Miriam Defensor Santiago

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Miriam Defensor Santiago
Miriam Defensor Santiago.jpg
Judge of the International Criminal Court
In office
elected in 2011 – but waived in 2014 because of lung cancer
Secretary of Agrarian Reform
In office
President Corazon Aquino
Senator of the Philippines
In office
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 Filipino politician, lawyer and author. She was elected in December 2011 as a Judge of the International Criminal Court. She had to waive the post because of chronic fatigue syndrome, which was later found to be lung cancer. She continues to be a member of the 24-person Senate of the Philippines. She is a lawyer, former trial judge, and professor of constitutional and international law. She was the youngest judge of the Regional Trial Court in Manila during the 1983-1987 judicial reorganization. [1] 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. [2] Santiago is a laureate of the “Asian Nobel Prize” — the Ramon Magsaysay Award given by the Foundation established by the Rockefeller brothers. She was awarded in the field of government service. She was cited “for bold and moral leadership in cleaning up a graft-ridden government agency”.[3][4][5] [6] In 1997, the Australian Magazine named her one of "The 100 Most Powerful Women in the World." Later, Santiago was picked to be keynote speaker of an international anticorruption conference in Sydney, Australia. As senator, she sponsored and secured ratification by the Philippine Senate of the United Nations Convention against Corruption.[7][8][9] Santiago ran for President of the Philippines in 1992. She led the nationwide manual canvassing of votes for the first five days, but was allegedly defeated by a mere margin of some 800,000 votes only out of a voting population of 35 million voters.[10]The campaign was reportedly marred by widespread election fraud, notably power blackouts after the first five days. She filed an electoral protest with the Supreme Court acting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal. The protest was not decided, but was dismissed on the technicality that in 1995 she ran for and won a seat in the Philippine Senate.[11][12]

Early life[edit]

Born Miriam Palma Defensor on June 15, 1945 in La Paz district, Iloilo City, she grew-up and lived with her parents. Her father, Benjamin A. Defensor was a district trial judge, and her mother Dimpna Palma Defensor, a college dean. [13]She is the eldest of seven children.

She graduated valedictorian of the La Paz Elementary School, valedictorian of the Iloilo Provincial High School, and valedictorian at the University of the Philippines Visayas. As a freshman, she was appointed as editor of the high school paper and remained in the post for over four years. She was also the spelling bee champion in high school and swimming champion of the province.[14] In college, she was also editor for four years.

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.[14]

Despite a three-month bout with illness, Santiago proceeded to the University of the Philippines College of Law. There, she was champion in numerous oratorical contests and debates.[15]She became the first female editor of the nationally famous student newspaper, The Philippine Collegian, and was twice appointed ROTC muse. [16][17]

She graduated Bachelor of Laws degree, cum laude, from the University of the Philippines College of Law. Santiago went on a fellowship to the United States, and earned the degrees Master of Laws and Doctor of Juridical Science degrees at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. She finished both degrees in a period of only one and a half years.[18] She did postdoctoral studies at Oxford University, Cambridge University, the Hague Academy of International Law, and other countries.[19] As a law honor graduate and editor of the Philippine Journal, she had many job offers. But she chose to serve government as special assistant to the justice secretary. She also taught political science at the Trinity University of Asia. She was law professor at the University of the Philippines during evening classes for some ten years.[20][21]


In 1988, Dr. Santiago was named laureate of the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Government Service for her graft-busting performance as Commissioner of Immigration and Deportation.[3] In 1996, the Australian Women's Magazine ranked Santiago 69th among The 100 Most Powerful Women in the World[22] She is reportedly the most awarded public official in her country today.[23] Among the awards she received are:[24]

  • TOYM Award for Law, 1985 (The Outstanding Young Men), Opened to Women, 1984, Philippine Jaycees
  • TOWNS Award for Law, 1986 (The Outstanding Young Women in the Nation's Service), Philippine Lions
  • Most Outstanding Alumna in Law, 1988, University of the Philippines
  • Order of Civil Merit, 2008, Kingdom of Spain
  • Gold Vision Triangle Award for Government Service, 1988, YMCA Philippines
  • Republic Anniversary Award for Law Enforcement, 1988, Civic Assembly of Women in the Philippines
  • Golden Jubilee Achievement Award for Public Service, 1990, Girl Scouts of the Philippines
  • Celebrity Mother Award, 1991, Gintong Ina Awards Foundation

Public service[edit]

Dr. Santiago was Special Assistant to the Secretary of Justice from 1970 to 1980 and concurrently an instructor in political science in Trinity University of Asia from 1971 to 1974. She served as Legal Officer of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees from 1979 to 1980. She was also a consultant at the Washington, D.C. Philippine embassy. She was appointed as a Regional 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.[25][26][26] In 2011, she won a seat in the International Criminal Court.[27]

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.[28]

Among other things, Santiago ordered lightning raids on criminal syndicates and fake passport creators, sought the deportation of foreigners committing crimes in the Phillippines, and fired corrupt employees.[29]

Santiago earned the resentment of politicians who are patrons and benefactors of certain syndicates.[30] 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."[31][32]

She also received threats because of the raids. At one interview, she told the media, "I eat death threats for breakfast".[31][33]

Secretary of Agrarian Reform[edit]

Subsequently, President Aquino appointed Santiago as Secretary of Agrarian Reform[34][35] 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 publicly opined that President Aquino should 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.[36]

1992 Presidential Election[edit]

After President Corazon Aquino declared her intention not to seek another term in the 1992 elections, Santiago ran for president.

She founded the People's Reform Party as her vehicle, and convinced Ramon Magsaysay, Jr. to be her running mate. The PRP included Alfredo Lim and Lito Atienza, who won as mayor and vice mayor of Manila.

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 Supreme Court as electoral tribunal, citing the power outages during the counting of votes as evidence of massive fraud. Her election protest was eventually dismissed on a technicality. Many believed that this election was marred by fraud because of the nationwide power outages that allowed ballot tampering. [31][33][34][37][38]

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, Philippines Free Press magazine asked: "Who's the Real President?"[39]

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 and delivered the highest number of privilege speeches during her term. Santiago again ran for president in the 1998 elections with Francisco Tatad as her running mate.[40]

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. In 2004, Santiago won her second term as senator.[36]

She chaired the prestigious Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and powerful Committee on Energy from 2004-2008.[41]

Third term (2010–2016)[edit]

Santiago ran for reelection in the Philippine Senate election, 2010 under the PRP and as a guest candidate of five different political parties.[42] She won with more than 17 million votes.[43]

In 2012, Santiago proved to be the most important personality in the impeachment trial of the Chief Justice Renato Corona, because of her mastery of the law. [44] She, with two others, were the only three persons to vote to acquit the chief magistrate and to reject 20 million pesos each for public works project.[45][46]

Also in 2012, Santiago sponsored two controversial bills: Sin Tax Reform Act of 2012 and the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012 or RH law. Both bills were passed into law.[47][48] The RH law, which was assailed in the Supreme Court, was declared constitutional by the high tribunal.[49]

In early 2013, Santiago began a feud with then Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile when the latter allegedly gave PhP 2 million each to all his senators as Christmas bonuses, except her and two others.[50][51] Enrile is now in jail on plunder charges. She told the media:″Ignorance can be cured, but stupid is forever.″[52]

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).[53][54] Santiago was absent during the March 9, 2012, oath-taking of new judges, citing her elevated blood pressure and bone marrow aplasia.[55][56]She officially tendered her resignation as the ICC judge on 1 June 2014 ,citing her untreatable illness of chronic fatigue syndrome, which later turned to lung cancer, stage four.[57]

Personal life[edit]

Miriam Defensor is married to Narciso Yap Santiago, Jr. They have two biological sons. Her youngest son Alexander Robert "AR" Santiago, died at the age of 22 on November 20, 2003.[58]

Senator Santiago publicly announced on July 2, 2014 that she was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer on her left lung. [59] But she occasionally reports for work in the Senate.[60]

Laws and treaties sponsored[edit]


  • Republic Act No. 10354, "The Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012"[61]
  • Republic Act No. 9367, "The Biofuels Act of 2006"[62]
  • Republic Act No. 9513, "The Renewable Energy Act of 2008"[63]
  • Republic Act No. 10351, "The Sin Tax Law"[64]
  • Republic Act No. 9710, "Magna Carta of Women"[65]
  • Republic Act No. 9995, "Anti-Photo and Video Voyeurism Act of 2009"[66]
  • Republic Act No. 9851, "The Philippine Act on Crimes Against International Humanitarian Law, Genocide, and Other Crimes Against Humanity" [67]
  • Republic Act No. 10175, "The Cybercrime Act of 2012"[68]
  • Republic Act No. 8750, "The Seat Belts Use Act of 1999"[69]
  • Republic Act No. 10535, "The Philippine Standard Time Act of 2013"[70]
  • Republic Act No. 10054, "The Motorcycle Helmet Act of 2009"[71]
  • Republic Act No. 10361, "The Domestic Workers Act of 2013" or "Batas Kasambahay 2013"[72]
  • Republic Act No. 10627, "The Anti-Bullying Act of 2012"[73]
  • Republic Act No. 9522, "The Archipelagic Baselines Act of 2009"[74]
  • Republic Act No. 9729, "The Climate Change Act of 2009"[75]


  • United Nations Convention Against Corruption[76]
  • RP-Spain Treaty of Sentenced Persons
  • IRRI Headquarters Agreement
  • RP-New Zealand Avoidance of Double Taxation[77]
  • RP-Japan Avoidance of Double Taxation
  • RP-United Arab Emirates Avoidance of Double Taxation
  • RP-Spain Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty
  • RP-ASEAN Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty
  • RP-Korea Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty
  • ASEAN Charter[78]
  • Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement[79]
  • ASEAN Center for Biodiversity
  • ASEAN Agreement on Disaster Management and Emergency Response
  • Revised Kyoto Convention (RKC)[80]
  • ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution
  • Protocol Additional to the Agreement between the Philippines and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for the Application of Standards in Connection with the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons
  • Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC)
  • Convention on the Conservation and Management on Highly Migratory Fish Stocks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean
  • ILO Convention Concerning Forced or Compulsory Labour (Forced Labour Convention)
  • Fourth Protocol to the General Agreement on Trade in Services (Basic Telecommunications Services)
  • ILO Convention on Migration for Employment (Revised Convention No. 97)
  • Migrant Workers (Supplementary Provisions) Convention (ILO Convention 143)
  • Beijing Amendments to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer[81]
  • Montreal Amendments to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer
  • Rotterdam Convention for the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade (Rotterdam Convention)
  • Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety to the Convention on Biological Diversity
  • International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture


  • Google Top 20 Most Influential Filipinas of 2010[82]
  • Womanity Award for Public Service, 2010, Female Network[83]
  • "The 100 Most Influential Women in the World," 1996, The Australian magazine[84]

Supreme Court cases where Santiago has been cited[edit]

Upheld as trial court judge[edit]

  • Brocka v. Enrile, 192 SCRA 183 (1990)

Upheld as immigration commissioner[edit]

  • Tabasa v. Court of Appeals, 500 SCRA 9 (2006)
  • Tung Chin Hui v. Rodriguez, 356 SCRA 31 (2001)
  • Yu v. Defensor Santiago, 169 SCRA 364 (1989)
  • Schonemann v. Defensor Santiago, G.R. No. 86461, 30 May 1989
  • In Re: Harvey v. Santiago, 162 SCRA 840 (1988)

Cases where Santiago's books have been cited[edit]

Constitutional Law[edit]

  • Corpuz v. People, G.R. No. 180016, 29 April 2014, cited in concurring opinion of Justice Arturo Brion
  • Kida v. Senate of the Philippines, 659 SCRA 270 (2011), cited in main opinion
  • Cruz v. Secretary of DENR, 347 SCRA 128 (2000), cited in separate opinion of Justice Jose Vitug

International Law with Philippine Cases and Materials and ASEAN Instruments[edit]

  • Central Bank Employees Association, Inc. v. Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, 446 SCRA 299 (2004), cited in main opinion

Public International Law[edit]

  • Bayan Muna v. Romulo, 641 SCRA 244 (2011), cited in dissenting opinion of Justice Carpio

Rules of Court Annotated[edit]

  • Republic v. Sandiganbayan, 406 SCRA 190 (2003), cited in main opinion

Supreme Court cases Santiago won[edit]

  • Defensor Santiago v. Akbayan, G.R. No. 146246, 5 January 2011
  • Artero J. Pobre v. Defensor Santiago, 597 SCRA 1 (2009)
  • Spouses dela Paz v. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, 579 SCRA 521 (2009)
  • Santiago v. Sandiganbayan, 304 SCRA 263 (1999)
  • Santiago v. Commission on Elections, 270 SCRA 106 (1997)
  • Marcos v. Manglapus, 177 SCRA 668 (1989)

Published works[edit]

Santiago has written nearly 30 books. Some of them are law books which will be available by end of 2014 at Rex Publishing:

  • Constitutional Law, Volume 1 --Political Structure. Rex Publishing. 2000. 
  • Constitutional Law, Volume 2 --Bill of Rights. Rex Publishing. 2000. 
  • International Law, with Philippine Cases and Materials, and ASEAN Instruments. Central Professional Books. 1999. 
  • International Law (co-author). Central Professional Books. 1999. 
  • Constitutional Annotated. Rex Publishing. 2002. 
  • Rules of Court Annotated. Rex Publishing. 2002. 
  • Penal Code Annotated. Rex Publishing. 2000. 
  • Civil Code Annotated. Rex Publishing. 2000. 
  • Local Government Code Annotated. Rex Publishing. 2000. 
  • Corporation Code Annotated. Rex Publishing. 2000. 
  • National Internal Revenue Code Annotated. Rex Publishing. 2000. 
  • International Relations. Central Law Book Publishing. 2002. 
  • Political Offences in International Law. Rex Publishing. 2000. 
  • Politics and Governance. Central Law Book Publishing. 2002. 
  • History of Philosophy. Central Professional Books, Inc. Publishing. 2003. 
  • Political Philosophy: Theory and Current Issues in Politics. Central Professional Books, Inc. Publishing. 2003. 
  • Philosophy of Religion: Western and Eastern Religions. Central Professional Books, Inc. 2003. 
  • Inventing Myself. Narsan Publishing. 1991. 
  • How to Fight Graft. Movement for Responsible Public Service. 1991. 
  • How to Fight Election Fraud. Narsan Publishing. 1993. 
  • Cutting Edge: The Politics of Reform in the Philippines. Narsan Publishing. 1993. 
  • The Miriam Defensor Santiago Dictionary. Narsan publishing. 1994. 
  • Where Angels Fear to Tread: Politics and Religion. Narsan Publishing. 1997. 
  • At the Turn of the Century: National Policy Issues in the Philippines. Narsan Publishing. 1997. 


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  79. ^ http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/breakingnews/nation/view/20080902-158257/Santiago-JPEPA-ratification-certain-with-exchange-of-notes
  80. ^ http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/182187/economy/14th-congress-pressed-to-ratify-customs-pact
  81. ^ http://www.philstar.com/headlines/326295/senate-okays-2-int%C2%92l-pacts-vs-%C2%91ods%C2%92
  82. ^ http://www.philstar.com/news-feature/667900/womens-month-honors-successful-influential-pinays
  83. ^ http://www.philstar.com/news-feature/667900/womens-month-honors-successful-influential-pinays
  84. ^ http://wisdom.psinet.au/~kabu/100mpw.html

External links[edit]