Jose W. Diokno

February 26, 1922 - February 27, 1987

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Remembering Jose W. Diokno

Jose W. Diokno was Senator, Secretary of Justice, Lawyer, Nationalist, and Filipino. Friends and admirers remember him in this short documentary.

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Activities to Commemorate the 90th Birth Anniversary and 25th Death Anniversary of Jose (Pepe) W. Diokno

Jose W. Diokno

On the occasion of Jose W. Diokno’s 90th birth anniversary and 25th death anniversary, the Free Legal Assistance Group announces the activities in commemoration of the life and death of its founder.

Friday, 24 February 2012

9:30 – 12:00 nn — The Philippine Political Science Association launches a book entitled Chasing the Wind: Assessing Philippine Democracy at the Philippine Social Science Center Auditorium, UP Diliman; Dr. Maria Serena I. Diokno will speak “On Justice, Freedom and Democracy: Remembering Ka Pepe Diokno”

10:30 – 12:00 nn — FLAG holds a press conference at the Max Restaurant, Maria Orosa Street, Manila, in recognition of the contributions of its founder, Jose W. Diokno, to law and justice in the Philippines. It will focus on a few landmark cases handled by FLAG, two of which remain pending in the Supreme Court. Atty. Jose Manuel Diokno and Atty. Arno V. Sanidad will speak at the press conference

Sunday, 26 February 2012

10:00 am — The Family of Jose W. Diokno offer a Holy Mass at the De La Salle Greenhills Chapel; a short video on Jose W. Diokno will be shown after the Holy Mass

Monday, 27 February 2012

9:00 – 11:30 am — The Commission on Human Rights launches The Jose “Ka Pepe” W. Diokno Memorial Lecture at the CHR Multipurpose Hall; Atty. Jose Manuel I. Diokno, FLAG chair will speak on “Developmental Legal Advocacy and the Human Rights Approach to Equal Access to Justice”

2:00 – 5:30 pm — The People Power Volunteers for Reforms CARAGA and the Father Saturnino Urios University (FSUU) Policy Center hold a Parangal for the late Senator Jose W. Diokno at the FSUU AVR 1, FSUU Main Campus, Butuan City; Speakers include Sister Letty Daral, MSM (former TFDP - Former Regional Head), Atty. Wilfred Asis (FLAG regional chairperson), Atty. Josefe Sorrera Ty (Dean of the College of Law of FSUU), Atty. Lawrence Fortun (Vice Mayor of Butuan) and Miss Athel Hijos (Gabriela party list)

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"To Sing Our Own Song" (1983)

This video is presented in four parts.

In 1983, Jose W. Diokno narrated this 50-minute documentary on the Marcos dictatorship. The program was produced by the BBC, and aired a critical view of the regime at a time when media and opposition in the Philippines were violently silenced.

Here, Sen. Diokno reveals government’s distorted view of development — one that prioritized patronage over the interests of its people. President Marcos, for example, spent 50% of the national health budget to build a state-of-the-art Heart Center in Manila, while around the country, Filipinos were dying of curable illnesses like TB, whooping cough, and dysentery.

Human rights abuses

The documentary also exposes the atrocities being committed by the regime. President Marcos fostered a military scared citizens into obedience. Ordinary people were arrested and tortured, and entire villages were massacred in broad daylight.

We meet an 8-year old girl named Marela. “[The military] began shooting us,” she says. “We fell down. My mother put her arm around me. Then, when everything was quiet, I stood up. My mother’s head was wounded… My little brother’s body was cut in half. I felt my head, it was all bloody — my mother’s brains were all over my hair.”

Another boy watched as soldiers murdered his father. He shares, “He was held… his head was turned sideways. Then it was cut off. They played with my father’s head. They pushed it with a stick and kicked it towards a coconut tree… I will avenge my father. Even a small chick can grow up into a fighting cock.”

The oppressiveness and ineptitude of the Marcos leadership drove many Filipinos to militancy. Sen. Diokno notes, “Martial law destroyed all our democratic institutions, so that people have no way of expressing what they feel and what they want. Protest has gone underground… where the Communist Party conducts seminars. [There], moderates like me can’t get into the debate… As always, violence breeds violence.”

Justice and freedom

Sen. Diokno believed that the system can instead be changed through moderate, peaceful means. He explains, ”No government can depend on force alone. If it continuously depends on force, then the day is going to come when that force is not going to be enough. So government tries to transform that force into law, so that it favors those who are in power. But in the same way, law can be used to fight that force. If law can be used to institutionalize social injustice and inequity… to marginalize people and throw them into poverty, then people can also use law to get out of that situation.”

So, Sen. Diokno founded the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG), a nationwide network of lawyers dedicated to defending ordinary citizens and prosecuting those who abuse their power. FLAG continues to operate today, and it is the oldest and largest organization of human rights lawyers in the Philippines.

The documentary ends with a message of hope. Sen. Diokno, who always believed in the Filipino spirit, says, “It looks impossible for my people to get out of this trap. But we will. I know my people. Even if we have to wade through blood and fire, we will be free. We will develop. We will build our own societies. We will sing our own songs.”

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Quotes by Jose W. Diokno

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"I know my people. We will be free. We will develop. We will build our own societies. We will sing our own songs" — Jose W. Diokno

"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." — Jose W. Diokno

"Against a united people, no force is strong enough to prevail." — Jose W. Diokno

"We must believe in ourselves, in our capacity to overcome hardship, in our ability to make the right decision." — Jose W. Diokno

"We must view public office as a way to serve the people, not to profit at their expense." — Jose W. Diokno

"The superior virtue is not to receive justice, it is to fight relentlessly for it." — Jose W. Diokno

"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." — Jose W. Diokno

"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." — Jose W. Diokno

"We are one nation with one future, a future that will be as bright or as dark as we remain united or divided." — Jose W. Diokno

"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." — Jose W. Diokno

"Yes-men are not compatible with democracy. We can strengthen our leaders by pointing out what they are doing that is wrong." — Jose W. Diokno

"The point is not to make a perfect world, just a better one - and that is difficult enough." — Jose W. Diokno

"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." — Jose W. Diokno

"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." — Jose W. Diokno

"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." — Jose W. Diokno

"We need—and our people hunger for — an economy run by humans for humans." — Jose W. Diokno

"Criticism, we welcome. Distortion, we deplore." — Jose W. Diokno

"Full human development is the optimal development of all that is human in all humans, the bringing to full flower of the native genius of each and of all." — Jose W. Diokno

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Defining Jose W. Diokno


The truest leaders of a nation are not always anointed by elections or popular acclaim. They do not preen before an adoring populace, or strut in the perfumed corridors of power in fact, they stay away from the sharp focus of media, from the rambunctious pulpits of quasi-religious charlatans. It is in their nature, their sterling character, to work quietly, persistently, often at their own expense and personal sacrifice or discomfort. And some, as a matter of fact, are reduced to penury by their own virtue. What they do is voice the aspirations of the silenced and the silent, and are the pithy conscience of a people often mired in ignorance and apathy. Apolinario Mabini of the Revolution of 1896 was one crippled, poor, but enlightened, he provided the ideological underpinning of that revolution, and though thrust away from the inner councils of the President of the first Republic, Emilio Aguinaldo, he went on to write and speak for the nation that had become an American colony. Jose Wright Diokno is another the truly marmoreal opponent to the Marcos dictatorship, in a sense stronger than Ninoy Aquino because he never aspired to take over from Marcos. And also because he stayed home.

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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.
— Jose W. Diokno

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A Nation For Our Children


Note: “A Nation for Our Children” was delivered late in 1984. At that time Pepe was deeply involved in trying to unify the opposition against the fascistic but failing regime of Ferdinand E. Marcos. This important and crucial task did not prevent him from delineating in near-lyrical language his dream of a nation for all Filipino children — a just, humane and free society. Priscila S. Manalang 

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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.

A NOBLE nation, where homage is paid not to who a man is or what he owns, but to what he is and what he does.

A PROUD nation, where poverty chains no man to the plow, forces no woman to prostitute herself and condemns no child to scrounge among garbage.

A FREE nation, where men and women and children from all regions and with all kinds of talents may find truth and play and sing and laugh and dance and love without fear.

A JUST nation where whatever inequality exists is caused not by the way people act towards each other but by differences in natural talents; where poverty, ignorance, and hunger are attacked and every farmer has land that no one can grab from him; every breadwinner, a job that is satisfying and pays him enough to provide a decent standard of living; every family, a home from which it cannot be evicted; and everyone, a steadily improving quality of life.

An INDEPENDENT nation which rejects foreign dictation, depends on itself, thinks for itself, and decides for itself what the common good is, how it is to be attained, and how its costs and benefits are to be distributed.

An HONORABLE nation where public powers are used for the public good and not for the private gain of some Filipinos and some foreigners; where leaders speak not only well but truthfully and act honestly; a nation that is itself and seeks to live in peace and brotherhood with all other nations of the world.

Is this vision attainable? Or is it just an idle dream? If we base ourselves on today, we would be tempted to conclude that it is an idle dream. For our country today is in a mess. There is no other way to describe its condition.

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