Rights lawyer Pepe Diokno honored in CHR rites
The people who get on President Rodrigo Duterte’s nerves saw themselves together on Thursday at the unveiling of the monument of human rights lawyer and former Sen. Jose “Ka Pepe” Diokno at the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) in Quezon City.
Former President Benigno Aquino III, Vice President Leni Robredo, Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and CHR Chair Jose Luis Gascon joined the Diokno family at what was originally planned low-key event.
It ended up as a major part of the protest rallies against the draconian policies of Mr. Duterte at the 45th anniversary of the declaration of martial law.
Diokno was among the first opposition leaders arrested after the dictator Ferdinand Marcos imposed martial law on Sept. 21, 1972.
He and former President Aquino’s father, the martyred Sen. Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr., were placed in solitary confinement in Fort Magsaysay in Laur, Nueva Ecija province.
Diokno later founded the Free Legal Assistance Group that defended victims of human rights violations.
“There were those who followed the three monkeys: those who did not see anything, hear anything, or say anything. But Ka Pepe was different. He was detained for a long time, released and he could be jailed again anytime. But this did not stop him from siding with the truth and fighting for rights of everybody,” Aquino told reporters.
The Diokno monument was built under the auspices of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines and the National Commission for the Culture and the Arts, with the budget approved by former President Aquino.
The memorial was built by Filipino sculptor Julie Lluch.
Diokno’s youngest grandchild, Inez, a law student, in her brief speech said there were “so much injustices as we speak.”
“It is important to remain vigilant,” Inez said. She also quoted his grandfather, who famously said: “Once we accept violence there is no way to control it.”
UP Mass for Justice
Aquino and Robredo were both at the Mass for Justice at the University of the Philippines (UP), which was attended by the anti-administration protesters who marched to the CHR for the unveiling ceremony.
The Mass was capped by the singing of the antidictatorship song, “Bayan Ko,” and the laying of flowers and candles before the “Pieta” picture, a representation of drug killings taken by former Inquirer photographer Raffy Lerma.
Thousands have been killed in the Duterte administration’s campaign against illegal drugs.
“We are here to show our solidarity, that we agree that we should demand justice for all those who have been killed,” Aquino told reporters when he arrived at UP’s Church of the Risen Lord.
He reiterated that the people were his bosses, which was why he went to UP.
“What is painful is that in some parts of our country, it seems we are feeling [the dark past] again. It seems the same thing is happening again,” he said.
Aquino was heartened by the huge attendance of protesters who decried the authoritarian tendencies of Mr. Duterte.
“The good part about today is there are so many people who are concerned from different ages. There seems to be less of a need now to awaken [the people] than it was before,” Aquino said.
He said the sad part was there were those who started the fight when they were young like him but found themselves still fighting.
In a statement, Robredo said the country’s “bitter experience under martial rule taught us the terrible cost of cowardice, complacency and collusion in the face of rising tyranny.” —With a report from DJ Yap
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