A great unsayable, irreplaceable loss to nation
JOKER was a towering figure we idolized from afar when martial law came upon us in 1972.
He was up there. We were uhugin-may-gatas-pa-sa-labi (with snot on our noses and milk on our lips) gofers of the veteran de campanas and Joker made us see that UP (University of the Philippines) did not stand for Useless People (like Marcos, and that’s putting it mildly).
I was not to meet Joker until 1978, in connection with the 1978 Laban campaign. Uncle Jovy Salonga headed a group of like-minded dissidents in the resistance movement meeting regularly.
Our friendship was casual at that time. Acquaintanceship, more like.
And then in the 1981 Light-a-Fire trial in Camp Aguinaldo, he was mesmerized on hearing me, a San Beda English major, use “transmogrify.” He treated us to late lunch and became a fan, probably not having heard of the term in Ateneo and UP, ha, ha.
He and Bobbit Sanchez, chair of Mabini (Movement of Attorneys for Brotherhood and Integrity Inc.), with the latter’s expense account from the Garcias of Chemphil, were the only members who could afford to feed us, struggling pro bono (puro abono) lawyers (abonado, not abogado).
Last we met was in January this year when we defended Mayor Junjun Binay from a Senate arrest order. We got Junjun out in hours. Dating tagapangulo si Joker ng Lupon ng Lasong Bughaw and knew that a resource person is entitled to an advance list of questions, per the Supreme Court. (I told Senators Koko Pimentel and Sonny Trillanes that a resource person has a right not to speak. The praxis in the US was to work out immunity a priori. Noninquisitorial otherwise.)
Joker handled the most number of human rights cases, more than anyone else, and was the thriftiest senator who refused to accept pork barrel.
This millennium may have been problematic but judged by his best, we can see why candidate Cory picked him (and me) to accompany her in filing her certificate of candidacy in the Commission on Elections on Dec. 3, 1985, and why Prez Cory picked him as her first executive secretary, and took bullets to shield her as Little Prez.
When Dulce had her breast cancer operation in 1997, Joker was generous with his financial support, and again in 2007, when I lost her. He stood as a sponsor when our eldest son, Attorney Rebo, married Jackie. We were more than brothers in a band of human rights brothers and sisters.
When we differed on the unconstitutional ouster of Erap, our respect for each other remained, at a time when I was getting hammered, pummeled and pilloried from pillar to post.
But no superlatives can reduce the pain of a great unsayable, irreplaceable loss. The Republic owes him. So do the Aquinos.
Fely, we share your pain. We loved Joker, and always will.
Goodbye, my all-weather friend and brother.