Miriam Defensor Santiago
Miriam Defensor Santiago (born 15 June 1945) is a Filipino politician, notable for having served in all three branches of the Philippine government – judicial, executive, and legislative. She was named one of The 100 Most Powerful Women in the World in 1997 by The Australian magazine. In 2012, she was elected judge of the International Criminal Court, the first Filipina and the first Asian from a developing country to be so honored. But she was forced to waive the post, saying she has chronic fatigue syndrome. She later announced that she was diagnosed with lung cancer. 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 corrupt-ridden government agency.” She ran in the 1992 presidential elections but was cheated and never conceded defeat. She has also written books covering topics in law and the social sciences. She has served three terms in the Philippine Senate.
She is the leading authority of her generation in constitutional law and international law.
- 1 Early life and education
- 2 Career
- 3 Select media titles
- 4 Select awards
- 5 Select laws and treaties, authored or sponsored
- 6 Select bills authored
- 7 Select books published
- 8 Supreme Court cases won
- 9 References
- 10 External links
Early life and education
Santiago was born in Iloilo City to a judge and a dean. She is the eldest of seven children. Santiago was a child prodigy, winning as a freshman the high school spelling bee, which she won for all four 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).
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 honor societies.
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. She became the first female editor of the nationally famous student newspaper, The Philippine Collegian, and was twice appointed ROTC muse.
She graduated Bachelor of Laws, 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. 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, teaching evening classes for some ten years.
She did professional studies at Oxford and Harvard law summer schools; Cambridge at the Lauterpacht Research Centre for International Law; The Hague Academy of International Law; etc. She earned the degree Master of Religious Studies (without thesis) at the Maryhill School of Theology.
In 1970, she married Narciso Yap Santiago. They had two sons, but one died in college. They have four grandchildren.
United Nations Legal Officer
After a stint of ten years at the justice department, 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 was forced to resign when her father in the Philippines developed prostate cancer. At his bedside, she promised to return to the Philippines and serve her own country.
Regional Trial Court Judge, Quezon City
Dr. Santiago was appointed judge of the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City, Metro Manila by President Ferdinand Marcos. Her appointment was exceptional, because she was the youngest judge appointed to Metro Manila. Further, she was exempted from the practice of first serving as a judge outside Metro Manila.
As RTC judge, she immediately attracted attention by proclaiming 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 was different. She denied any motion to postpone trial. She scheduled only five cases a day, and heard each case. By this systematic method, she disposed of the highest number of cases in her first year in office. She started hearings promptly at 8:30 a.m. every day, at her courtroom on the eleventh floor of city hall. There were only two elevators, so she was known to run up the stairs.
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, she issued the shocking decision ordering the military to allow the students to post bail, thus releasing the students from detention. After promulgating her decision at the end of the day, Santiago drove herself to the state university, where she was teaching law. U.P. law students gave her a standing ovation.
She was hardworking, stern, and scholarly. The Philippine Jaycees, the Philippine Lions, and the YMCA Philippines all gave her awards for judicial excellence.
Commissioner of Immigration and Deportation
After martial law, in 1988, President Corazon Aquino appointed Santiago as commissioner of immigration and deportation, where her career made her an instant hit among media, and an instant youth icon. At that time, the Commission (CID) was a hotbed of corruption. Under the immigration act, the CID was empowered to exercise the power of naturalization, issue permanent resident visas, issue work permits, extend tourist stays, and register all aliens. CID was one of the most corrupt government agencies in Southeast Asia.
Santiago rolled up her sleeves. She declared the Philippines as “the fake passport capital of the world,” and personally directed lightning raids against criminal syndicates, including the Yakuza. She filled the CID detention center with alien criminals, (earning a photo in Time Magazine) and ordered construction of another detention center. She waged highly publicized battles against overstaying aliens and fugitives from justice. She extended to legal aliens protection from widespread extortion by requesting President Aquino to issue an executive order that authorized the “alien legalization program.”
She received serious death threats, but defiantly proclaimed: “I eat death threats for breakfast.” 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. But she raised the banner of child protection, and called him “fungus face.”
Because of her courage tempered by her witticisms, 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." The Magsaysay Award is the Asian equivalent of the Nobel Prize.
Secretary of Agrarian Reform
President Corazon Aquino promoted Santiago to member of her cabinet, as secretary of the Secretary of Agrarian Reform. Under the 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. The landowners were up in arms.
To subvert the law, big landowners applied for conversion of the classification of their land as agricultural, to classification as commercial, residential, or industrial. 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.
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.
President Aquino was chair of the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council. As secretary, Santiago was the vice-chair. The media pointedly asked her if the hacienda belonging to the president’s family should be covered by agrarian reform. (The Cojuangco family had opted for corporate farming by retaining possession of the land and paying the farmers in the form of corporate shares, thus exempting themselves from the agrarian reform law.) When Santiago said that the family’s hacienda should be distributed among the farmers, it was not long before President Aquino accepted Santiago’s resignation.
1992 Presidential candidate
By this time, Santiago had become a national hero, for her brilliance and courage in fighting corruption. She topped all presidential surveys. Urged on relentlessly by her supporters, she 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 that remained unsolved, which she describe as assassination attempt. She was wearing a white bush jacket, which became splattered with blood that gushed from a wound in her head. On orders of President Corazon Aquino, she was airlifted from Tarlac to a Manila hospital. She underwent surgery on the jaw, and had a near-death experience. She was rendered immobile from grave physical injuries during the car crash. A Catholic priest administered the last rites of the dying. But two months later, by sheer force of will, she was back on the campaign trail.
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.
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?”
Senator of the Philippines
She was first elected senator in 1995. 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 is widely regarded by the Filipino public as among the most brilliant Philippine senators in the history of the Senate. Her interpellations and amendments are sometimes quoted to explain the law. She is thorough and perspicacious. A champion debater in U.P., she is the most feared senator during Senate debates. But she is the most loved senator in the campuses.
Select media titles
- Super Girl at the state university
- Incorruptible lady
- Platinum lady
- Tiger lady
- Dragon lady
- Iron lady of Asia
- Queen of popularity polls
- Undisputed campus hero
- Magsaysay Award for Government Service, 1988, Asian equivalent of the Nobel Prize, Magsaysay Awards Foundation
- 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
- Most Outstanding Alumna in Law, University of the Philippines, 1988
- 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
- Reproductive Health Act of 2012
- Sin Tax Law
- Climate Change Act of 2009
- Renewable Energy Act of 2008
- Philippine Act on Crimes Against International Humanitarian Law
- Magna Carta of Women
- Cybercrime Act of 2012
- Archipelagic Baselines Act of 2009
- Framework Convention on Tobacco Control
- Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court
- Anti-Dynasty bill
- Anti-Epal bill
- Prevention of Child Exploitation bill
- Freedom of Information bill
- Magna Carta for Philippine Internet Freedom bill
Select books published
- 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.
- Constitution 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.
Central Law Book Publishers, 2002-2003
- International Relations. Central Law Book Publishing. 2002.
- 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.
New Day Publishers
- Inventing Myself, An Autobiography. New Day Publishers. 1991.
- A Frabjous Day and Other Stories. New Day Publishers. 1993.
Woman Today Publications
- Cutting Edge: The Politics of Reform in the Philippines. Woman Today Publications. 1993.
Globelink Publications, Inc.
- Where Angels Fear to Tread: Politics and Religion. Globelink Publications, Inc. 1997.
- At the Turn of the Century: National Policy Issues in the Philippines. Globelink Publications, Inc. 1997.
Worldview Publications and Charles Morgan Printing
- Christianity vs. Corruption. Worldview Publications and Charles Morgan Printing. 2001.
- How to Fight Graft. Movers Publications. 1991.
- How to Fight Election Fraud. Movers Publications. 1991.
- The Miriam Defensor Santiago Dictionary. Movers Publications. 1991.
ABS-CBN Publishing, Inc.
- Stupid is Forever. ABS-CBN Publishing, Inc. 2014.
Supreme Court cases won
- 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.
- Brocka v. Enrile, 192 SCRA 183 (1990)
- "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.
- "PRESS STATEMENT ON SENATOR SANTIAGO'S ELECTION AS ICC JUDGE". Senate Press Releases. Senate of the Philippines. December 13, 2011. Retrieved 6 June 2013.
- Ayee Macaraig. It's final: Miriam steps down as ICC judge. Rappler. Retrieved February 8, 2015.
- Ayee Macaraig. "Miriam Santiago: I have lung cancer". Rappler. Retrieved September 25, 2014.
- Santiago Mir.html Biography of Miriam Defensor Santiago, The Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation. Retrieved December 7, 2006.
- 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.
- Defensor Santiago, Miriam (1994). Inventing Myself. New Day Publishers of the Christian Literature Society of the Philippines, Inc. p. 82. ISBN 971-10-0552-2.
- "Manila Journal; Battling the 'Culture of Corruption' Day by Day - New York Times". Nytimes.com. 1988-05-26. Retrieved 2013-06-03.
- "Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago - Senate of the Philippines". Senate.gov.ph. Retrieved 2011-03-13.
- "A Sharp Tongue Propels A Philippine Candidate". The New York Times. May 10, 1992.
- "A Sharp Tongue Propels A Philippine Candidate - New York Times". Nytimes.com. 1992-05-10. Retrieved 2011-03-13.
- "Miriam Defensor-Santiago | 2010 Philippine Election". 2010.pinoyvote.info. Retrieved 2011-03-13.
- About Miriam, Santiago's official website
- THE PHILIPPINE SENATE’S “DEMI MOORE”, Santiago's official website
- 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.
- "Power Failures Slow Philippine Vote Count - New York Times". Nytimes.com. 1992-05-24. Retrieved 2011-03-13.
- "Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago - Senate of the Philippines". http://www.Senate.gov.ph. Retrieved 2011-03-13.
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