Former Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago succumbed to lung cancer and peacefully passed away Thursday morning. She was 71 years old.
According to her husband Narciso Santiago, “she was unconscious” when she died at St. Luke’s Medical Center in Taguig City at 8:52 AM, which he posted to Miriam’s official Twitter page.
Daughter-in-law also confirmed Santiago’s passing to online news website Rappler, while Senator Grace Poe reiterated the unfortunate news during the hearing of the Senate Committee on public information and mass media on the Freedom of Information Bill (FOI).
She is survived by her husband and son, Narciso III.
In July 2014, Santiago announced in a press conference that she is “the only senator who has been diagnosed with lung cancer”, and admitted that the ailment, which was then on stage 4, is making it hard for her to breath. However, the strong-willed Senator then retorted by saying that she is not afraid of cancer.
“There’s nothing I’m afraid of. Because what can I do? God never asked us for our opinion,” she added. It was also her frail condition that made her step down as International Criminal Court judge the previous month.
Born in Iloilo City on June 15, 1945, Miriam was the eldest of seven children. Her father, Benjamin Defensor was a local judge, while his mother Dimpna Palma was a school teacher. In 1965, she graduated magna cum laude from her Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science at the University of the Philippines Visayas with a GPA of 1.0, the highest in the school’s history.
She then pursued her undergraduate degree in law at the University of the Philippines College of Law, and graduated as cumlaude. During that time, Santiago also became the first female editor of The Philippine Collegian, the school’s official student publication.
Her higher education pursuit also includes a Masters of Law and Doctor of Judicial Science degree at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and taught political science at the Trinity University of Asia, and a law professor in her alma mater. Oxford, Harvard, Cambridge and the Hague Academy of International Law were likewise graced by Santiago.
Among others, Santiago served as a special assistant to the Secretary of Justice for ten years, and a Legal Officer for the United Nations Commissioner for Refugees at Geneva, Switzerland.
Santiago also became the youngest judge to be appointed to Metro Manila through President Ferdinand Marcos. As a Regional Trial Court judge, Santiago heard five cases a day and disposed the highest number of cases in her first year.
After the 1988 Marital Law, former President Corazon Aquino appointed Santiago as Commissioner of immigration and deportation and soon after, promoted to Agrarian Reform secretary.
In 1992, Santiago run for presidency, but lost to then President-elect Fidel Ramos despite leading for the first five days of canvassing. She served as Senator of the Republic from 1995-2001, 2004-2010 and in 2010-present. Her latest tirade was when she again ran for president alongside then Senator Bongbong Marcos in October of last year.
Senator Miriam Santiago has great contributions for the welfare of our country. Her continuous pursuit of justice with absolute courage has earned her the title the woman with the iron fist. Rest in peace madam Senator, surely you will be missed. Lastly, we would like to extend dear our deepest condolences to the family of the late senator. Stay strong and God bless.