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Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago was one of the most popular senators in the Philippines. To many, she was the best president we never had.
Miriam Defensor Santiago: Early Life
She was born in Ilo-Ilo City on June 15, 1945. She was a consistent honor student from elementary up to college. She graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from the University of the Philippines Visayas with a 1.0 GPA. She proceeded to finish her Bachelor of Laws from the University of the Philippines, where she graduated with Latin honors – cum laude. She passed the Bar exam in 1969.
She went on to study abroad earning her Master of Laws and Doctor of Juridical Science degrees at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, United States. She even attended other universities adding more to her already impressive academic credentials.
A Life of Public Service
After her studies, Miriam Defensor Santiago served as a special assistant in the Department of Justice; and as a Legal Officer of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees at Geneva, Switzerland.
After returning to the Philippines, she was appointed judge of the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City by Former President Ferdinand Marcos. She became famous as a fierce RTC judge during Martial Law. One notable ruling was when she ruled against the Preventive Detention Action Order of the President, which authorized the military to hold suspects of alleged illegal public assemblies indefinitely, without bail. Indeed, Miriam Defensor Santiago has balls as big as the iconic globe at the SM Mall of Asia. At the height of the Edsa People Power Revolution, President Marcos and his family fled to Hawaii on February 25, 1986.
Santiago was later appointed to various government positions, and even as a cabinet secretary during President Corazon Aquino’s regime. She served as Commissioner of the Bureau of Immigration and Deportation, which was considered as one of the ‘most corrupt’ agencies of the time. She combatted syndicates and illegal aliens. It was during this time that Miriam Defensor Santiago was quoted to say, “I eat death threats for breakfast.” She also served as the Secretary of Agrarian Reform, where she was quoted with her opinion that the haciendas belonging to the family of then President Aquino should be distributed for agrarian reform.
She entered politics, and won as Senator in 1995. She served as a Senator of the Philippines for three terms (1995- 2001, 2004-2010 and 2010-2016). Some of the most notable laws she authored / co-authored include the Magna Carta for Women, Cyber Crime Act of 2012, Reproductive Health Act of 2012, Renewable Energy Act of 2008, Climate Change Act of 2009, and the Archipelagic Baselines Act of 2009, which became one of the major basis for the country’s claims on maritime sovereignty, including those in the West Philippine Sea.
Miriam Defensor Santiago ran for president three times, but never won (1992, 1998 and 2016 election). Santiago has served in all three branches of the Philippine government – judicial, executive, and legislative. She will forever be remembered as The Iron Lady of Asia.
She wrote more than 30 books, but the most famous and those that touch the hearts even of the Filipino youth of today are her best-selling books – Stupid is forever and Stupid is Forevermore.
She was married to Narciso Santiago, Jr. for 45 years; and had 2 sons. They also had 4 additional children by adoption.
Retirement and Death
Today, September 29, 2016, the amazing women that was Miriam Defensor Santiago passed away while confined at the St. Luke’s Medical Center in Bonifacio Global City at the age of 71. She succumbed to lung cancer early this morning. May she rest in peace. As we pray for her, we also hope that she prays for the Philippines, the beloved country that she served both faithfully and fiercefully.
A few months before her death, she graced the commencement exercises in the Bulacan State University in April 2016. She said, “Nothing matters more to the future of this nation than to ensure that our young women and men learn to believe in themselves and in their dreams.” Let us not forget her challenge to the Filipino youth, and to all Filipinos: “You have a duty to challenge the status quo. Palagi mo i-challenge. Hindi lang tanggap ng tanggap, and create a better country for our people. Use your right to vote to change our country,” said Santiago. “You have immense influence over your family, friends and neighbors and tell them to make an intelligent choice.”