“Black Maria” prison vans hustled us 22 journalists from our detention cells in Fort Bonifacio and Camp Crame to the Supreme Court building on Taft Avenue. That was a couple of days after the Marcos dictatorship clamped martial law on the whole Philippines under the rigged Proclamation No. 1081.
People in the streets stared at us—and looked away. Led by the polite Col. Generoso Alejo, we were hustled into the Supreme Court where defense lawyer Joker Arroyo and other defense counsels, like Sedfrey Ordoñez, were gathered.
Joker was our counsel, pro bono. The defendants included, among other journalists, Teodoro Locsin Sr., Joaquin “Chino” Roces, Napoleon G. Rama, Maximo Soliven, Amando Doronila (then of the Daily Mirror), Luis D. Beltran, Benny Esquivel.
I will never forget what Joker whispered to us just before the Marcos Supreme Court filed in to hear our petition. “Look at those characters. Fat chance for justice there. But if you maintain your petition, you will at least keep something, on the record. Not much, but it is better than nothing. Up to you.”
We did—and lived to see the day when Cory Aquino fired the Marcos justices after people power prevailed.
Joker kept in touch over the years. He showed up at our 45th wedding anniversary in Cebu, the wife sniffles.
Some IOUs you can never pay. Still, we say: “Salamat, Joker. Your passing leaves a void
in the sky.”
—JUAN L. MERCADO, [email protected]
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