Philippinen: Haydee B. Yorac

You should believe in what you are doing and convince all the other people who work with you that what you are doing is important. And then you treat them like human beings, not like automatons.

— Haydee B. Yorac

Her reputation as a tough, uncompromising and brilliant human rights lawyer made Haydee Yorac (born 1941) the obvious choice for the most challenging government posts in the post-Martial Law era. Driven by the desire to help the country, she took on the challenge of cleaning up the Commission on Elections (Comelec), heading the National Unification Commission (NUC), and recovering the sagging reputation of the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG). Haydee Yorac is easily one of the most eminent and credible leaders in the Philippines today.

"Fiat justitia ruat coelum" (let justice be done though the heavens fall) – this maxim has guided Haydee Yorac throughout her professional career. And it has served the Filipino people well. A brilliant law professor, she was appointed to the Commission on Elections (Comelec), first as a member then as chair from 1989 to 1991. At the time, the Comelec had very low credibility among the electorate, but Haydee cleaned up its act so that even warlords followed the election gun ban. In 1992, she was appointed to head the National Unification Commission (NUC) tasked with consulting all sectors of society to discover the roots of the insurgency and make recommendations on how to achieve a just and lasting peace. After traveling throughout the country, the NUC recommended six integrated paths to peace that the government should take. In 2001, she was appointed to head the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) tasked with recovering the ill-gotten wealth of the former dictator and his cronies. 15 years after it was created, the PCGG had accomplished little and was on the verge of being abolished. Haydee Yorac mobilized the staff to secure the records of the cases, which were in a mess. She hired the chief librarian of the law library of the state university to organize the litigation records, and invited young, idealistic lawyers who were willing work part-time for less than US$500 a month. Under her direction, the PCGG recovered US$683 million (Php38 billion) from the Marcos Swiss accounts, and the Supreme Court issued three major decisions confirming the public nature of the coconut levy funds and assets, effectively returning to 3.4 million coconut farmers ownership of levies they were forced to pay on their produce during the martial law years.

Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG)