Profiles of Courage

Ma. Socorro Diokno

A government that wages war against the country’s social ills but ignores the fundamental economic and political structures that have characterized our country for centuries is, in my father’s words, a ‘travesty of democracy,” says Ma. Socorro “Cookie” Diokno, during a lecture series on her father, legendary defender of human rights and foremost Martial Law critic, Jose W. Diokno, known as “Ka Pepe” to many.[1] Emulating her father, Cookie has pursued the protection of human rights for nearly four decades, leading the struggle against oppression as her father did.

Cookie graduated cum Laude from the University of the Philippines, obtaining her degree in Broadcast Communication.[2] When Martial Law was declared, the Dioknos were having a party in their subdivision home in Magallanes when armed men arrived looking for the patriarch. Despite bringing no warrant, Diokno was still taken to Camp Crame, where he would find himself with other notable Martial Law critics and opposition leaders. Their mother, Carmen, then had to carry the burden of raising the family. The children had to temporarily stop schooling as they sold the house and moved to New Manila.[3]

Their lives changed drastically. The Dioknos were enjoying the benefits of Ka Pepe’s illustrious law career, so when he was detained, they lost the family breadwinner. Nonetheless, they soldiered on. The family did not blame their father, rather, firmly believing in what he stood for. They would recall harsh military checks whenever they visited him in jail.[4] Ka Pepe was released on September 11, 1974 and promptly returned to the anti-Marcos movement, intensifying his work in defending human rights violations victims along with fellow lawyer colleagues.[5] By this time, Cookie, then a student of the University of the Philippines, recalled initially wanting to go overseas, but was denied a passport by the Philippine government. She was then encouraged by her father to work with him for “awhile.”[6]

Her father was, of course, referring to his work in what would eventually become the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG). It was founded in 1974 by human rights lawyers Joker Arroyo, Senator Lorenzo Tañada, Sr. and Sen. Diokno, and has since become the largest and oldest organization in the Philippines — one of the largest and older in all of Southeast Asia — dedicated to human rights lawyers and the defense of human rights. FLAG was (and still is) dedicated to helping the victims of Martial Law with no means to defend themselves.[7] These were the Filipino poor, the minorities, the marginalized, those on the fringes of society susceptible to military abuses. They also helped defend the cases of protesters, opposition movement members and critics who would find themselves in court, deemed “subversive,” “communist,” or “anti-government.” They would offer their services pro bono (free of charge), as money was not their main purpose.[8]

Cookie remarked that “awhile” turned into years. She became part of FLAG in 1974[9] and became its Secretary-General in 1976, a position she still holds today.[10] She also became part of the Regional Council on Human Rights in Asia and it also its Secretary-General.[11] Of her brothers and sisters, Cookie was one of the closest with her father, having worked with him side-by-side for years on end. Her sister, Ma. Serena “Mariz” Diokno, a renowned Filipino historian, recalled her and her siblings mostly being cared for by their mother as their father was spending time as a politician in the Senate, as a detainee in jail, as a human rights lawyer in the courtrooms, or as a protester joining fellow Filipinos in the streets to decry Martial Law and its atrocities.[12]

Cookie also supported her father in his other campaigns. She became a leader of the Anti-Bases Coalition (ABC), an organization founded by her father which worked towards the removal of U.S. military bases from the Philippines.[13] While her father died in 1987, Cookie remained committed to the advocacy of human rights. Today, as she once stood with her father, she remains standing with family. Mariz Diokno, as a historian, has used her capacity in teaching the Filipinos, in particular the youth, the truth of Martial Law. Cookie’s brother, Jose Manuel “Chel” Diokno, is currently the chairman of FLAG, which continues to offer free legal advice to the disenfranchised and aggrieved. The Dioknos, as a whole, have inherited their father’s will to fight for what is right, issuing collective statements that ring similar to what Ka Pepe would usually say in response to affronts on human rights in the country

 

“A government that wages war against the country's social ills but ignores the fundamental economic and political structures that have characterized our country for centuries is, in my father's words, a ‘travesty of democracy”

Cookie emulated her father’s sense of justice and nationalism. She has continued the fight her father began, unafraid of persecution and retribution from those she antagonizes in her effort to defend the defenseless. She fought during the Marcos dictatorship and, in her capacity as head of human rights organizations, pursued the upholding of the inalienable rights of the Filipinos. She has actively called out abuses of civil and constitutional rights committed by the Marcos regime and the succeeding administrations, bar none.

“We forget the valuable lesson my father taught us about fear. ‘When a regime relies exclusively or mainly on fear to maintain itself in power, it becomes weakest when it looks strongest. For, in time, people learn that even if they are afraid, they can nevertheless do what they should, and when they do, fear’s power over them is lost,’” reiterated Cookie, encouraging her fellowmen to follow her father’s words as well.[14] It is this fearlessness that has pushed her to continue what she and her father wrought from their invaluable time together during an otherwise grim period in Philippine history.

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References:

Arcellana, Juaniyo. “Mariz Diokno remembers two Joses.” The Philippine Star. June 12, 2011. Accessed June 10, 2021. https://www.philstar.com/other-sections/starweek-magazine/2011/06/12/695148/mariz-diokno-remembers-two-joses.

Diokno, Ma. Socorro. “Speech on the 30th Death Anniversary of Jose W. Diokno.” Jose W. Diokno Human Rights Memorial Lecture Series, Commission on Human Rights, filmed February 27th, 2019. Video of lecture, 11:23, accessed June 10, 2021, https://youtu.be/oIhnPUHdilA.

“Diokno, Jose W.” Bantayog ng mga Bayani. October 15, 2015. Accessed June 10, 2021. http://www.bantayog.org/diokno-jose-w.

Gavilan, Jodesz. “No cause more worthy: Ka Pepe Diokno’s fight for human rights.” Rappler. September 21, 2017. Accessed June 10, 2021. https://www.rappler.com/newsbreak/iq/jose-ka-pepe-diokno-human-rights.

Lirio, Gerry. “Carmen Diokno: Remembering an unsung heroine.” ABS-CBN News. August 26, 2019. Accessed June 10, 2021. https://news.abs-cbn.com/spotlight/08/26/19/carmen-diokno-remembering-an-unsung-heroine,

Ma. Socorro “Cookie” Diokno’s LinkedIn. Accessed June 10, 2021. https://www.linkedin.com/in/cookie-diokno-6473a027/.

“Remembering Jose W. Diokno.” Atty. Chel Diokno. Accessed June 10, 2021. https://diokno.ph/jwd.

Wallis, Jim & Cookie Diokno. “Let us be ourselves: The campaign against U.S. bases in the Philippines.” Sojourners. October 1988. Accessed June 10, 2021. https://sojo.net/magazine/october-1988/let-us-be-ourselves-campaign-against-us-bases-philippines.

[1] Ma. Socorro Diokno, “Speech on the 30th Death Anniversary of Jose W. Diokno,” Jose W. Diokno Human Rights Memorial Lecture Series, Commission on Human Rights, filmed February 27th, 2019, video of lecture, 11:23, accessed June 10, 2021, https://youtu.be/oIhnPUHdilA.

[2] Ma. Socorro “Cookie” Diokno’s LinkedIn, accessed June 10, 2021. https://www.linkedin.com/in/cookie-diokno-6473a027/. She studied from 1973 to 1977.

[3] Gerry Lirio, “Carmen Diokno: Remembering an unsung heroine,” ABS-CBN News, August 26, 2019, accessed June 10, 2021, https://news.abs-cbn.com/spotlight/08/26/19/carmen-diokno-remembering-an-unsung-heroine.

[4] “Remembering Jose W. Diokno,” Atty. Chel Diokno, accessed June 10, 2021, https://diokno.ph/jwd.

[5] Gerry Lirio, “Carmen Diokno: Remembering an unsung heroine.”

[6] Jim Wallis & Cookie Diokno, “Let us be ourselves: The campaign against U.S. bases in the Philippines,” Sojourners, October 1988, accessed June 10, 2021, https://sojo.net/magazine/october-1988/let-us-be-ourselves-campaign-against-us-bases-philippines.

[7] “Diokno, Jose W.” Bantayog ng mga Bayani, October 15, 2015, accessed June 10, 2021, http://www.bantayog.org/diokno-jose-w.

[8] Jodesz Gavilan, “No cause more worthy: Ka Pepe Diokno’s fight for human rights,” Rappler, September 21, 2017, accessed June 10, 2021, https://www.rappler.com/newsbreak/iq/jose-ka-pepe-diokno-human-rights.

[9] Wallis & Diokno, “Let us be ourselves: The campaign against U.S. bases in the Philippines.” Diokno remarked having worked with her father for fourteen years. Considering Jose Diokno died in 1987, fourteen years would place her joining her father in 1973. This would mean that Diokno began helping her father shortly before the founding of FLAG and joined him in working there.

[10] Ma. Socorro “Cookie” Diokno’s LinkedIn. It is stated here that she has been Secretary-General of FLAG from 1976 to present. While there are no supplementary sources on when she began, it is true that Diokno still holds the position of Secretary-General until today.

[11] Ibid. She states here that she is the Secretary-General concurrently of FLAG and of the Regional Council on Human Rights in Asia, suggesting that she holds the same position for both organizations.

[12] Juaniyo Arcellana, “Mariz Diokno remembers two Joses,” The Philippine Star, June 12, 2011, accessed June 10, 2021, https://www.philstar.com/other-sections/starweek-magazine/2011/06/12/695148/mariz-diokno-remembers-two-joses.

[13] Wallis & Diokno, “Let us be ourselves: The campaign against U.S. bases in the Philippines.” It was co-founded by Sen. Lorenzo Tañada, Sr.

[14] Diokno, “Speech on the 30th Death Anniversary of Jose W. Diokno,”, 7:28.

Ma. Socorro “Cookie” Diokno, a champion of human rights. Photo cropped and taken from Diokno’s official Facebook page posted on December 31, 2010 at https://www.facebook.com/mariasocorro.diokno.7.
Ma. Socorro “Cookie” Diokno, a champion of human rights. Photo cropped and taken from Diokno’s official Facebook page posted on December 31, 2010 at https://www.facebook.com/mariasocorro.diokno.7.

Diokno, Ma. Socorro

Birthday: N/A

Parents: Jose W. Diokno and Carmen Reyes Icasiano

Spouse: N/A

Children: N/A

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