Miriam Defensor Santiago

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This name uses Philippine naming customs for married women. The birth middle name or maternal family name is Palma, the birth surname or paternal family name is Defensor, and the marital name is Santiago.
Miriam Defensor Santiago
Miriam beams as she attends a wedding as a sponsor.JPG
Senator of the Philippines
In office
June 30, 2004 – June 30, 2016
In office
June 30, 1995 – June 30, 2001
Judge of the International Criminal Court
In office
December 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 Juico
Succeeded by Florencio Abad
Personal details
Born Miriam Palma Defensor
(1945-06-15) June 15, 1945 (age 71)
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 Palma Defensor Santiago (born June 15, 1945) is a Filipino politician, notable for having served in all three branches of the Philippine government – judicial, executive, and legislative. Some of her alma maters include University of the Philippines, University of Michigan, Oxford University, Maryhill School of Theology, University of California, Harvard University, and Cambridge University. Santiago was named one of The 100 Most Powerful Women in the World in 1997 by The Australian magazine.[1] In 1988, she was named laureate of the Ramon Magsaysay Award for government service, with a citation "for bold and moral leadership in cleaning up a graft-ridden government agency."[2][3][4][5] She ran in the 1992 presidential elections but was defeated in an election marred by allegations of impropriety by the victor. The quote, 'Miriam won in the elections, but lost in the counting.' became popular nationwide.[6]

She became senator of the republic in 1995 and authored the most number of laws and bills in the entire history of the Philippines. She again run for president in the 1998 presidential elections but lost after heavy black propaganda against her which were eventually proven false. She continued her work as senator - exposed and lambasted numerous government scandals, such as the now famous Pork Barrel Scandal, which led to massive outrage and triggered major reforms throughout the country. She became an icon of incorruptibility, honest government service, and constitutional law. She was given numerous awards and recognition for her fight against corruption in the country.

In 2012, she became the first Filipina and the first Asian from a developing country to be elected a judge of the International Criminal Court.[7][8] She later resigned the post, citing chronic fatigue syndrome, which turned out to be lung cancer.[9][10] In 2016, Santiago became part of the International Advisory Council of the International Development Law Organization (IDLO), an intergovernmental body that promotes the rule of law.[11][12] She has also written books in law and the social sciences. She has served three terms in the Philippine Senate. On October 13, 2015, Santiago declared her candidacy for President of the Philippines in the 2016 elections after her doctors from the United States declared her cancer 'stable' and 'receded', but lost in the elections. She was immortalized by her supporters as 'the best president we never had'.[13][14][15]

She is currently being lauded to join the United Nations Secretary-General candidacy race by various organizations in the country. If she is elected, she will be the second United Nations Secretary-General from Southeast Asia and the first female United Nations Secretary-General.[16][17]

She is much known as the Dragon Lady, the Platinum Lady, the Incorruptible Lady, the Tiger Lady, and most popularly, the Iron Lady of Asia.[18][19]

Early life[edit]

Santiago was born Miriam Palma Defensor on June 15, 1945 in Iloilo City, to Benjamin Defensor, a local judge and Dimpna Palma, a schoolteacher. She is the eldest of seven children. Santiago was a child prodigy, winning the high school spelling bee as a freshman and then for the next three years. She graduated valedictorian in grade school, high school, undergraduate school, and law school in the Diliman campus (at that time separate from the Manila campus).[20]

In 1965, Santiago graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science, magna cum laude from the University of the Philippines Visayas with a 1.0 GPA, the highest in UP history. After graduation, she was elected to the Pi Gamma Mu and Phi Kappa Phi honor societies.[21]

Santiago proceeded to the University of the Philippines College of Law. There, she was champion in numerous oratorical contests and debates.[1] She became the first female editor of the student newspaper, The Philippine Collegian, and was twice appointed ROTC muse.[22][23]

She graduated Bachelor of Laws, cum laude, from the University of the Philippines College of Law.

Miriam Defensor is married to Narciso "Jun" Santiago,[24] with whom she had two sons, Archie and Alexander, with the latter being an alumnus of Ateneo De Manila University.[25]

Higher Education[edit]

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.[26] Following school she took a position 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, teaching evening classes for some ten years.[27][28]

She has studied at several universities, including Oxford and Harvard law summer schools; Cambridge; and The Hague Academy of International Law. She earned the degree Master of religious studies (without thesis) at the Maryhill School of Theology.[1]

In Oxford, she was a research fellow at St. Hilda’s College and also took a summer program in law at St. Edmund’s Hall. At Cambridge, she was a research fellow at the Lauterpacht Research Centre for International Law.

Department of Justice Career[edit]

She became a special assistant to the Secretary of Justice for ten years after her higher studies abroad. At a young age, she became a legal officer to the United Nations afterwards due to her constitutional and international law knowledge and experience.

United Nations Career[edit]

Santiago served as Legal Officer of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees at Geneva, Switzerland. She was assigned to the Conferences and Treaties Section. She became skilled at treaty negotiation and drafting. She resigned her position when her father in the Philippines developed prostate cancer.[29]

Judge During Martial Law[edit]

Santiago was appointed judge of the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City, Metro Manila by President Ferdinand Marcos - the youngest judge appointed to Metro Manila. Further, she was exempted from the practice of first serving as a judge outside Metro Manila.[5]

As RTC judge, she quickly proclaimed a "no postponement" policy. At that time, cases were tried in segments that were usually a month apart, resulting in trials that took years to finish. Lawyers were prone to seek postponement of trial. As a result, trial judges scheduled ten or fifteen cases a day, so that they could make up for cases postponed.

Santiago scheduled only five cases a day, and heard each case, and disposed of the highest number of cases in her first year in office.

She became nationally famous when she issued perhaps the first decision to rule against martial law. At that time, alleged illegal public assemblies were declared as crimes and were punishable by death. A large group of activist students from the University of the Philippines and Ateneo, as well as activists in the film industry, staged a rally in a central business district, and denounced the First Lady for her excesses. To retaliate, Marcos issued a Preventive Detention Action order which authorized the military to hold suspects indefinitely, without bail. The students faced the dire prospect of missing their final exams and, for many of them, missing graduation.

Santiago suspended hearings on all other pending cases, and conducted whole-day trials. In the end, ordered the military to allow the students to post bail. After promulgating her decision at the end of the day, Santiago drove herself to the state university, where she was teaching law. The Philippine Jaycees, the Philippine Lions, and the YMCA Philippines all gave her awards for judicial excellence.[1]

Immigration Commissioner[edit]

After martial law, in 1988, President Corazon Aquino appointed Santiago as commissioner of immigration and deportation.[1] At that time, the Commission (CID) was one of the most corrupt government agencies in Southeast Asia. Santiago declared the Philippines as "the fake passport capital of the world," and directed raids against criminal syndicates, including the Yakuza. She filled the CID detention center with alien criminals, and ordered construction of another detention center. She extended to legal aliens protection from widespread extortion by requesting President Aquino to issue an executive order that authorized the "alien legalization program."[30]

She received serious death threats, but proclaimed: "I eat death threats for breakfast."[1][31] A member of the House of Representatives delivered a privilege speech and denounced her raids against pedophile communities in Central Luzon ran by alien pedophiles. Santiago responded by calling him "fungus face."[1][32]

The Rockefeller Foundation named her a laureate of the Magsaysay Award for government service – "for bold and moral leadership in cleaning up a graft-ridden government agency."[2][3][4][5]

Agrarian Reform Secretary[edit]

President Corazon Aquino promoted Santiago to member of her cabinet, as secretary of the Secretary of Agrarian Reform.[33][34] Under a controversial law passed by Congress and signed by President Aquino, all agricultural landholdings were taken by the government and divided among the farmers. Each landowner was allowed to keep only five hectares, and each farmer received three hectares. Payment was in bonds of the Land Bank.

To subvert the law, big landowners applied for conversion of the classification of their land as agricultural, to classification as commercial, residential, or industrial.[citation needed] The process became the widespread "conversion scandal of agrarian reform." The DAR officials themselves were the biggest culprits, because they sold conversion permits for bribes on a market rate set at certain amounts per hectare involved in the conversion.[citation needed]

Santiago stopped the conversion scandal, and appeased the landowners by enhancing the incentives for voluntary offers by the landowners for the sale of their landholdings, which entitled them to an additional five percent cash payment.[citation needed]

When asked if the hacienda belonging to the president’s family should be covered by agrarian reform, Santiago replied that the family’s hacienda should be distributed among the farmers. Shortly thereafter President Aquino accepted Santiago’s resignation.[35]

Fight Against Oligarchs[edit]

Santiago organized the People's Reform Party (PRP) and ran with a senatorial ticket during the 1992 presidential campaign.

While campaigning on April 28, 1991, Santiago was severely injured in car crash,[36] which she described as an assassination attempt.[37] She was wearing a white bush jacket, which became splattered with blood that gushed from a wound in her head. On orders of President Aquino, she was airlifted from Tarlac to a Manila hospital. She underwent surgery on the jaw, and at one point a Catholic priest administered the last rites of the dying. Two months later, she was back on the campaign trail.[38]

Santiago has been dubbed as "The Iron Lady of Asia" and the "Dragon Lady" due to her scathing but bold eloquence both in leadership and writing. She cites physicist Marie Curie and former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher as her major influences throughout her political career, with Thatcher praising her for her book Cutting Edge during their meeting while the prime minister visited the Philippines.[39]

Santiago was leading the canvassing of votes for the first five days.[6] 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.[1][31][33][40][41]

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?". The quote, 'Miriam won in the lections but lost in the counting' was popularized by the masses.[1]

Senator of the Republic[edit]

She was first elected senator in 1995. In 1997, her presidential rival Fidel Ramos initiated a people's campaign for an infinite presidential term. Santiago lambasted Ramos' campaign and went to court. In a landmark case, (Santiago vs COMELEC), she won and preserved the people's mandate for term limits. She again run for president in the 1998 presidential elections but lost after heavy black propaganda concerning her mental health, which were later proven false.[42]

She was one of the few senators who were against the opening of the brown envelope during the impeachment trial of then president, Joseph Estrada, who was her foe in the 1998 presidential elections. She said afterwards: "At that time, I wanted to apply the rules of court technically. Since there is no allegation of wrongdoing in connection with the notorious second envelope, I voted that we should not open the second envelope until and after the complaint had already been amended," and "I was among those demonized because I voted against the opening of the second envelope dahil ang paniwala ng taong bayan, kung ayaw namin buksan ang second envelope na ‘yan, may tinatago kami (because in the belief of the masses if we don't want to open the envelope, then we are hiding something)." Estrada was ousted in the Second EDSA Revolution in 2001, but was sent free by then president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2007 after being persuaded by then senator Mar Roxas. She did not run for a second senate term in 2001.[43]

Her son Alexander died in 2003 after a self-inflicted gun shot which would later be the reason of her questioning of God, wherein she will eventually will have a change of heart in 2015 and say, "All good things happen to those who love God." She again run for senator in 2004 and was again elected. She focused on creating significant laws that changed the country as a whole. She run again for senator in 2010 and won. During her three terms, she served as chair mostly of the foreign relations committee and the constitutional amendments committee. She was elected as official candidate of her People's Reform Party, hence she also served as chair of the foreign affairs committee of the Commission on Appointments. She exposed and named numerous ‘’jueteng’’ lords and illegal logging lords throughout her terms.

In 2011, she was elected as a Judge of the International Criminal Court (ICC) which hears cases against humanity for former heads of states. She was the first Asian from a third world country to be elected in such a post. She later resigned in 2014 after being diagnosed with lung cancer.

She was one of the senators who backed Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona during his impeachment trial. The Chief Justice was persecuted by the government after he gave the controversial Hacienda Luisita lands to common farmers and not the Cojuangco oligarchs, who were related to Noynoy Aquino who was president at the time. He was impeached eventually due to corruption. It was later revealed that Santiago was one of three senators who did not receive 50 million pesos due to her non-support of the impeachment of Corona. In 2016, Corona, who died months before, was acquitted and was deemed innocent by the courts.

In December 2012, she exposed that the Senate president, Juan Ponce Enrile, used Senate funds to give away as cash gifts. Every senator, except her and two others, received 2 million pesos as a chunk of the Filipino population lived in poverty. This led to the now famous Pork Barrel Scandal which put the Senate president behind bars with charges of plunder. Santiago’s live Senate hearings in the case led to public outrage and support for Santiago’s call to abolish the pork barrel system.

Few of the many laws that she authored included the controversial Reproductive Health Act of 2012, which instill reproductive health education throughout the predominantly Roman Catholic nation, and was backed by the majority of the population and lambasted by the religious institutions in the country;[44] Sin Tax Law, which improved the taxation of the ountry which led to the economic revolutions that bolstered Philippine shares;[45] Climate Change Act of 2009, which mandated the entire nation to become a bastion for climate change responsiveness, mitigation, adaptation, and management;[46] Renewable Energy Act of 2008, which mandated the government to shift the energy source of the country from coal and oil into solar, wind, and other renewable sources - this became the foundation for the establishment of numerous wind and solar plants in the country which made the Philippines the Wind Energy Capital of Southeast Asia;[47] Philippine Act on Crimes Against International Humanitarian Law, which safeguarded human rights in the entire nation;[48] Magna Carta of Women, which protected the rights of women in the country;[49] Unified Student Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education (Unifast) Act, which enhanced the educational system in the country, paving way for the intellectual revolution in urban and rural areas;[50] Cybercrime Act of 2012, which protected the nation and its people from cybercrimes which infested the country's cyberspace;[51] Department of Information and Communication Technology Act, which established the Department of Information and Communication Technology for a better information dissemination and better internet speed in the country; Archipelagic Baselines Act of 2009, which became one of the major basis for the country's claims on maritime sovereignty, including the West Philippine Sea.[52]

In October 2015, Santiago announced her intention to run for presidency in the 2016 Philippine presidential elections after her cancer was deemed ‘’stable’’ and ‘’receded’’ by doctors from the United States.[38][53] She later confirmed that Senator Bongbong Marcos would serve as her running mate for Vice President. Her campaign focused on the youth sector which she heavily advocated. She 'weaponized' social media and the youth sector as the core of her presidential campaign. She was a landslide winner in numerous polls conducted in various public and private universities and colleges in the country. Despite this, she lost in the elections.[54] She was immortalized by her supporters as 'the best president we never had'.[13][14][15]

She was elected as a commissioner for the prestigious International Development Law Organization (IDLO) in 2016, the first Filipino to be elected in the organization. Her role in the organization was advisory to the entire international law community.

Throughout her career as senator, she has the most number of laws passed and bills made in the entire history of the Philippines. Under the law, she was barred from taking another senate term. Her term ended on July 1, 2016 and she retired into private life.


Even after retirement, she continued to advocate the passage of many bills for the nation while in her Quezon City home. A few of these include: the anti-dynasty bill; an act institutionalizing an age-appropriate curriculum to prevent the abduction, exploitation, and sexual abuse of children; anti-epal bill; freedom of information bill; and the magna carta for Philippine internet freedom.

Various groups in the country are lauding her to join the candidacy for the United Nations Secretary-General post where the chosen candidate will be positioned for 2017.[17][17]

Positions On Issues[edit]


She has publicly advocated for the passage of a Divorce law in the Philippines, saying, 'Why would you force them to be together if they want to kill each other by mere sight?'. According to her, there should two ground for divorce, 'one is an attempt on the life of the spouse by the other, and the other is when one spouse is already living with another person, that is adultery or concubinage. Iyon lang (Only those) two grounds'. In the 2016 Presidential campaign, despite being unable to attend the second dabate, she tweeted that she is in favor of divorce. She was the only presidential candidate to be in favor of divorce.[55]


In an interview, she said, 'No to abortion, never. I am a very avid supporter of RH, but I will definitely fight to the death against abortion as a lawyer, not necessarily as a religious person. I equate it properly with the crime of murder.'[55]

LGBT Issues[edit]

She has magnified the issues concerning the LGBT people in the Senate before. During the Orlando shooting incident in the United States, she tweeted, "The mass shooting at a club in Orlando is appalling and heartbreaking" and "I long for the day when the LGBT community no longer has to live in fear of discrimination and hate crimes". She was one of the senators who advocated the immediate investigation of the Jennifer Laude case, wherein a American marine killed a Filipina transgender woman in Subic, Zambales. In a book of LGBT activist Danton Remoto, Santiago said, "To critics of the LGBT movement, I say: Stupid is forever."[56]

Reproductive Health Law[edit]

In response to the then congressman and boxer Manny Pacquiao's opposition with regards to the contentious debate over Reproductive Health Bill by quoting a Bible passage in the book of Genesis, Santiago opined with her own interpretation of the passage by saying: "God said in the Bible, Go forth and multiply. That meant that God wanted man, not necessarily to literally multiply, but to go out to work with the rest of the human beings of this planet and to apply the stewardship theory. Meaning to say, taking care of each other." She was one of the authors of the RH Law.[57]


She is the author of the Anti-Dynasty Bill and has been pushing for its immediate passage in Congress for more than a decade. Unfortunately, most of the congresspersons in the House of Representatives, which are the bulk of Filipino politicians, are not in favor of its passage because they are part of political dynasties.

Death Penalty[edit]

She is in favor for death penalty but only for convicted drug traffickers.[58]

Environmental Issues[edit]

She is vehemently against mining. According to an interview conducted by Haribon Foundation during the 2016 Presidential Campaign, Santiago was the 'greenest' in all of the candidates. Santiago was the main author of the Climate Change Law and the Renewable Energies Law in the Senate.[59]

West Philippine Sea[edit]

She stressed during a live debate that the West Philippine Sea is a sovereign territory of the Philippines and that the country should have a better military and police force and assets and should prioritize on enhancing ties with allied nations, especially in ASEAN. She is one of the international law experts who lambasted China and aided in the Philippine case against China. The case was won by the Philippines in 2016. Despite this, China still 'does not recognize the ruling'.

Internet Issue[edit]

She advocated the establishment of the Department of Information which is mandated to speed up the worst internet speed in Asia. She is also advocating the passage of the Magna Carta for Philippine Internet Freedom.

Metro Traffic Problem[edit]

She advocated the establishment of a completely new railway system from Manila to Sorsogon and a new high-speed transit system connecting Metro Manila to Pampanga, Bulacan. Rizal, Batangas, Laguna, and Cavite. She also advocated the establishment of a new modernized airport and the establishment of new projects in every province in the entire country.

Freedom of Information[edit]

She is vigorously in favor of the passage of the Freedom of Information Bill which she authored and fought for despite the opposite stance of the then administration of Noynoy Aquino.

Mindanao Issue[edit]

She is against the Bangsamoro Basic Law, saying it is unconstitutional because it specifies that Bangsamoro will become a 'sub-state' of the republic which is illegal under the law. She prefers a more constitutional form of the Bangsamoro Basic Law which does not create a 'sub-state' government.


She is against the transformation of the Philippines into a federal form of government because the Anti-Dynasty Bill which she sponsored has not yet been made into law. She believes that a federal form of government without an anti-dynasty law will immortalize political dynasties and oligarchs in the country, extending the political lifespan of families who controlled the country since the martial law era.

Charter Change[edit]

She is in favor of amending the Constitution to enhance foreign investments in the country and to mandate that all high posts in government (senator, congressperson, president, vice president, governor, mayor, vice mayor, secretaries, undersecretaries, etc) should have additional qualifications which are 'a college graduate' and must pass a duly-accredited government examination. Numerous politicians in the country are only high school or elementary graduates, and most college graduate officials have never passed the Civil Service Examination for Professionals (CSE-P). She argues that positions in government like administrative assistant must pass the CSE-P as a qualification, 'why not higher posts too?'.


In an interview years after the death of her son who committed suicide, she said, 'The only thing I know about God is that God is inscrutable. In other words, I don’t know a single thing about God. I’m clueless about what God is. Maybe Jesus, or the other historical figures around which religions had been built, would be more approachable. But God itself, being on a divine level, I think it’s just impermeable to human intelligence. And there is a very famous classical book called The Cloud of Unknowing. There’s always a cloud of unknowing over God. I think that, since God is inaccessible to people, we tend to portray Him in anthropomorphic terms. We think of the best qualities in every person and you try and project it on a giant scale on God. So in effect, God is a man-made concept. We have no clue what God is.'

She then said in a separate interview, 'I do not understand why God can be all love and still inflict this kind of pain on people. This God is an underachiever. He does not do whatever he is supposed to be doing, whatever his sex is. Whether he's an it or a she or a he or whatever. But I'm sure that if you were a god or if I were the God, I would be doing a better job. Therefore, the only conclusion can be that possibly, God does not exist.'[57]

After years, she made a change of heart for an unspecified reason. She said, 'Good things happen to those who love God.' Santiago identifies as a liberal[60] Roman Catholic and has remained religious as an adult, saying her prayers day and night.[61] She cites Ecclesiastes as her favorite book in the Bible and she considered entering as a nun, which she had called a "fad" during her youth.[62]

Awards and Honors[edit]

  • Magsaysay Award for Government Service, 1988, Asian equivalent of the Nobel Prize, Magsaysay Awards Foundation[5]
  • TOYM Award for Law, 1985 (The Outstanding Young Men) Opened to Women 1984, Philippine Jaycees
  • TOWNS Award for Law, 1986 (The Outstanding Women in the Nation’s Service), Philippine Lions
  • Philippine Judges' Hall of Fame, 2015, Philippine Judges Association[63]
  • Most Outstanding Alumna in Law, University of the Philippines, 1988[21]
  • Gold Vision Triangle Award for government service, 1988, YMCA Philippines
  • Republic Anniversary Award for law enforcement, 1988, Civic Assembly of Women of the Philippines
  • Golden Jubilee Achievement Award for public service, 1990, Girl Scouts of the Philippines
  • Celebrity Mother Award, 1991, Gintong Ina Awards Foundation
  • Spain - Grand Cross of the Order of Civil Merit (November 30, 2007) [64]


Santiago has written at least 30 books, many of which are about law and social sciences.[1] Among her works is the Code Annotated Series Project 2000, a series of books about laws passed by the Philippine Congress and Supreme Court decisions. The Code Annotated Series is the main part of Santiago's Legal Outreach Program.[65] During her initial battle with cancer, she continued to work on the 2014 edition of all her law books.[66] These were published as the 2015 edition of her Code Annotated Series, by Rex Bookstore.[67]

The doctoral dissertation Santiago wrote for the University of Michigan was published as a book named Political Offences in International Law.[68] Santiago has also written two autobiographies, Inventing Myself[69] and Cutting Edge: The Politics of Reform in the Philippines.[70]

Santiago also published a joke book in 2014 entitled Stupid is Forever, a collection of jokes, comebacks, one-liners, and pick-up lines she used in speeches.[71] A sequel entitled Stupid is Forevermore was published a year later. Both books were published by ABS-CBN Publishing.[72] The first book was named the best-selling book of 2014, selling about 110,000 copies in one month.[73]


She was one of the most quotable persons in the Philippines throughout her career due to her wit and Filipino humor. Select quotes of her follow:

"Dedicated to my sons Archie and A.R., who traded bon mots with me everyday at the dining table, until one day I floored them with the question: ‘Why is there something instead of nothing?’ In disgust, they chorused: ‘That’s not funny!’ and walked out." - Dedication from her book, ‘’Stupid is Forever’’

"Politicians never get lost in thought, because it’s unfamiliar territory."

"Corrupt politicians would be different, if they had enough oxygen at birth."

"Bureaucracy is a giant mechanism operated by pygmies. Here are the guidelines: When in charge, plunder. When in trouble, delegate. When in doubt, mumble." - On her Magsaysay Award for Gvernment Service

"Nothing is politically right which is morally wrong" - Of the crime of plunder

"The members of Congress are the people who will support the President when he is wrong."

"There are no true friends in politics. Someone said that we are all sharks circling, and waiting for traces of blood to appear in the water."

"To critics of the LGBT movement, I say: Stupid if forever."

"In any Congress, out of 100 people, 2 are honest and intelligent, 10 are criminals, and 88 are good for nothing."

"Is there a good politician? Is there an honest burglar?"

"I sponsored and defended the Reproductive Health Law, although I am a Catholic. In the Catholic church, a woman to avoid pregnancy is allowed to resort to mathematics. Thank God, now Catholic women are allowed to resort to physics and chemistry!"

"When I listen to the defensive language of those accused of plunder, I marvel that they can make lies sound truthful, plunder respectable, and give an appearance of solidity to pure wind."

"The Napoles scandal showed that some politicians are the same all over the country. They promise to build bridges where there are no rivers."

"I know a politician who is so windy that he can give mouth-to-mouth resuscitation by telephone."

"All professionals in our country need to pass a government exam. Only a politician does not need any kind of preparation to practice." - On why she wants politicians to be graduate from college first

"I insist that I have a role to perform. This role is to stand as one of the gazillion bricks in the cathedral of government. No one will remember me if I suddenly drop dead tomorrow. But generations after you and me, would be able to put behind them the culture of corruption, and build a new shining nation with leaders who are neither dazzled by the material world, nor confused about their purpose of life." - During a Speech in the University of the Philippines – Manila

"I share one unbreakable linkage with you. At one time I was your age and like UP students, I wanted to change the world. Maybe I have. But the world has also changed me. Now I am old enough to have seen the world and have all my illusions shattered. Am I disillusioned? No, because as the poet said: Though much is taken, much abides; and though We are not now that strength which in old days Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are; One equal temper of heroic hearts, Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield." - In conclusion to a speech in the University of the Philippines

"I do not subscribe to the school of thought that I am leading the presidential polls because of my beautiful legs." - After topping most presidential surveys in 1990

"Sir, I remind you that as the Commissioner of Immigration and Deportation, I represent the majesty of the Republic of the Philippines. You have the obligation to show respect and courtesy to me. Now shut up, or I’ll knock your teeth off!" - To an alien criminal suspect who raised his voice to interrupt her during a press conference

"I have realized why corrupt politicians do nothing to improve the quality of public education. They are terrified of educated voters."

"What we are seeing is an epidemic of people in high government office who possess the epidermis of the pachyderms and intestinal fortitude of anacondas." - On recent corruption scandals in government

"You – the youth who will determine the future of the Philippines – should not only get involved, but also each one of you should be a leader. Leadership is not about personality; it’s about behavior-an observable set of skills and abilities." - During a speech in the Lyceum of the Philippines University

"In my view, leadership is the courage to take risks in defense of a position that is both legal and moral."

"I think divorce should be available to people who become homicidal at the sight of each other."

"I long for the day when the LGBT community no longer has to live in fear of discrimination. The media, both new and traditional, play important roles in making this possible. By telling the stories of the LGBT community, they shatter biases born out of misinformation."

"My management style? Spiritual fortitude, intellectual scholarship, and, (smiling) if all else fails, physical violence might prove salutary." - After winning her Magsaysay Award for Government Service

"They were not only rebellious, they were malicious to boot. Naturally I got mad, but I restrained myself. No, I did not throw a chair at my employees. (Laughing) The accurate statement is that I may have rearranged the furniture." - After scolding a few government employees who declared their intention to have her removed as Immigration Commissioner

"I’m very results-oriented, and I do have a kamikaze attitude. I don’t care if I go down in flames, as long as my enemies and I go down together." - In a magazine cover story

"I always put myself in harm’s way because that is where I am most effective."

"Excuse me, I’m not a blushing wife. I’m a veteran wife."

"I went to see a pulmonologist and then she said, "I’m sorry but you have cancer," and I said, "Yes!" because I wanted a challenge in my life."

"Hindi naman ako mataba eh (I am not fat). In fact, I’m so sexy that it overflows."

"People would be surprised to find out that I don’t scream everyday."

"I never wanted to be a warrior. I wanted to be a scholar. I consider every act of evil a personal challenge."

"Nothing matters more to the future of this nation than to ensure that our young women and men learn to believe in themselves and believe in their dreams." - During a speech in the Lyceum of the Philippines-Laguna

"The Senate, it is often said, is composed of 24 republics. In other words, every senator insists on his own electoral independence." - When asked about the prospects of passing a bill

"Answer! And don’t play words with me. Words are my livelihood." - To suspend policie chief during the Senate hearing on the Mamasapano clash

"We are a stillborn state, because our umbilical cord with the United States has never been cut. Cut and cut cleanly, so that we can revive this infant in the family of nations." - During a speech against a US marine that killed a transgender Filipina

"Appeasement is never conducive to permanent peace."

"There’s not just one stupid thing. There are millions of stupid things I’ve heard in the Senate." - When asked about the most stupid thing she heard in the Senate

"Do not be disheartened if you do not succeed immediately in life. The difference between a successful person and the others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack of will." - During a speech in Gordon College

"Stay grounded. Staying grounded will help you focus on bigger goals." - During a speech in Gordon College

"I encourage you to work in government. Change the system from inside its ranks. As a great man said: "Lord, change the world! And begin with me."

"I am not afraid of death threats, but I am appalled that so many people are capable of so much wrong spelling and fractured grammar!" - When questioned if she was afraid of death threats

"I eat death threats for breakfast!"

"I have no regrets. I tried to raise the consciousness of the Filipinos on the need to fight graft. The accident affects only my mortal body. It is a small price to pay for this good fight. I wish for my people to continue with the will to win." - Handwritten statement after sustaining near-fatal injuries in a highway collision that left her car a total wreck in 1991, before the 1992 Presidential elections

"There are three qualifications to become president: Academic excellence; Professional excellence; and most importantly, Moral excellence!" - During the 2016 presidential debates

"Who knows what God is? Who understands the mind of God? Who has a direct line to God so that he or she can ask God what is right or what is wrong? Kapag sinabi mong mali ang ginagawa ng iba dahil sinabi ng Diyos, ikaw ang nagsasalita para sa Diyos" (If you say that what others are doing are wrong according to God, you are the one who is saying that!) I would like to see the appointment paper of the members of the Black and White Movement from God, signed by God, giving them powers of attorney. That is the egotistic problem in seeing the world as black and white." - Miriam questioning a nominee at the a Commission on Appointments hearing

"In the spirit of Holy Week, which is approaching, I amend my previous offer to fight. Instead, I challenge him to take an IQ test with me in [the University of the Philippines]."

"Discombobulated moral retardates!" - Addressed to an agrarian reform employee who organized against her when she became head of the Agrarian Reform Department

"I will not spend my adult life answering obviously false charges. But I shall exert every effort to resist the charge that I lack sex appeal." - During an interview about charges against her by some Immigration employees

"That is the arrogance of power, the arrogance of the intellectual bonsai." - To a politician who criticized her performance and accused her of not being a team player

"From where I am now, I find that the conundrums are easily answered. First, life teaches us that, whether we perceive it as predestined or as random, it is beyond any person’s control. Second, there is no template for the meaning of life. Instead, the meaning of life is what you choose to make it mean. . . Life is a consequence of our moral choices." - During a speech in West Visayas State University

"I have no illusions about myself, about my life, about leaving a legacy, or making a mark in people’s lives. We are so insignificant. We are only here for a blink."

"I will never quit! I will never stop! I will never withdraw!" - Addressed in the 2016 presidential debates to people who call her to withdraw because she was a former cancer patient

"That is the essence, I think, of family love. That you should be the comfort and the haven of a person who is battered by the world. When he or she comes home, there should be a presence there that enables him [or her] to still make sense out of an irrational world."

"I want to be remembered only in the memories of my own family. That I was a caring grandmother, that I was always equitable, that I was always reasonable, that I was always supportive, no matter what happened." - On her retirement from politics


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