Diokno, Jose W.
GS 1933, HS 1937, BSC 1940
DLSAA Distinguished Lasallian Awardee
Jose “Ka Pepe" Diokno embodied excellence even during his early years. A valedictorian in high school class and a summa cum laude graduate from De La Salle in 1940, “Ka Pepe", at the tender age of 18, topped the CPA Board Exams and in 1944, without finishing his law degree, also topped the bar examinations with a grade of 95.3 percent. His outstanding performance as a law practitioner led him to public prominence and in 1958 and 1960, became a member of the special committee to investigate the Department of Finance and the Bureau of Supply Coordination anomalies, respectively. In 1962, President Diosdado Macapagal appointed him Secretary of Justice, where he staunchly opposed and prosecuted the controversial American tax evader Harry Stonehill. In November 1963, “Ka Pepe" ran for senator and won. He was a strong advocate of pro-Filipino legislations and a steadfast supporter of humanized taxation. He worked strenuously to put control of Philippine economy back in Filipino hands. He was a Filipino delegate for numerous commissions which included the United Nations General Assembly in the mid-1960s. Such was his influence on the people as the quintessential lawyer and street parliamentarian that when martial law was declared in September 1972, he was the first member of the opposition to be arrested and imprisoned. After being detained in maximum security on an arrest and seizure order and kept under solitary confinement, he was begrudgingly released by President Ferdinand Marcos, without ever being charged or tried, two years later in 1974. Upon his release from political imprisonment, “Ka Pepe" founded and led the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG), the Philippines' first pro bono legal service group that renders free service to martial law human rights victims. At its height, FLAG handled almost 90 percent of all human rights cases and its success christened “Ka Pepe" as the Father of the Human Rights Advocacy. He was the chair of the Civil Liberties Union from 1975 to 1982 and the secretary general of the Regional Council on Human Rights in Asia from 1983 to 1987, in concurrence with his ongoing anti-Marcos/pro-Aquino rallies on the streets. For six years, he battled the supremacy of American bases in the Philippines via his secretary general post in the anti-bases coalition, and in 1983, founded the Kilusan sa Kapangyarihan at Karapatan ng Bayan (Kaakbay) as yet another campaign for Filipino and human rights, which he considered a cause greater and worthier than any other. In 1986, he was the chair of the Presidential Committee on Human Rights and resigned in protest of the Mendiola farmers' massacre. He furthered on to be the principal negotiator in peace talks with the National Democratic Front. The ultimate Filipino human rights advocate and patriot was described by the late Senator Ninoy Aquino as “the most brilliant Filipino", by Professor Randy David as the “best president we did not have", and by London's Amnesty International as the “champion of justice and human rights in Asia". Jose “Ka Pepe" Diokno zealously defended his ideals and belief in the sacredness and dignity of the human person. The Lasallian community is deeply honored and humbled to have shared in the history of one of the greatest nationalists who ever lived. (Written by Eunice Lucero, DLSAA Alumnews 90th)