Jose Diokno

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Jose W. Diokno

Senator of the Philippines
In office
December 30, 1963 – September 23, 1972[1]
Secretary of Justice
In office
December 31, 1961 – May 19, 1962
PresidentDiosdado Macapagal
Preceded byAlejo Mabanag
Succeeded byJuan Liwag
Chairman of the Presidential Committee on Human Rights
In office
Personal details
BornFebruary 26, 1922
Manila, Philippine Islands
DiedFebruary 27, 1987(1987-02-27) (aged 65)
Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines
Political partyNacionalista Party
Spouse(s)Carmen Reyes Icasiano-Diokno
Alma materDe La Salle University
University of Santo Tomas
OccupationPublic official

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 pro-Filipino economic legislation.

In 2004, Diokno was posthumously conferred the Order of Lakandula with the rank of Supremo—the Philippines' highest honor.[2] February 27 is celebrated in the country as Jose W. Diokno Day.[3]

Early life and education[edit]

Jose W. 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 of British descent. His grandfather was Ananias Diokno, a general in the Philippine Revolution and the Philippine-American War.

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 University. he graduated from college summa cum laude at age 17. Diokno took the CPA board examinations—for which he had to secure special dispensation, since he was too young.[4]

After Diokno enrolled in law at the University of Santo Tomas, 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, he was granted a special dispensation by the Supreme Court of the Philippines and allowed to take the Philippine Bar Examination despite having never completed a law degree.[4]

Secretary of Justice[edit]

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, in 1961, Diokno was appointed Secretary of Justice by President Diosdado Macapagal.

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, he prepared to prosecute those involved. However, President Macapagal intervened, accepting a deal that absolved Stonehill in exchange for his deportation, then ordering Diokno to resign. Diokno questioned Macapagal's actions, saying, "How can the government now prosecute the corrupted when it has allowed the corrupter to go?"[5]


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, including what is considered to be the most important incentive law in the country, RA 5186, also known as the Investment Incentives Act of 1967, which provides incentives to Filipino investors and entrepreneurs in order to place control of the Philippine economy in the hands of Filipinos. It also led to the foundation of the Board of Investments, the premier government agency responsible for propagating investments in the Philippines.

Diokno then authored RA 6173 or the Oil Industry Commission Act of 1971, which created the Oil Industry Commission (OIC) to regulate oil pricing from different companies. He also authored Joint Resolution No. 2, which set the policies for economic development and social progress. In addition to that, he sponsored and co-authored the Export Incentives Act of 1970 and the Revised Election Law, among many others.

For his performance as legislator, Diokno was named Outstanding Senator by the Philippines Free Press from 1967 to 1970, making him the only legislator to receive the recognition for four successive years.

Martial law[edit]

In the early 1970s, Diokno sensed a shift in the Marcos presidency toward authoritarianism. Diokno and Ferdinand Marcos 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.[4]

Following the Jabidah massacre, where alleged 14 Muslim youths were gunned down in Corregidor by unknown armed men, Diokno called on the administration to respect its citizens, saying in an oft-quoted 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."[6]

He was a leading figure in the formation of the Movement of Concerned Citizens for Civil Liberties, which organized series of protest rallies which it organized from 1871-72.[7] The most massive of these rallies was held on 21 September 1972, shortly before the imposition of Martial Law by the Marcos dictatorship.[7]

Diokno's second term as senator was cut short on September 21, 1972, when 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.[4] Diokno was then brought to Camp Crame, and later, Fort Bonifacio, where he was detained along with Ninoy Aquino and Chino Roces. 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 September 11, 1974—Marcos's 57th birthday.

Human rights work[edit]

Immediately after his release, Diokno set up the Free Legal Assistance Group in 1974, which gave free legal services to the victims of martial law. It was the first and largest association of human rights attorneys ever assembled in the nation. 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.[4]

Diokno had no fear of being arrested again, and went around and outside the Philippines, spreading a message of hope and democracy. In another oft-quoted speech, he once quipped:

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.[6]

People Power[edit]

After the 1986 People Power Revolution, Diokno was appointed by President Corazon Aquino as 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 gunned down by the military under Aquino. Diokno resigned from his two government posts in deep disgust and great sadness. His daughter Maris noted that "It was the only time we saw him near tears."[4]

Death and legacy[edit]

Detail of Jose Diokno's name in the Wall of Remembrance at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani

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."[8] She quoted what her husband Ninoy would often tell his friends that he was "the one man he would unquestioningly follow to the ends of the earth."

In 2004, Diokno was posthumously conferred the Order of Lakandula with the rank of Supremo—the Philippines' highest honor.[2] February 27 is celebrated in the country as Jose W. Diokno Day.[3]

In 2005, the first ever "Ka Pepe Diokno Champion of Human Rights" award was given to Voltaire Y. Rosales, Executive Judge of Tanauan, Batangas for his effort in protecting the downtrodden. Subsequent annual awards have been given to worthy candidates who, in their life and death, fulfilled the values of protecting human rights just as Senator Diokno.[9]

In 2007, by virtue of Republic Act No. 9468, Bay Boulevard, a 4.38 kilometer road in Pasay and Parañaque cities was renamed Jose Diokno Boulevard in his honor and memory. In 2017, the Commission on Human Rights erected a 9- foot statue of Diokno in the CHR compound in Quezon City and the park surrounding it was named the Diokno Freedom Park.

Personal life and descendants[edit]

Sen. Diokno was married to Carmen Reyes Icasiano-Diokno, with whom he had ten (10) children: Carmen Leonor, Jose Ramon, Maria de la Paz, Maria Serena, Maria Teresa, Maria Socorro, Jose Miguel, Jose Manuel, Maria Victoria and Martin Jose.

Maria Serena, or "Maris", a historian, is the former chair of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines, and former Vice President for Academic Affairs of the University of the Philippines.

Jose Manuel, or "Chel", is a human rights lawyer, Chairman of the Free Legal Assistance Group, Founding Dean of the De La Salle University College of Law, and former Special Counsel of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee.

His grandson Jose Lorenzo "Pepe" Diokno is the executive director of alternative education group Rock Ed Philippines[10] and is best known a motion picture director, producer and screenwriter whose debut film, Engkwentro won the Venice Film Festival’s Lion of the Future Award in 2009, as well as Venice’s Orizzonti Prize, the NETPAC Award for Best Asian Film, and the Gawad Urian for Best Editing.[11][12]


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.[6]

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

Jose Diokno (Historical Park and Laurel Park, Batangas Provincial Capitol Complex).

Famous quotes[edit]

  • "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."



  1. ^ Diokno's second Senate term was cut short when he was jailed—without charges—by Ferdinand Marcos, immediately after the declaration of martial law.
  2. ^ a b "Order of Lakandula award given to Diokno". Manila Bulletin. 2004-04-30. Archived from the original on 2012-08-05. Retrieved 2011-03-03.
  3. ^ a b Macariola, Monica (2004-02-26). "Nation remembers EDSA". Manila Bulletin. Archived from the original on 2012-08-05. Retrieved 2011-03-03.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Dalisay, Jose Jr. "Jose W. Diokno: The Scholar-Warrior". Archived from the original on 2013-04-14. Retrieved 2011-03-03.
  5. ^ "The Philippines: Smoke in Manila". Time. August 10, 1962. Retrieved March 3, 2011.
  6. ^ a b c Manalang, Priscila S., ed. (1987). A Nation for Our Children: Selected Writings of Jose W. Diokno. Quezon City: Jose W. Diokno Foundation. ISBN 971-91088-1-9.
  7. ^ a b Daroy, Petronilo Bn. (1988). "On the Eve of Dictatorship and Revolution". In Javate-de Dios, Aurora; Daroy, Petronilo Bn.; Kalaw-Tirol, Lorna (eds.). Dictatorship and Revolution: Roots of People’s Power. Metro Manila: Conspectus Foundation. pp. 1–25.
  8. ^ Mydans, Seth (1987-03-01). "Jose W. Diokno, ex-Senator; Headed Manila Peace Panel". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-01-08.
  9. ^ Ramirez, Joanne. "incorruptible judge gets Pepe Diokno Award". Philippine Star. Retrieved June 2011. Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  10. ^ Gang Badoy (host), Lourd de Veyra (host), Pepe Diokno (guest), Cyrus Fernandez (guest), others (2010-11-04). "The Last Episode". Rock Ed Radio. Ortigas Center, Pasig. Progressive Broadcasting Corporation. NU 107.
  11. ^ "Phaidon Press: Take 100: The Future of Film". Archived from the original on 2012-09-10. Retrieved 2012-02-26.
  12. ^ Diokno at IMDB

External links[edit]