TAAL, Batangas - Opposition senatorial candidate Jose Manuel "Chel" Diokno on Tuesday mounted a proclamation rally in this quiet southern Luzon municipality, where his ancestors are among the province’s pride and heroes.
The province literally sings praises for the Dioknos as the family name is included in the Batangas hymn alongside other prominent Batangueño families.
Chel's great grandfather Ananias was a revolutionary general, his grandfather Ramon was a senator, and his dad Jose was a lawmaker who became the first head of the Commission on Human Rights following the restoration of democracy in 1986.
“Masasabi ko nananalaytay sa aking mga ugat ang dugo ng Batangueño: dugo ng matapang, dugo ng matapat, at dugo ng makatao,” Diokno said, recounting how his family suffered during the Marcos dictatorship.
Then-Senator Jose Wright Diokno, a critic of former President Ferdinand Marcos, was among those arrested shortly after martial law was declared in September 1972. He was jailed for 2 years without any charges, and founded the Free Legal Assistance Group of human rights lawyers after his release.
“Napaisip ako na kung itong inhustisyang ito kayang gawin sa tatay ko na isang senador, paano pa sa mga ordinaryong tao,” said Diokno, who is seeking to champion justice bills if elected to the Senate.
Diokno, the founding dean of the De La Salle University College of Law, said being a human rights lawyer for 3 decades is no longer enough to institute reforms in the justice system.
“Kahit isang milyon pa ang hawakan kong kaso, mababago ba ang hustisya? Kung hindi ako kikilos, sino ang kikilos? Kung hindi ngayon, kailan pa?” he said.
“Tulungan niyo po ang isang Diokno na ibalik sa Senado. Tulungan niyo po ang 2 Batangueño na mahalal sa Senado,” Diokno said, referring to Otso Diretso co-candidate, Romulo Macalintal, who hails from Lipa, Batangas.
It has been 47 years since Chel's father held a seat in the Senate.
Diokno’s proclamation rally was held 2 days after his lauded performance during the first leg of the “Harapan 2019: The ABS-CBN Senatorial Town Hall Debate” last Sunday.
He trended on Twitter after his “witty” answers during the “Fast Talk” segment.
Diokno, however, has yet to climb to the top 15 spot in pre-election surveys of both Pulse Asia and Social Weather Stations. Six of the 8 Otso Diretso candidates, including Diokno, are plagued by low voter awareness.
The 2-hour sortie was held at a covered court behind the town’s Basilica and was hosted by “Ang Probinsyano” star Jaime Fabregas.
“Ngayon lang ako tumayo sa isang entablado para mag endorse ng isang kandidato,” Fabregas said.
“Kailangan po natin sa Senado ng walang takot na harapin ang katotohanan at walang takot na kakalabanin ang mali,” he said.
After his campaign rally, Diokno toured his staff and supporters around his hometown. Among his tour highlights were the Taal Basilica and the Diokno House in the heart of the municipality.