Jovito Salonga, the best Filipino politician
Jovito Salonga, or Ka Jovy as most people fondly call him, spoke of great dreams for this country. He spoke of economic development, social equality, and moral advancement. Although already retired from the public office, Ka Jovy still speaks of the same dreams today.
Ka Jovy was born a winner. In his political career, he lost only once, and that was in the 1992 presidential election. He could have been a president, had the Filipino electorate ignored rumors that his health was failing because of old age. Now at 81, Ka Jovy still exudes the vigor and wisdom of a young patriot. His soft voice commands respect; his judgment remains firm as ever. With the insights of a philosopher, he utters propositions that are of highest importance. At a time the country is plagued by corruption and ethical issues, Ka Jovy raises a moral voice, which reminds us to change our ways.
The people call Ka Jovy as the "grand old man of Philippine politics". He is a survivor of the same generation, which produced the most illustrious names like Raul Manglapus, Arturo Tolentino, Jose Diokno, Soc Rodgrigo, and Wigberto Tañada. Known for his lofty ideals and eloquent speech, Ka Jovy is of the same rank as Jose Rizal and Carlos Romulo, who were arguably the brightest men this country has ever known. Ka Jovy's outstanding career included almost five decades of unblemished record in public service. He was a three-time senator, having been elected in 1965, 1971 and 1987. A son of a Presbyterian minister, he was born on June 22, 1920. He was an honor student in elementary and high school and took up Law in college.
He passed the bar with a rating of 95.3 percent, a record, which remains unsurpassed to this day. He practiced law in 1944 until he joined the Far Eastern University as Dean of the Institute of Law in 1961. He topped the senatorial election in 1965, the beginning of his colorful political career. He became a tough critic of the Marcos rule and was a victim of the Plaza Miranda bombing on August 21, 1971. (He later blamed the communists for the bombing.) After the 1986 People Power Revolution, newly elected President Corazon Aquino appointed him as the first Chairman of the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), whose role was to recover the ill-gotten wealth of President Marcos and his cronies.
In 1987, Ka Jovy topped the senatorial elections and eventually became the Senate President. On September 16, 1991, the Philippine senate, under his presidency, rejected the ten-year extension of the U.S. bases in the Philippines, thereby formally ending the presence of foreign armed forces in the Philippine territory after four centuries. He ran for the highest position in the land in 1992 with a political platform completely different from other candidates. Under the banner of the progressive Liberal Party, Ka Jovy was campaigning for social equality, a term which caused fear among the eighty one families who control most of the country's wealth.
Ka Jovy lost in the election, but this did not stop him from serving the cause of the nation. Since 1992, he initiated the founding of four organizations: Bantayog ng mga Bayani, which put up a memorial for more than a hundred contemporary heroes and martyrs of the nation; Kilosbayan, a forum for raising political consciousness and citizens' participation in governance; Bantay Katarungan, an NGO dedicated to the pursuit of justice and protection of human rights; and the Salonga Foundation for Human Development, a group which promotes social and moral awareness.
He remains an active speaker, denouncing the social ills in Philippine society. He is the most vocal critic of cronyism in the Estrada administration and the government's continuing promotion of gambling in the form of online lottery. He is also a religious figure, delivering sermons in the gatherings of the Philippine Presbyterian Church. It is difficult to find words to describe Ka Jovy with all his fine qualities, but perhaps, no one will disagree with Belinda Olivares-Cunanan, an Inquirer columnist, when she referred to him as a "national treasure".