Former Senator and three-time presidential candidate Miriam Defensor Santiago passed away this morning, after a long battle with cancer.
The news was confirmed by her husband, Atty. Jun Santiago. “She died peacefully in her sleep this morning,” he said to GMA News.
This comes a shock after her announcement in 2015 that she had “beat cancer.”
Miriam Defensor Santiago was a Ramon Magsaysay awardee for Public Service in 1988, at age 43, and was named one of The 100 Most Powerful Women in the World in 1997 by The Australian magazine.
She is also notable for having served in all three branches of the government. A legal prodigy, she became special assistant to the Secretary of Justice at 25, served for 10 years in the United Nations’ justice department, and was appointed the youngest judge of the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City. In 1988, her career in the executive branch began when she was appointed Commissioner of Immigration and Deportation, a job that drew international attention to her, as she filled the Immigration detention center with foreign criminals, undesirables, and even operatives from the notorious Yakuza. She was elected to the senate in 1995.
Ms. Defensor-Santiago lost to Fidel V. Ramos in the 1992 presidential elections, and she filed a protest before the Supreme Court on grounds of electoral fraud, which she claimed was caused by the nationwide strings of power outages.
She subsequently built a formidable reputation in the Senate by filing an astounding 1,324 bills and resolutions. Some of her most famous bills are the Anti-Signage of Public Works Act, more commonly referred to as the Anti-Epal Bill, the Anti-Political Dynasty Act of 2005, and the Magna Carta for Philippine Internet Freedom, which contains provisions on civil and political rights governing cyberspace. She was a key player in exposing the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF, or “pork barrel”) scam.
She ran again for president in 1998, and came in 7th, with just 3% of the vote.
In 2014, Santiago was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer, and this diagnosis was a criticism against her candidacy in the 2016 presidential elections.
As notable as Santiago’s accomplishments is her sense of humor. Having written some 30 books, mostly on law and the social sciences, her more recent series, Stupid is Forever, a collection of jokes and pick-up lines, sold 110,000 copies in its first month.