Diokno: We Will Sing Our Own Songs

At the height of the martial-law dictatorship’s abusiveness and greed, Jose W. Diokno never lost faith in the Filipino people’s ability to overcome hardships and construct a better future.

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Unang Kapihan March 23

On the 23rd of March 2017, we shall have Gen. Lina Sarmiento to give us an update on the claims of martial law victims; a forum follows. But before the serious part, let's laugh a bit with Dr. Crispin Maslog. Also, a human rights kapihan isn't complete without the former CHR Chairperson Etta Rosales.

Let's discuss matters over cups of coffee.

PEÑA, Jacinto D.

One of the methodical steps taken by President Marcos when he declared martial law was to immediately seize control of the mass media. Troops were sent to padlock the different newspaper offices and radio and television stations. Many journalists were detained by the military; the rest lost their jobs. Sometime later, the regime began allowing the mass media to operate again, but under strict surveillance and, eventually, self-censorship.

A tiny underground press immediately sprang to life, scrambling to disseminate the information, analysis and calls to action that were eagerly awaited by the anti-dictatorship resistance.

As soon as they could, those student activists who had not taken to the hills, or been arrested or killed, went into action by reviving the campus press. They moved cautiously at first, limiting themselves to the discussion of nonpolitical, “safe” issues. But it didn’t take long for the school publications to become vehicles for consolidating the resistance. Even before the legal opposition’s commercial publications emerged, the campus press was already publishing articles analyzing programs and policies of the dictatorship, as well as interviews with the victims of human rights violations.

During the early phase of the struggle against martial law, Jacinto Peña was a key figure among those who proudly called themselves revolutionary propagandists in the tradition of Rizal, Lopez Jaena and Antonio Luna.  At the University of the Philippines Diliman, he was a reporter for the Philippine Collegian. While devoting much of his time to organizing and training student journalists in other campuses, he pursued his studies and graduated with a journalism degree in 1975.

In 1978, Peña joined the campaign for the LABAN team, led by imprisoned Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr. that contested the Interim Batasang Pambansa elections.  Although they knew that Marcos would not allow anyone from the genuine opposition to win, still Peña and his coworkers worked hard to voice the message of resistance, and to strengthen the people’s unity against the dictatorship.

By that time, the underground press had taken root in all the regions of the country, keeping pace with the growth of the organized resistance. Despite the use of primitive technology, and the very real danger to the safety of their staffmembers, these regional newspapers helped spread the message of struggle and liberation from tyranny. Jack Peña was then asked to train grassroots activists how to gather accurate news reports, how to write for their intended audience, how to produce an attractive newspaper.

It was on one of those trips to the countryside that Jack Peña was caught in a military operation. He had just arrived and was preparing to travel on foot further inland, when government forces dragged him out of a house. After forcing him to admit that he was a member of the New People’s Army (which he was not), they shot and killed him in cold blood.

BORN                                    :               March 26, 1949 in Iloilo City

DIED                                      :               November 11, 1979 in Gattaran, Cagayan

PARENTS                             :               Faustino M. Peña and Gorgonia Dechavez

EDUCATION                       :               Elementary: Ilaya Elementary School, Iloilo City

Secondary: Iloilo High School, Iloilo City

College: University of the Philippines Diliman

ROQUE, Magtangol S.

Magtangol Roque was the beloved kuya of his brother and sisters – the elder brother who supported their studies and gently imposed discipline.  Best of all, he affirmed them in their belief that the principles they shared must be fought for: the struggle for a better life, love of country.

During the demonstrations of pre-martial law days, it was great to have a Kuya Tanggol  to count on.   His younger brother Patnubay[1] remembers phoning him at the office after some of these rallies, to ask for help in being released from police custody.

“He would come to pick me up, saying only that I should take care next time,” narrated Patnubay. “Then he would ask, where do you want me to drop you? And I’d say, Take me to the picket line, kuya. And he’d really bring me there.”[2]

After graduating from the University of the Philippines in the mid-1960s, Tanggol Roque had no trouble finding a series of good jobs as an engineer for multinational corporations.  He was thus able to take care of his siblings in Manila before their parents returned to Luzon from Davao, where they had been making a modest living as hardworking migrants.

Though he had not been an activist in college, Tanggol Roque had embraced radical views himself without his siblings knowing it. Thus it was a big surprise when the Marcos government announced that criminal charges were being filed against their kuya, for his alleged involvement in the communist movement’s attempt to smuggle a shipment of firearms into the country.


Roque evaded arrest by going underground. He eventually found his way back to his native Mindanao, where his natural leadership came to the fore. People remembered a kindhearted man who often smiled and joked, playing tunes on the harmonica he kept in his pocket. But he was also a softspoken disciplinarian who reminded everyone that they were there to serve the people in every way, even in the humble tasks of daily life.

In May 1981 in Davao City, Tanggol Roque was killed by military personnel while aboard his motorbike. He was shot while attempting to warn his comrades about an imminent raid, not knowing that it was already taking place.  He was finally laid to rest in a barrio graveyard in Malolos, Bulacan where his family traced its roots.

BORN                                    :               March 10, 1941 in Digos, Davao

DIED                                      :               June 11, 1981 in Davao City

PARENTS                             :               Alfredo Roque and Liwayway Sayas

SPOUSE  /CHILD               :               Mila Aguilar / 1

EDUCATION                       :               Elementary: Davao Central Elementary School

Secondary: Ateneo de Davao

College: University of the Philippines


[1] Alfredo Roque, who was a writer and community leader in his native Bulacan, gave his children meaningful names: Kalayaan, Patnubay, Lualhati, Tagumpay, Pilipinas.

[2] Interview with Patnubay Roque on April 1, 1987 in Quezon City, by Bing Galang and Carrie Manglinong of  Bantayog Research and Documentation.

I Commit Myself to the Revolution by Sr. Asuncion Martinez, ICM

I Commit Myself to the Revolution by Sr. Asuncion Martinez, ICM



Even when he was alive, Teofilo Valenzuela, whom everyone called Teope, was already an authentic hero in the eyes of his townmates in Samal, Bataan.

Thus, after he was killed by government troops in a dramatic gunbattle, thousands came to his funeral even though it was the height of martial law. It is said that entire villages were emptied of people that day as everyone had gone to pay their last respects to Teope.

The eldest son of a poor peasant couple, Valenzuela had little formal schooling beyond the elementary grades, but he was conversant in a broad range of topics. At the age of 15, after his father died, he took over the duties of caring for his mother and four siblings. He planted and fished, and worked as a laborer in construction sites. Eventually he found a regular job at the pulp and paper mill that was the town’s biggest employer.

Student activists started coming to Samal in the late 1960s, and they found ready support in the community. Teope and his two brothers joined the Samahang Demokratiko ng Kabataan. Their house became the group’s headquarters. Among his first projects as an activist was to organize the local young people to help out in planting and harvesting rice from the farmers’ fields.

After the declaration of martial law, Teofilo Valenzuela tried to continue with his activities but soon left home to join the armed guerrilla movement already active in the Bataan-Zambales area. This was of course a time-honored recourse of those with legitimate grievances against the authorities: they “took to the hills” where at least they had a chance of putting up a good fight.

Valenzuela was a mature man respected by all – easygoing and generous, someone who told funny stories and sang kundiman love songs. The townspeople understood and accepted his decision to go underground.

Soon he became Ka Miguel who, in behalf of the local farmers, bargained with the landowners for better terms and conditions. Confronting the environmental pollution being caused by the pulp and paper mill, he persuaded his townmates to protest by writing letters and launching mass actions. As a result, the management installed an antipollution mechanism at the factory site. Valenzuela also helped the workers to pressure for higher wages and better working conditions.

The authorities sent troops to hunt down the people’s champion. In a surprise attack one early morning, Valenzuela was hit in the knee in the first volley of fire. Knowing that his team’s firearms were no match for the high-powered rifles of their adversaries, he firmly ordered them to escape while he stayed behind. For hours, he was able to hold them off with just his old carbine and careful use of his remaining ammunition; he was even able to grab and use an automatic rifle that had rolled near him during the gunfight. By mid-afternoon, however, Valenzuela had been overpowered, his body peppered with bullets. He was 35 years old when he died.

BORN                                    :               March 1, 1940 in Samal, Bataan

DIED                                      :               January 25, 1975 in Samal, Bataan

PARENTS                             :               Roman Valenzuela and Isabel Barcenas


Jallores Pic (1)

There is a photograph taken during the “Battle of Mendiola” on January 30, 1970, showing a truck full of young people, ramming the gates of Malacan͂ang Palace. They were symbolically storming the seat of power, in a show of new-found confidence and strength by the country’s youth restlessly seeking change.

Romulo Jallores’ picture atop that truck, wearing a beret just like Ernesto “Che” Guevara, the legendary revolutionary of Latin America, made him famous after that. Activists called him Che. Like the picture itself, splashed across the pages of a national magazine, Jallores became a symbol of the emerging struggle for national emancipation.

He had been born poor, one of six children that their mother raised by herself. Jallores loved to read and discuss all sorts of topics with his friends. As a child he enjoyed playing war games with the others, always taking the side of the weaker opponent, she said. After second-year high school, however, he dropped out and set off for Manila to work for a living.

He supported himself by doing garage work, construction work, machine shop work. Towards the end of the 1960s, rising student and youth activism drew him in and provided answers to his questions. He began attending teach-ins and demonstrations, joining marches and other protest actions.

Shortly after the Battle of Mendiola, with his brother Benjie he returned to his native Bicol region to organize among the landless peasants and the workers in the fields of abaca.  To the activists still in Manila, the Jallores brothers became a symbol of a higher form of struggle in the countryside, one that demanded utmost dedication and sacrifice. Romulo Jallores became famous as “Tangkad,” reputed to be among the top guerrilla leaders there along with his brother.

In 1971, government troops surrounded a house in Naga City where Jallores had been meeting with some comrades. He refused to surrender, and went down in the exchange of fire, in which a constabulary lieutenant also died.  News of his death electrified the surging protest movement in Manila, providing a glimpse of the risks and glories of the path that Tangkad had taken.

When martial law was declared by President Marcos the following year, many among “the best and the brightest” of that generation were inspired to follow Romulo Jallores in going to the grassroots and working among the people to bring about radical change, no matter what the cost.[1]


BORN                                    :               November 8, 1948 in Ocampo, Camarines Sur

DIED                                      :               December 30, 1971 in Naga City

PARENTS                             :               Edilberto Jallores and Marcela Acetre

EDUCATION                       :               Elementary: Moriones Elementary School, Ocampo, Camarines Sur

Secondary: Sta. Clara Academy, Tigaon, Camarines Sur


[1]On July 5, 1972, Benjie Jallores was killed in a raid by constabulary troops in a remote area of Ocampo, Camarines Sur. See Ricardo Lee, “Ang Mahabang Maikling Buhay ni Kumander Tangkad,”  Asia-Philippines Leader, Pebrero 18, 1972, pp. 34-36.


Yuyitung, Rizal CK pic

“A prelude to the proclamation of martial law,” was how Rizal Yuyitung described the ordeal that he and his elder brother Quintin suffered when President Marcos caused them to be arbitrarily deprived of their freedoms, imprisoned for crimes they did not commit, and forced to live in exile for many years.

It is now well-known that Marcos had been scheming for years how to carry out the plan that would ensure his continuing stranglehold on power.   In 1970, well before actually imposing one-man rule, he “decided to test the waters with actions against [us], believing that we are the weakest link in the Philippine press,” said Rizal Yuyitung afterwards.[1]

Rizal was the editor-in-chief of the Chinese Commercial News and Quintin was its publisher. Before World War II, it was their father, Yu Yi Tung, who had been the newspaper’s publisher; he was executed by the Japanese in Fort Santiago for refusing to allow it to be used for their propaganda.

Named after the national hero, Rizal was born, raised and educated in the Philippines.  An agriculture graduate, he and Quintin revived CNN after the death of their father. Under their leadership, it went on to resume its place as a respected voice of the Chinese-Filipino community.

In keeping with the highest standards of professional journalism, CNN prized its independence as embodied by Yu Yi Tung.  But it was tagged “pro-communist” because it had been printing reports translated from western news agencies about developments in what was then tagged as “Red China.”

The Marcos government therefore kidnapped and flew them to Taiwan (which they didn’t recognize as their country, considering themselves Filipino). There they were hastily tried and sentenced to prison: Rizal for three years and Quintin for two.

In persecuting the two brothers, Marcos was toeing an ideological line that was also anti-Chinese – thinking that nobody would care to speak up in their defense. (CNN and the brothers were also strongly advocating for a less difficult process of acquiring Filipino citizenship for ethnic Chinese like them.)  But after the Yuyitungs were deported, 170 Filipino journalists, students and academics signed a manifesto in protest.  Prominent lawyers and journalists rushed to their side.

By the time Rizal Yuyitung was released from prison in Taiwan, Marcos was already tyrannizing the entire Philippines with his dictatorial rule. Rizal’s wife Veronica had also suffered a period of detention. The couple then decided to live with their children in Canada.

After Marcos’ downfall in 1986, Rizal and Quintin Yuyitung returned to the Philippines and resumed the publication of  Chinese Commercial News. Even after their deaths, it continues to exist today.

BORN                                    :               September 16, 1922 in Manila

DIED                                      :               April 19, 2007 in Toronto, Canada

PARENTS                             :               Yu Yi Tung and Kak Sui Kok

SPOUSE/CHILDREN         :               Veronica Lim / 7


[1] See Yvonne T. Chua, “Heroes of Press Freedom: the Father and Sons Yuyitung,” May 6, 2007, Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility.

RIGOS, Cirilo A.

Rigos Cirilo

The imposition of martial law in the Philippines in September 1972 instantly created a climate of fear that kept most people from saying or doing anything that might offend the government. It became impossible for friends to meet in public places, because they feared that spies would be listening to their conversations.  Especially, it somehow became dangerous to be associated with persons who were known to be independent-minded, or at least not pro-Marcos.

A Protestant church in the heart of Manila was able to open a window that allowed a bit of fresh air into the stifling atmosphere. In 1973, just a few months after the martial law declaration, the Wednesday Forum began meeting at the Cosmopolitan Church on Taft  Avenue. The ecumenical group brought together not only Protestants but also other religious leaders, as well as professionals, academics and opposition politicians; some members of the Marcos government also attended.

Every week they gathered at the social hall of the church to discuss public concerns: “The purpose was to know the true facts, as distinguished from the reported ‘facts’ in the controlled media, and thereafter to proclaim the truth and work for freedom and justice and human dignity, at a crucial time when so many had been deprived of their basic human rights.”[1] Not surprisingly, a number of those who attended were later arrested and detained by the military.

It was Cirilo Rigos, the courageous pastor of Cosmopolitan Church, who convened and hosted Wednesday Forum. From the pulpit, he continued to deliver passionate, stinging sermons criticizing the injustices perpetrated by the regime. Due to pressure from some conservative members, however, he felt he had to resign from his position in 1977. This resulted in Rigos, and Wednesday Forum, transferring to Ellinwood Church instead where he served for the next 11 years.

Pastor Rigos was also instrumental in organizing the Paglingap ministry of his church, which attended to the needs of political detainees and their families. He worked for the release of many such detainees.

After the ouster of the Marcos dictatorship, Rigos was appointed by President Corazon Aquino to the Constitutional Commission which drafted the 1987 Constitution.

Cirilo Rigos served as pastor of Cosmopolitan Church for a second time in 1993, until his death from cancer in 1996.

BORN                                    :               March 29, 1932 in Candelaria, Quezon

DIED                                      :               June 21, 1996 in Makati City

PARENTS                             :               Juan Rigos and Paula Aquino

SPOUSE/CHILDREN         :               Lydia de Guia / 2

EDUCATION                       :               Elementary:  Candelaria Elementary School, Candelaria Quezon

Secondary:  Tayabas Academy, Quezon

College: Union Theological Seminary, Manila

Postgraduate: Union Theological Seminary, New York;  San Francisco

Theological Seminary, California;  University of Chicago (USA)


[1] In Jovito R. Salonga, “Who we are and what Cosmopolitan Church stands for,” message delivered during the 61st anniversary celebration of Cosmopolitan Church on March 20, 1994.

YORAC, Haydee B.

Yorac Haydee Bofil

Very few public officials were like Haydee Yorac who could be held in such high regard by her countrymen for her integrity and intelligence in government service.

Yorac was among the first batch of persons who were rounded up upon the declaration of martial law. Released from Camp Crame after several months, she thereafter distinguished herself as an exacting professor at the University of the Philippines college of law. She also volunteered her services to the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG), staying in the background most of the time.[1] In 1981 she earned a master of laws degree at Yale University in the United States.

It was after the dictatorship’s ouster in 1986 that Yorac emerged as a key figure in the Filipino people’s clamor for a thoroughgoing change in the values held by the nation’s leadership – the corruption, nepotism and greed that were hallmarks of Marcos’ long rule.

At the Commission on Elections, which she served as chairman from 1989 to 1999, her firm grasp of the law and, more importantly, her principles, restored the people’s faith in the democratic process of choosing their leaders. She also tried to build institutional strength through collective decision-making, role modeling, and firm but compassionate leadership.  It was a difficult job for which she was uniquely suited, as she refused to be allied or influenced by the traditional political groupings or clans that were trying to make a comeback.

Her next stint in a high-profile government position was as chair of the Presidential Commission on Good Government from 2001 to 2005.  This was a most formidable challenge, which meant fighting the Marcos family with all the resources they still commanded, as well as undertaking a massive housecleaning operation within the bureaucracy itself. She did her best within the limitations, and in 2003 won a Supreme Court decision that recovered $700 million for the government in Marcos ill-gotten wealth that had been frozen for years.  She also won a decision that declared the coconut levy funds (collected from farmers during the dictatorship) to be public money and not privately-owned as claimed by Marcos crony Eduardo Cojuangco Jr.

Yorac received a Ramon Magsaysay Award for Government Service in 2004, and other marks of public recognition as well. (Ironically, however, she lost when she ran for the Senate in 1998.)

As a private person, Yorac treasured the company of her family and friends, and she enjoyed good food, books and films. She continued to work after a stroke in 2003, but died from cancer in 2005.


[1]  She defended the artists Lino Brocka and Behn Cervantes from charges of inciting to sedition in 1984. For a more detailed narrative  of Yorac’s life, see Lorna K. Tirol’s biography in the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation’s website.

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