruption.

On July 2, 2014, Senator Santiago announced in public that she was diagnosed of Stage 4 cancer on her left lung. [5]

Early life and education[edit]

Born Miriam Palma Defensor on June 15, 1945 in La Paz district, Iloilo City, she grew and lived with her parents. Her father, Benjamin A. Defensor was a district trial judge, and her mother Dimpna Palma Defensor, a school teacher. She is the eldest of seven children.

She graduated Valedictorian of the 120 student La Paz Elementary School, and Valedictorian of the Iloilo Provincial High School. As a freshman, she was appointed as editor of the high school paper and remained in the post for over four years, and was high school swimming champion for the province.[6]

In 1965, Santiago graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science, 'Magna Cum Laude' from the University of the Philippines Visayas. It took her only three and a half years to complete her degree. After graduation, she was elected to the Pi Gamma Mu and Phi Kappa Phi sororities.[6]

After a three-month bout with illness, Santiago attended the University of the Philippines Diliman. There, she continued to participate and won as champion in numerous oratorical, public speaking, and debate contests. She became the first female editor of a student newspaper, The Philippine Collegian and was twice made ROTC muse.[7] Her classmates included former Senate President Franklin Drilon and San Juan Representative Ronaldo Zamora.[8] Rather than join a large law firm, Santiago chose to make her own law firm known as Miriam Defensor Santiago and Associates. She also taught Law subjects at Trinity College, now known as the Trinity University of Asia, and the University of the Philippines as a part-time job.[8][9][9]

She earned a Bachelor of Laws degree, Cum laude, from the University of the Philippines College of Law in Diliman. Santiago pursued higher learning, earned an LL.M. and a S.J.D. from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.[10] She wrote and published her own law and political science textbooks at her own printing press.


In 1986, Santiago was recognized as one of the Five Outstanding Professionals of the Philippine Junior Chamber of Commerce. In 1988, was awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Government Service for her graft-busting performance as Commissioner of Immigration and Deportation [11] In 1996, the Australian Women's Magazine ranked Santiago 69th among The 100 Most Powerful Women in the World[12]

Private career[edit]

Santiago was an instructor in political science in Trinity College of Quezon City from 1971 to 1974 and concurrently Administrative Assistant to the Secretary of Justice from 1970 to 1980. She was also a member of the Board of Censors for Motion Pictures from 1977 to 1979. She served as a legal staffer of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees from 1979 to 1980. She was also one of the legal aides at the Washington, D.C. office. She was finally rewarded with an appointment as a Trial Court Judge from 1983 to 1987, and became a most decorated trial judge. She also taught Law at the University of the Philippines from 1976 to 1988.[9] From 1992 to 1995 and from 2001 to 2004, she has lectured at the University of Perpetual Help System DALTA. In 2011, after two year-long government lobbying campaign spearheaded by the Dept. of Foreign Affairs , she announced that she had won a seat in the International Criminal Court and would assume her position as one of its eighteen judges on March 2012.[13]

Political career[edit]

Commissioner of the Bureau of Immigration and Deportation[edit]

Santiago was appointed by President Corazon Aquino as Commissioner of the Bureau of Immigration and Deportation in 1988, and was tasked by Aquino to clean this graft-ridden government agency. She served in that capacity until 1989.[4]

Among other things, Santiago ordered lightning raids on criminal syndicates and fake passport creators, sought the prosecution of foreigners committing crimes in the Phillippines, and fired corrupt employees.[14]

Santiago earned the resentment of politicians who are patrons and benefactors of certain syndicates;[15] When a congressman delivered a privilege speech against her for a raid that arrested foreign pedophiles occupying a village in his district, Santiago called him, "Fungus Face", and publicly urged him to "stick his finger in the electric socket."[4][16]

She also received threats because of the raids and being a big fan of the 1960s era American TV series The F.B.I., told the media, "I eat death threats for breakfast".[4][17]

Secretary of Agrarian Reform[edit]

Subsequently, President Aquino appointed Santiago as Secretary of Agrarian Reform[18][19] in 1989. The president ordered her “to put everything in place, institute reforms and help plug loopholes in the present agrarian reform law.”

Santiago instituted three major policies in agrarian reform. First, to concretize the basic philosophy of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law (CARL), she stressed that all doubts on the inclusion of lands in the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) should be resolved in favor of inclusion.

Second, under her term, the DAR policy was to prefer the contract-growing principle over the lease-back arrangement, particularly with respect to corporate farms or plantations. Under the lease-back arrangement, the tiller would end up as the lessor who receives rent and remains a mere laborer of multinational corporations. In contrast, the principle of land to the tillers would still be practiced under the contract-growing scheme. The contract grower would have a say on how much would be produced and in marketing the produce.

Third, the DAR shifted its land acquisition thrust from the voluntary offer-to-sell (VOS) scheme to compulsory acquisition of lands to hasten the pace of the CARP.

The VOS scheme implemented during her predecessor’s term was riddled with anomalies and corruption. Santiago assumed her duties when the DAR was being rocked by the highly controversial and fraudulent Garchitorena land deal. The former agrarian reform secretary was forced to resign due to the scandal. One of Santiago's first acts as agrarian reform secretary was to halt all land transactions under the VOS method, and order the investigation of all past and pending transactions.

Santiago sent Notices of Compulsory Acquisition to big landowners, including relatives of President Aquino, forcing them to sell some 5,000 hectares of land in northern Tarlac province. Santiago also asked President Aquino to inhibit herself from deliberations of the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC) on the stock distribution scheme of Hacienda Luisita. The president was the chairperson of PARC, while Santiago was its vice chairperson.

The Cojuangcos availed themselves of the CARP’s stock-transfer option scheme allowing the President’s family to distribute shares of stocks to the Cojuangco corporation instead of distributing land titles from the estate. Critics decried the scheme, saying it allowed the owners to retain control of the estate.

Santiago endorsed to Congress an alternative “people’s agrarian reform program” (Parcode) drafted by the Congress for People’s Agrarian Reform, a coalition of farmers’ groups including the militant Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and the conservative Federation of Free Farmers (FFF). She said the Parcode was a “superior piece of legislation” and “rational, highly logical, and consistent.” The Parcode put land retention limits to five hectares. Under the CARL, the retention limit was 11 hectares, which virtually exempted 75% of all agricultural lands from land reform. Santiago’s endorsement was hailed by farmers’ organizations.[20]

1992 Presidential Election[edit]

After President Corazon Aquino declared her intention not to seek another term in the 1992 elections, Santiago ran for president, seeking Aquino's endorsement. She founded the People's Reform Party as her vehicle, inviting Ramon Magsaysay, Jr. to be her running mate. The party did not have any other candidates at the national level, and it endorsed only two local candidates Alfredo Lim and Lito Atienza for the position of mayor and vice mayor of Manila. Aquino decided instead to back her Secretary of National Defense Fidel V. Ramos in his bid for the presidency.

Santiago was leading the canvassing of votes for the first five days. Following a string of power outages, the tabulation concluded, and Ramos was declared President-elect. Santiago filed a protest before the electoral tribunal citing the power outages during the counting of votes as evidence of massive fraud. Her election protest was eventually dismissed. Many believed that this election was marred by fraud because of the nationwide power outages,[4][17][18][21][22]

The public outrage over the presidential results prompted Newsweek to feature her and her rival on the cover with the question: "Was the Election Fair?" In another cover story, Philippine Free Press magazine asked: "Who's the Real President?"[23]

Senator of the Philippines[edit]

First term (1995–2001)[edit]

Santiago ran for the Senate of the Philippines in 1995 elections, again as a candidate of her own People's Reform Party. She was elected to the senate and served as a senator from 1995 to 2001. As a Senator, Santiago became a vocal critic of the Ramos Administration. She filed the most number of bills in the Senate during her term. Santiago again ran for president in the 1998 elections and invited former Marcos crony Francisco Tatad to be her running mate. Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino candidate but lost by a landslide and Joseph Estrada won the election and became president. After losing the election, Santiago returned to the Senate.[4]

In 2001 Santiago ran for reelection but lost.

Second term (2004–2010)[edit]

For the 2004 elections, Santiago ran again for senator, this time joining President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's Koalisyon ng Katapatan at Karanasan sa Kinabukasan (K4) coalition. The Philippine Star wrote that "Santiago’s turncoat move was a surprise to many, especially since she is associated with former President Joseph Estrada, whom she supported when he was impeached by the House of Representatives and tried by the Senate (back in 2001)." The report added that Santiago was initially considered to be Fernando Poe, Jr.'s running-mate for the 2004 Philippine presidential election but she declined, saying "she could not run in the same ticket with the likes of Legarda." Legarda is (sic) one of Estrada's leading critics during the former's impeachment trial.[24]

Santiago asserts that she objected to Estrada's selection of another movie actor to run for president, and thus chose to run for senator under the administration’s ticket. In 2004, Santiago won her second term as senator.[20]

She chaired the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and Energy from 2004-2008.[25] When Manuel Villar resigned as Senate President, Santiago lost the chairmanship of the energy committee, and was demoted to the committee on economic affairs.[26]

Third term (2010–2016)[edit]

Santiago ran for reelection in the Philippine Senate election, 2010 under the PRP and as a guest candidate for six different political parties.[27] She finished third among other senatorial candidates had more than 17 million votes.[28]

In 2012, Santiago proved to be the most important personality in the Impeachemt trial of the Chief Justice Renato Corona. On the last day of the first part of the impeachment trial, she was antagonistic towards the prosecution lawyer, Vitaliano Aguirre, when Aguirre's rude and contemptuous gesture taunts to her on national TV. She, along with fellow Senators Joker Arroyo and Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., were the only three persons to vote to acquit the chief magistrate.

Also in 2012, Santiago sponsored two controversial bills: Sin Tax Reform Act of 2012 (with Sen. Franklin Drilon) and the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012 or RH law (with Sen. Pia Cayetano). Both bills were passed into law. The RH law, which was assailed in the Supreme Court, was declared constitutional by the high tribunal. In early 2013, Santiago began a feud with Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile when the latter allegedly gave PhP 2 million each to his allied senators as Christmas bonuses. Sen. Antonio Trillanes took her side on the issue.

Election to the International Criminal Court[edit]

On December 12, 2011, Senator Santiago was elected to a nine-year tenure as judge of the International Criminal Court (ICC).[29][30] Although she is currently listed as a judge by the ICC,[31] she has yet to take her oath and assume her office there. Santiago was absent during the March 9, 2012, oath-taking of new judges due to medical reasons, citing her elevated blood pressure and bone marrow aplasia, but later went on to reveal that she had written the president of the ICC to request that she be the last of the six newly elected judges to take her post to allow her more time to fulfill her responsibilities as a senator.[32][33]She officially tendered her resignation as the ICC judge on June 1, 2014 ,citing her untreatable illness of chronic fatigue syndrome as stated in her resignation letter addressed to ICC President .

Personal life[edit]

Miriam Defensor is married to Narciso Santiago. They have 2 biological sons and 2 adopted daughters.

Her youngest son Alexander Robert "AR" Santiago, [4] died at the age of 22 on November 20, 2003.[34]

Senator Santiago publicly announced on July 2, 2014 that she was diagnosed of Stage 4 cancer on her left lung. [35]

Published works[edit]

Santiago has written a number of self-published books, including the following:

  • Santiago, Miriam D. (1991). Inventing Myself. Narsan Publishing. 
  • Santiago, Miriam D. (1991). How to Fight Graft. Movement for Responsible Public Service. 
  • Santiago, Miriam D. (1993). How to Fight Election Fraud. Narsan Publishing. 
  • Santiago, Miriam D. (1993). Cutting Edge: The Politics of Reform in the Philippines. Narsan Publishing. 
  • Santiago, Miriam D. (1994). The Miriam Defensor Santiago Dictionary. Narsan publishing. 
  • Santiago, Miriam D. (2002). Politics and Governance. Central Law Book Publishing. 
  • Santiago, Miriam D. (2002). International Relations. Central Law Book Publishing. 
  • Santiago, Miriam D. (2003). History of Philosophy. Central Professional Books, Inc. 
  • Santiago, Miriam D. (2003). Political Philosophy: Theory and Current Issues in Politics. Central Professional Books, Inc. 
  • Santiago, Miriam D. (2003). Philosophy of Religion: Western and Eastern Religions. Central Professional Books, Inc. 
  • Santiago, Miriam D. (1997). Where Angels Fear to Tread: Politics and Religion. Narsan Publishing. 
  • Santiago, Miriam D. (1997). At the Turn of the Century: National Policy Issues in the Philippines. Narsan Publishing. 
  • Santiago, Miriam D. (2002). Constitutional Law Annotated. Central Law Book Publishing. 
  • Santiago, Miriam D. (1999). International Law, with Philippine Cases and Materials, and ASEAN Instruments. Central Professional Books. 


  1. ^ http://atimes.com/atimes/Southeast_Asia/DI13Ae02.html
  2. ^ http://www.fnfasia.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1611:former-fnf-fellowship-student-to-receive-ramon-magsaysay-award
  3. ^ http://www.icc-cpi.int/en_menus/icc/structure%20of%20the%20court/chambers/the%20judges/Pages/judge%20miriam%20defensor_santiago%20_philippines_.aspx
  4. ^ a b c d e f "Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago - Senate of the Philippines". Senate.gov.ph. Retrieved 2011-03-13. 
  5. ^ https://ph.news.yahoo.com/miriam-santiago-announces-she-has-lung-cancer-033855884.html
  6. ^ a b Official autobiography at http://miriam.com.ph/newsblog/about/ last accessed July 25, 2014.
  7. ^ [1]
  8. ^ a b http://www.uprotc.org/1969/directory/corps-sponsors/miriam-defensor-santiago.html
  9. ^ a b c "Presidential Profiles: Miriam Defensor Santiago." Probe Team Documentaries. GMA-7. March–April 1998.
  10. ^ http://dfa.gov.ph/main/index.php/newsroom/dmds-candidature/dr-miriam-defensor-santiago-cv
  11. ^ Santiago Mir.html Biography of Miriam Defensor Santiago, The Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation. Retrieved December 7, 2006.
  12. ^ http:// wisdom.psinet.au/~lani/100mpw.html
  13. ^ "Sen. Santiago wins seat in International Criminal Court". Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved 2011-12-13.
  14. ^ "Manila Journal; Battling the 'Culture of Corruption' Day by Day - New York Times". Nytimes.com. 1988-05-26. Retrieved 2013-06-03. 
  15. ^ "Manila Journal; Battling the 'Culture of Corruption' Day by Day - New York Times". Nytimes.com. 1988-05-26. Retrieved 2011-03-13. 
  16. ^ "A Sharp Tongue Propels A Philippine Candidate - New York Times". Nytimes.com. 1992-05-10. Retrieved 2011-03-13. 
  17. ^ a b "A Sharp Tongue Propels A Philippine Candidate". The New York Times. May 10, 1992. 
  18. ^ a b http://www.senate.gov.ph
  19. ^ "Miriam Defensor-Santiago | 2010 Philippine Election". 2010.pinoyvote.info. Retrieved 2011-03-13. 
  20. ^ a b http://miriam.com.ph/aboutmiriam.php
  21. ^ Shenon, Philip (1992-05-14). "Front-Runners Are Nip and Tuck As Philippine Returns Trickle In - NYTimes.com". Philippines: Select.nytimes.com. Retrieved 2011-03-13. 
  22. ^ "Power Failures Slow Philippine Vote Count - New York Times". Nytimes.com. 1992-05-24. Retrieved 2011-03-13. 
  23. ^ "senate.gov.ph"
  24. ^ http://www.newsflash.org/2003/05/hl/hl019623.htm MIRIAM AS 12TH, COMPLETES GMA'S K-9 SENATORIAL SLATE January 9, 2004
  25. ^ [2], Philippine Senate Official Website.
  26. ^ [3], Philippine Senate Official Website.
  27. ^ Kimberly Jane T. Tan Miriam seeks reelection under 6 parties, endorses no president. Retrieved June 10, 2010.
  28. ^ Vernadette Joven.9 newly elected senators proclaimed. Retrieved June 10, 2010.
  29. ^ "Delivering on the promise of a fair, effective and independent Court > Election of ICC and ASP Officials > Judges". Coalition for the International Criminal Court. Coalition for the International Criminal Court. Retrieved 6 June 2013. 
  30. ^ "PRESS STATEMENT ON SENATOR SANTIAGO'S ELECTION AS ICC JUDGE". Senate Press Releases. Senate of the Philippines. December 13, 2011. Retrieved 6 June 2013. 
  31. ^ "Judge Miriam DEFENSOR-SANTIAGO (Philippines)". ICC Judges - Biographical Notes. International Criminal Court. Retrieved 6 June 2013. "Judge as of 11 March 2012, for a term of nine years. Elected from the Group of Asian States, list B." 
  32. ^ Guttierez, Natashya (Posted on 06/28/2012 2:24 PM | Updated 06/28/2012 5:26 PM). "Miriam: No available ICC seat for me in near future". Rappler. Retrieved 6 June 2013. 
  33. ^ Esmaquel II, Paterno (Posted on 03/10/2012 9:50 AM | Updated 03/10/2012 1:53 PM). "Miriam would have been ICC judge by now". Rappler. Retrieved 6 June 2013. 
  34. ^ Balitang Marino: Miriam Santiago's son shot, dies in hospital
  35. ^ https://ph.news.yahoo.com/miriam-santiago-announces-she-has-lung-cancer-033855884.html

External links[edit]