Joker Arroyo, champion of human rights: Chiz

Joker Arroyo

Joker Arroyo

Sen. Joker Arroyo will always be known as among the pioneers and champion of human rights advocacy and a freedom fighter. He defended and handled human rights cases. This was the official statement released by his colleague, Senator Chiz Escudero.

“Together with the freedom-loving Filipinos, we express the gratitude of the Filipino nation for his sacrifices and those of his family members offered to make a better Philippines,” Escudero said on the passing of Sen. Arroyo, who died after an “unsuccessful operation” in San Francisco early this week.

Escudero, who is running for vice president with fellow Sen. Grace Poe, also said, “We cannot repay his sincerity, courage and fortitude and strength amid challenges he had encountered while serving the parliament of the streets and the halls of Congress and Senate.”

Arroyo has a long history of these traits by handling more human rights cases than any other lawyer from 1972-1986. A graduate of the UP College of Law and the Ateneo de Manila, his meteoric rise to national consciousness started when he challenged before the Supreme Court of the Philippines the constitutionality of Proclamation No. 1081 imposing martial law.

Thereafter, he joined other lawyers in questioning before the Supreme Court: 1) the ratification of the Marcos dictated 1973 Constitution; 2) Amendment 6 that empowered President Marcos to exercise law making powers alongside the Batasang Pambansa; 3) the power of military tribunals to try civilians.  Senator Arroyo’s brilliant skills as a trial lawyer was demonstrated when he helped defend political detainees such as Ninoy Aquino, Eugenio Lopez, Jr., Serge Osmeña III, Jose Ma. Sison, Jovito Salonga, Nene Pimentel, Eva Kalaw, Renato Tañada, Eduardo Olaguer and many others.

RIP, Senator Joker Arroyo. The last time I saw him was at the reunion of Malacanang reporters who covered President Cory Aquino. I made a very quick trip to Manila April this year to attend the event. He wore a fiery bright orange shirt...fiery, like his fighting spirit when he was a fearless human rights lawyer. – Nimfa Rueda, US correspondent for Philippine Daily Inquirer and Balita Media contributor (second from right)

RIP, Senator Joker Arroyo. The last time I saw him was at the reunion of Malacanang reporters who covered President Cory Aquino. I made a very quick trip to Manila April this year to attend the event. He wore a fiery bright orange shirt…fiery, like his fighting spirit when he was a fearless human rights lawyer. – Nimfa Rueda, US correspondent for Philippine Daily Inquirer and Balita Media contributor (second from right)

As a freedom fighter, Senator Arroyo has had his share of physical and mental tortures having been incarcerated in a military stockade, gassed, injured and hospitalized during protest rallies. During the snap elections in 1986, he served as counsel of Mrs. Corazon Aquino. He, likewise, co-founded MABINI and FLAG together with other human rights lawyers. He is also a member of the American Bar Association, Senior Lawyers Division.

After EDSA I, he held various post in the government service first as Executive Secretary in the Aquino cabinet from 1986 to 1992, then as Chairman of the Philippine National Bank and as Executive Director for the Philippines in the Asian Development Bank from 1986 to1990.

Vice President Jejomar Binay on Wednesday mourned the death of former Senator Joker Arroyo, whom he called a “dear friend, a mentor and a brother.”

“The death of Joker leaves me with a deep sense of personal loss,” Binay said in a press statement. “The nation has lost a patriot and a true Filipino. I have lost a dear friend, a mentor and a brother.”

Binay and Arroyo were both part of a group that fought the Marcos dictatorship.

“Marami kaming pinagdaanan ni Joker. Nagsimula ito sa pagtatanggol kay dating Senador Ninoy Aquino sa paglilitis sa kanya ng military tribunal noong martial law,” he said.

The Vice President recalled the time they were part of a group of human rights lawyers fighting the dictatorship.

“Lumalim ito sa aming pakikibaka bilang human rights lawyers sa ilalim ng Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) at Movement of Attorneys for Brotherhood, Integrity and Nationalism Inc. (MABINI). Sa husgado, sa mga welga at rali, at sa 1986 EDSA Revolution, magkakasama kami ni Joker at mga “abugadong palaban” para manindigan sa panig ng kalayaan at demokrasya,” Binay said.

He added that Arroyo played a big role in rebuilding the nation from the ashes of the dictatorship and also helped rebuild Makati from a debt-ridden municipality to a model of public service and pro-poor governance.

“The people of Makati will always be grateful to Joker. The Filipino people will always remember his battles to defend democracy and human rights. I will always keep his memories close to my heart,” he said.(With MNS and Sen. Joker Arroyo’s resumé as posted on the official Philippine Senate website)

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