Ombudsman search: Diokno is no joke
By JEE Y. GERONIMO
Newsbreak Internship Program
MANILA, Philippines – Diokno Boulevard may originally be named after his father, yet Jose Manuel Diokno’s feet are also taking him to the same path that his father had walked on.
Jose Manuel Diokno, son of human rights champion Jose “Pepe” Wright Diokno, is one of the late senator’s ten children with his wife Carmen Icasiano Diokno. He is also said to be one of the lawyers being considered for the position vacated by resigned Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez.
The younger Diokno, also known as Chel, graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy at the University of the Philippines. He also graduated magna cum laude from the Northern Illinois University College of Law with the degree Juris Doctor of Laws (J.D.), coincidentally the law degree being offered by the De La Salle University (DLSU) College of Law, the newest law school in the country which he now heads.
Retired Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban wrote a foreword for Ka Pepe’s book “Diokno on trial: techniques and ideals of the Filipino lawyer.” Chel updated the book, and in the foreword, Panganiban quotes the late senator’s perception of a lawyer’s task. He said that in order to win a case, three things are necessary: a good case, a good lawyer, and a good judge.
Will Chel be qualified enough to win, not just any ordinary court case, but a position rocked by too many scandals?
Chel is a bar member of both the Republic of the Philippines and the State of Illinois. The 50 year-old attorney, also a human rights advocate, was one of a team of lawyers prosecuting 27 police officers who were involved in the alleged 1995 extrajudicial execution of 11 suspected members of the Kuratong Baleleng bank robbery gang.
When he was still vice-chairman of the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG), the oldest and largest organization of human rights lawyers in the Philippines founded in 1974 by his father along with the late Lorenzo Tanada Sr. and Joker Arroyo, Chel and his colleagues received death threats related to the Kuratong Baleleng case.
Despite the threats and the case being dismissed in 1999 (after the key witnesses withdrawn their statements), Chel and his fellow FLAG lawyers Arno Sanidad and Theodore Te urged then President Arroyo in 2001 to reopen the case and speed up its political resolution. The case has dragged on since then, and is now pending with the Supreme Court.
In 2008, 13 years since the killing, not one of the accused PNP officials were jailed or arraigned.
“This is perhaps the most important case of extrajudicial killing. It has all the essential elements,” Sanidad said in a published interview.
But while it was a good case, and competent lawyers acted on it, only a good judge and a good court can guarantee its success.
Chel is presently the chairman of FLAG and executive director of the Diokno Law Center, a training institute for lawyers and paralegals.
The lawyer, who was the legal counsel of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee for 3 years, is never afraid to voice
out his opinions. His tenure as dean of the DLSU College of Law is fitting for his role as a human rights supporter since the college was founded to focus on such advocacies.
“[The college was established] to significantly influence national policy development, contribute to a heightened awareness of human rights in the country and play a critical role in human rights advocacy,” Diokno said in a previous Inquirer interview.
Chel also led the college as it supported UP when it faced disciplinary action for calling for the resignation of Supreme Court Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo, who has been accused of plagiarism.
His father, from whom Chel had his early legal education, was a colleague of the late Sen. Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, Jr. during the 6th and 7th Congress.
Pepe and Ninoy were both strong opponents to the Marcos dictatorship. F. Sionil Jose wrote in a biography for Pepe that the latter is
a Marcos opponent “in a sense stronger than Ninoy Aquino because he never aspired to take over from Marcos.”
Chel openly denounced the human rights record of the Arroyo administration.
“Eliminating impunity is no easy task,” Chel wrote in a commentary for Newsbreak. He described impunity as the dark side of accountability, that which can be seen everywhere in this country, “here, now, today.”
“Our task–and our challenge–is to find safer ground. To find a path that can take us, eventually, to a world where life has meaning; where values count; and where we can say: This is where I want my children to grow up, instead of dreaming of a better life in distant shores.”
When the son of one of the most celebrated senators in Philippine history speaks of accountability in such a manner, you can’t be faulted for thinking that Chel Diokno is no joke.—Newsbreak
TAGS: Jose Manuel Diokno, Ombudsman