In the Chinese Zodiac, dragons represent the brave, the excitable, the stubborn, the honest, and the energetic, qualities all of which make for a relentless fighter, never giving up and constantly upholding the truth.

Come 2007 Senatorial Elections, enter; Sen. Joker Arroyo, “the People’s Dragon”. Most may actually wonder why he would choose the dragon as his tagline for the campaign. As one of his staff members simply put it, “he’s a fighter”.

And this has actually been the major trend with Sen. Joker Arroyo. Ever since he began his career as a lawyer, he has been relentlessly fighting something or someone. In the book, “the 33 Strategies of War”, the author states that the first strategy of war is to declare war on your enemies. It states that when you have something or someone in your sights and inwardly declare war, this can fill you with purpose and direction. And so this has been the case with Sen. Joker Arroyo.

From the moment he graduated from the University of the Philippines College of Law and the Ateneo de Manila, it would seem his career as a human rights lawyer would be embraced not with open arms but with arresting officers. He was a staunch human rights lawyer and activist during the Marcos Regime, being the first to question President Marcos’s declaration of Martial Law before the Supreme Court. He was gassed, injured, arrested and put in a military stockade for it.

When he was finally freed, he did the logical thing of joining Corazon Aquino in her bid for presidency during the snap elections. When Aquino became president, he served as her executive secretary but would later be asked to resign by President Aquino due to mounting pressure from critics that he was being too protective of the president. Some would say that an outburst in Congress by Arroyo, criticizing and blaming certain people about the bad things happening in the country at the time, sealed his fate. He would then take up the post of Chairman of the Philippine National Bank and Executive Director for the Philippines Asian Development Bank until he decided to run for congress.

Joker Arroyo ran as the representative of the then lone district of Makati in 1992 and would win by a landslide, garnering 80% of the votes. He would then proceed to run for another 2 terms and would win both, remaining an independent throughout his whole stay in the House of Representatives. In the 9 years he served as a congressman, he had a perfect attendance record, being present at every single session of Congress.

In those 9 years he served as a congressman, he earned the nickname, “the Scrooge” because of his unusual thriftiness. He maintained no staff, answered his own telephone and never traveled abroad on government money. His Statement of Assets and Liabilities has not changed from the time he became a public servant up to the present.

Now, as a Senator, he has a staff of 3 people and doesn’t have to answer the phone himself. But according to one staff member, from time to time, he still does. Wouldn’t it be refreshingly funny to call a senator’s office and have the senator himself answer the phone?

During these past few years as a Senator, Arroyo has chaired the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, the Justice and Human Rights Committee and the Public Services Committee. He has passed a number of national bills and local bills, both as a Senator and a Congressman, such as creating the city of Makati. However, he believes that what’s important about being a senator is not by how many bills he was able to pass but his voting record.

In a podcast interview with, he said, “You judge a senator by his voting record, not by the bills he introduces, not for what speeches he makes or what he does. But his voting record on crucial issues, because that is what determines the man.”

And how exactly has Senator Joker Arroyo voted?

Well, if you really want to know, you may come to wonder why in the world this man ran under the Administration slate when he has opposed President Arroyo on almost every single major issue, arguing his case in front of no less than the Supreme Court. And he won every single one too. He fought against the Venable contract. He fought against the People’s Initiative. He fought EO 464 and Proclamation 1017. He argued all 4 cases in front of the Supreme Court and won. So why is he running with the administration?

To be quite frank, he says that although it would seem illogical for him to run under the administration that he seems to oppose so much, he has seen no reason to do so. Having run under the administration ticket the last election, he sees no reason why he shouldn’t run with them again now. The President, he said, has been a gracious loser, and has in now way ever tried to dissuade him from doing what he seems to do best, opposing her. But still, why not the Opposition?

There are 2 reasons. First and foremast, Senator Joker Arroyo was the head prosecutor in the Estrada Impeachment Trial and he said that in now way could he reconcile these 2 things together. Next, he believes that the Opposition, in opposing the President and her administration, does not want to follow due process, due process being the Constitution. He believes in upholding the Constitution above all things and that the Opposition’s bid to remove President Arroyo from her position and to hold a snap elections instead of allowing the Vice President to step up as stated in the Constitution is ridiculous. Although he admits that the Administration is no good, he says that it’s still better than the Opposition.

Speaking of the Constitution, one can’t help but wonder how he feels about the Charter Change and plans to abolish the Senate.

“I’m against it. I’m opposed to it. I don’t think that’s the solution.”

He agrees that there are some things in the Constitution that our outdated and must be changed, but to scrap the whole Constitution and replace it with a new one? It just can’t be.

One thing, however, that he wants to review for change without question is the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA). He stated that after the issue with Nicole, so much questions were raised and needed to be answered so really believes that the VFA needs revision, although he remained skeptical if it would happen.

Being a former human rights lawyer although still an advocate, the Nicole rape case is not the only thing he believes needs improvement. The current spate of extra-judicial killings that have been happening in the country is one of them. Being a human rights advocate, he, of course, condemns them but he finds it funny how the Melo Commission was treated by the Opposition and the Leftists. When they were invited to participate in the investigation and give testimony, they didn’t participate and automatically criticized it. Now that the Melo Commission is out, the Opposition and the Leftists approve of it because of the fact that it states that it is not impossible that the Military were involved and is in fact probable.

Another thing he is open to change is the views on the use of condoms, reproductive health, divorce, and family planning, views which the Church strongly objects. He confesses that he’s always been a liberal and he even goes on to say that if gays and lesbians want to get married, let them do what they want.

One thing that he has been firm with though is his views on the economy and education. He says that those 2 things are his greatest advocacies as a Senator because the effect would always trickle down creating a “ripple effect”. Although he opposes the EVAT, he still believes that when it comes to the economy, you cannot keep quarrelling so that you can create stability. In terms of education, he has always believed we needed to improve in that sector. However, he states that our slow development has been due to the lack of funds, which brings us back to why his other advocacy if he becomes a Senator would be the economy.

He has actually tried to help the sector of our economy that is currently earning most of our dollars, the Overseas Filipino Workers. When he spoke with them to find out what their problems were, he found out that they wanted to only 2 things. First, that if it were possible, remittance fee would not be so high. Second, if he could reduce the rates of calling overseas. The very next week he met up with Globe and Smart, the 2 largest cellphone telecommunications company in the Philippines and asked them if they could do something about it. And they eventually did. No joke.

And that’s exactly how his staff hopes the Filipino people will think of him. That as a senator, he’s no joke. That he’s a lawyer, he really knows what it is a senator should do, meaning to legislate laws that will help the country. And if you’re still wondering how he got the name “Joker”, just imagine a father who really liked to play cards.—Chris Ng

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