I am deeply honored to have been invited to deliver this keynote address in honor of the late Senator Jose W. Diokno—whose book, Techniques and Ideals of the Filipino Lawyer as updated by his son, Compañero Jose Manuel I. Diokno—is now being launched. Today also marks the 85th birthday of Senator Diokno. And tomorrow, February 27, we shall commemorate his 20th death anniversary.
Learning Fundamentals Before Actual Trial
Learning trial techniques is like learning how to drive or how to swim. One has to be on the wheels, or in the water to master these skills. By the same token, to become a great trial lawyer, one has to go to court, get immersed in the proceedings, and actually try a case.
However, before attempting to run a car, one has to learn its fundamentals, know its various gadgets, and become familiar with traffic rules. Similarly, a lawyer must read about basic techniques before going to actual trial.
Tapping into the wealth of the late Senator Diokno’s extensive experience in evidence and trial techniques, the update and supplement of Jose Manuel I. Diokno vis-à-vis his father’s earlier work is a highly useful repository of valuable lessons on how best to prepare, monitor and handle flesh-and-blood cases. Functionally, according to Senator Diokno, that task is to convince the court that one’s client is right.
This book aptly opens with the elder Diokno’s interesting story on how to win a case. According to him, three things are necessary: a good case, a good lawyer and a good judge. The first two, the lawyer could guarantee; the third, he could not.
Having served in the Supreme Court for over 11 years, (I retired on December 6, 2006), I can only stress on the significance of the third ingredient. Indeed, good lawyers need good judges who are ready to follow the law and do justice. I must agree with the late Atty. Diokno, however, that having a good judge who is “good for you” at the trial stage is no guarantee for winning a case on appeal. Thus, to win “all the way,” he emphasized the imperative of being a good lawyer with a good case that is backed up by properly-presented evidence.
Diokno’s Trial Techniques
Having laid the proper premise, the compilation meticulously devotes itself to discussing the techniques used and tested by Senator Diokno in presenting oral and documentary evidence; in overcoming problems related to the presentation of evidence; and in presenting trial checklists and forms to aid and guide practitioners as they go through the various phases of trial. With an eye on clarity and instruction, the book also incorporates charts and illustrations that effectively monitor and assess the strengths or weaknesses of the plaintiff’s or the defendant’s case.
This compilation of Chel Diokno is a fitting tribute to an illustrious father and esteemed member of the legal profession, whose fight for justice and human rights forever emblazon the hearts and minds of all lawyers. By putting his father’s thoughts in print, the author shares his father’s gift of wisdom and the wealth of insight that can come only from an indefatigable advocate of justice.
For all trial lawyers, both the young and the old, the novice and the experienced, this book is a “must read.”
As I said earlier, today we are not only launching Sen. Diokno’s updated book; we are also celebrating his birthday and commemorating his death. So, allow me to speak about him and recollect at least two outstanding attributes of our great honoree: urbanity and integrity.
Immediately after passing the bar examinations in 1960, I became an associate in the law office of our then dean, Dr. Jovito R. Salonga. One early morning, Dean Salonga called me up at home to say that he was indisposed, and to ask if I could substitute for him in that morning’s trial at the then Court of First Instance of Pasay. Even if I knew very little about that inheritance case he was directly handling, I stood up gallantly when it was called and mumbled, “Ready for the defense, Your Honor.”
Judge Angel Mojica, who was presiding, looked at me askance and asked suspiciously, “Where is Atty. Salonga? And young man, are you ready to continue the cross-examination of the plaintiff?”
“Your Honor, he called me up early this morning to say that he was indisposed. He told me that I should not ask for a postponement, because there is a standing agreement not to delay the case,” I nervously replied.
“Your Honor,” butted in Atty. Jose W. Diokno, the counsel of the plaintiff, “it is true that we agreed not to defer today’s hearing. But in fairness to our young compañero, and knowing that Atty. Salonga would not tell a lie about his health, I myself am now moving to postpone the hearing. Anyway, this case is scheduled to be heard two more times during the next two weeks.
Addressing me, Judge Mojica boomed, “What do you say to that motion, counsel?”
“No objection, Your Honor,” I quickly replied.
This may have been a little incident in the checkered life of the legendary Atty. Jose W. Diokno, but it was a major one in mine. It showed me how a great advocate could demonstrate fairness to a young, inexperienced lawyer who hardly knew the pending case; and who, at that point, would probably not have been able to cross-examine the plaintiff adequately. Atty. Diokno earned my immediate admiration and awe—not only for his vaunted competence, but also for his genial sportsmanship in refusing to take undue advantage of a young, nervous lawyer. I am certain that Judge Mojica, who is now in the Great Beyond, was impressed, too.
A Deeper and Greater Quality
Apart from his urbanity, there is yet another quality—a deeper and greater one—that Senator Diokno has imprinted on my memory.
Let me preface my discussion of this second character trait with a little story about a Mass I attended not too long ago. It was presided by a well-known archbishop who delivered a stirring homily. He said, “In the Old Testament, there are ten Commandments, but in the New, our Lord Jesus Christ reduced them to two: love thy God, and love thy neighbor. And how does one love thy neighbor?”
Quoting Scriptures (Matt 25:31-46), Archbishop Oscar Cruz heralded the obvious answer: we show love when we feed the hungry, clothe the naked and visit the prisoners.
But the sagacious prelate went beyond the Gospel and asked: Shall we just feed the hungry, but not go after the greedy person who deprived them of food? Shall we just provide clothing without chasing the robber who stole the clothes. Shall we just visit the prisoners without bringing to justice their rapacious prosecutors, biased witnesses and corrupt judges”?
Reflecting on these questions after I arrived home that evening, I immediately remembered our honoree.
Jose W. Diokno was, as we all know, a well-respected secretary of justice and senator, one who knew the law and the ethical standards expected of public servants. As a young professional, he topped both the CPA and the bar examinations. And he took the bar test without formally graduating from law school!
He could have just rested on his accolades and reputation. However, he defied the perquisites of power and pursued the truth even if it meant abandoning his erstwhile friends, setting aside his laurels, undergoing incarceration and exposing himself to illness.
During his time—and maybe even during our time—the country was besieged by officials who arrogated absolute power to themselves, plundered the treasury, and used their public offices to amass ill-gotten wealth. There were, however, a handful who—even while serving under abusive regimes—kept themselves personally pure, discharged their functions efficiently, and refused to join the corrupt in raiding the public treasury.
While these few good men and women can be described as honest public servants, they did nothing to stamp out the evil around them, contented as they were with distancing themselves from the evil conspiracy.
Honesty is a virtue taught in grade school. I am not critical of those who sincerely practise it. But beyond honesty, the country needed—and still needs—men and women of integrity, who will not merely refuse to tell a falsehood, but who possess the moral courage to denounce a wrong and to promote the truth.
Jose W. Diokno twice supported the presidential candidacy of Ferdinand E. Marcos—in 1965 and 1969. In fact, he was elected senator under the same party as Marcos. In the beginning, he helped him. But after it became clear that Marcos was veering from the straight and narrow path, Ka Pepe did not hesitate to part from him and to denounce his excesses.
He could have kept quiet and tolerated the abuses. After all, his place in history was secure. He was brilliant, honest, eloquent and well-respected. However, he chose not only to keep himself clean and honest; he worked fervently and actively—at the risk of his own safety, health, earthly possessions and career—to restore freedom in our land, to denounce the plunderers, to help the poor and to make truth and justice prevail.
More than being honest, Jose Wright Diokno was a person of moral courage. He was moved by immutable values and principles, not by pettiness or convenience. Indeed, he was a visionary leader of exemplary integrity.
Maraming salamat po.
Keynote address delivered by retired Chief Justice Artemio V. Panganiban during the launching of Diokno on Trial: Techniques and Ideals of the Filipino Lawyer, authored by the late Sen. Jose W. Diokno and updated by Atty. Jose Manuel I. Diokno, held on February 26, 2007 at the De la Salle University, Taft Avenue, Manila.