Goodbye ‘unreasonable’ Joker ­— and TYTYTYTYTY


WHY are seven Supreme Court (SC) Justices abroad? (Manila Bulletin, Oct. 6, 2015, p. 8, col. 4.) They should be here to decide cases. I cannot imagine this phenomenon happening during, say, the Concepcion court, the last one before martial law was inflicted by Marcos, and made human rights lawyering necessary.

And why is Top House Absentee contender Manny Pacquiao running for the Senate? Joker P. Arroyo was never absent there. Was Manny inspired by the SC? He should just run for Sarangani Guv. There is a Vice-Guv. No Vice Senator. No Vice Cong. Too many blows in the head? Or solar plexus. Which was how the news about Joker – who Marcos, willy-nilly, made famous – hit me.

Joker, gone, last Monday, at 88, but he could have passed for 68, in his Second Adolescence.

He was up there in 1971 when my Dulce and I came home. We neophytes were uhugin-may-gatas-pa-sa-labi gofers of the veteran de campanas. Joker made us see that UP did not stand for Useless People (like Marcos, and that’s putting it mildly). Errr, Useful People, I’d tell my UP alum wife.

From afar, I was not to meet Joker until 1978, in connection with the Laban campaign, which Sen. Lorenzo Tanada labeled a “mad adventure.” Uncle Jovy Salonga headed a group of like-minded dissidents in the Resistance Movement meeting regularly, raising the foolish questions of the day.

My friendship with Joker was casual at that time. Acquaintanceship, more like. And then in the 1981 Light-a-Fire trial in Camp Aguinaldo, he was mesmerized on hearing me, a San Beda English Major, use “transmogrify.” Hooked, he treated us to late lunch and became a fan, probably not having heard the term in Ateneo and UP, ha, ha.

He and Bobbit Sanchez, MABINI first chair, with the latter’s expense account from the patriotic Garcias of Chemphil, were the only members who could afford to feed us, struggling pro bono (puro abono) lawyers (abonados, not abogados).

Joker resided then in Dasma, a plutocratic enclave of Good Filipinos, reminiscent of the Good Germans of Hitler. A US official supposedly characterized us in the early 80’s as a nation of 40,000,000 cowards and one SOB. And one B, I’d add.

Last time Joker and I met was early this year in a coffee shop in Forbes, on June 22, just before I, with a dozen or so others, was to have dinner at the home of Brit Ambassador, to welcome and honor Mark Malloch Brown of Smartmatic, who I trust as a friend of the Filipino people, given his role in 1985-86. I cannot associate him with skullduggery.

Earlier, in January this year, Joker and I defended Makati Mayor Junjun Binay from a Senate arrest order. We got detained Mayor JunJun freed in hours. Dating tagapangulo si Joker ng Lupon ng Lasong Bugaw and knew, as such Blue Ribbon panel chair, that a resource person is entitled to an advance list of questions, per the Supreme Court. (For my part, I told Senators Koko Pimentel and Sonny Trillanes that a resource person has a right not to speak. The praxis in the US is to work out immunity a priori. Here it is inquisitorial.)

Joker handled the most number of human rights cases, more than anyone else. And the thriftiest Senator who refused to accept pork barrel (here we differed, pork is not toxic per se; we prudently used ours in our time in the 1987-92 Senate, instead of leaving the money to the executive branch rascals and pork continues in the US; we also differed on convicting post-midnight appointee Chief Justice Rene Corona who he voted to acquit: I prefer to think all voted their consciences and not because of pork given a year or so later – absurd – as I gather bribery is on a kaliwaan or COD basis).

But, no superlatives can reduce the pain of a great unsayable irreplaceable loss.
Fely and family, we share your pain. We, and countless grateful others, legion, loved Joker, and always will.

The Republic owes him.

So do the Aquinos. This millennium may have been problematic but judged by his best, I can see why candidate Cory picked Joker (and me) to accompany her in filing her certificate of candidacy in the Comelec on December 3, 1985 and why Prez Cory picked him as her first Executive Secretary; he, as Little Prez, took bullets to shield her. Joker and I were accidental public servants serving a providential president.

When Joker and I hesitated on February 25, 1986 to join her Cabinet, we got an earful on how we were among those who had asked her to run only for us to leave her when earlier in the day there had been two oath-takings. Two Presidents. A recipe for trouble. We soldiered on for Cory and Country, at a dangerous time.

When darling Dulce had her breast cancer operation in 1997, Joker was generous with his
financial support, and again in 2007, when I lost her. He stood as a sponsor when our eldest son, Atty. Rebo, married Jackie (now a Makati Metropolitan Court Judge).

Kumpadre Joker and I were more than brothers in a band of human rights brothers and sisters.

When we differed on the unconstitutional ouster of Erap, as I perceived it, our respect for each other remained. I was then getting hammered, pummeled and pilloried from pillar to post. Indeed, as Dick Gordon told me he had learned from the Jesuits, when you laugh, the whole world laughs with you. But, you weep alone. Joker walked and wept with me.

Goodbye, my all-weather friend and brother. I feel orphaned. As the song goes, “now the joker has the laugh on me. . . . I’ll be dealing time away with solitaire.”

Joker is the gold standard in picking senators next year. With all due respect, the boxer with humongous tax issues, who competes for Top House Absentee, preaches, hosts TV shows, faces many suits in the US, etc. does not meet the test.

Para sa bayan, di sa sarili. The Joker Arroyo Standard.

I often ask: “I am weird, aren’t I?” The Shavian dictum: the reasonable man adapts himself to the world. The unreasonable man persists in adapting the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on unreasonable people. I am weird. Joker was unreasonable.


Please follow our commenting guidelines.


  1. Robert Baquiran on

    Marami ang dapat mamatay na Ngayon para sa ikakabuti Ng bayan BAKIT si JOKER pa. Dapat SILA na Lang.

  2. Joker Arroyo’s kind of honest and patriotiic politician is what our country needs. Not the Grace Poes, Leni Robredos, Roxases, Binays, Escuderos, Dutertes, Aquinos and such scum.

  3. Mariano Patalinjug on

    Yonkers,New York
    08 October 2015

    I sincerely congratulate former Senator RENE SAGUISAG for this sincere, articulate and moving Tribute to and Eulogy for former Senator JOKER ARROYO, a bosom friend of his who, suddenly, “went the way of all flesh.”

    As that trite saying goes, “There are two things we cannot avoid in life: taxes and death.”