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Miriam Santiago: The Lady Dragon and Iron Lady of Asia

Miriam Defensor Santiago (born Miriam Palma Defensor on June 15, 1945) is a Judge-elect of the International Criminal 
Court and a member of the Senate of the Philippines.
She is a lawyer, former trial judge and lecturer on constitutional and international law.

She served as the Commissioner of the Philippine Bureau of Immigration and Deportation in 1988 and the Secretary of the Philippines' Department of Agrarian Reform from 1989 to 1991. She is the founder and current leader of the center-right People's Reform Party allied with former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo,[ and is a recipient of the Ramon Magsaysay Award for government service awarded by the Junior Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines.

In 1965, Santiago graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science, magnum cum laude from the University of the Philippines Visayas. It took her only three and a half years including summer school to complete her degree. After graduation, she was elected to the Pi Gamma Mu and Phi Kappa Phi sororities.

After a three-month bout with illness, Santiago attended the University of the Philippines Diliman. There, she continued to participate in numerous oratorical, public speaking, and debate contests. She became the first female editor of a student newspaper, The Philippine Collegian and was twice made ROTC muse.Her successful classmates included 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 chose to make her own law firm known as Miriam Defensor Santiago and Associates. She also taught Law subjects at Trinity College now known as Trinity University of Asia, and University of the Philippines as part-time job.

She earned a Bachelor of Laws degree, cum laude, from the University of the Philippines College of Law in Diliman. Santiago pursued higher learning, claiming to have earned an LL.M. after only 6 months and LL.D. from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor with flying colors. She attended postdoctoral courses at various prestigious international universities. In 1996, she attended the Summer Program for Lawyers at Harvard Law School. In 1997, she attended the Summer Program in Law at Oxford University and has since claimed alumna status at both institutions. She wrote and published her own law and political science textbooks at her own printing press.[ She has also attended several other prestigious international universities including Stanford University, University of California at Berkeley, and the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom.


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.

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, l968, after 50 years.
Editor for Articles, Philippine Law Journal, l968-69.
First female Editor-in-Chief, The Law Register, l966-67.
Vice-Chairman, U.P. Student Council, l967-68.
Corps Sponsor, UP ROTC, l964 and l968.
President, Corps Sponsors Association of Greater Manila, l968.
Awardee, Presidential Pin for Academic Excellence, l963, l965 and l969.
Member, Order of the Purple Feather Law Honor Society, l965-69.
Recipient, Rotary Award for Most Outstanding Graduate, l963 and l965.
Recipient, Vinzons Achievement Award for Leadership, l968 and l969.
Awardee, Ten Outstanding Coeds of the University of the Philippines, l966.
First female awardee, Carlos Romulo Gold Medal for Best Debater,
and Ferdinand Marcos Gold Trophy, U.P. Law annual debate, l967
First Prize, Iloilo Lions oratorical contest, l964.
First Prize, oratorical, essay, poetry, and short story contests, U.P. Visayas, l963.
Editor-in-Chief, U.P. Visayas monthly magazine, l961-65.
President, Iloilo Student Press Association, l962-63.
Gold Medal for Best Debater, representing U.P. Visayas, l964.
Chairman, Students' Consultative Council for the City Mayor, l960- 6l.


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.

Published works

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


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.


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