Atty. Chel was 11 years old when he witnessed injustice for the first time.
His father, Sen. Jose W. Diokno, was arrested by the Marcos regime and imprisoned for two years without having been charged of a single crime. For Chel, his siblings, and their mother Nena, this experience changed their life.
Prior to this, the Diokno family lived a comfortable life. Jose W. Diokno, who was a Bar and CPA topnotcher, had an illustrious career as a lawyer, Secretary of Justice, and Senator. He excelled as Chair of the Senate Economic Affairs Committee, and was consistently voted outstanding Senator.
Sen. Diokno was imprisoned for two years at the Maximum Security Compound of Fort Bonifacio, and he spent one month in solitary confinement at Fort Magsaysay in Laur, Nueva Ecija. His wife Nena and their children had to endure the loss of their breadwinner, and were even subjected to invasive searches whenever they visited him.
After his release from prison, Sen. Diokno dedicated his life to fighting for freedom and democracy, and helping the oppressed.
Despite the hardship of Martial Law, Chel excelled in his studies.
He graduated high school with honors, was president of the La Salle Green Hills student council, and a Gerardo Roxas Leadership Awardee
At U.P. Diliman, where he earned a degree in Philosophy, he was an honorary member of the Creative Writing Center.
Juris Doctor of Laws
He graduated Juris Doctor of Laws, magna cum laude at the Northern Illinois University (NIU) in the U.S., was a member of the NIU Law Review, received the American Jurisprudence Award for Excellence in the Study of Contracts.
He passed the Bar both in the State of Illinois and in the Philippines, and chose to serve in his country.
Following in the footsteps of his father, Atty. Chel has spent 30 years defending the rights of ordinary Filipinos.
Atty. Chel is Chairman of the Free Legal Assistance Group, which Jose W. Diokno founded. It is the Philippines’ oldest and largest group of human rights lawyers. Chel has represented farmers, laborers, teachers, students, journalists, soldiers and policemen, whistleblowers, and environmental groups.
Among Atty. Chel’s landmark cases is Secretary of National Defense v. Raymond Manalo, the the first writ of amparo case decided by the Supreme Court. Manalo is a farmer who was abducted and tortured by the military, and after the court guaranteed his protection, his testimony led to the prosecution and recent conviction of Gen. Jovito Palparan. Atty. Chel also defended the Tagaytay 5, a farmer’s group that was wrongly jailed for rebellion.
Atty. Chel campaigned against the death penalty, and, in cases like People v. Andal and People v. Reynaldo de Villa, he successfully defended innocent people who were sentenced to death. He has also won cases where freedom of speech was at risk, and where workers were wrongly dismissed from their jobs.
As an educator, Atty. Chel shares his knowledge of law and justice.
Atty. Chel is founding Dean of the De La Salle University (DLSU) College of Law, which highlights human rights and legal aid as an integral component of the curriculum. With the Diokno Law Center, Chel has conducted trainings for lawyers, government offices, private organizations, universities, and schools. He has also written three books on law.