Diokno's vision for PH as 'nation for our children' not yet realized

HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDER. Statesman Jose 'Ka Pepe' Diokno during one of the anti-Martial Law demonstrations. Photo from Diokno Foundation

HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDER. Statesman Jose 'Ka Pepe' Diokno during one of the anti-Martial Law demonstrations.

Photo from Diokno Foundation

MANILA, Philippines – It's been 30 years since the death of senator and human rights defender Jose "Ka Pepe" Diokno, but his vision to make the Philippines a nation for children has yet to be realized, said his daughter Maria Socorro "Cookie" Diokno on Monday, February 27.

During the first leg of the JW Diokno Human Rights Memorial lecture series on Monday, Cookie Diokno denounced the government's focus on its bloody campaign against drugs and criminality.

"A government that wages war against the country's social ills but ignores the fundamental economic and political structures that have characterized our country for centuries is, in my father's words, a travesty of democracy," said Diokno, also the secretary general of the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG).

She added that while the government is bent on eradicating illegal drugs, it has remained "oblivious to the hunger, poverty, unemployment, underemployment, low wages, social injustices."

Diokno's father was one of the forerunners of human rights in the Philippines –especially during Martial Law under the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos. Aside from serving as justice secretary under the administration of Diosdado Macapagal, he was also the founding chairperson of the Presidential Committee on Human Rights which later became the Commission on Human Rights. 

The statesman died in 1987, a year after the Marcos dictatorship was toppled and democracy was restored.

STAND FIRM. Ka Pepe's daughter, Maria Socorro 'Cookie' Diokno, says her father would urge Filipinos to stand firm against injustices if he were still alive. Photo by Jodesz Gavilan/Rappler

STAND FIRM. Ka Pepe's daughter, Maria Socorro 'Cookie' Diokno, says her father would urge Filipinos to stand firm against injustices if he were still alive.

Photo by Jodesz Gavilan/Rappler

'Stand firm'

How does one continue the work of Ka Pepe and fufill his vision of a "nation for our children"?

If the former senator were alive today, his daughter said, he would urge people to "stand firm, find our voice, and not seal our eyes."

"There is no freedom when our people are cowering in fear, blind to the corpses that litter our streets, unable, nay, unwilling to voice," Diokno said. "I refuse to believe that my father's faith in our people is misguided or naive. I choose instead to believe in our people's courage, valor, strength of character. I choose to believe that our people have not turned their backs on our core values."

The lingering divisiveness, however, could prevent the country from reaching its full potential.

According to Diokno, there is a "need to get together, unite, realize, and accept that we are all Filipinos" if we want to stop injustices happening in the Philippines. 

"We need to stop about this being about yellowtards (opposition supporters), Dutertards (the President's supporters), dilawan, whatever," she emphasized. "If we begin to get ourselves united and to go back to our core values and decency as Filipinos, turn our backs on all of these things that are happening right now, and stand firm, then maybe we can find the power." – Rappler.com

Jodesz Gavilan

Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and also hosts the weekly podcast Newsbreak: Beyond the Stories. She joined Rappler in 2014 after obtaining her journalism degree from the University of the Philippines.

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