Miriam Defensor-Santiago

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Former Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago

Miriam Palma Defensor Santiago (15 June 1945 – 29 September 2016) was a Filipina politician and a Senator of the Philippines. Popularly known as Miriam, she was the founder and former leader of the People's Reform Party as well its former presidential candidate. She was a recipient of the 1985 Ten Outstanding Young Men (TOYM) Award for Law and 1988 Magsaysay Award for Government Service. The Ramon Magsaysay Award is considered the equivalent of the Nobel Prize in Asia. She was also named one of “The 100 Most Powerful Women in the World” by The Australian magazine.

Santiago has been dubbed as the "Iron Lady of Asia" for her no-nonsense drive against graft and corruption when she served all the three branches of the government—judicial, executive, and legislative.

She was the first Filipino and the first Asian from a developing country to be elected in the United Nations as a judge of the International Criminal Court (ICC). However, she waived the privilege of being an ICC judge. She suffered from chronic fatigue syndrome for two years and was diagnosed with lung cancer stage 4 in June 2014.

In October 2015, she declared her candidacy for the 2016 Presidential elections. Bongbong Marcos was her running mate for Vice President. Among the issues most important to her were: education; job creation and support to entrepreneurs; public order and illegal drugs; youth, women, and family relations; health and demography; and revision of codes and laws. With 1,455,532 or 3.42% of total votes, she lost to PDP-Laban candidate Rodrigo Duterte.

Early Life and Education

Santiago was born on June 15, 1945 in Iloilo City, Iloilo to District Judge Benjamin A. Defensor and Dimpna Palma Defensor. In her youth, she was an accomplished student, graduating as class valedictorian in both elementary and high school levels.

Despite a three-month bout with illness, Santiago graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from the University of the Philippines Visayas in 1965. She finished it in only three and a half instead of four years.

She was the first female editor-in-chief of the university's student newspaper, The Philippine Collegian, in its fifty-year history. She was twice made Corps Sponsor of the Reserve Officer Training Corps. In later years, she would claim to have held a campus beauty title twice, despite not having actually won any beauty contest by any standard.

An accomplished debater, Santiago has participated in numerous oratorical, public speaking, and debate contests in high school, college, and law school. She earned a Bachelor of Laws, cum laude, from the University of the Philippines Diliman in 1969. Her successful classmates include the likes of former Senate President Franklin Drilon, San Juan Representative Ronaldo Zamora, and Eli Pamatong. Unlike Drilon and Zamora, who both opted to enter big law firms, Santiago instead taught Political Science to undergraduates at the Trinity College of Quezon City. Miriam took and passed the 1969 Bar Exams even without intensive preparations.

She earned the following degrees: Bachelor of Arts, magna cum laude, and Bachelor of Laws, cum laude, from the University of the Philippines (UP). Santiago pursued higher learning, earning the titles "Master of Laws", and "Doctor of Law", from the University of Michigan. She also has done postdoctoral studies from different prestigious universities in the world. In 1996, at the age of fifty-one, she attended the Summer Program of Instruction for Lawyers at Harvard Law School. In 1997, at age fifty-two, she attended the Summer Program in Law at Oxford University. She wrote and published her own law and political science textbooks, in 2002.

In 1986, Santiago was recognized as one of the Ten Outstanding Young Men' of the Philippine Junior Chamber of Commerce. In 1988, she campaigned for and won the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Government Service, which is known as Asia's equivalent of the Nobel Prize. In 1996, the "Australian Women's Magazine ranked Santiago 69th among "The 100 Most Powerful Southeast Asian Women in the World", sharing the honor with former Philippine Lady of the Shoes, Imelda Marcos, who ranked 58th. It has been claimed by reports that the Filipino masses regard her as possibly the most intelligent living Filipino citizen and the most academically prepared public official. Many female law students view her as an epitome of women empowerment, scholastic excellence, and professionalism.

Private Career

Santiago was a lecturer in political science in Trinity College of Quezon City from 1971 to 1974 and concurrently Special Assistant to the Secretary of Department of Justice from 1970 to 1980. She was also a member of the Board of Censors for Motion Pictures from 1977 to 1979. She served as a legal officer of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees from 1979 to 1980. She was also one of the legal consultants at the Washington, D.C. office. She was finally rewarded with an appointment 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. From 1992 to 1995 and from 2001 to 2004, she had lectured at the University of Santo Tomas, Colegio de San Juan de Letran, and the University of Perpetual Help System DALTA.

Political Life

Santiago was appointed by President Corazon Aquino as Commissioner of the Bureau of Immigration and Deportation in 1988. She served in that capacity until 1989. She was Secretary of the Department of Agrarian Reform from 1989 to 1991.

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

Following a string of power outages, the tabulation concluded and Ramos was declared the winner. Santiago filed a protest before the Supreme Court of the Philippines acting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, claiming massive electoral fraud and citing the power outages as evidence. Her protest was eventually dismissed.

Santiago ran for the Senate of the Philippines in 1995 elections, again as a candidate of her own People's Reform Party. As a Senator, Santiago became a vocal critic of the Ramos Administration.

Santiago again ran for president in the 1998 elections and invited fellow Senator Francisco Tatad to be her running mate. Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino candidate Joseph Estrada won the election and became president, though Santiago again made claims of election fraud. After the election, Santiago returned to the senate.

Santiago was among the most frugal of the senators. Studies made by some independent research groups yielded the names of Santiago’s fellow majority bloc members, Senators Joker Arroyo, Edgardo Angara and Manny Villar as among the so-called top spenders in the last elections.

Select laws and treaties, authored or sponsored

  • Reproductive Health Bill 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 Prevention Act of 2012
  • Archipelagic Baselines Act of 2009

International Criminal Court Election

In December 2011, the Department of Foreign Affairs announced the proclamation of Sen. Miriam Santiago as the newest judge of the International Criminal Court (ICC). She is the first Filipino and first Asian from a developing country to sit in the tribunal that tries cases of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.

According to a report from the Philippine Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York, Sen. Santiago was “overwhelmingly elected” in elections held by the Assembly of States Parties on December 12 in New York. She made it to the court with 79 votes out of 104 votes cast.

Sen. Santiago said that she would have to leave the Senate to take her seat in The Hague, The Netherlands.

Renato Corona Impeachment Trial

Miriam Defensor-Santiago was among the three senator-judges who voted “not guilty” in favor of former Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona during the impeachment trial. She was consistent in criticizing the prosecution in their handling of the case, and maintained that Corona's failure to declare $2.4 million in his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth was not an impeachable offense.

Pickup Lines and Her Reproductive Health Bill Campaign

Sen. Santiago, known for her feisty character, was said to have reinvented herself when she began to include pickup lines in her speeches, especially during the controversial Reproductive Health Bill forums. She is known to be an active advocate of the passing of the bill into law.

To view Sen. Santiago's pick up lines, click here.

Personal Life

Santiago was married to Narciso Yap Santiago Jr., her former classmate at the University of the Philippines. Narsing, as he is known to many, was once an undersecretary for Interior and Local Governments, and was appointed presidential adviser for revenue enhancement in 2017. He is also a businessman.

The Santiagos have two biological children, Narciso III and Alexander Robert or AR.

On 20 November 2003, their younger son, AR, died by suicide.


Earlier in September 2016, two years after Miriam said that she had stage 4 lung cancer, the former lawmaker was brought to St. Luke's for cancer treatment. She stayed there until she succumbed to cancer on 29 September 2016. According to her husband, Miriam died peacefully in her sleep. She was 71 years old.

Her remains were brought to Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Cubao.


Asian Regional Award

  • Magsaysay Award for Government Service, 1988. Asian Equivalent of the Nobel Prize, Magsaysay Awards Foundation

National Awards

  • 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

  • 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

University Awards

  • Diamond Award for Excellence in the Legal Profession

University of the Philippines Portia Sorority, 1993

  • Professional Award in Law, 1988

University of the Philippines Alumni Association

  • Most Outstanding Alumna Award, 1997

University of the Philippines Visayas

  • Outstanding Alumna Award, 1995

Iloilo High School Alumni Association, Inc

  • Most Outstanding Alumna, 1991

La Paz Elementary School Iloilo City

  • People's Service Award, 1990

University of the East College of Law Student Government

  • Achievement Award, 1989

Angeles University Foundation

  • Award of Achievement, 1988

Centro Escolar University Graduate School Alumni Association

  • Award of Outstanding Recognition, 1988

Iloilo National High School

  • Brown Visiting Fellow Award, 1988

Trinity College of Quezon City

  • Distinguished Icon of Legal Excellence and Public Service, UP, September 2016

Religious Awards

  • Award of Excellence in Public Service, 1988

Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches, Inc.

  • Award of Recognition for Public Service, 1988

Roman Catholic Archbishops and Bishops of Manila

  • Woman of the Year Award, 1988

Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines

Government awards

  • Award of Recognition for Best Agency Productivity, 1988

Government Productivity Improvement Program Council

  • Outstanding Ilongo Award 1989 for Good Government

Iloilo Provincial Government

  • Leadership Award, 1988

Philippine Ports Authority

  • Distinguished Achievement Award, 1986

National Police Commission

  • Outstanding Young Woman of Iloilo Award for Law, 1984

Ilang-Ilang Jaycees and Iloilo Provincial Government

Civil Awards

  • Woman of Distinction Award, 1988

Soroptimist International of Greater Manila

  • Integrity of Profession Award, 1988

Soroptimist International of Quezon City

  • Award of Distinction, 1988

Zonta International of Baguio City

  • Outstanding Achievement Award, 1994

Rotary Club of Cabanatuan City

  • Award of Distinction, 1989

Rotary Club of Roxas City

  • Outstanding Public Servant Award, 1989

Rotary International District 378 in Quezon City

  • Achievement Award, 1991

Iloilo Association of Guam

  • Golden Cross Achievement Award, 1990

10th Battalion Combat Team Peftok

  • Medal of Honor and Woman of the Year Award, 1989

Foundation of Phil-American Medical Society of New Jersey, Inc.

  • Award of Distinction, 1988

Girl Scouts of the Philippines Iloilo Chapter

  • Distinguished Public Service Award, 1988

Barangay U.P. Village Senior Citizens Organization

Media Awards

  • The 100 Most Powerful Women in the World, The Australian Magazine, 1996
  • Public Service Award, 1991

Pambansang Unyon ng Mamamahayag sa Medya

  • News Personality of the Year, 1988

ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corporation

Student Awards

  • First female Editor-in-Chief, The Philippine Collegian, 1968, after 50 years
  • Editor for Articles, Philippine Law Journal, 1968-69
  • First female Editor-in-Chief, The Law Register, l966-67.
  • Vice-Chairman, UP Student Council, 1967-68.
  • Corps Sponsor, UP ROTC, 1964 and l968.
  • President, Corps Sponsors Association of Greater Manila, 1968.
  • Awardee, Presidential Pin for Academic Excellence, 1963, 1965, and 1969.
  • Member, Order of the Purple Feather Law Honor Society, 1965-69.
  • Recipient, Rotary Award for Most Outstanding Graduate, 1963 and 1965.
  • Recipient, Vinzons Achievement Award for Leadership, 1968 and 1969.
  • Awardee, Ten Outstanding Coeds of the University of the Philippines, 1966.
  • First Female Awardee, Carlos Romulo Gold Medal for Best Debater
  • Ferdinand Marcos Gold Trophy, UP Law annual debate, 1967
  • First Prize, Iloilo Lions Oratorical Contest, 1964.
  • First Prize, Oratorical, Essay, Poetry, and Short Story Contests, UP Visayas, 1963.
  • Editor-in-Chief, UP Visayas Monthly Magazine, 1961-65.
  • President, Iloilo Student Press Association, 1962-63.
  • Gold Medal for Best Debater, Representing UP Visayas, 1964.
  • Chairman, Students' Consultative Council for the City Mayor, 1960- 61.


  • Phi Kappa Phi International Honor Society
  • Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society
  • Integrated Bar of the Philippines
  • U.P. Law Alumni Association
  • U.P. Women Lawyers' Circle
  • Philippine Society of International Law
  • Fellows of the Asia Foundation
  • California Judicial College Alumni Association
  • Association of TOWNS Awardees
  • Alumni Association of the Academy of American International Law
  • Honorary member, Zonta International of Makati
  • Honorary member, Manila Lakambini Lions Club
  • Honorary member, Philippine Military Academy Alumni Association, Inc.

Select Published Works

  • Stupid is Forevermore. ABS-CBN Publishing, Inc. 2015.
  • Stupid is Forever. ABS-CBN Publishing, Inc. 2014.
  • Constitutional Law Annotated. Central Law Book Publishing.
  • International Relations. Central Law Book Publishing.
  • Politics and Governance. Central Law Book Publishing.
  • The Miriam Defensor Santiago Dictionary. Narsan Publishing.
  • The Politics of Reform in the Philippines. Narsan Publishing.
  • Inventing Myself. Narsan Publishing
  • Cutting Edge: The Politics Of Reform In The Philippines, 1994
  • A Frabjous Day and Other Stories, 1997
  • International Relations: A College Textbook
  • Inventing Myself: An Autobiography with Helen L Valmayor, 1994
  • Civil Code Annotated
  • Corporation Code Annotated
  • Election Code Annotated
  • Insurance Code Annotated
  • Local Government Code Annotated
  • National Internal Revenue Code Annotated
  • Penal Code Annotated
  • Rules of Court Annotated, 2nd ed.
  • Tariff and Customs Code Annotated
  • Constitutional Law, Vol. 1 - Political Structure, 2nd ed.
  • Constitutional Law, Vol. 2 - Bill of Rights, 2nd ed.
  • The 1972 Constitution
  • International Law, With Philippine Cases and Materials and ASEAN Instruments
  • International Law (co-author)
  • Political Offenses in International Law
  • International Relations, 2nd ed.
  • Christianity Versus Corruption, Political Theology for the Third World
  • At the Turn of the Century, National Policy Issues in the Philippines
  • Cutting Edge, The Politics of Reform in the Philippines
  • Where Angels Fear to Tread, Politics and Religion
  • How to Fight Election Fraud
  • How to Fight Graft


  • Times have changed. It has already worn out its value.
  • 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!
  • I eat death threats for breakfast.


  • 1st Filipina Secretary of Agrarian Reform.
  • 1st Filipina Editor-in-Chief of the Philippine Collegian, a student newspaper in the University of the Philippines (U.P.).
  • 1st Filipina to win the Best Debater Award in law school.
  • Considered as the most intelligent Senator the Philippines has ever produced.
  • 1st Filipino and 1st Asian from a developing country to sit in the tribunal of the International Criminal Court.


http://www.senate.gov.ph/senators/sen_bio/santiago_bio.asp Biography of Miriam Santiago (Accessed on May 12, 2009)

DEFENSOR-SANTIAGO, Miriam Palma in I-site(Accessed on May 12, 2009)

Miriam's Quotes(Accessed on May 12, 2009)

Detailed Biography of Miriam Defensor Santiago from the RM Foundation (Accessed on May 12, 2009)

Complete List of Miriam Defensor Santiago's Awards(Accessed on May 12, 2009)

http://www.senate.gov.ph/senators/sen_bio/santiago_agenda.asp "Legislative Agenda of Senator Defensor-Santiago" senate.gov.ph (accessed 23 April 2010)

https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=2479&dat=20031121&id=77hjAAAAIBAJ&sjid=eyUMAAAAIBAJ&pg=3364,11261924&hl=en Esplanada, Jerry. Miriam says son committed suicide. (Accessed 27 November 2010)

Yamsuan, Cathy and Santos, Tina. https://globalnation.inquirer.net/20807/miriam-santiago-wins-seat-in-international-court Miriam Santiago wins a seat in international court. (Accessed on 27 November 2012)

Evangelista, Kate. https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/202853/santiago-votes-to-acquit-corona Santiago votes to acquit Corona. (Accessed on 27 November 2012)

The Reproductive Health Bill: Logic 101. (Accessed on 27 November 2012)

“Books by Miriam Defensor-Santiago”.goodreads.(Accessed on 29 November 2013).

“Books by Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago”.Miriam Defensor Santiago.(Accessed on 29 November 2013).

“Books by Miriam Defensor-Santiago”.amazon.(Accessed on 29 November 2013).

“Books by Miriam Defensor Santiago”.Vibe Bookstore.(Accessed on 29 November 2013).

“About”.Miriam Defensor Santiago.(Accessed on 2 February 2016).

https://www.gmanetwork.com/news/news/nation/583161/former-senator-miriam-defensor-santiago-dies-at-age-71/story/ “Former senator Miriam Defensor Santiago dies at age 71”.GMA News Online.(Accessed on 4 October 2016)


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