BY F. SIONIL JOSE
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.
BY JOSE DALISAY, JR.
To young Filipinos for whom EDSA 1 and the martial-law dictatorship are now vague if not vanished memories, the name of Jose Wright Diokno—“Pepe” to his friends and contemporaries—may be a distant echo. It is a name often spoken in the same breath as Ninoy Aquino, Tanny Tañada, Chino Roces, Jovy Salonga, Gasty Ortigas, and a few other battle-scarred fighters for freedom, but the association, while uplifting for all, tends to blur the individual in favor of the group, as these unselfish gentlemen would have preferred.
But every hero is individually formed in the crucible of struggle, every heroic act individually chosen. Each hero emerges like a pearl in an oyster from the womb of resistance, their brightest and strongest qualities rising to the surface, the hardened accretions of personal values tested in the arena of public issues.
For a man such as Pepe Diokno—champion of human rights, nationalism, and Philippine sovereignty—heroism was never something to be actively sought by an illustrious few. It was, rather, a collective virtue immanent in the people, a people awakened to their rights, opportunities, and civic responsibilities. It was a hero who led a consistent life of thinking the right ideas and doing the right things—a life which, by its very nature, and despite its search for quietude in a roiling universe, would inevitably court danger and alarm.