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He took up commerce at De La Salle University. He graduated summa cum laude at a young age of 17. He had to secure special dispensation, since he was too young. After the Second World War, he was granted a special dispensation by the Supreme Court, and allowed to take the Philippine Bar Examination despite having never completed a law degree.
Senator Diokno became chairman of the Senate economic affairs committee, and worked for the passage of pro-Filipino legislation, most notably the Industrial Incentives Law, which provides incentives to Filipino investors and entrepreneurs in order to place control of the Philippine economy in the hands of Filipinos.
Diokno authored of the Oil Industry Commission Bill and Joint Resolution No. 2, which set the policies for economic development and social progress. He also co-authored the Export Incentives Act and the Revised Election Law, among others.
For his performance as legislator, Diokno was named Outstanding Senator by the Philippines Free Press from 1967 to 1970, making him the only legislator to receive the recognition for four successive years.
Upon his release, Diokno set up the Free Legal Assistance Group, which gave free legal services to the victims of martial law. In court, Diokno personally defended tribal groups, peasants, social workers threatened by exploitation and military atrocities. He was also involved in documenting cases of torture, summary execution, and disappearances under the Marcos regime. In another oft-quoted speech, he said:
And so law in the land died. I grieve for it but I do not despair over it. I know, with a certainty no argument can turn, no wind can shake, that from its dust will rise a new and better law: more just, more human, and more humane. When that will happen, I know not. That it will happen, I know.