Jovito Salonga

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Jovito R. Salonga
Salonga.jpg
14th President of the Senate of the Philippines
In office
July 27, 1987 – January 1, 1992
President Corazon Aquino
Preceded by Abolished
(Title last held by Gil Puyat)
Succeeded by Neptali A. Gonzales, Sr.
1st Chairman of the Presidential Commission on Good Government
In office
February 28, 1986 – March 5, 1987
President Corazon Aquino
Succeeded by Ramon A. Diaz
Senator of the Philippines
In office
June 30, 1987 – June 30, 1992
In office
December 30, 1965 – September 23, 1972[1]
Member of the Philippine House of Representatives from Rizal's 2nd District
In office
December 30, 1961 – December 30, 1965
Preceded by Francisco S. Sumulong
Succeeded by Frisco F. San Juan
Personal details
Born (1920-06-22) June 22, 1920 (age 94)
Pasig, Rizal, Philippines
Nationality Filipino
Political party Liberal Party
Spouse(s) Lydia Busuego
Alma mater Yale University, Harvard University, University of the Philippines
Profession Politician
Religion United Church of Christ in the Philippines

Jovito "Jovy" Reyes Salonga (born June 22, 1920) is a Filipino nationalist politician and lawyer, as well as a leading opposition leader during the Marcos regime from 1972, when Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law, until 1986, when Marcos was deposed as a result of a bloodless revolution (see People Power Revolution). Salonga was the 14th President of the Senate of the Philippines serving from 1987 to 1992.

Early life and education[edit]

Jovito Salonga was born in poverty in Pasig City on June 22, 1920. His father was a Presbyterian pastor, Esteban Salonga and his mother, Bernardita Reyes, was a market vendor. His parents married in 1904. Jovito Salonga, the youngest of five brothers, worked his way through college and law school as a proofreader in the publishing firm of his eldest brother, Isayas. During his senior year at the College of Law at the University of the Philippines (U.P.), he quit his job to prepare for the bar exam. Due to the advent of World War II, he postponed taking the Philippine Bar Examination until 1944, when he and Jose Diokno both topped with a grade point average of 95.3%.

World War II hero[edit]

A few months after the Japanese invasion in December 1941, Salonga went underground and engaged in anti-Japanese activities. In April 1942, he was captured and tortured by the Japanese Military Police in Pasig in the presence of his aging father.[citation needed] He was transferred to Fort Santiago and several other prisons where he was subjected to further persecution. On June 11, 1942, he was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor by the Japanese and incarcerated at the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa, but was pardoned on the Foundation Day of Japan (Kigen Setsu) in 1943.[2]

American education[edit]

After passing the bar, he went back to the U.P. College of Law where he earned an LL.B in 1946. He traveled to the U.S. when he won a scholarship to attend Harvard for his master's degree. Recommended by Harvard professor Manley Hudson to Yale Law School, he was awarded a fellowship at Yale University where he earned a doctorate (JSD) in 1949. He however turned down their offer of a faculty position because he felt he should participate in his country's post-war reconstruction. He was honored with the Ambrose Gherini Prize for writing the best paper in international law. At Yale, he met Jose Laurel, son of wartime President Jose P. Laurel, who later became his law partner in the Philippines. In February 1948, he married Lydia Busuego in Cambridge, Massachusetts who gave birth to their son, Esteban Fernando Salonga.

Salonga returned to the Philippines and engaged in the teaching and practice of law. He authored several books on corporate law and international law, and was appointed Dean of the College of Law, Far Eastern University (F.E.U.) in 1956. On December 16, 1988, Arizona State University selected him to receive an honorary degree.

Personal life[edit]

He was married to Lydia Busuego, who died due to complications from diabetes on April 20, 2010, she was 88.

Political Career (1961–1987)[edit]

House of Representatives[edit]

In 1960, he was persuaded by Vice President Diosdado Macapagal, then president of the Liberal Party (LP), one of the two dominant political parties in the Philippines at the time, to run for Congress in the second district of Rizal, where two political dynasties dominated the bureaucracy. Salonga helped build the party from the grassroots, largely with the support of disgruntled young people who responded to the issues he raised, particularly the entrenchment of the political ruling class and their families in seats of governments, a major cause of disenchantment among the masses. In the November 1961 elections, he bested his two opponents by an overwhelming margin.[citation needed]

Shortly after his election, he tangled with one of the best debaters of the opposing party, the Nationalista Party (NP), on the issue of proportional representation in various committees. He also composed a seminal article, published and editorialized in various papers, on the Philippines' territorial claim to North Borneo (Sabah). With the election of Cornelio Villareal (LP, Capiz) as Speaker of the House, Salonga was appointed to the chairmanship of the prestigious Committee on Good Government. In June 1962, President Macapagal filed the Philippine petition against Malaysia's alleged illegal expropriation of North Borneo. Salonga was appointed to head the delegation in the January 1963 London negotiations.[citation needed]

Senate[edit]

After one term, Salonga was chosen to run for Senate under the LP banner in the 1965 elections. Despite limited financial resources and the victory of NP candidate Marcos as president, Salonga was elected senator, garnering the most number of votes. In 1967, he was Benigno Aquino, Jr.'s chief lawyer in the underage lawsuit filed against the latter by President Marcos. Largely through Salonga's skills in jurisprudence, Aquino won his case before the Commission on Elections.[citation needed] Subsequently, Marcos' appeals to the Supreme Court and Senate Electoral Tribunal were overturned, granting a final victory to Salonga and Aquino. For his well-documented exposés against the Marcos administration, Salonga was hailed as the "Nation's Fiscalizer" by the Philippines Free Press in 1968.[citation needed]

He ran for re-election in 1971. Along with some members of the Liberal Party, he was critically injured on the August 21 bombing of his party's proclamation rally at Plaza Miranda. His doctors' prognoses were grim—he was not expected to live. He survived, however, with impaired eyesight and hearing, and more than a hundred tiny pieces of shrapnel in his body. He topped the senatorial race for the second time.[citation needed]

He returned to the political arena and embarked on a successful law career. He protested martial law and was unjustly arrested. After his release from military custody, he was offered a visiting scholarship at Yale, where he engaged in the revision of his book on international law. He completed his book on the Marcos years, which included a program for a new democratic Philippines.[citation needed]

Martial Law Years[edit]

The imposition of martial law in September 1972 was the catalyst that radicalized hundreds of oppositionists and the pretext to arrest and imprison many of them, including moderate ones. Salonga openly and vigorously opposed it, and he and his law partners, Sedfrey Ordoñez and Pedro L. Yap, defended many cases of well-known political prisoners as well as obscure detainees, most of them on a pro bono basis.

In October 1980, following the bombing of the Philippine International Convention Center, Marcos again ordered Salonga's arrest; this time he was detained at Fort Bonifacio without any formal charges and investigation. He was allowed to leave with his wife for the U.S. in March 1981, to attend several international conferences and undergo medical procedures. Right after their departure, subversion charges—supposedly a well-known Marcos tactic to scare off his enemies from ever returning—were filed against him. Jovito and Lydia Salonga lived in self-exile in Hawaii, then moved to Encino, California, where he was visited by many opposition leaders, including Ninoy Aquino. It was here where, at the request of LP President Gerry Roxas, Salonga wrote the party's Vision and Program of Government. After Roxas' death in April 1982, Salonga was elected acting president of the Liberal Party.

EDSA People Power[edit]

The assassination of Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino, Jr. in August 1983 prompted Salonga to return to the Philippines on January 21, 1985, to help resuscitate his party and unite democratic opposition. A month later, the Supreme Court unanimously dismissed subversion charges against him. He was elected president of the Liberal Party.

PCGG Chairman[edit]

Shortly after the EDSA Revolution, President Corazon Aquino, Aquino's widow, appointed Salonga Chair of the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), which was tasked with investigating and recovering the alleged ill-gotten wealth of Marcos and cronies.

As chairman of the Commission on Good Government, he "filed and perfected" the government's claim to the Marcos Swiss deposits through the Swiss lawyers dr. Salvioni, dr. Fontanet and Leuenberger. His unwavering pursuit of the Marcos ill-gotten wealth was, in one senator's words, the "moral equivalent of a war". His efforts were rewarded when the government sequestrated Eduardo Cojuangco, Jr.'s firms including 93% shares of the United Coconut Planters Bank and 27% shares of the San Miguel Corporation.[citation needed]

In 2000, the Swiss federal Court, after 14 years of litigation, decided to forfeit the corrupt Marcos funds received by the Swiss Credit bank in Zurich,[3] and delivered to the nation's government more than US$680,000,000. The commission also petitioned to expropriate several real estate properties and several of the nation's largest corporations that the Philippine government claim were bought through blackmail or money the Marcos family allegedly plundered from the Treasury.[citation needed]

Senate Presidency (1987–1992)[edit]

After his one-year stint with PCGG, he was drafted to run for the senate in the 1987 elections.[citation needed] For the third time, he won the number one spot in the senatorial race. He was subsequently elected as Senate President.

Legislation[edit]

Elected as Senate president by his peers, Salonga authored three major legislative measures: the "Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees (R.A. 6713)", the "Anti-Coup d'état Act (R.A. 6968)", and the "Anti-Plunder Law (R.A. 7080)". In April 1990, he was conferred a Doctor of Laws degree, honoris causa, by the University of the Philippines "for his brilliant career as "an eminent political figure... for his unwavering, courageous stand against injustice, oppression, and dictatorship ... and for his sterling personal qualities of decency, humility, industry and moderation".

Salonga, despite limited means, won three senatorial elections, garnering the largest number of votes under three different administrations: that of Diosdado Macapagal, Ferdinand Marcos and Corazon Aquino. He has successfully legislated the State Scholarship Law, the Disclosure of Interest Act, the Magna Carta for Public School Teachers, the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, and the Act Defining and Penalizing the Crime of Plunder.

Rejection of the Phil-U.S. Bases Treaty[edit]

In September 1991, Salonga led a group of 12 Senators in rejecting the R.P.-U.S. Bases Treaty. He paid a heavy price for this decision as his financial backers in the business community withdrew their support for his presidential campaign. In December 1991 he was ousted from his position as President of the Senate and was succeeded by Senator Neptali A. Gonzales, Sr. on January 1, 1992.[4] Incidentally, like Salonga, Senator Gonzales also served as Dean of the Far Eastern University Institute of Law.

1992 Presidential Election[edit]

He lost the 1992 presidential election (finishing sixth in a seven-person race in the official tally), despite the resounding support of students from various colleges and universities.[citation needed]

Post-Senate Presidency[edit]

Activities[edit]

After his retirement from government service, he continued work in public service through Kilosbayan (People Action), a forum for raising political consciousness and citizens' participation in governance; the Bantayog ng mga Bayani Foundation (Heroes' Memorial), a private entity that honors the nation's martyrs and heroes for their sacrifices during martial law; and Bantay Katarungan (Sentinel of Justice), an organization that seeks to improve the administration of justice in the Philippines through the systematic monitoring of courts and quasi-judicial agencies by selected students from leading law schools.

The Chair of Bantay Katarungan is former Secretary of Justice Sedfrey Ordoñez, who had been Salonga's law partner for more than three decades. Salonga remains founder/adviser. Salonga remains active as a speaker, denouncing what he claims are the moral and social ills in Philippine society. Since ending his political career in 1992, Salonga has been delivering lectures intermittently at such eminent universities as the University of the Philippines, Ateneo, Universidad de Santo Tomas, De la Salle and F.E.U. He teaches regularly at the Lyceum of the Philippines where he holds the Jose P. Laurel Chair on Law, Government and Public Policy. He likewise launched the Dr. Jovito Salonga Center for Law and Development at the Silliman University College of Law to pioneer and develop what the law center calls as Transformative Law – "the study and application of law to transform society, shape policies through advocacy, legal education, research, training, and service learning".[5]

Salonga was president of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) Constitutional Convention which took place September 1993 at Ellinwood-Malate Church in Manila. Always the nationalist, he persuaded the delegates to agree that the Filipino language text had equal weight to the English text. During the caucus, he was a calming influence and ran the assembly with a firm and fair hand. Template:1st Person Witness - Member,UCCP Constitutional Convention Staff

Salonga wrote President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to warn her that the May 14, 2007, elections could turn out to be as “violent and fraudulent” as the Marcos-era polls. In an open letter to Secretary Eduardo Ermita, he stated that he saw Marcos in Arroyo, Ver in Esperon,[6] but was rebuffed.[citation needed] Arroyo rejected the concerns raised in Salonga's letter which mentioned that her decision to call out the military to help stop election violence and killings would make the May 14 polls similar to the violence- and fraud-tainted elections during the Marcos regime.[7]

Salonga branded the government's move to hand back an American citizen accused of rape, to the United States authorities as "a raw deal and a midnight transaction", whose victims were "Nicole" (the rape victim) and the country's justice system. Salonga claimed that a raw deal was done against "Nicole" and the judicial process by Judge Benjamin Pozon and the Court of Appeals under pressure from George W. Bush's government.[8]

Senator Joker P. Arroyo paid him the highest tribute when he said: "Some people make history, others write it. But there is a rare handful who, in writing-and in speaking-make history. These are the ones who illuminate the issues, and in so doing move men to answer them with noble actions... In our country there was Claro M. Recto. But if you consider the wealth of historical events surrounding a particular personality who shaped and even generated these events by his words, Jovito Salonga stands virtually alone."[citation needed]

On August 31, 2007, Salonga received the Ramon Magsaysay Award for government service. Some 256 Asian people have won the award in various categories since its founding in 1957. Each awardee receives a certificate, a medallion and an undisclosed cash prize. Salonga was one of the 7 Asian awardees, from China, India, South Korea, Nepal and the Philippines.[9]

On August 15, 2007 Salonga's book, Not by Power or Wealth Alone, was published.

On August 24, 2007, Salonga's Bantayog ng mga Bayani Foundation launched a commemorative 200-page book, Bantayog ng mga Bayani (Monument of Heroes) at the Bantayog Memorial Center on Quezon Avenue corner EDSA to honor heroes, 160 Filipino student and community activists, priests, nuns, journalists, lawyers, Supreme Court justices and an Italian priest Tulio Favali, who was murdered in 1985 by a military-backed fanatic cult.[10]

Ramon Magsaysay Award[edit]

Salonga received the Ramon Magsaysay Award for government service on August 31, 2007. He was honored for "the exemplary integrity and substance of his long public career in service to democracy and good government in the Philippines". Other awardees included Kim Sun Tae of Korea, Mahabir Pun of Nepal, Tang Xiyang of China, Palagummi Sainath of India, Chen Guangcheng and Chung To, both of China.[11]

Resignation from Sigma Rho[edit]

On September 14, 2007, Salonga resigned as member of his own Sigma Rho fraternity after its involvement and implication in the hazing death of University of the Philippines, Diliman graduand, 20-year-old Cris Mendez (on August 27). Salonga joined Sigma Rho as UP student in the 1940s.[12] Salonga stated the reason for his resignation: “because of recent events in which Sigma Rho has been involved.” The NBI issued subpoenas to members of the Sigma Rho fraternity, but none of its members came forward to admit responsibility for the brutal murder or shed light on the truth. Mendez suffered “bruises all over his body, particularly on the back of his arms and thighs.”[13] On September 17, 2007, the "Grand Archon Emeritus" (leading alumnus of the University of the Philippines' Sigma Rho) demanded an apology from Salonga over remarks against the fraternity. Lawyer Tony Meer stated: “I don’t think its fair to us. I think he owes us an apology.”[14] Columnist and Sigma Kappa Pi Alumni President Jarius Bondoc praised Salonga for resigning from the Sigma Rho.

References[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Restored
Title last held by Gil Puyat
President of the Senate of the Philippines
1987–1992
Succeeded by
Neptali A. Gonzales, Sr.

External links[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Doherty, John F.; Jovito R. Salonga (1982). Cronies and Enemies: The Current Philippine Scene. Honolulu: University of Hawaii. 
  • Salonga, Jovito R. (2000). Presidential Plunder: The Quest for the Marcos Ill-gotten Wealth. Manila: Regina. ISBN 971-8567-28-3. 
  • Salonga, Jovito R. (2001). A Journey of Struggle and Hope: The Memoir of Jovito R. Salonga. Manila: Regina. ISBN 971-8567-31-3. 
  • Salonga, Jovito R. (2003). The Intangibles that Make a Nation Great: Selected Speeches, Lectures, and Writings. Manila: Regina. ISBN 971-92791-1-7. 
  • Salonga, Jovito R. (2005). The Task of Building a Better Nation. Manila: Regina. ISBN 971-92791-3-3. 
  • Salonga, Jovito R. (2007). Not By Power or Wealth Alone. Manila: Regina.