The death of former senator Joker Arroyo came as sad news to many people, especially to those who were present during the Martial Law Era. For them, he was one of the many heroes who helped the country regain its democracy.
His name, however, may not ring any bells with younger generations, which is a shame. The very freedom we all exercise today would not be possible at all if it hadn’t been for him.
As tribute, here are just some of the finest accomplishments of Sen. Joker Arroyo, how he served as a beacon of hope and a brave soul who stood up for the oppressed and powerless, and how Filipinos of today should be grateful for his bravery and service:
Sen. Joker Arroyo was the first lawyer to challenge the legality and implementation of Martial Law. Along with other lawyers, he also questioned the court about the ratification of the Marcos-favored 1973 Philippine Constitution, the ruling that gave the late dictator and president Ferdinand Marcos the power to make laws, and the authority of the military to try civilians.
As a human rights lawyer, he also helped save opposition leaders, such as Ninoy Aquino, Eugenio Lopez Jr. (ABS-CBN founder) and former Senator Sergio Osmena III to name a few, from the Marcos administration. He also defended Chinese Commercial News publishers Quintin and Rizal Yuyitung who were accused of promoting anti-Filipino activities and pro-communist ideas during the era.
Because of all these, he, too, was put through physical and mental torture. Nevertheless, he continued to lead rallies, and formed two civic groups called Movement for the Advancement of the Brotherhood, Integrity, Nationalism and Independence (MABINI) and the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG). At the end of the Marcos dictatorship, he also served alongside the late president Corazon Aquino as her counsel during the 1986 snap elections.
He was also one of the first people who pushed for the impeachment trial of the mass-loved former president and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada back in 2000. Arroyo led the 11-member prosecution panel and Estrada was then ousted through the second People Power in 2001. Years after, he stood as a judge in the impeachment trial of Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona and voted to acquit him.
He became the Executive Secretary from 1986 to 1992 during the first Aquino administration and later on as Chairman of the Philippine National Bank and as the Executive Director for the Asian Development Bank from 1986 to 1990. Arroyo was also dubbed as “The Scrooge” for transforming Makati into a successful financial center.
He became the representative of the first district of Makati for three consecutive years as an independent runner. He moved to the Senate in 2001 and served two consecutive terms until 2013. During his term, he was the chairman of the blue ribbon committee, as well as the public services, justice and human rights committees.
Among the awards that were given to him were the Philippine Bar Association’s Most Distinguished Award for Justice, a Senate resolution that commended him for his services to the country, and the media’s Outstanding Congressman of the Year in numerous accounts.
Sen. Joker Arroyo was reported to never have traveled abroad using public funds, had perfect attendance in Congress, never used his P200 million Priority Development Assistance Fund, and walked around with no bodyguards, secretaries and even liked to wear barongs with jeans. Above all that, he was once just like us–a simple person who dreamed of peace for our nation.
Thank you, Sen. Joker Arroyo. May you rest in peace.