When Ralph Recto first ran for the Senate, people voted for him not really because he was the grandson of the great Claro Mayo Recto, but because he was the husband of the “Star for All Seasons,” aka Vilma Santos. The movie star herself had turned out to be a good public servant. By then, the greatness of Don Claro had long receded into the outer banks of the collective memory, except for men of a certain age who still remember the great Don Claro.
Still, the grandson became good at legislating and taking up an advocacy, proving, once and for all, the staying power of an excellent political bloodline. Of course, Ralph Recto was not as brilliant as his grandfather. But who was? Who is? In my public school generation, those who can orate and declaim with distinction were automatically called “future Rectos.”
Those who stuttered and flubbed their lines, like this typist, were automatically ruled out as “un-Rectos.”
It is in this context that — after so many senatorial surveys — many people of my age are gripped with sadness over the absence of two senatorial candidates: the second-generation Diokno and the third-generation Tañada, from the list of possible winners. The sadness becomes a tragedy when you find out one other thing — they are not even in contention.
What has become of voters in this country? That is a fair question to ask.
If the third-generation Tañada and the second-generation Diokno now running for senators were just wasted and undeserving inheritors of two iconic political surnames, there is absolutely no need to question the preference of voters, of course, based on the survey results. But the two — Erin Tañada and Jose Manuel Diokno — can start Senate work today without needing refresher courses. They can start Senate work from the get-go. And they are expected to do, at the very least, decent legislation and advocacy work.
Both are lawyers. Both are crusaders for the fundamental rights of Filipinos. Both don’t sell out on their principles. While the young Diokno does not possess the academic brilliance of his late father and the young Tañada does not come close to matching the intellectual and legal skills of his revered grandfather, the two are better off academically than 80 percent of those running for senators. And they see issues from the prism of a patriot, which is probably the most important qualification that should be had by candidates for Senate posts in this time and age.
While the martial rule declared by former president Ferdinand Marcos, indeed, jailed thousands of political dissenters, there were specific orders to detain for good, two names, whose defiance of Marcos was a special problem to the dictator: Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr., and Jose W. Diokno. Two names that would not bend to Marcos and any and all offers of a political truce.
Marcos, who was brilliant, disciplined and controlled, was chafing over Aquino’s “Wonder Boy” tag, his immense popularity and the seeming predestination of the young Aquino as the next president of the country . The overwhelming reason for the declaration of martial law was the certainty of an Aquino presidency, not the concocted dreams of a “New Society.”
But it was Jose W. Diokno and his unflinching and unbending principles that Marcos feared more; and the formidable intellect that Marcos could not match. The only Filipino to top both accountancy and bar exams. The only Filipino to top the bar exams without a formal law degree.