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#1 Fiscalizer: Jovito Reyes Salonga (1965-72;87-92)

(image courtesy of interaksyon.com)

“Some people make history, others write it. But there is a rare handful who, in writing-and in speaking-make history. These are the ones who illuminate the issues, and in so doing move men to answer them with noble actions… In our country there was Claro M. Recto. But if you consider the wealth of historical events surrounding a particular personality who shaped and even generated these events by his words, Jovito Salonga stands virtually alone.”

That is how Senator Joker Paz Arroyo summed up every detail of what Jovito Salonga has given to this nation.

Rising from poverty, he worked his way through college by having different jobs to sustain his law studies. He passed the 1944 Philippine bar exam where he and Jose Diokno both topped with an average of 95.3%. Salonga topped off his legal education with graduate degrees from Harvard and Yale universities and then plunged headlong into the life of his new nation.

After serving his one term as a representative of Rizal Province’s 2nd district, he was chosen under the Liberal Party banner for the 1965 elections. In 1967, he was Benigno Aquino, Jr.’s chief lawyer in a lawsuit filed against the latter by President Marcos. Largely through Salonga’s skills in jurisprudence, Aquino won his case before the Commission on Elections. Marcos’ appeals to the Supreme Court and Senate Electoral Tribunal were overturned, granting a final victory to the two men. For his well-documented exposés against the Marcos administration, Salonga was hailed as the “Nation’s Fiscalizer” by the Philippines Free Press in 1968.

The bomb that crippled him at a political rally in 1971, Salonga says, led him to a second, “borrowed life.” He opposed martial law from the start, defending opponents of the Marcos dictatorship and working tirelessly for the succor and release of political prisoners and for the democratic opposition.

In September 1991, Salonga led a group of 12 Senators in rejecting the R.P.-U.S. Bases Treaty. He paid a heavy price for this decision as his financial backers in the business community withdrew their support for his presidential campaign. In December 1991 he was ousted from his position as President of the Senate and was succeeded by Senator Neptali A. Gonzales, Sr. on January 1, 1992. He finished sixth in a seven-person race for the presidential seat in the 1992 national elections.

Salonga, despite limited means, won three senatorial elections, garnering the largest number of votes under three different administrations: that of Diosdado Macapagal, Ferdinand Marcos and Corazon Aquino. He has successfully legislated the State Scholarship Law, the Disclosure of Interest Act, the Magna Carta for Public School Teachers, the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, and the Act Defining and Penalizing the Crime of Plunder.

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