Tomo 6
Numero 5
December 2004

 

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Back in the limelight
Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago

Ni Bong PestaŮas


Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago

The Philippine Senate has been filled with the brilliant minds of the country but no one could probably match the intellectual prowess of Miriam Defensor-Santiago. Her mile-long resume is filled with achievements and her political career spans decades. Some call her the gem of the senate, and no other politician, active or otherwise, has her grasp of the English vocabulary. Her brilliance is often mistaken for lunacy, but to this, she just quotes Jonathan Swift: "When a true genius appears in this world, know her by this sign: the idiots are all united against her".

Born June 15, 1945 in La Paz, Iloilo, Miriam comes from a family of public servants and educators. Her father was a district judge while her mother was a dean. She was valedictorian both in elementary and high school. College life was a breeze for her because she finished a four-year Bachelor of Arts course at the University of the Philippines in only three years and a half, graduating magna cum laude. Sheís also the cum laude of the UP College of Law in 1969. She holds numerous post-graduate degrees from different schools here in the Philippines and abroad, including a doctorate of laws from the University of Michigan. The senator also studied in Oxford University, Stanford University, Harvard University, and the University of California in Berkeley.

A number of firsts are in her list as well. Miriam was the first female editor-in-chief of the University of the Philippinesí school paper, The Ph聩lippine Collegian. She was also the first female debater to win the Best Debater award in the UP Law School. She received dozens of awards that earned her the nickname Ďthe most awarded public servant in the countryí. It seems that in everything she does, she excels.

Her political life was both colorful and dangerous. She almost became president in 1992, if not for the alleged anomalous election system of the country. "I eat death threats for breakfast" became very famous when Miriam boldly announced to the world that she had the occasional run-ins with the local bad guys and political enemies.

Fast facts:

Position:
Philippine Senator

Date of Birth :
15 June 1945

Place of Birth :
Iloilo City, Philippines

Civil Status :
Married 1970; two children, born 1971 and 1981; and two foster children,
born 1996

Awards:
Magsaysay Award for government service 1988
TOYM Award for law 1985 (The Outstanding Young Men)
TOWNS Award for law 1986 (The Outstanding Women in the Nation's Service)
The 100 Most Powerful Women in the World, The Australian magazine, 1996
News Personality of the Year 1988, ABS-CBN

Controversy never left her side when she became the first woman picked as head of the Department of Agrarian Reform and the Bureau of Immigration and Deportation. Itís her willingness to clean up the graft-ridden government agencies she headed that earned her the Ramon Magsaysay Award, the Asian equivalent of the Nobel Prize.

Miriam gained her no-nonsense reputation while working as the presiding judge of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court. She had the highest number of dispositions among all judges within Metro Manila. She brought that same approach when she became a senator in 1995. Her exposes included the multi-billion Peso ĎExpo Filipinoí scam in preparation for the centennial celebration of the Philippine Independence. Many thought that it was Miriamís way of getting back at former President Fidel Ramos, her top adversary in the Ď92 elections. But Miriam explained that it was her duty to track down crooks, even if it involved the president. She also proposed the scrapping of the pork barrel, a move that earned the ire of many politicians.

One low point in her life was when her son, Alexander Robert ĎARí, passed away last year. She is still bitter about the incident and blames it on the institution she so well loved. The UP College of Law apparently turned down the young Santiago from entering the college only because he was related to the senator and his dad, Narciso "Jun" Santiago held different positions in the government. AR couldnít take the bad rap he was getting from the faculty so he decided to take his own life. To this day, Miriam is furious on the UP College of Law and vows to take action, to find the culprits behind her sonís untimely demise.

The Philippine Senate has been filled with the brilliant minds of the country but no one could probably match the intellectual prowess of Miriam Defensor-Santiago. Her mile-long resume is filled with achievements and her political career spans decades. Some call her the gem of the senate, and no other politician, active or otherwise, has her grasp of the English vocabulary.

Today, Miriam is back in the Senate. "The fun is back" says most people who remain entertained by the senatorís privilege speeches (she holds the record for having the most number) and informed by her numerous controversial exposes. She is back on the warpath, trying to clean up the graft-ridden Armed Forces of the Philippines.

The senator is also coming into terms with her sonís death, so itís about time to find the people responsible for ARís death. The University of the Philippines is taking fire from Miriam, and the ladyís quest has just begun. The no-nonsense attitude is back. The death threats are back too, but Miriam faces them with dignity. "Luma na ang death threats! Weapons of mass destruction na ang uso ngayon, tanga!" she exclaims in one of her privilege speeches.

Right now, sheís not afraid to look death in the eye as she calmly explains, "If you want to kill me, then kill me. Iím not afraid. Maybe if Iím already looking at the barrel of the gun, then thatís the time Iíll be afraid".

A manís intelligence is measured by the grades he gets. But courage? Courage is immeasurable.

 

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