Former senator Joker Arroyo passes away at 88

By Jelly F. Musico

MANILA, Oct. 7 (PNA) – Former senator Joker Arroyo has died while reportedly undergoing open heart surgery in the United States. He was 88 years old.

The family has yet to issue an official statement confirming the death of Arroyo but several senators have already issued reactions.

”In our next Wednesday Group dinner, we will raise a glass to you,” Senator Ralph Recto said in a press statement.

Arroyo and Recto were members of the now defunct Wednesday Group that also include former Senators Manny Villar, Noli ‘Kabayan’ de Castro and Francis ‘Kiko’ Pangilinan.

”Joker earned sobriquets in his storied life. The Great Dissenter. The Maverick. The Defender. He was even called The Scrooge for his economical use of office funds,” Recto said.

”But there was one area he didn’t scrimp on. And that was offering his sharp legal mind, for free, to those who need it most but can afford it least. If he had a good heart, it was because his favorite form of exercise was to bend down and pull someone out of the gutter,” he added.

Senator Juan Edgardo ‘Sonny’ Angara posted his reaction on Twitter: “RIP ex Senator Joker Arroyo, Dios Mabalos (goodbye).”

”For the younger generation who may not be aware of Sen. Joker’s contributions to nation-building, they should know that he fought for the restoration of democracy in the Philippines. He fought in the courts and in the streets for the restoration of our civil and political rights which we enjoy today,” Angara said in a separate press statement.

Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. said “that’s terrible news” upon learning Arroyo’s death from the media.

Later, Marcos issued a press statement to express his condolences to the bereaved family his former colleague.

”I am deeply saddened by the tragic news of Joker Arroyo’s passing. I value greatly my time spent with him in the Senate. Considering where we came from, we often found ourselves in agreement over political questions. I think because of this, I dare say that we eventually became friends. My prayers and thoughts are with his family as they suffer through this great loss,” Marcos said.

Arroyo was one of the key figures in the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution that ousted Marcos’ father, the late strongman President Ferdinand Marcos.

Rumors about Arroyo’s death have been circulating in the Senate media since Monday.

Arroyo, a human rights lawyer, served as member of the Philippine Senate for two consecutive terms in 2001 and 2007 before he quit politics in 2013.

He also served as congressman of Makati for nine years and as executive secretary of the late former President Corazon Aquino, mother of the incumbent President Benigno Aquino III.

Arroyo was born January 5, 1927 in Naga, Camarines Sur where he finished his primary and secondary education in Naga before getting a scholarship in the University of the Philippines.

A graduate of the UP College of Law and the Ateneo de Manila, Arroyo earned the public recognition when he challenged before the Supreme Court (SC) the constitutionality of Proclamation No. 1081 imposing martial law.

Based on the his Senate profile, Arroyo handled more human rights cases than any other lawyer did from 1972-1986.

He defended various political detainees including President Aquino’s father, the Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr, Eugenio Lopez, Jr., Serge Osmeña III, Jose Ma. Sison, Jovito Salonga, Nene Pimentel, Eva Kalaw, Renato Tañada, Eduardo Olaguer and many others.

He was also a lead prosecutor during the impeachment trial of President Joseph Estrada in December 2000. (PNA)