Governor Arthur D. Defensor Sr. of Iloilo is synonymous to good governance. His extensive and distinguished political career is untarnished, and the long list of awards and citations conferred on him attests to his exemplary public service record.
A brilliant lawyer, Defensor became the first Mayor of his hometown, Mina, at the young age of 26. When martial law was declared in 1972, he chose to concentrate on his law practice, becoming one of the most sought-after lawyers in the city and province of Iloilo.
In 1984, he ran and won as an opposition Assemblyman in the Batasan Pambansa where he proved himself to be champion of freedom and democracy. He became a leading critic of the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos, earning him the admiration of his provincemates.
In 1986, after the EDSA revolution, Defensor was appointed by President Corazon C. Aquino as Undersecretary of the Department of Education, Culture and Sports. In 1989, he was appointed Commissioner of the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG).
The call to serve his kasimanwas was too strong to resist for Defensor.
He ran and won as Governor of the Province of Iloilo in 1992, a position he held for nine years. As chief executive, he gave top priority to reforestation, agricultural productivity programs, and infrastructure development.
Defensor worked hard for the realization of the New Iloilo Airport of international standards, obtaining funding from the Japan Bank for International Cooperation. Likewise, the construction of the new Iloilo Provincial Capitol was started during his term, a project that has become his legacy to his constituents.
But more than for any of the above achievements, Defensor is known for restoring his constituents’ faith in local governance by adhering to a policy of full transparency and accountability.
In 2001, after serving three consecutive terms as Governor of Iloilo, he ran and won a seat in the House of Representatives, representing the third district of Iloilo. He was re-elected in 2004 and then again, in 2007.
During the 12th Congress (2001-2004), he was elected as Assistant Majority Leader. He also served as Vice-Chairman of the Committee on Basic Education and Culture. He authored or co-authored 110 House Bills, some of which have been passed into law. These include the Anti-Money Laundering Law and the Overseas Absentee Voting Law.
In the 13th Congress (2004-2007), Defensor was elected as Senior Deputy Majority Leader and Chairman of the Committee on Good Government. He was, likewise, a member of all standing committees. This time, he authored or co-authored 130 House Bills, including the law prohibiting the imposition of the death penalty in the Philippines.
Defensor was the House Majority Leader of the 14th Congress (2007-2010) and Chairman of the Committee on Rules where he authored 66 bills and co-authored 121 bills. He steered into passage a number of bills considered as landmark legislation and bills of national significance and import.
Born to Santiago A. Defensor and Lourdes P. Doligosa, both public school teachers, the Governor has always been an achiever.
He graduated with honors from the Mina Elementary School, as well as the Iloilo High School. He obtained his Associate in Arts degree from the University of the Philippines, Iloilo City, in 1959; and, his Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City, in 1963.
A bemedalled orator and debater, Defensor is a recipient of various awards, among which are the Most Outstanding Alumnus in Public Service (Centennial Award) from the UP in the Visayas, and the Benigno S. Aquino, Jr. Fellowship for Professional Development. He was cited four times as the Most Distinguished Alumnus of the Iloilo National High School.
The Governor is happily married to the former Cosette Rivera. They have three children – Arlette, Arthur Jr. and Lorenz – and six grandchildren.
Arlette is married to Atty. Eric Pilapil, Vice President for Legal and Corporate Secretary of Stradcom Corporation.
Arthur Jr., a lawyer, is the incumbent congressman representing the 3rd District of Iloilo. He is married to the former Michelle Camacho.
The youngest child, Lorenz, is also a lawyer and is connected with the legal department of San Miguel Corporation. He is married to the former Vaneza Ungson, also a lawyer.