Jose W. Diokno was a brilliant student. He topped both the Bar and the board exams for Certified Public Accountants (CPA).
Jose W. Diokno ("Pepe") was valedictorian of his high school class at De La Salle College. He then graduated with a bachelor’s degree in commerce, summa cum laude, at the age of 17, and topped the 1937 CPA board examinations with a rating of 81.18 percent.
In the midst of World War II, he managed to study law by himself. And in 1944, when the war was over, he received a special dispensation to take the Bar exams without a law degree. He topped the Bar along with Jovito Salonga, with a rating of 95.3 percent.
As Secretary of Justice, Jose W. Diokno fought corruption in government.
After gaining prominence as a trial lawyer, Jose W. Diokno was appointed Secretary of Justice by President Diosdado Macapagal in 1961. Sec. Diokno was dismissed, however, after he launched an investigation into American businessman Harry S. Stonehill, and uncovered corruption in high levels of government.
At the Senate, Diokno pushed for fair economic policies, and was consistently named outstanding Senator.
Sen. Diokno served two terms at the Senate, from 1963 to 1972, and he focused on economic development and social progress for Filipinos. He went against the oil lobby and masterminded the Oil Industry Commission Bill. He created the Board of Investments, authored the Investment Incentives Act, and co-authored the Export Incentives Act and the Revised Election Law, among others. Because of these achievements, Pepe Diokno was named Outstanding Senator by the Free Press for four successive years.
When Martial Law was declared, Sen. Diokno was imprisoned without charges.
Sen. Diokno was never charged with a single crime, but he spent two years at the Maximum Security Compound of Fort Bonifacio, and he endured a month in solitary confinement at Fort Magsaysay in Laur, Nueva Ecija.
For his wife Nena and their ten children, this changed their life. Not only did thet suffer the loss of their breadwinner, but they were also subjected to invasive searches whenever they visited him.
What really happened during Martial Law?
Sen. Diokno documented the heartbreaking realities in the 1983 BBC program, “To Sing Our Own Song”.
It was banned by Marcos regime.
Sen. Diokno fought for freedom, democracy, and human rights. He dreamed of "A Nation for Our Children".
Despite his experience, Sen. Diokno refused to believe in the necessity of armed struggle against the Marcos regime. Instead, he set up the Free Legal Assistance Group to fight the injustices of Martial Law. He defended political detainees, tribal groups, peasants, social workers, and activists, and used the legal system to promote economic, social, and cultural rights.
Along with Sister Mariani Dimaranan at Task Force Detainees, Sen. Diokno helped document cases of torture, summary execution, and disappearances. Sen. Diokno also went around the country, spreading hope in the midst of tyranny by talking about democracy and freedom.
After EDSA, he was appointed the first Chairman of the Presidential Committee on Human Rights (today, the Commission on Human Rights). Sen. Diokno is known as the “Father of Human Rights” in the Philippines.