Believe it or not, there was a time when we Filipinos respect and even consider some politicians like how we revere big-name intellectuals. Why only five? Well, honestly, I wanted to just write about three legislative luminaries because for me, they represent the best of the best.
- Jose Diokno. Talk about human rights, and the name Jose Diokno comes into your mind. Born to a former senator and a British mestiza, Jose Diokno was the only Filipino allowed by the Supreme Court to take the bar exams without finishing a law degree. He tops the bar with 95%. Diokno practiced law and became one of this country’s most illustrious lawyers, taking high-profile cases and winning them with finesse. Macapagal appointed him as Secretary of Justice and took it upon himself to prosecute corrupt government officials. When Macapagal demanded his resignation after trying to file criminal cases against American Stonehill, Diokno resigned and joined the Nationalist Party. He won as Senator alongside Ferdinand Marcos. When he sensed that Marcos planned to declare a dictatorship, Diokno resigned from the Nacionalista Party and took to the streets. In 1972, Diokno was arrested and detained for two years without any charges filed against him. After being freed on occasion of the dictator’s 57th birthday, Diokno founded the Free Legal Assistance Group or FLAG, which took cases of human rights violations committed by state agencies against ordinary Filipinos.
- Jovito Salonga. He belonged to the illustrious group of bar passers who average 99plus yet instead of serving the interests of Big Corporations and corrupt bureaucrat capitalists, Salonga instead spent his whole life as a politician who wanted nothing more than improve the lives of many Filipinos. He topped the bar exams scoring 95%–the same score with Jose Diokno. He went to Harvard and secured a PHD in law at Yale University, where he was also offered a Professorship. Salonga declined and came back to the Philippines. He went on to teach law at Far Eastern University (FEU) as its dean. President Macapagal offered him to join the Liberal party and it was him who worked for expanding the party’s roots to the masses. When martial law was declared, Salonga was arrested. After being freed, Salonga worked tirelessly against the dictatorship and became one of the most illustrious reformers who took part in the first EDSA revolution.
- Claro M. Recto. He is regarded as the “mentor” of Diokno, Salonga even Tanada. Recto’s influence in his generation is highly profound and deep.
- Lorenzo Tanada. The “Grand Old man of Philippine politics” is no more. Yet, his legacy is etched in the pages of our history. Like Diokno and Salonga, Tanada was also a highly respected lawyer of note, with a Harvard law mistral degree tucked in his belt. Like Diokno, Tanada fought gallantly for human rights and became one with the people in the fight against the Marcos dictatorship.
- Ramon Magsaysay. He may not be a lawyer, but Magsaysay created an administration that remains highly respected even today. Many Filipinos regard the Magsaysay era as one of the most memorable and the most loved administrations of all time. Sadly though, Magsaysay died in a tragic accident which is still being talked with until today.