September 13, 2016


By Arturo P. Garcia


I only know Senator Jose W. Diokno in the news and discussions with my grand-father. He has a lot of good words about the man and as a Secretary of Justice and then a Senator.

Besides being from Batangas where my Lolo came from, he was admired by my Lolo for being the first Filipino who both was the  topnotcher in both Accounting and the Bar examinations . A rare feat accomplished by someone. He was bought good in speaking Spanish and English as well our native tongue-the Tagalog language.  Much like the great Batangueno, Senator Claro Mayo Recto.

I first met him at the National Press Club (NPC) during the week that the Writ of Habeas Corpus was suspended. The fear was prevailing those times. The documents to be signed were at the table and yet, no body want to start signing the papers for the formation of the Movement of Concerned Citizens for Civil Liberties in the Philippines or the MCCLP.

Senator Diokno, the ever-smiling person said, “ I guess I have to start…” and he went to the table and signed the document. He was followed by lawyers, former justices of the Supreme Court and others.  As usual, I signed second to the last, making sure everybody have signed. And everybody clapped at the end of the ceremony. The movement was launched without so much fanfare.

Later, I met him personally and worked with him together with other leaders and staff of the Movement for a Democratic Philippines (MDP). Always, our meeting place was the NPC.

I saw him work first-hand. Always gathering consensus and quick to diffuse argument between us, the militant student /youth leaders and moderates like Edjop ( who still a  moderate student leader then of the NUSP) and other leaders of  the left-of-center YCSP like Joey Lina.

We hold him in high respect that everybody stopped arguing about disagreements and will start collect points of unity.  He deferred to us especially on the nitty-gritty of the mass actions like marches, rally and all the needed permits. At that time our main leaders were in China and were all blacklisted and cannot come home.

The writ has been suspended but are still working as if it never existed. Only our guts makes us persevere so much.

Our first real acid test for the MCCLP was the march to Caloocan. .  Mayor Macario Asistio, who ruled Caloocan City with an iron hand, warned us that he would not allow any march or rally inside Caloocan City.But we push through with the march rally and entered Caloocan City and rallied in front of the City Hall’. During the first march, we were greatly outnumbered by the goons of Caloocan Mayor  Macario Asistio. Sr   Tension was in the air as good jeered and proved us. But we kept our cool and linked arms as we held out rally.

We were ready to fight if anything happened. The goons menacingly tried to frighten us but we held our ground. We were corralled inside the City Plaza surrounded by goods and Caloocan City Police as well as the METROCOM.  But maybe the presence of Senator Diokno made the difference.

Later, Senator Diokno treated us, the full MCCLP Committee to a Restaurant in Chinatown Manila to celebrate our tactical victory- our bold rally in Caloocan City. .  That was the first time I enjoyed my Chinese Lauriat lunch and has casual conversations with the Senator as if we knew each other for a long time.

At the second rally, it was bloody and turbulent. The goons ambushed our column at the boundary of Manila and Caloocan. The goons were deployed at both sides of Rizal Avenue and behind the walls of the La Loma Cemetery.

Only the proximity of our base in Barrio Obrero in the boundary and Gagalangin, Tondo gave us an advantage to retreat and regroup. But how can we fight police and goons with guns, pillboxes, stones and explosives of our adversaries?

My work organizing the peasants intervened and I lost contact with Senator Diokno. The next time, I heard that he was arrested and was imprisoned together with Senator Aquino in Fort Magsaysay during martial law.  I also heard that in  September 11, 1974, on Marcos 57th birthday, he was released.

After his release, he formed the a legal group composed of lawyers who fought for human rights called Free Legal Aid Group or FLAG. They aided victims of human rights violations during martial law,

During the duration of the 14 years of martial law, I followed his speeches, activities and works by radio and TV news. But even when Marcos was overthrown in 1986, I did not have any opportunity to meet him again.

And yet, my memories of working with him are still vivid in my memories. My memory is still fresh about Senator Diokno in the Senate.

I still remember them, Senate greats like  Senators Lorenzo Tanada, Jovito Salonga, Benigno Aquino Jr,   and most of all-Senator Jose W. Diokno at the halls of the Senate of the Philippines.

And those were interesting times. When I once worked with the Senator in 1971.




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