Leandro Alejandro was a well-known student leader during martial law.
Leandro, or Lean, participated in campus protests against martial law, joining open as well as clandestine groups in the University of the Philippines (UP). Soon he was a leader in these campus organizations, and by the early 1980s, was a key figure in the national anti-dictatorship movement.
In 1979 he joined the staff of the Philippine Collegian, the UP student paper, as features writer. He chaired the Youth for Nationalism and Democracy (YND) from 1980 to 1981 and was junior fellow at the UP Third World Studies Center from 1981 to 1983. During the schoolyear 1983-1984, he was elected chairman of the university student council. The following school year he was chosen student representative to the UP Board of Regents.
In May 1984, he led a UP students’ march to Mendiola bridge in Manila to protest tuition hikes. When the march ended peacefully, Lean was quoted as saying: “Now people won’t be afraid to demonstrate at Mendiola.” The march is regarded as the fi rst on that historic bridge to have ended peacefully since the First Quarter Storm of 1970. Under Lean’s leadership, the student marches drew from a few hundred participants to up to tens of thousands just months later. He helped establish several anti-dictatorship groups such as the Coalition of Organizations for the Realization of Democracy (CORD, 1984); Samahan ng mga Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at para sa Amnestiya (SELDA); Nationalist Alliance for Justice, Freedom and Democracy (NAJFD); Kaakbay; Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN); and Partido ng Bayan (PnB). Lean later became convinced that greater and deeper problems than a dictatorship burdened the Philippines. He later adopted a national democratic political program as the viable alternative for effecting the necessary social changes in the country.
More than his extraordinary height, Lean stood out as an activist because he possessed insight, a unifying approach, speaking and writing skills, and courage and boldness. Older and more experienced colleagues in the protest movement had him in high regard, and government negotiators who met Lean across the barricades gave him their grudging respect.
Lean was secretary-general of the multisectoral group BAYAN when he was assassinated in 1987. He had just left a press conference in Intramuros, Manila, and was driving back to the Bayan office in Cubao, Quezon City when his vehicle was ambushed near the Bayan headquarters. Two of his three companions
were wounded. Lean was 27 years old.
BAYAN said Lean’s assassination was part of a list of “bloody anti-people crimes” by the Aquino administration. The government denounced the killing but failed to solve the crime. It remains unsolved.
The protest movement sorely grieved the loss of this young, exceptionally gifted, and heroic figure. Poems and a musical opera were written for him who gave so much for his country when to do so meant extreme sacrifice.