It's often said that presidency is destiny. If true, then the presidency may not really be in the stars of Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, cellar-dweller in the 2016 presidential race.

Her presidential run this year is already her third.

Her star was brightest in the 1992 presidential contest, when she was only 46, in a quixotic campaign anchored on fighting (and insulting) trapos (traditional politicians), support from the youth, and a reformist crusade.

She nearly won in 1992, losing (by cheating, she insists, and filed a protest) by only around 870,000 votes (4-percentage points) to President Cory Aquino's anointed bet, former military and defense chief Fidel V. Ramos.

She ran again in 1998, when she was 52, but it was clear by then that she had lost her lustre. She placed 7th (out of 10) in 1998 in a race that was won by popular actor and then vice president Joseph Estrada.

If the surveys hold, then this will likely be Santiago's swan song. Stricken by lung cancer and already 70, a fourth presidential run in 2022, when she would be 76, is unlikely.

But it may not be her loss, but the country's.

Her academic record, as well as her experience in all branches of government--judiciary (as regional trial court judge), legislature (18 years as senator), and executive (immigration bureau, Department of Agrarian Reform) branches of government, cannot be topped by any of her current rivals.

She has shown great political skills in dealing with traditional politicians, despite her professed hatred of trapos. The Philippine presidency would surely be enhanced by her intellect and wit.

Media won't run out of sound bites and quotable quotes from a President Miriam. She already has 3 books of her popular quotes and sayings.

She wisely used traditional media in her 1992 campaign (only starting a press conference when the big networks were already present), and was one of the first politicians to tap social media for her political career. She currently has 3.5 million followers on Facebook, the most among the 5 presidential bets.

If she loses again this year, it would merely reaffirm that Santiago is ahead of her time. New politics simply can't win under old politics. Paraphrasing her latest book, it would prove that "stupid (politics) is forever."

But Santiago would certainly join the ranks of the best presidents the Philippines never had.


Topics Related to Miriam Santiago


(ABS-CBN News, Based on Research by ABS-CBN Investigative and Research Group)

Miriam Defensor-Santiago was born in June 15, 1945 in Iloilo City to parents Benjamin A. Defensor (former district judge) and Dimpna Palma Defensor.

Santiago grew up an academic achiever, graduating as top of her class in
La Paz Elementary School (1951-1957) and at the Iloilo Provincial National High School (1957-1961). She was also Magna Cum Laude at the B.A. Political Science program at the University of the Philippines Diliman, (1961-1965).

She passed the bar in 1969, and got 76 percent, with 56 percent in ethics subject.

Santiago earned more degrees over the years, namely: (Master of Arts in Religious Studies, Maryhill School of Theology, 1996); (Master of Laws, University of Michigan, 1975); Doctor of Human Letters (honoris causa), University of San Agustin); Doctor of Laws (honoris causa), Xavier University, Ateneo de Cagayan de Oro, 1989 Doctor of Laws (honoris causa), Centro Escolar University, 1989; Doctor of Juridical Science, University of Michigan, 1976.

Santiago began her career in civil service and served in various positions in the pre- and post-EDSA government. She was a columnist for various dailies and involved in international development organizations. She also taught law subjects in different universities.

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This is Santiago’s third attempt at clinching the presidency, as she had run twice before for the highest post in the land: in the 1992 and 1998 elections.

Santiago first entered politics in 1992 when she ran as president under the People’s Reform Party (PRP) where she lost to former President Fidel V. Ramos. Santiago claimed that she had been cheated.

In 1995, Santiago ran as a senator under the PRP and won. As a senator, she authored more than 600 bills and resolutions.

She ran again as president in 1998 but only placed seventh in the final election tally. In 2001, she lost her re-election bid for senator. She ran again as senator in 2004 and won under then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s K4 coalition.

In 2010, she ran again as a senator and won under the PRP.

On October 13, 2015, she announced her plan to run for president again. Two days later, she declared Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos Jr. as her running mate. This declaration drew mixed reactions from her supporters. Santiago filed her certificate of candidacy for president on October 16, 2015.

She is currently the chairman of the Senate committees on Constitutional Amendments and Revision of Codes and Foreign Relations, the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on Overseas Voting Acts of 2013, and the Legislative Oversight Committee on the Visiting Forces Agreement.

She previously chaired the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on Automated Election System, the Senate Special Oversight Committee on Economic Affairs, and the Senate Committee on Economic Affairs.



  • In June 2014, Santiago was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. A year later, she announced that the cancer growth in her lung “has been arrested” and that she was considering running for President. Dr. Sylvia Estrada-Claudio asked Santiago to release her medical records to prove she was treated but the senator refused, citing her right to privacy.


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  • On October 15, 2015, Santiago announced that Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. will be her running mate. She also stated that the Marcoses do not owe the Filipinos an apology. Her choice for running mate and her statement drew mixed reactions from her supporters and the public in general.


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  • Santiago, who chairs the Senate Committee on Constitutional Amendments and Revision of Codes, stated in her committee report submitted to the Senate Committee on Local Government (chaired by Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr.) that the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) should be “substantially revised” in order to pass legal scrutiny.


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  • Santiago was branded “Brenda,” short for “brain damage,” because of her rumored mental health issues. It started in the 1992 presidential election when she was rumored to be seeing a psychiatrist. It resurfaced in 2001, at the height of EDSA 3, when she said, “I will jump headfirst from a helicopter in Luneta if Estrada gets removed from power.” In an interview after President Joseph Ejercito Estrada was indeed ousted, she said “I lied” and laughed. This quote had often been parodied since then.
  • In a privilege speech answering the allegations Santiago hurled at him, Senator Juan Ponce Enrile said Santiago admitted to him that she was once under the care of a psychiatrist at the Makati Medical Center.


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  • On May 29, 2012, Santiago along with Senators Marcos and Arroyo, voted to acquit former Chief Justice Renato C. Corona on Article 2 of the impeachment complaint filed by the House of Representatives. Santiago said that the omission of certain information on Corona’s Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth is not impeachable.


  • On November 20, 2003, Santiago’s youngest son Alexander committed suicide at age 22.
  • When asked about the death of her son in an interview with Korina Sanchez in 2012, Santiago answered, “I do not understand why God can be all love and still inflict this kind of pain on people. This God is an underachiever. He does not do whatever he is supposed to be doing, whatever his sex is. Whether he's an it or a she or a he or whatever. But I'm sure that if you were a god or if I were the God, I would be doing a better job.” Her answer was considered as blasphemous by her critics.


  • In January 2001, during the impeachment trial of President Joseph E. Estrada, Santiago was among the few senator-judges who voted not to open the second envelope allegedly containing evidence against the President. The prosecutors of the trial walked out after the Senate ruled not to open the envelope, triggering the second EDSA People Power that would oust Estrada. Santiago claimed that because of her decision not to open the second envelope, she received a lot of flak from people such as DSWD Secretary Dinky Soliman “and her ilk” who, she said, “have felt free to denounce my integrity."


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  • Santiago was leading during the first five days of canvassing against Fidel V. Ramos, who was endorsed by then President Corazon Aquino. Ramos started to overtake Santiago as the votes from the provinces trickled in. She claimed that the results were manipulated because of massive power outages in many parts of the country. To protest the official count, Santiago went on a hunger strike. ,
  • Santiago filed an election protest before the Supreme Court, which acts as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, citing power outages as evidence.
  • On. Feb. 13, 1996, Santiago’s election protest was dismissed by the Supreme Court for becoming “moot and academic” as a consequence of Santiago’s “election and assumption of office as Senator.” Thereby causing her “abandonment or withdrawal” of the election protest.


  • During a speaking tour in Tarlac in April 1991, a car rammed Santiago’s vehicle at the side where she was seated. She sustained life-threatening injuries that rendered her immobile. She underwent surgery and survived. She would later describe it as an assassination attempt.

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1970-1980 Special Assistant to the Justice Secretary
1977-1979 Member, Board of Censors for Motion Pictures.
1982-1983 Legal Consultant, Philippine Embassy, Washington DC, USA 
1983 -1987 Presiding Judge, Regional Trial Court, Branch 106 Quezon City
1988 Commissioner, Commission of Immigration and Deportation.
1988-1991 Member of the Board of Directors, Public Estates Authority
1989 Member of the Board of Directors, Ninoy Aquino International Airport Authority
1989 Member of the Board of Directors, Philippine Retirement Authority
1989 Member of the Board of Directors, Land Bank of the Philippines 
1989-1990 Member of the Board of Directors, Land Bank of the Philippines 
As an educator  
1971-1974 Lecturer, Law, Trinity College of Quezon City
1976-1988 Lecturer, University of the Philippines College of Law
1981-1983 Legal Consultant, University of the Philippines Law Center
As a columnist  
1972 to 1975 Philippine Daily Express
1978 to 1979 and 1985-1988 Philippine Panorama
International work  
1989-1990 Legal Officer, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Geneva, Switzerland




Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago has authored the most number of bills and resolutions in the Senate. She authored policy measures that support her advocacies on fighting corruption, social inequality, women empowerment, foreign policy, environment and health. Among the notable bills she filed are the following:

  • On women empowerment: Magna Carta of Women, a women’s human rights law that aims to eliminate discrimination against women) ; Reproductive Health Act, which seeks to empower Filipino women especially those in the marginalized sector by giving them the freedom of informed choice on their reproductive rights; Safe Haven Bill, which caters to women unprepared or unfit for mother hood, while ensuring the safety of their babies; and Battered Women’s Testimony Bill, which seeks to facilitate the use of expert testimonies in cases of women subjected to domestic violence.
  • Renewable Energy Law- provides support to local government units for rebates, incentives, and loans to individuals or entities in order for them to acquire solar energy systems in the Philippines.
  • Sin Tax Law- an act restructuring the excise taxes on alcohol and tobacco products.
  • During the height of investigation on the corruption allegations against Vice President Binay, she authored PEP or Politically Exposed Person Watch Act (Senate Bill No. 2438), which seeks to expand the responsibilities of banks in avoiding money laundering activities.
  • Climate Change Act- created the Climate Change Commission that monitors, coordinates, and evaluates programs on climate change.
  • Anti-Photo and Voyeurism Act-an act prohibiting the distribution of photo or video of a person performing sexual act or any activity capturing an image of a private area.
  • Anti-Political Dynasty Bill- seeks to prohibit relatives up to second degree of consanguinity to hold or run for both local and national office.
  • Anti-EPAL Bill- seeks to ban politicians from taking credits on government signage public works projects.