BUENO, David Triunfante

Bueno, David pic

The eldest of seven children, David was his parents’ pride and joy. He was smart and bright, and brought home many awards from school and from his many extracurricular activities such as the boy scouts. An outstanding boy scout, he and his brother Excel were sent to Japan as delegates to the Boy Scout’s World Jamboree.

He wanted to become a lawyer but he took up medicine, which was what his father wanted for him. Before completing his medical degree, he revealed to his parents he wanted to become a lawyer instead and got their agreement to shift careers.

David had many sides to his personality. He was a Bible reader and a Marian adherent, but not a church-goer. He was a fratman (of Sigma Beta Tau), and a defender of civil rights. He was a Catholic but he joined the Protestant Lawyers’ League of the Philippines after he passed the bar.

He became involved in defending human rights towards the final years of the Marcos dictatorship. As a human rights lawyer, he defended several political prisoners and tribal Yapayao farmers.

In the politically turbulent years that followed the assassination of Senator Benigno Aquino Jr., David was an active campaigner for justice and the restoration of democracy. He joined protest marches and protest runs, even as he continued to offer his legal expertise to activists and community organizers.

Many of his cases were pro bono. In fact, he sometimes gave fare money to his clients’ families to enable them to visit in prison. At the height of military operations in far off towns in his province (Dumalneg, Piddig  and Vintar), David actually took in some barrio people and sent some of the children to school.

An offer was made for David to serve in the Aquino government but he declined, preferring to pursue his lawyering and defending victims of government abuses. He organized the Ilocos Norte-Laoag City Human Rights Organization and became its legal consultant and later its chairman. Ilocos Norte remained the bailiwick of Marcos loyalists and rebel soldiers and military atrocities continued to be perpetrated in the province.

David protested the abuses and denounced the military operations in the municipality of Dumalneg. He voiced these criticisms publicly in a radio program on human rights at Bombo Radyo Laoag.

In one occasion, he successfully negotiated for the release of several persons seized by the New People’s Army, including two Korean engineers and former Ilocos Norte board member Florencio Sales.

David was assassinated in October 1987. Two men in fatigue uniforms and riding a motorcycle came up to him as he stood in front of his law office and shot him in the heart. The immediate suspects were police and the military, but as expected they denied involvement. Witnesses who saw the killing were afraid to testify. Youth leader Lean Alejandro had already been killed, and rumors spread that more activists and human rights advocates would be assassinated. Indeed after Bueno, labor lawyer Rolando Olalia and Olalia’s driver were themselves assassinated.

The Protestant Lawyers’ League of the Philippines (PLLP) described Bueno as a “staunch human rights lawyer and a conscientious worker for peace and justice.” The PLLP asked that the Aquino government create an independent body to investigate the murder and to immediately arrest his killers.

The Task Force Detainees of the Philippines, in its PHRU issue dated Jan 15-Feb 14, 1988, said the series of killings were part of a government campaign to subdue a nationwide protest movement and to eliminate resistance, including peaceful and non-violent ones.

The case has never prospered.

David and his girlfriend Cynthia had plans to get married when David was killed. Long after his death, David’s family would be approached by people they barely knew thanking them for David. “He fought for us,” they said.