LORETO, Mary Catherine Lucinda

Sr. Mary Catherine Loreto was born Lucinda Loreto, the child of an army dentist who died missing in action during World War II. His widow raised her two daughters by herself.

Loreto earned two university diplomas, in foreign service and business administration. She worked in a bank, went to parties and wore miniskirts like other young women at the time, the 1960s. Her family was surprised when she decided to become a nun (a Religious of the Good Shepherd, RGS) in 1973. The country was under martial law.

Working in a poor community in Manila brought her face to face with the suffering caused by poverty. Sometimes she would join residents of the slums protesting against the forcible demolition of their homes, like them going through the experience of being hosed down by water cannons.

She was then assigned to Isabela and Cebu, but it was in Bicol where she was exposed to the abuses perpetrated by the military under the dictatorship. She became a defender of human rights.

She joined the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, a group of sisters from different religious orders who undertook development programs in poor rural communities.

In Davao, Loreto volunteered for the field office of the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP) and was soon its coordinator.

Resistance to the Marcos dictatorship was growing in Davao City and adjacent areas. Communities supported legal as well as extra-legal protest actions, and even the New People’s Army  and its urban-based Sparrow Units.

Human rights violations continued unabated. TFDP-Davao received countless requests for lawyers, assistance in locating missing persons and so on. Loreto, as the task force coordinator, carried a heavy burden. But she was aware that her status as a religious afforded her some measure of protection. She went about her tasks with great dedication and courage.

She visited detainees in the camps, sought out military officials in searching for missing persons, traveled to remote areas to inform the families of those who had been detained or killed. She escorted relatives to funeral parlors and morgues to identify bodies. Once she secured the baby of an activist couple and temporarily brought it to the convent to be cared for. Resourceful and friendly, she even developed a network of informants – drivers and funeral parlors owners, among others, for locating missing persons. Detainees were particularly thankful for her efforts in organizing visits by friends and in soliciting material assistance for their needs.

On a boat trip to Cebu in 1983, Sr. Catherine Loreto drowned with three other RGS nuns during the sinking of the MV Cassandra. Survivors said it was the nuns who alerted the passengers that the ship was sinking, because the crew refused to admit it. The sisters roused sleeping passengers, gave instructions on survival measures and made sure that the children especially had life vests. The sisters themselves did not take life jackets. Out of more than 600 passengers, less than 200 survived the disaster.

MAGLANTAY, Rizaldy Jesus M.

In college, Rizaldy Maglantay was a student leader at the National College of Business Administration in Manila. After that he found an office job at a multinational corporation, which would have meant stable employment and a “normal” life.

But it was martial law, and Maglantay knew that life could not be “normal,” especially after a close friend, Diore Mijares, was summarily executed by military personnel in April 1983. Summoned by his conscience, Magpantay quit his job in Manila in order to serve as a volunteer for Task Force Detainees in his home province of Aklan.

For the next two years, Maglantay documented human rights abuses and assisted political prisoners despite minimal wages and, especially, the grave risks involved in human rights work. As far as he could see, he said, there was no democracy in the Philippines and human rights did not exist. He decried the widespread torture, arbitrary arrests, “salvaging” (extrajudicial killings) hamletting, etc., saying: “If I don’t do something, who will explain all this to the people here?”

Shortly before he was killed, Maglantay had ignored an "invitation” for questioning by the commanding officer of the constabulary based in Abago, lbajay, Aklan. On the night of August 2, 1985, however, he agreed to go drinking with an acquaintance whom he knew to be in the military. The two were seen in a beerhouse talking until late that night.

Maglantay was found dead early the following morning inside the grounds of an elementary school. His body had 30 stab wounds and other marks of torture. The man who had been with him, a PC corporal, left Kalibo for the province of Iloilo just hours earlier.

The human rights community in the Philippines angrily denounced the crime, leading Gen. Fidel V. Ramos, then vice chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, to order an investigation. The case has not been solved.


Aurelio Magpantay was called Boy by everyone. He was the neighborhood kuya, a kind and helpful guy, the one you wish could have been your elder brother.

He was a bright student, earning honors in elementary and high school, and even started out as a college scholar in engineering at Mapua. The family was, however, unable to keep him there, and so he went back home and enrolled in a course in welding at a vocational school, where he finished at the top of his class. Then he won a scholarship at the Western Philippine Colleges in Batangas to study for a commerce course. He joined the staff of the student paper, Western Advocates. His political involvement in the antidictatorship movement began as a student in Manila, and continued even as he transferred to other schools.

Magpantay was set to graduate from WPC when he was killed. He was one of four young men who disappeared during a Lakbayan, a “People’s Long March against Poverty,” and found dead weeks afterward. They were the “Lakbayani” – Ysmael Umali, Ronilo Evangelio, Noel Clarete, and Boy.

After the assassination of Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr. on August 21, 1983, Magpantay joined the Batangas chapter of the Justice for Aquino Justice for All Movement, as well as the Batangas chapter of the August Twenty-One Movement. He was detained for a short time in October-November 1983. Two men in civilian clothes but claiming to be constabulary officers arrested him while he was in the middle of a JAJA meeting inside a church in Tuy, Batangas. He was released after more than 10 days of interrogation and torture, and only after his captors learned that he was the nephew of a town mayor. But he and his family knew that he continued to be under close military surveillance.

Still, Magpantay remained an active participant in the many rallies and protest actions that were taking place then in his province, the Southern Tagalog region, and indeed all over the country.

On March 6, 1984, he joined a Lakbayan march. The next day, he and his friends took leave of the others in their contingent as they rested in Manila’s Rizal Park. That was the last time the four were seen alive. Three weeks later, their bodies were found dumped together in a shallow grave in Cavite. Magpantay’s body bore stab wounds and both wrists were tied together. His family believes he was summarily executed, “salvaged,” by martial law authorities.

MANAOG, Rodelo Z.

Rodelo Manaog was another bright young man, a natural leader, who disappeared under the Marcos dictatorship.

The eighth child in a brood of nine, the young Delo loved school. He graduated valedictorian from elementary school, and was the first from Mauban, Quezon to be admitted to the prestigious Philippine Science High School (which he attended for three years, after which he transferred and graduated from another high school). He then entered the Luzonian State University in Lucena City, where he became involved in the university student council and the school organ, The Luzonian, as well as other campus activities. As a child tagging along with an elder sister as she attended political teach-ins, and because of the pervasive discontent with the dictatorship, Manaog imbibed a nationalist outlook early on. He became a Kabataang Makabayan activist while still in PSHS, during the early years of martial law.

Moving to the University of the Philippines in Los Baños in 1977, Manaog joined the staff of the UPLB Perspective. In one article, he tried to make his fellow students understand that it was only right to question the university’s orientation: “Para saan ba ang pasilidad, kagamitan at gusali kung ang programang pang-edukasyon naman ay hindi akma sa kalagayan ng lipunang nangangailangan nito? ... Nagiging manpower supplier tayo sa sistemang lumulukob sa ating ekonomiya.” (What’s the use of these facilities, equipment and buildings if the curriculum is not suited to the conditions of our society? We only serve to supply the manpower for the system that controls our economy.”

His friends were not surprised when he decided to quit school in order to become a full-time labor organizer. “I will never let my schooling interfere with my education,” he declared.

He worked with the National Federation of Labor Unions, and the Institute for Workers Leadership and Development in Laguna. His friends would see him from time to time. They knew he was aware of being under surveillance. But when he did not show up for two months, they began looking for him and also informed his family. They had last seen him inside a grocery store at the UPLB campus on June 21, 1984.

A campaign was organized to look for Manaog. Pickets were held in front of military camps. The military denied any involvement, but Delo's family and friends remain unconvinced. They never found him.


As a delegate to the 1971 Constitutional Convention, Raul Manglapus sponsored a resolution that would ban President Marcos from reelection, and his spouse from succeeding him.

Marcos answered that by exercising one-man rule (or, as others put it, a conjugal dictatorship together with his wife Imelda) until his ouster in February 1986. And Manglapus would have been one of the many oppositionists arrested after the declaration of martial law in 1972, if he didn’t happen to be travelling abroad at the time.

Many years of exile in the United States were spent by Manglapus, who was already a prominent politician at the time, in campaigning against the Marcos regime’s fundamentally undemocratic nature, its corruption and excesses. His group, the Movement for a Free Philippines, focused on lobbying in America to persuade the US government to withdraw its support for the dictatorship.

Much admired for his oratorical prowess and intellectual gifts, Manglapus was consistent in his advocacy for reforms in the country’s political and economic system, including land reform and a change from the presidential to the parliamentary system. He authored the Land Reform Code (RA 3844) during his first term as senator (1961-1967). He founded the Christian Social Movement in 1968, and the Progressive Party of the Philippines.

While in the US, he held teaching and research posts at Cornell University in New York, the American University in Washington DC, and the Harvard University Center for International Relations. He also worked for two years with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in New York and another two years as president of the Center for Development Policy in Washington DC (1983-1985).

After his return to the Philippines in 1986, Manglapus was elected to the Senate for a second term, then appointed by President Corazon Aquino as her Secretary of Foreign Affairs; he had already served as such under President Carlos P. Garcia in 1957. He remained at his post until 1992.

Manglapus continued to promote political reforms with his involvement in such organizations as the Center for Christian-Muslim Democracy, Christian Democrats International, Democracy International, the United Muslim Democrats in the Philippines, the National Union of Christian Democrats.

He died in Manila in 1999, at the age of 80.

MORDENO, Rodrigo

Rodrigo Mordeno worked at the Catholic parish in the town of Sta. Josefa, Agusan Del Sur, in northeastern Mindanao. He had just been designated area coordinator of the relief and rehabilitation program of the local diocese, helping in the distribution of relief goods and processing of interest-free loans for local residents.

Mordeno, known to all as Diego, had only been at his job for a few weeks, doing it with much enthusiasm, when he was killed by Armalite-wielding gunmen.

There was no logical reason for anyone to murder Mordeno, a well-liked young man in his early 20s who had grown up in Sta. Josefa.

Except that it was martial law, and Sta. Josefa, like many other towns in Mindanao, was under the rule of the gun. At the time, an Airborne Unit of the Philippine Air Force and a unit of the Philippine Army’s Engineering Brigade were based in the town, aside from the Integrated National Police and paramilitary Civilian Home Defense Force.

And maybe the reason why he was killed, his friends said, was because he was helping the displaced people in the “strategic hamlets” that the military had been setting up in Sta. Josefa. These “hamlets” were an idea borrowed by the Philippine military from the US effort to control the civilian population during the war in Vietnam. The objective was to deprive rebel guerrillas of the support of the people living in outlying areas, by forcing them to live instead in virtual concentration camps where they were strictly monitored and unable to work on their farms.

Human-rights networks, both local and international, were increasingly aware of the existence of the hamlets, and they helped bring public attention to the miserable conditions and the abuses to which the people there were being subjected. Of course such publicity did not make the dictatorship happy.

One day, a group of human-rights workers, including some affiliated with the church and others who were journalists, arrived in Sta. Josefa intending to visit the hamlets. Mordeno was assigned to be their guide. But soldiers stopped the group from meeting with the villagers, and blamed Mordeno for taking them there.

Not long after that, on the night of August 7, Mordeno was heading home from a wedding party with his brother Richard, 13, when they met two armed men on the street. As the two brothers continued to walk, bursts of gunfire came from behind, and Richard saw Diego fall clasping his neck. With bullets whistling over his own head, Richard ran for his life and hid in a canal beside the road. The two armed men left after failing to find him.

Next morning Diego Mordeno’s body was recovered, riddled with bullets. The crime had happened in the vicinity of military detachments.

Churchworkers from all over Agusan, Surigao and Davao provinces came to bury Mordeno, in a funeral march that was the longest that the people of Sta. Josefa town ever saw.

OBISPO, Immanuel M.

Immanuel Obispo was an honor student from elementary school to college. A scholar at De La Salle University, where he was a third-year biology major (“a brilliant student,” according to his thesis adviser) he engaged in many extracurricular activities and joined the staff of campus papers.

Although he did not fit the popular image of the stereotypical student activist – he had a quiet and scholarly manner, a slight build and a limp due to polio – Obispo was an active participant in the antidictatorship movement as a member of the De La Salle chapter of the militant League of Filipino Students. He joined protest rallies and demonstrations, and criticized the regime’s policies in articles for student publications.

Obispo left for school on October 17, 1984 and met there with friends, but failed to return home that day. His family reported him missing. After eight days of searching, they were informed that Imo's body was in a hospital in Laguna, where he had been brought, still alive, after being run over by a train.

But so many questions remained unanswered: What was he doing there? Who were the unknown persons inquiring after him at the hospital? Who was the fake priest who called his teacher and gave false information about Imo’s whereabouts? Why did his chest bear what looked like cigarette burns?

Immanuel Obispo’s murder took place at a time when the regime was carrying out many violent acts against its critics, including the killing of Alex Orcullo in Davao City and Jacobo Amatong in Dipolog City. At De La Salle University itself, students had been noticing intensified military intelligence surveillance. Thus, it was not hard to believe that Imo was killed by the military.

OLIVAR, Mateo C.

Son of a poor farming family in Cebu, Mateo Olivar migrated with his young family to Tukuran, Zamboanga del Sur in search of better opportunities in life. After high school he had gone to college but could not afford to continue after one year.

Adding to his meager income from tilling the soil, Olivar found work as a janitor at the municipal hall in Tukuran. In 1978 he was invited by his pastor to attend a five-week seminar called Christian Living in the World Today. He was so inspired and enlightened by it that he left his janitorial job to become a fulltime churchworker in the Tukuran parish.

As such, he attended more seminars, shared experiences with other people, travelled to far-flung villages of the parish.

Even greater challenges and opportunities came when Olivar joined the staff of the diocese of Pagadian's Community-Based Health Program and Family Life Apostolate. He learned herbal medicine, applying it to help the people in villages all over the 15 towns covered by the diocese. He traveled long distances over very bad roads, and on any available transport. But he thrived. "He never wavered, never hesitated," said his parish priest.

However, because his work entailed going deep into the villages, discussing with people and spreading new ideas, Olivar attracted the military's attention. He started receiving threats. One day in August 1985, a group of armed militia men stopped the jeep he was riding, looking for him. Fortunately, none of them knew how he looked like and the other passengers covered up for him. His friends were worried.

Apparently, “Tiyong” Olivar had come under suspicion as a revolutionary organizer. But the priests defended him, saying he was organizing "for liberation, not revolution."

Olivar’s "work for liberation" came to an end on November 7, 1985 when three men fired at him while he was riding his motorbike on his way home. The ambush happened less than 500 yards from a military checkpoint in Dimasangca, Labangan, Zamboanga del Sur. Church workers deeply mourned this religious man's death. On the day he was buried, the bishop of Pagadian declared that no other mass would be said in the diocese that day except for Tiyong's funeral mass.

ONTONG, Manuel F.

Manuel Ontong was, like many artists, a quiet man whose inner feelings ran deep. In fact, in 1970 the Art Association of the Philippines cited him as the “Best Expression of the Filipino Soul.”

That was the year he joined the Samahang Demokratiko ng Kabataan, of which his younger brother was already a member. He also joined Sining Bayan, an organization of socially committed artists that included stage, movie and television personalities. Ontong participated actively in the First Quarter Storm of 1970.

Before that, he had worked for two years as an artist-illustrator for the National Museum, having graduated with a fine arts degree from the University of Santo Tomas in 1967. His work entailed traveling to archaeological excavation sites as part of the team from the museum, and executing sketches for the documentation. His illustrations were later incorporated in the museum’s reports and publications.

Ontong was disappointed when his nomination for a study grant to Australia in 1969 did not push through; he thought it was because no one powerful was backing him up. The “palakasan” system, his sister observed, was what started his politicalization. At the time, she explained, the National Museum’s director had become critical of the Marcos administration, so that when the latter resigned her position Ontong followed suit.

When Marcos suspended the writ of habeas corpus in 1971, Ontong was arrested and detained with some other activists for one week. Because his mother had been so traumatized by this incident, he got a job as artist-illustrator at the Philippine Council for Agricultural Research and Resource Development in Los Baños, Laguna. He was already working there when martial law was declared. But quietly, Manny Ontong continued to create posters and other art works that expressed the people’s anger under the dictatorship.

On November 26, 1975 his family received an anonymous call informing them that Ontong had been picked up by men in civilian clothes and taken away in an army jeep in front of the Philippine General Hospital along Taft Avenue in Manila. His mother went from one detention center to another looking for him, reaching as far as Camp Vicente Lim in Laguna and  in Pampanga. She never found him. Manuel Ontong was 29 years old when he disappeared.

ORCULLO, Alexander L.

From the start, martial law kept Alex Orcullo busy, denouncing military abuses and defending people’s rights.

Upon its declaration in September 1972, he led a group of young people in marching around the small town of Padada singing “Pilipinas Kong Mahal.” Days afterward, they were arrested and detained at the constabulary barracks.

He had been an outstanding student, and after graduating from college he went on to pursue a master’s degree in economics. At age 24 he was asked to become the president of St. Michael’s College in his hometown, during which time he focused on the development of more young leaders. He was a professional manager with a particular expertise in running housing projects. He also opened and ran a private school.

Orcullo initiated the publication of Mindaweek, edited Mindanao Currents and wrote for the San Pedro Express. His daily radio commentaries reached a wide audience. He was fearless in his stance against repression and tyranny, calling on the people to realize their pathetic situation and to struggle to be free.

His social and political involvement included chairing the LIHUK Mindanao and the Hukom Demokrasya ng Liga ng Ekonomistang Aktibo sa Dabaw. He served as secretary general of the Coalition for Restoration of Democracy in Mindanao and political officer of the Makabayang Alyansa.

He was even barangay captain in his village, Mandug, situated at the outskirts of Davao City. It was a highly militarized area, with armed men in masks roaming during the night. The military and their “assets,” the residents reported, were soliciting information about Orcullo.

But Mandug was “a well-organized community…able to project collective pressures on the local government and military.” In September 1984, Orcullo was arrested and brought to Camp Panacan. A hundred male civilians from Mandug gathered together and proceeded to the military camp and refused to leave until their barangay captain was released.

On the day of his 38th birthday, October 19, 1984, while Orcullo was driving home with his wife and youngest son (2 ½ years old), they were accosted by armalite-wielding men in uniform in barangay Tigatto. He was ordered to leave the car and subjected to a body search. His arms raised, he was ordered to walk. He was then shot from behind, sustaining 13 gunshot wounds. One “Kapitan Inggo”, known to head a paramilitary group calling itself Philippine Liberation Organization, later claimed responsibility for the murder.

The last editorial Alex Orcullo wrote before he was killed was entitled “Why Rage?” In it, he urged his countrymen to rage against oppression and tyranny and to fight injustice without compromise. It was to be his parting message.

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