Miriam Defensor Santiago: 'God is not out there but in you'

Miriam entered public service as a special assistant to the Secretary of Justice in 1970. On the side, she was a political science professor at Trinity University of Asia, and as a lecturer at the UP College of Law a few years later.

From 1979 to 1980, she was a legal officer of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Geneva, Switzerland.

In 1983, during the waning years of the Marcos regime, Santiago became the presiding judge of Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 106, holding that post until 1987. 

She was then appointed Commissioner of Immigration and Deportation from 1988 to 1989, and secretary of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) from July 1989 to January 1990.

Also in 1988, Santiago was conferred the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Government Service, Asia's version of the Nobel Prize.

These achievements served as her launching pad to a Senate seat in the 1995 polls. She lost her reelection bid in 2001, but won new 6-year terms in 2004 and 2010.

She wrote a number of law books, but most Filipinos will associate her with the highly popular "Stupid is Forever" and its sequel "Stupid is Forevermore", collections of her witty jokes and pick-up lines. (READ: Miriam at 70: 'Stupid is Forevermore')


In 2011, Santiago was elected as a judge of the International Criminal Court (ICC), but was not able to assume office. 

In June 2014, she decided to forego the position and stepped down due to health reasons. She had "secured neither alleviation nor treatment from the medical profession for my illness, known as chronic fatigue syndrome," she explained.

The following month, Santiago announced she was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. She underwent medical treatment, and announced in October 2014 that 90% of her cancer cells have "regressed."

When she joined the 2016 presidential race, her health became a central issue. Santiago insisted that she was "completely free of cancer" when she refused to release her medical records in October 2015.

Her "guardian angel" did not take her away just yet, she quipped during the 1st presidential debate in February 2016.

But on May 31, 2016, she was admitted to the intensive care unit of the Makati Medical Center due to complications in her health condition. A week later, she was discharged from hospital.

In the last weeks of her life, Santiago was back at the hospital.

On September 29, while confined at St Luke's Medical Center in Taguig, she died in her sleep, according to her husband Jun Santiago. – Rappler.com

Top photo: Miriam Defensor Santiago during her supporters' street party in Quezon City, May 7, 2016. Photo by Martin San Diego/Rappler

Editor's note: There was an error in the names of Senator Santiago's parents in an earlier version of this story. This has been corrected.

Michael Bueza

Michael Bueza is a researcher and data curator under Rappler's Research Team. He works on data about elections, governance, and the budget. He also follows the Philippine pro wrestling scene and the WWE. Michael is also part of the Laffler Talk podcast trio.