Diokno encourages Fil-Ams to donate to foundation for heroes, martyrs

Atty. Chel Diokno (standing, 7th from left) poses with attendees after the event.

HUMAN rights advocate, educator, lawyer and former Philippine Senate senatorial candidate Atty. Jose Manuel Tadeo “Chel” Diokno visited the Bay Area in the last quarter of 2023 to touch base with the Filipino American community and friends and drum up support for the nonprofit Bantayog ng mga Bayani Foundation in an intimate event at Patio Filipino in San Bruno, CA organized by close friend and Bay Area entrepreneur Joe Santos.

Known as the Bantayog, the project is a monument, museum and historical research center that honors the heroes and martyrs of the struggle against the dictatorship of former Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Sr. The Bantayog, Atty. Diokno said, helps “keep the memories and the truth about what happened in martial law alive for our youth.”

Located in Quezon City, Philippines, the Bantayog features a “Wall of Remembrance” where the names of martyrs and heroes who were victims of the abuses of the Marcos dictatorship are inscribed. More than 300 names have been included in the granite wall which includes tribal leaders, journalists, priests, student activists and political leaders.

Atty. Diokno is the current chair of the foundation.

According to Atty. Diokno, there were many Filipino Americans involved in the anti-dictatorship movement in the Bay Area who have been recognized by the Bantayog for their work and contributions. He added that it is important that what happened before would not happen again, especially as the Marcoses are back in power.

As the foundation does not have that big a budget, Atty. Diokno, when asked how the Fil-Am community can assist the foundation, told the Asian Journal that “your support in any way, financial or otherwise, would be very helpful to us…We want to reach as many young Filipinos as possible. So, any kind of help that will help us achieve that goal would be very, very welcome.”

Atty. Diokno was also kind enough to share his thoughts on some topics about the Philippines.

The founding dean of the De La Salle University College of Law told the Asian Journal that among the pressing problems of the Philippines that the government must address include the education crisis, where students in the country are in the lower ranks when it comes to reading, math and science; the problem with the justice system which is still beset with issues of impunity, corruption and human rights violations; and the high prices of goods which continues to be a common complaint among Filipinos across the nation.

Atty. Diokno revealed that Filipino Americans can help the country in many ways, even when addressing the problems in their own hometowns or communities.

Former senatorial candidate, Atty. Chel Diokno (holding the mic) answers a question about pressing issues in the Philippines.
Photos by Joseph L. Peralta/AJ Press

Marami tayong magagawa. For example, the issues of poverty, hunger and malnutrition, I think we will find that in most areas in the country, especially among children. And that’s an urgent need that must be addressed. I think the Filipino community abroad, including Filipino Americans, can do a lot to help with those problems,” the former special counsel of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee said.

Talking about food security, Atty. Diokno said that much needs to be done to assist the famers and fisherfolk in the country, as he cited the example of the portion of tariff money from the Rice Tariffication Law that is supposed to be set aside for subsistence farmers who are saying that they are not receiving the money, as well as the plight of Filipino fishermen who are being edged out by commercial fishers and China’s fishing industry.

Atty. Diokno told the Asian Journal that he hopes the Marcos government would be more transparent and have accountability, especially when it comes to public funds. The disbursement of confidential funds by the Office of the President should be accounted for, as the people, Atty. Diokno stated, deserve to know what happened to the money. Any violations should be dealt with accordingly, he added.

As a final message, Atty. Diokno appealed to both Filipinos and Filipino Americans “to help us protect our democracy because our democratic institutions have been under attack, and we need the support of everyone to protect and preserve them.”

The small gathering celebrating Atty. Diokno’s visit to the Bay Area featured short speeches from Atty. Rodel Rodis and Atty. Ted Laguatan, who were both active in the anti-Marcos dictatorship movement in the Bay Area.

Donations to the Bantayog ng mga Bayani Foundation can be made through LELO, which is a nonprofit in the U.S. so contributions can be tax-deductible, with mailing address PO Box 28489, Seattle, WA 98118. Please make check payable to LELO and indicate that it is a donation for Bantayog. (Joseph L. Peralta/AJ Press)


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