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September 30, 2016

Sen Miriam Defensor Santiago: 1945 – 2016

Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago was confirmed to have passed away this morning, 29 September 2016.

The senator had been battling Stage 4 lung cancer. Feisty as she was, this did not stop her from running for the presidency a third time earlier this year. She also ran for president in 1992 against former President Fidel V. Ramos. Ramos won amid allegations of cheating. Santiago ran again in 1998 but lost to actor-turned-politician Joseph Estrada.
Santiago is one of the rare public servants who have served all three branches of government – judicial, executive, and legislative.

Judiciary. Santiago, as a young judge during the Martial Law regime, was considered the first to rule against Martial Law when she decided in favor of UP and Ateneo students who were protesting the lavish lifestyle of former first lady Imelda Marcos.

Executive. After martial law, in 1988, President Corazon Aquino appointed Santiago as Commissioner of Immigration and Deportation. She made the news after filling the CID Detention Center with alien criminals, and ordered the 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. In her efforts to curb corruption in the CID, she was quoted as saying, after receiving serious death threats, “I eat death threats for breakfast.”

President Corazon Aquino later appointed Santiago to her cabinet as secretary of the Secretary of Agrarian Reform. Another controversy that showed incorruptibility of Defensor Santiago was when, after being asked if the hacienda belonging to the president’s family should be covered by agrarian reform, she replied that the family’s hacienda should be distributed among the farmers. Shortly thereafter, Santiago resigned from Aquino’s cabinet.

Legislative. Santiago has served the Senate for 3 terms: 1995-2001, 2004-2010, 2010-2016.

The laws Santaigo authored include the controversial Reproductive Health Act of 2012, the Sin Tax Law, the Climate Change Act of 2009, the Renewable Energy Act of 2008, the Philippine Act on Crimes Against International Humanitarian Law, the Unified Student Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education (Unifast) Act, the Cybercrime Act of 2012, and the Department of Information and Communication Technology Act the Archipelagic Baselines Act of 2009,

Santiago holds the record as the senator who has filed the most bills and resolutions: a total of 1,007 bills and resolutions, as of December 17, the last session day of Congress in 2014.
Among the bills Santiago sponsored or authored since her election in 2004 were the: Reproductive Health Act; Biofuels Law; Renewable Energy Law; Sin Tax Law; Magna Carta of Women; Anti-Photo and Video Voyeurism Act; Philippine Act on Crimes Against International Humanitarian Law, Genocide, and Other Crimes Against Humanity; Cybercrime Law; Seatbelt Law; Exact Change Act; Philippine Standard Time Act; Motorcycle Helmet Act; Kasambahay Law; Anti-Bullying Law; Archipelagic Baselines Law; and Climate Change Act.

She also worked hard for the passage of the following bills: the Anti-Commercialization of Human Organs, Tissues or Parts of Living Persons Bill; the Anti-Epal Bill; the Anti-Political Dynasty Bill; Billboard Regulation Bill; Call Center Bill; Child Care Centers Bill; Certificate of Intention to Run for Public Office Bill; Clear Sidewalks Bill; Compulsory Teaching of Ethics Bill; Deceased Donor Bill; HIV and AIDS Bill; Magna Carta of Workers in the Informal Sector; Pthalate-Free Toy Bill; Special Education Bill; Magna Carta for Philippine Internet Freedom; and Whistleblowers Bill.

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 although she later resigned, citing chronic fatigue syndrome which turned out to be lung cancer.

In 2016, she became part of the International Advisory Council of the International Development Law Organization (IDLO), an intergovernmental body that promotes the rule of law.

She graduated Magna Cum Laude from UP Visayas before attending UP Law, where she graduated Cum Laude. After passing the bar examinations, she earned a Masters Degree in Law and Doctor of Juridical Science from the University of Michigan Law School. She also has a Masters in Theology.

She is succeeded by her husband Narciso ‘Jun’ Santiago Jr,, whom she married in 1970 with a renewal of vows in 2011, and son Narciso Santiago III. Another son, Alexander, passed away in 2003.

Defensor-Santiago was born June 15, 1945. She died today at the age of 71.

Miriam Defensor-Santiago was born June 15, 1945. She died today at the age of 71.

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