Former Senate President Jovito Salonga, nationalist, defender of political prisoners and himself a victim of martial law, died on Thursday at the age of 95.
Salonga served as Senate president from 1987 to 1992 after heading the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), which was mandated to recover the ill-gotten wealth of the Marcos family and their cronies.
He started his career in politics in 1961 as representative of Rizal province.
Salonga topped the senatorial race in 1965.
He was one of several people injured at the Plaza Miranda bombing on August 21, 1971 during the proclamation rally of the Liberal Party, leaving him blind in one eye.
In 1980, during martial law, Salonga was arrested for allegedly masterminding a series of bombings in Metro Manila.
President Ferdinand Marcos ordered his release a month later because of immense pressure from Salonga’s supporters and lack of concrete evidence against him.
Salonga’s significant pieces of legislation include 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.
After the 1986 EDSA people power revolution, President Corazon Aquino tapped him to head the PCGG.
The next year, Salonga topped the Senate elections for the third time.
It was during his term term that he and 11 other senators opposed the RP-US Bases Treaty, which had aimed to extend the stay of US military bases in the country.
Malacañang, in extending its condolences to Salonga’s family, said the passing of the esteemed statesman “challenges all who would seek election to live up to a life well lived as a patriot and citizen.”
“With heads bowed in grief and respect, we extend our deepest sympathies to the family of Senator Jovito Salonga. His passing marks the departure from this life of another of those brave, committed individuals who lit a candle during the deep darkness of the dictatorship; and who contributed to the restoration of our democratic way of life after the triumph of people power,” Palace Spokesman Edwin Lacierda said.
Salonga, he added, “stood squarely on the side of good government, and did his part in Kilosbayan and the Bantayog ng mga Bayani Foundation to ensure that the sins of the past would not be repeated in the future, becoming a Magsaysay laureate in 2007.”
“His life stands as a reproach to all those who would put personal gain ahead of public service; who would lower the standards of public discourse; and who would sacrifice human rights and the rule of law either for personal or partisan advantage. He joins the ranks of those who have made the position of senator of the Republic an honorable, and respectable, thing,” Lacierda said.
Salonga, who served as the country’s 14th Senate president upon the restoration of the Philippine Senate in 1987, ran but lost in the 1992 presidential elections, landing in sixth place.
He took up law at the University of the Philippines and eventually topped the 1944 Bar examinations alongside Jose W. Diokno