NOTE: I gathered the following information from various sites featuring this candidate. If you wish to see something shorter (albeit containing limited info), GMA Network has a brief summary of the track record of all the candidates, which you can find by clicking here. The Philippine Star also has detailed profiles for each candidate, and you’ll find their feature on Santiago here.
Presiding Judge, Quezon City Regional Trial Court (1983-1987)
Santiago’s appointment to the trial court in Metro Manila was exceptional, because newcomers are usually appointed in the provinces before they are considered qualified to sit in Metro Manila trial courts. She soon proved her mettle, by decreeing that she would not entertain any motions to postpone trial. As a freshman judge, Miriam disposed of the highest number of cases in Metro Manila. Her reputation for integrity, competence, and efficiency became established, and she was showered with awards for judicial excellence from civic groups, notably as one of the Ten Outstanding Young Professionals of the Philippine Jaycees, and the Ten Outstanding Women in the Nation’s Service of the Philippine Lions.
Her decision to release students against a Martial Law edict, in a case involving an arrest warrant called Preventive Detention Action, was hailed as a courageous act that stressed judicial independence during a martial law situation.
Immigration and Deportation Commissioner (1988-1989)
In 1987 President Cory Aquino gave Santiago the mission of cleaning up the notoriously corrupt Commission on Immigration and Deportation.
Miriam rose to the challenge, and launched an anticorruption crusade that involved lightning raids on criminal syndicates that had made the Philippines notorious as the fake passport capital of Asia. She filled the immigration detention center to bursting with foreign criminals engaged in the pedophile industry, smuggling of illegal aliens, including prostitutes, import and export of illicit firearms and dangerous drugs, and even operatives of the infamous Yakuza.
Almost every week, the media were full of Miriam’s successful exploits against criminal syndicates. At this point, she earned the wrathful resentment of politicians who are patrons and benefactors of certain criminal syndicates.
For her extraordinary success in the capture of fugitives from justice, certain governments, such as the US, Australia, and Japan, invited Miriam to their countries to share her expertise in the enforcement of immigration law.
Agrarian Reform Secretary (1989)
Santiago instituted three major policies in agrarian reform. First, to concretize the basic philosophy of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law (CARL), she stressed that all doubts on the inclusion of lands in the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) should be resolved in favor of inclusion. Second, under her term, the DAR policy was to prefer the contract-growing principle over the lease-back arrangement, particularly with respect to corporate farms or plantations. Under the lease-back arrangement, the tiller would end up as the lessor who receives rent and remains a mere laborer of multinational corporations. In contrast, the principle of land to the tillers would still be practiced under the contract-growing scheme. The contract grower would have a say on how much would be produced and in marketing the produce. Third, the DAR shifted its land acquisition thrust from the voluntary offer-to-sell (VOS) scheme to compulsory acquisition of lands to hasten the pace of the CARP.
One of Miriam’s first acts as agrarian reform secretary was to halt all land transactions under the VOS method, and order the investigation of all past and pending transactions. Miriam sent Notices of Compulsory Acquisition to big landowners, including relatives of President Aquino, forcing them to sell some 5,000 hectares of land in northern Tarlac province.
Miriam’s boldest move as agrarian reform secretary was to ask President Aquino to inhibit herself from deliberations of the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC) on the stock distribution scheme of Hacienda Luisita. The president was the chairperson of PARC, while Santiago was its vice chairperson.
The Cojuangcos availed themselves of the CARP’s stock-transfer option scheme allowing the President’s family to distribute shares of stocks to the Cojuangco corporation instead of distributing land titles from the estate. Critics decried the scheme, saying it allowed the owners to retain control of the estate.
Miriam endorsed to Congress an alternative “people’s agrarian reform program” (Parcode) drafted by the Congress for People’s Agrarian Reform, a coalition of farmers’ groups including the militant Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and the conservative Federation of Free Farmers (FFF). She said the Parcode was a “superior piece of legislation” and “rational, highly logical, and consistent.” The Parcode put land retention limits to five hectares. Under the CARL, the retention limit was 11 hectares, which virtually exempted 75% of all agricultural lands from land reform. Miriam’s endorsement was hailed by farmers’ organizations.
Senator (1995-2001, 2004-2010 and 2010-2016)
During her earlier terms in the senate, the legislator filed 549 bills and 211 resolutions from 1995 to 2000. Topics covered were Human Rights, Governance, Youth and Women, Health and Safety and Education.
Santiago authored or sponsored the following bills passed into law: Access Devices Regulation Act, Agricultural Modernization Act, Automated Election System Act, Domestic Adoption Act, Downstream Oil Deregulation Act, Indigenous Peoples’ Act of 1996, Anti-Rape Law of 1997, Seatbelt Law, Intellectual Property Code, Banning right-hand steering, Assistance for rape victims, Regulating the practice of Mechanical Engineering, Act for general re-registration of voters, and Act on ARMM elections.
Miriam was the first senator in Philippine political history to decline a pork barrel allocation, on the ground that it was unconstitutional because it lacked an appropriation law, thus creating headlines. She was also the first legislator to expose building contractors who solicited public works projects from Congress members, with a promise to give an advance ten percent kickback.
As senator, Miriam became an ally of President Joseph Ejercito Estrada. He was impeached by the House of Representatives, and tried by the Senate as an impeachment court. Miriam was the only one of 24 senators who had served in the judiciary. As a former trial judge, she insisted that Estrada should be granted due process of law. Santiago showed that she was willing to take a stand, however unpopular, to uphold the Rule of Law. She stressed the importance of a country of laws, and not of the rule of the mob.
In 2004, Miriam won her second term as senator. She filed the most number of bills and resolutions. As chair of the powerful Senate energy committee, she sponsored the Biofuels Act of 2007 and the Renewable Energy Act of 2008, landmark legislations to reduce the country’s overdependence on imported oil and utilize clean and “green” sources of energy.
As chair of the Senate foreign relations committee, she successfully defended and secured Senate ratification to 22 important treaties: Framework Convention on Tobacco Control; Convention on the Conservation and Management on Highly Migratory Fish Stocks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean; International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention Concerning Forced or Compulsory Labour (Forced Labour Convention); Fourth Protocol to the General Agreement on Trade in Services (Basic Telecommunications Services); ILO Convention on Migration for Employment; Migrant Workers Convention (Supplementary Provisions); Beijing Amendments to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer; Montreal Amendments to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer; Rotterdam Convention for the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade (Rotterdam Convention); Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety to the Convention on Biological Diversity; International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture; United Nations Convention Against Corruption; RP-Spain Treaty of Sentenced Persons; International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) Headquarters Agreement; avoidance of double taxation treaties with New Zealand, Japan, and the United Arab Emirates; mutual legal assistance treaties with Spain, Korea, and the ASEAN; the ASEAN Charter; and the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (Jpepa).
Miriam also served as chair of the foreign affairs committee of the Commission on Appointments. Her committee posted the highest number of confirmations, having secured the confirmation of 392 ambassadors, consuls, and other high-level officials in the Department of Foreign Affairss
As of June 2015 Santiago had filed 1,324 bills and resolutions in the 16th Congress, which represents a fifth of the total number of measures filed by all the senators.
The infographic below, developed by the New Media for Social Change Project, shows highlights of Santiago’s legislative career.
Santiago won a seat in the highly powerful International Criminal Court, and is the first woman from an Asian developing state to join as a judge in the Netherlands-based international court. Despite being hailed ICC judge, the senator refused to vacate her seat in the Philippine Senate.
*Sources not cited above: