MANILA – Former senator and human rights lawyer Joker Arroyo has died in the United States, an Arroyo family member told ABS-CBN News. He was 88 years old.
Born January 5, 1927 in Naga, Camarines Sur, Arroyo finished his primary and secondary education in Naga before getting a scholarship in the University of the Philippines.
A graduate of the UP College of Law and the Ateneo de Manila, Arroyo was thrust into national consciousness when he challenged before the Supreme Court the constitutionality of Proclamation No. 1081 imposing martial law.
According to his Senate profile, Arroyo handled more human rights cases than any other lawyer from 1972-1986. He defended various political detainees including Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr., Eugenio Lopez Jr., Serge Osmeña III, Jose Ma. Sison, Jovito Salonga, Nene Pimentel, Eva Kalaw, Renato Tañada, Eduardo Olaguer and many others.
He also co-founded the MABINI and FLAG with other human rights lawyers.
During the snap elections in 1986, he served as counsel of Mrs. Corazon Aquino.
After EDSA I, he held various posts in government first as Executive Secretary in the Aquino Cabinet, then as Chairman of the Philippine National Bank and as Executive Director for the Philippines in the Asian Development Bank from 1986 to 1990.
He was elected congressman of Makati 1st District from 1992 to 1998 and was a lead prosecutor during the impeachment trial of President Joseph Estrada in December 2000.
He was elected senator in 2001 and was re-elected in 2007. He retired from public service in 2013.
‘Legend for All Time’
In an interview on ANC’s “Dateline Philippines”, former Senator Rene Saguisag honored his late colleague, saying Arroyo is a “legend for all time.”
Saguisag noted that Arroyo served Ninoy and Cory Aquino well and “took many bullets” for the former president during his stint as Executive Secretary.
“We hope na he will remain an idol, an icon. Siya ang legend in his own time. Now, he’s a legend for all time,” said Saguisag.
The former senator added that he is also grateful for the generosity of Arroyo, whom he said was more than a brother to him.
“When my wife had a breast cancer operation in 1997 and when she passed away in 2007, Joker was very generous in his assistance materially dahil alam niya namang Saguisag eh maralitang taga-lungsod eh,” Saguisag shared.
“So I’ll remember Joker very fondly in far many more ways than I can enumerate.”
Supreme Court (SC) spokesperson Atty. Theodore Te, likewise, remembered Arroyo as a “very sharp” lawyer.” But Te noted that Arroyo was also “very human” with a “funny side” and a good sense of humor.
“One thing for sure, he did his part for the country. And whether you agree with what he did or the things he said and the positions he took — I don’t agree with all of them — but definitely, he’s not someone that you would easily forget,” said Te.
‘Patriot, True Filipino’
Meanwhile, Vice President Jejomar Binay also mourned the death of Arroyo, saying the nation has lost a patriot and a true Filipino.
“The death of Joker leaves me with a deep sense of personal loss. The nation has lost a patriot and a true Filipino. I have lost a dear friend, a mentor and a brother,” he said.
Binay said they went through a lot together as human rights lawyers. He also credited Arroyo for helping rebuild Makati from a debt-ridden municipality to a model of public service and pro-poor governance.
“Joker played a big role in rebuilding the nation from the ashes of the dictatorship. And he 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.”