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 multi-awarded public servant who became globally famous with her courageous and brilliant crusade against corruption in the Philippines.[1] At 43, she was named Laureate of the Asian Nobel Prize, known as the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Government Service.[2][3] 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.[4] She was named one of "The 100 Most Powerful Women in the World" in 1996 by The Australian Magazine.[5][6][7] In 2011, she became the first Filipino and first Asian from a developing country to be elected in the United Nations as judge of the International Criminal Court.[8] She had to waive the part because of chronic fatigue syndrome, which was later found to be lung cancer.[9][10] She continues to be a member in the 24-person Senate of the Philippines. She has served three terms as senator.

Dr. Santiago has worked in all three branches of government--judicial, executive, and legislative. In the judicial branch, she has been presiding judge of the Regional Trial Court at Quezon City; in the executive branch, she has been immigration commissioner; and a cabinet member as agrarian reform secretary. In the legislative branch, she has now been a senator of three terms.[11] She has received numerous national awards for excellence as a trial court judge and immigration commission.[12] She is a lawyer 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.

Defensor Santiago ran for President of the Philippines in 1992; she led the nationwide canvassing of votes for five days, but was defeated by a margin of less than several hundred thousand votes. In a voting population of 35 million voters,[13] 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.[14][15]

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. [16]She is the eldest of seven children.


She graduated valedictorian of the 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. She was also the high school swimming champion for the province.[17]

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.[17]

After a three-month bout with illness, Santiago proceeded to the University of the Philippines College of Law. There, she won as champion in numerous oratorical, public speaking, and debate contests. She won as Best Debater in the annual U.P. law debate, where she was captain of the winning team.[18]She made history in the University of the Philippines when she became the first female editor-in-chief of the nationally famous student newspaper, The Philippine Collegian, thus shattering a 50-year old record of male dominance.[19]< She was also twice made ROTC muse.[20]

She earned a 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 Master of Laws and Doctor of Juridical Science degrees at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.[21] Her scholastic performance earned her a DeWitt Fellowship and a Barbour Scholarship, and her doctoral dissertation was published as the book entitled Political Offences in International Law. She pursued postdoctoral studies in law at Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, Stanford, University of California, Berkeley, and Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. She also attended The Hague Academy of Public International Law at The Hague, Netherlands, and at Sophia University, Tokyo. She served as professor of international law, constitutional law, and remedial/procedural law at the University of the Philippines, and has published extensively.[22]


Dr. Santiago has received numerous awards for being outstanding in all three branches of government, making her the most awarded public official in our country today.[23] In 1988, Dr. Santiago was awarded laureate of the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Government Service for her graft-busting performance as Commissioner of Immigration and Deportation [24] In 1996, the Australian Women's Magazine ranked Santiago 69th among The 100 Most Powerful Women in the World[25] She has also received the following awards:[26]

  • Woman of the Year Award, Sun-Star Iloilo (2000)
  • Award of Distinction, Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (1999)
  • Centennial Award for politics and legislation, National Centennial Commission (1998)
  • Most Outstanding Alumna Award, University of the Philippines Visayas (1997)
  • Top Ten Newsmakers Award, Bulong Pulungan sa Westin Philippine Plaza (1996)
  • Outstanding Alumna Award, Iloilo National High School Alumni Association, Inc. (1995)
  • Most Outstanding Alumna Award, La Paz Elementary School, Iloilo City (1991)
  • Celebrity Mother Award, Gintong Ina Awards Foundation (1991)
  • Public Service Award, Pambansang Unyon ng Mamamahayag sa Medya (1991)
  • Golden Cross Achievement Award, 10th Battalion Combat Team Peftok Veterans (1990)
  • Golden Jubilee Achievement Award for public service, Girl Scouts of the Philippines (1990)
  • Outstanding Ilonggo Award for good government, Iloilo provincial government (1989)
  • Medal of Honor and Woman of the Year Award, Foundation of Phil-American Medical Society of New Jersey, Inc. (1989)
  • Award for International Cooperation, U.S. Customs Service (1989)
  • Award of Honor, Federation of Filipino-Chinese Associations of the Philippines (1988)
  • Magsaysay Award for government service, Ramon Magsaysay Awards Foundation (1988)
  • Gold Vision Triangle Award for government service, YMCA Philippines (1988)
  • Professional Award in law, University of the Philippines Alumni Association (1988)
  • Brown Visiting Fellow Award, Trinity College of Quezon City (1988)
  • Award of Outstanding Recognition, Iloilo National High School (1988)
  • Award Of Excellence In Public Service, Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches (1988)
  • Leadership Award, Philippine Ports Authority (1988)
  • Woman of Distinction Award, Soroptimist International of Greater Manila (1988)
  • Integrity of Profession Award, Soroptimist International of Quezon City (1988)
  • Award of Distinction, Zonta International of Baguio City (1988)
  • Award of Recognition for Best Agency Productivity, Government Productivity Improvement Program Council (1988)
  • Award of Recognition for public service, Roman Catholic Archbishops and Bishops of Manila (1988)
  • Woman of the Year Award, Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (1988)
  • Distinguished Achievement Award, National Police Commission (1986)
  • TOWNS Award for Law, Philippine Lions (1986)
  • TOYM Award for Law, Philippine Jaycees (1985)

Public service[edit]

After passing the bar, Santiago served as special assistant to the Secretary of Justice from 1970-1979, while concurrently teaching political science in Trinity University of Asia from 1971 to 1974.[27] 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. office. She was appointed as a Regional Trial Court Judge from 1983 to 1987, and became a most decorated trial judge. As judge, she decided cases involving human rights violations under a martial law regime, cases over juveniles, domestic relations cases, and criminal cases involving sexual- and gender-based violence.[28] She also taught Law at the University of the Philippines from 1976 to 1988.[29][30][30] [30] In 2011, she won a seat in the International Criminal Court.[31]

Dr. Santiago also heads her own law firm, the Defensor Santiago Law Firm.

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.[15]

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.[32]

Santiago earned the resentment of politicians who are patrons and benefactors of certain syndicates;[33] 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."[15][34]

She also received threats because of the raids. At one interview, she told the media, "I eat death threats for breakfast".[15][35]

Secretary of Agrarian Reform[edit]

Subsequently, President Aquino appointed Santiago as Secretary of Agrarian Reform[36][37] 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.[38]

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 invited Ramon Magsaysay, Jr. to be her running mate. The PRP invited 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 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,[15][35][36][39][40]

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?"[41]

Senator of the Philippines[edit]

Dr. Santiago has filed the highest number of bills and authored some of the most important laws.[42] Some of her most important pending bills are:anti-dynasty bill; an act institutionalizing an age-appropriate curriculum to prevent the abduction, exploitation, and sexual abuse of children; anti-political signage bill; freedom of information bill; and magna carta for Philippine Internet freedom.[43]

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 pushed Francisco Tatad to be her running mate.[15]

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.[38]

She chaired the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and Energy from 2004-2008.[44]

Third term (2010–2016)[edit]

Santiago ran for reelection in the Philippine Senate election, 2010 under the PRP and as a guest candidate for five different political parties.[45] She won with more than 17 million votes.[46]

In 2012, Santiago proved to be the most important personality in the impeachment trial of the Chief Justice Renato Corona. 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.

Opposition to the pork barrel fund and the DAP[edit]

In early 2013, Santiago began a feud with Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile. She revealed that the senate president had used Senate funds to give away cash gifts. Every senator, except herself and two others, received PhP 2 million as a Christmas gift, taken from public funds. That scandal led to the notorious pork barrel scandal, for which the senate president is now suspended and in jail, having been charged with plunder by the Ombudsman.[47][48]

COA records show that her “pork barrel,” also known as priority development assistance fund, was never marred by any kickback, unlike those of her colleagues in Congress. In three separate cases, the Supreme Court had upheld the pork barrel system as constitutional. Sen. Santiago gave her PDAF to: the University of the Philippines system; Philippine General Hospital; and local government units.[49] She never released her pork barrel to any NGO, particularly those headed by those guilty of plunder, which means wholesale stealing of public money by accepting kickbacks, or simply pocketing the entire money.[50][51]

After the impeachment of the Chief Justice in 2012, it was later revealed that Miriam was one of only three senators who refused to receive money from the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) fund, amounting to P50 million for every senator and P10 million for every congressman. It was also later revealed that three senators even received P100 million each, after the impeachment.

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).[52][53] 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.[54][55]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.

Personal life[edit]

Miriam Defensor is married to Narciso Santiago. They have two biological sons. Her youngest son Alexander Robert "AR" Santiago, [3] died at the age of 22 on 20 November 2003.[56]

Senator Santiago publicly announced on 2 July 2014 that she was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer on her left lung. [57]

Published works[edit]

Santiago has written nearly 30 books:

  • 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. 
  • Politics and Governance. Central Law Book Publishing. 2002. 
  • International Relations. Central Law Book Publishing. 2002. 
  • History of Philosophy. Central Professional Books, Inc. 2003. 
  • Political Philosophy: Theory and Current Issues in Politics. Central Professional Books, Inc. 2003. 
  • Philosophy of Religion: Western and Eastern Religions. Central Professional Books, Inc. 2003. 
  • 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. 
  • Constitutional Law Annotated. Central Law Book Publishing. 2002. 
  • International Law, with Philippine Cases and Materials, and ASEAN Instruments. Central Professional Books. 1999. 


  1. ^ http://www.inquirer.net/specialreports/inquirerpolitics/senators.php?p=20
  2. ^ http://atimes.com/atimes/Southeast_Asia/DI13Ae02.html
  3. ^ http://www.fnfasia.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1611:former-fnf-fellowship-student-to-receive-ramon-magsaysay-award
  4. ^ http://www.rmaf.org.ph/newrmaf/main/awardees/awardee/profile/177
  5. ^ http://www.amiannoying.com/(S(ourz15mmf1godlku4va1rm02))/collection.aspx?collection=2632
  6. ^ http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/htmfiles/Santiago__Miriam_Defensor.htm
  7. ^ http://www.people.nfo.ph/public-servant/miriam-defensor-santiago/
  8. ^ http://www.philstar.com/headlines/757862/miriam-wins-icc-seat
  9. ^ http://www.mb.com.ph/miriam-resigns-as-icc-judge-due-to-illness/
  10. ^ http://www.rappler.com/nation/62172-miriam-santiago-lung-cancer
  11. ^ http://miriam.com.ph/newsblog/about/
  12. ^ http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/htmfiles/Santiago__Miriam_Defensor.htm
  13. ^ http://www.idea.int/vt/countryview.cfm?CountryCode=PH
  14. ^ http://www.nytimes.com/1992/05/13/world/anti-corruption-campaigner-and-general-lead-in-early-philippine-returns.html
  15. ^ a b c d e f "Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago - Senate of the Philippines". Senate.gov.ph. Retrieved 2011-03-13. 
  16. ^ Defensor Santiago, Miriam (1994). Inventing Myself. New Day Publishers of the Christian Literature Society of the Philippines, Inc. p. 10. ISBN 971-10-0552-2. 
  17. ^ a b Official autobiography at http://miriam.com.ph/newsblog/about/ last accessed July 25, 2014.
  18. ^ http://senate.gov.ph/senators/sen_bio/santiago_bio.asp
  19. ^ http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1370&dat=19970719&id=yJgVAAAAIBAJ&sjid=9woEAAAAIBAJ&pg=3811,1905778
  20. ^ [1]
  21. ^ http://dfa.gov.ph/main/index.php/newsroom/dmds-candidature/dr-miriam-defensor-santiago-cv
  22. ^ http://www.icc-cpi.int/en_menus/icc/structure%20of%20the%20court/chambers/the%20judges/Pages/judge%20miriam%20defensor_santiago%20_philippines_.aspx
  23. ^ http://senate.gov.ph/senators/sen_bio/santiago_bio.asp
  24. ^ Santiago Mir.html Biography of Miriam Defensor Santiago, The Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation. Retrieved December 7, 2006.
  25. ^ http://wisdom.psinet.au/~lani/100mpw.html
  26. ^ http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/htmfiles/Santiago__Miriam_Defensor.htm
  27. ^ http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/203779/maid-miriam-and-pretty-morales
  28. ^ http://www.icc-cpi.int/en_menus/icc/structure%20of%20the%20court/chambers/the%20judges/Pages/judge%20miriam%20defensor_santiago%20_philippines_.aspx
  29. ^ http://www.uprotc.org/1969/directory/corps-sponsors/miriam-defensor-santiago.html
  30. ^ a b c "Presidential Profiles: Miriam Defensor Santiago." Probe Team Documentaries. GMA-7. March–April 1998.
  31. ^ "Sen. Santiago wins seat in International Criminal Court". Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved 2011-12-13.
  32. ^ "Manila Journal; Battling the 'Culture of Corruption' Day by Day - New York Times". Nytimes.com. 1988-05-26. Retrieved 2013-06-03. 
  33. ^ "Manila Journal; Battling the 'Culture of Corruption' Day by Day - New York Times". Nytimes.com. 1988-05-26. Retrieved 2011-03-13. 
  34. ^ "A Sharp Tongue Propels A Philippine Candidate - New York Times". Nytimes.com. 1992-05-10. Retrieved 2011-03-13. 
  35. ^ a b "A Sharp Tongue Propels A Philippine Candidate". The New York Times. May 10, 1992. 
  36. ^ a b http://www.senate.gov.ph
  37. ^ "Miriam Defensor-Santiago | 2010 Philippine Election". 2010.pinoyvote.info. Retrieved 2011-03-13. 
  38. ^ a b http://miriam.com.ph/aboutmiriam.php
  39. ^ 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. 
  40. ^ "Power Failures Slow Philippine Vote Count - New York Times". Nytimes.com. 1992-05-24. Retrieved 2011-03-13. 
  41. ^ "senate.gov.ph"
  42. ^ http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2013/12/22/1270935/miriam-has-most-number-bills-resolutions
  43. ^ http://miriam.com.ph/newsblog/about/
  44. ^ [2], Philippine Senate Official Website.
  45. ^ Kimberly Jane T. Tan Miriam seeks reelection under 6 parties, endorses no president. Retrieved June 10, 2010.
  46. ^ Vernadette Joven.9 newly elected senators proclaimed. Retrieved June 10, 2010.
  47. ^ http://www.rappler.com/nation/19395-enrile-s-cash-gifts-exclude-4-critics
  48. ^ https://anc.yahoo.com/news/camp-crame-jail-cells-ready-for-enrile--estrada--and-revilla-032222758.html
  49. ^ http://www.senate.gov.ph/photo_release/2009/0820_01.asp
  50. ^ http://manilastandardtoday.com/2014/09/01/drilon-got-biggest-dap-slice-solon/
  51. ^ http://www.sunstar.com.ph/breaking-news/2014/07/02/santiago-dap-recipients-must-return-funds-351468
  52. ^ "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. 
  53. ^ "PRESS STATEMENT ON SENATOR SANTIAGO'S ELECTION AS ICC JUDGE". Senate Press Releases. Senate of the Philippines. December 13, 2011. Retrieved 6 June 2013. 
  54. ^ 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. 
  55. ^ 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. 
  56. ^ Balitang Marino: Miriam Santiago's son shot, dies in hospital
  57. ^ https://ph.news.yahoo.com/miriam-santiago-announces-she-has-lung-cancer-033855884.html

External links[edit]