Jose Diokno

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Benigno S. Aquino, Jr.
JoseWDiokno.jpg
Senator of the Philippines
1963–1972
Secretary of Justice
1961–1962
Founding Chairman, Commission on Human Rights
1986–1987
Born: February 26, 1922
Manila
Died: February 27, 1987 (aged 65)
Spouse: Carmen Icasiano Diokno

Jose "Pepe" Wright Diokno (February 26, 1922 - February 27, 1987) was a Filipino nationalist. He served as Senator of the Philippines, Secretary of Justice, founding chair of the Commission on Human Rights, and founder of the Free Legal Assistance Group.

Diokno is the only person to top both the Philippine Bar Examination and the board exam for Certified Public Accountants (CPA). His career was dedicated to the promotion of human rights, the defense of Philippine sovereignty, and the enactment nationalist economic legislation, such as the Oil Industry Commission Bill, Industrial Incentives Law, and the Export Incentives Act.

In 2004, Diokno was posthumously conferred the Order of Lakandula with the rank of Supremo—the Philippines' highest honor.<ref>[hhttp://www.mb.com.ph/node/164226 "Order of Lakandula award given to Diokno"]</ref>. February 27 is celebrated in the country as Jose W. Diokno Day.<ref>"Arroyo honors 2 leaders: declares Aug. 21 Ninoy Day & Diokno Day"</ref>

Contents

Early life and education

Pepe Diokno was born in Manila on Feb. 26, 1922, to Ramon Diokno, a former senator and Justice of the Supreme Court, and Leonor Wright, an American mestiza.

In 1937, Diokno graduated as valedictorian of his high school class at De La Salle College, Manila, and went on to study commerce, also at De La Salle. After repeated acceleration, he graduated college, summa cum laude, at the age of 17. Diokno took the CPA board examinations—for which he had to secure special dispensation, since he was too young—and topped them with a rating of 81.18 percent.

Diokno then enrolled in law at the University of Sto. Tomas. However, his studies were interrupted by the outbreak of World War II. During the war, Diokno continued his education by reading his father's law books. When the war was over, Diokno was granted a special dispensation from the Supreme Court, and allowed to take the Bar Examinations despite having never completed his law degree. Diokno topped the Bar with a rating of 95.3 percent.

Secretary of Justice

Immediately after passing the Bar, Diokno embarked on his law practice, handling and winning high-profile cases, such as successfully battling libel charges against Manila Mayor Arsenio Lacson, and winning an election case on behalf of his father, Ramon.

With his reputation as a legal practitioner, Diokno was appointed by President Diosdado Macapagal as Secretary of Justice in 1961.

In March 1962, Diokno ordered a raid on a firm owned by Harry S. Stonehill, an American businessman who was suspected of tax evasion and bribing public officials, among other crimes. Diokno's investigation of Stonehill further revealed corruption within government ranks, and as Secretary of Justice, prepared to prosecute those involved. However, President Macapagal intervened, accepting a deal that absolved Stonehill in exchange for his deportment. Macapagal then ordered Diokno to resign.

Senator

Months later, Diokno ran for senator under the Nacionalista Party in the 1963 elections, and won.

Senator Diokno became chairman of the Senate economic affairs committee, and worked for the passage of pro-Filipino legislation, most notably the Industrial Incentives Law, which provides incentives to Filipino investors and entrepreneurs in order to place control of the Philippine economy in the hands of Filipinos.

Diokno authored of the Oil Industry Commission Bill and Joint Resolution No. 2, which set the policies for economic development and social progress. He also co-authored the Export Incentives Act and the Revised Election Law, among others.

For his performance as legislator, Pepe Diokno was cited Outstanding Senator by the Free Press for four successive years beginning 1967.

Martial Law

In the early ‘70s, Diokno sensed a shift in the Marcos government toward authoritarianism. Marcos and Diokno were members of the Nacionalista Party, but when Marcos suspended the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, Diokno resigned from the party in protest and took to the streets.

Following the Jabidah Massacre, where 14 Muslim youths were gunned down in Corregidor by Marcos' military, Diokno called on the administration to respect its citizens, saying in an oft-quotes speech, "No cause is more worthy than the cause of human rights... they are what makes a man human. Deny them and you deny man's humanity."

Diokno's second term as Senator was cut short on Sept. 21, 1972. when Ferdinand Marcos declared Martial Law. Shortly after the declaration, Diokno was arrested by the dictatorship. Six carloads of armed soldiers visited Diokno at his home to “invite” him for questioning. They had no warrant. Diokno was then brought to Camp Crame, and later, Fort Bonifacio, where he joined Ninoy Aquino and Chino Roces in detention. Diokno and Aquino, whom the dictatorship considered their foremost opponents, were later transferred to solitary confinement in Laur, Nueva Ecija.

Diokno spent nearly two years in detention. No charge was ever filed against him. Diokno was released arbitrarily on Sept. 11, 1974—Marcos’s 57th birthday.

Human rights work

Upon his release, Diokno set up the Free Legal Assistance Group, which gave free legal services to the victims of martial law. In court, Diokno personally defended tribal groups, peasants, social workers threatened by exploitation and military atrocities. He was also involved in documenting cases of torture, summary execution, and disappearances under the Marcos regime.

Diokno had no fear of being arrested again, and went around and outside the Philippines, spreading a message of hope against the dictatorship. In another oft-quoted speech, he said:
And so law in the land died. I grieve for it but I do not despair over it. I know, with a certainty no argument can turn, no wind can shake, that from its dust will rise a new and better law: more just, more human, and more humane. When that will happen, I know not. That it will happen, I know.

People Power

After the 1986 People Power Revolution, brought Corazon Aquino to the presidency, Diokno was appointed founding chairman of the Presidential Committee on Human Rights, and tasked to lead a government panel to negotiate for the return of rebel forces to the government folds.

Diokno would be disappointed, however, by the “Mendiola massacre” of January 22, 1987, where 15 farmers staging a peaceful rally in Mendiola were killed by the military under Aquino. Diokno resigned from his two government posts in deep disgust and greater sadness. Daughter Maris says, "It was the only time we saw him near tears.”

Death and legacy

In 1984, even before People Power, Diokno had been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. He had smoked all his adult life. Diokno continued to work, despite his illness, until his death on Feb. 27, 1987—one day after his 65th birthday.

Following Diokno's death, President Cory Aquino declared March 2–12, 1987 as a period of national mourning. Expressing her grief, Aquino said, "Pepe braved the Marcos dictatorship with a dignified and eloquent courage our country will long remember."

In 2004, Diokno was posthumously conferred the Order of Lakandula with the rank of Supremo—the Philippines' highest honor.<ref>[hhttp://www.mb.com.ph/node/164226 "Order of Lakandula award given to Diokno"]</ref>. February 27 is celebrated in the country as Jose W. Diokno Day,<ref>"Arroyo honors 2 leaders: declares Aug. 21 Ninoy Day & Diokno Day"</ref>.<ref>"Arroyo honors 2 leaders: declares Aug. 21 Ninoy Day & Diokno Day"</ref>

Publications

A Nation for Our Children, a collection of Jose W. Diokno’s essays and speeches on human rights, nationalism, and Philippine sovereignty, was published in 1987 by the Diokno Foundation. The collection is named after Diokno's popular speech, in which he says,

There is one dream that all Filipinos share: that our children may have a better life than we have had. So there is one vision that is distinctly Filipino: the vision to make this country, our country, a nation for our children.

Several parts of the book are now accessible online, at The Diokno Foundation

Famous quotes

  • "No cause is more worthy than the cause of human rights... they are what makes a man human. Deny them and you deny man's humanity."
  • "There is one dream that we all Filipinos share: that our children may have a better life than we have had. To make this country, our country, a nation for our children."
  • "Law in the land died. I grieve for it but I do not despair over it. I know, with a certainty no argument can turn, no wind can shake, that from its dust will rise a new and better law: more just, more human, and more humane. When that will happen, I know not. That it will happen, I know."
  • "We are one nation with one future, a future that will be as bright or as dark as we remain united or divided."
  • "Authoritarianism does not let people decide; its basic premise is that people do not know how to decide. It promotes repression that prevents meaningful change, and preserves the structure of power and privilege."
  • "Yes-men are not compatible with democracy. We can strengthen our leaders by pointing out what they are doing that is wrong."
  • "The point is not to make a perfect world, just a better one - and that is difficult enough."
  • "Do not forget: We Filipinos are the first Asian people who revolted against a western imperial power, Spain; the first who adopted a democratic republican constitution in Asia, the Malolos Constitution; the first to fight the first major war of the twentieth century against another western imperial power, the United States of America. There is no insurmountable barrier that could stop us from becoming what we want to be."
  • "All of us are Filipinos not only because we are brothers in blood, but because we are all brothers in tears; not because we all share the same land, but because we share the same dream."
  • "Reality is often much more beautiful than anything that we can conceive of. If we can release the creative energy of our people, then we will have a nation full of hope and full of joy, full of life and full of love — a nation that may not be a nation for our children but which will be a nation of our children."

Sources

References

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