Miriam Santiago was born on June 15, 1945, in Iloilo City, Philippines. Her father, Benjamin Defensor, was a local judge and her mother, Dimpna Palma, a schoolteacher.

Miriam wanted to follow in the footsteps of her father and became a lawyer. She has been regarded for her high education and her achievements in the country. On September 29, 2019, it will be her second-year death anniversary.

Academic accomplishments

Miriam Santiago studied and attained degrees in law and social injustices from different universities.

She earned two degrees from the University of the Philippines; Bachelors of Arts, Magna cum Laude, and Bachelor of Laws, Cum Laude.

She then went on to pursue her studies abroad and took Masters of Laws and Doctor of Juridical Science in one of the most reputable law schools in the United States, University of Michigan.

Miriam was a law professor for almost 10 years in the University of the Philippines (UP) and a well-acclaimed author. Many of the books that she wrote were scholarly textbooks based on law and social sciences.

Political career

Santiago held a position in the Judicial, Executive, and Legislative, all three branches of the government office. She was a presiding judge of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court from 1983 to 1987 and was the Commissioner of Immigration and Deportation from 1988 to 1989. She also served as the secretary of the Agrarian Reform in 1989 and was the first female politician to be appointed to that position.

She served three terms as a Senator in 1995, 2004, and 2010.

Miriam was also assigned abroad, as a legal officer for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva, Switzerland from 1979 to 1980 and at the Philippine Embassy in Washington D.C. as a Legal Consultant in 1982.

On 1988 she was honoured with the Magsaysay Award for Government Service, this award is the Asian equivalent of the Nobel Prize.

She was recognised for her “bold and moral leadership in cleaning up a graft-ridden government agency.”

Miriam was the first Asian-Filipino woman to be elected by the United Nations as Judge for the International Criminal Court by the Assembly of States Parties in December 2011. The ICC deals with cases regarding genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.

On June 4, 2014, Miriam submitted her resignation in the ICC as she was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer.

Miriam ran for presidential elections in 1991 and 1998 and was defeated both times. In the year 2016, she sought the presidency for the third time after getting clearance from her American doctors who were treating her cancer but once again defeated.

She did not give up her political aspirations, she continued working on laws in the country such as the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act, The Data Privacy Act and the Cybercrime Prevention Act.

Quezon Service Cross

On December 2018, President Rodrigo Duterte posthumously granted Miriam Santiago the Quezon Service Cross, the highest award the Republic grants its public servants.

She became the sixth women in the country to have ever received this award.

During the President’s speech in the conferment ceremony, he said: “throughout her life, Senator Santiago profoundly stirred our nation, especially the youth, to challenge preconceived notions on political and social issues”.

Miriam Santiago died September 29, 2016, after being hospitalised for lung cancer.

Narciso Santiago, Miriam Santiago's husband accepted the award from the President and thanked the people for still acknowledging her accomplishments even after so many years.

Miriam Santiago's advocacy against corruption and her courage and determination is a lesson for all Filipinos.