ORTIGAS, Gaston Z.

Gaston Ortigas found his way out of the Philippines during martial law, sought refuge in America, and while there continued to work for the ouster of the Marcos “conjugal dictatorship” together with other prominent political exiles.

A specialist in industrial and production management, and faculty member at the Asian Institute of Management (AIM), Ortigas had joined Raul Manglapus’ Christian Social Movement in 1970 as election campaign manager in what would be a frustrated attempt to make a dent in the Philippines’ traditional electoral system.

Ironically, President Ferdinand Marcos himself would dismantle that system by instituting one-man rule in 1972. The only elections allowed were those that would give his regime an appearance of legitimacy, and the only candidates allowed towin were those chosen by his party, the Kilusang Bagong Lipunan.

When martial law was declared, Ortigas became involved in 1974 with Manglapus' Movement for a Free Philippines (MFP) and the Bishops-Businessmen's Conference, both critical of martial law.

He also became associated with the Light-A-Fire Movement, an urban guerrilla group that carried out small-scale attacks against Marcos crony establishments. After barely eleven months of operation, by December 1979 all but two members of the network had been arrested. Ortigas then decided to leave for abroad, taking a circuitous route through the Philippines’ southern backdoor.

Arriving in the United States in May 1980, he continued his work with the MFP and, especially after the assassination of Senator Benigno Aquino Jr. in 1983, liaisoning with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.

In April 1986 he was able to fly home, and returned to AIM where as dean for the next four years, and propounding the then-new concept of development management, he brought the school closer to the people. Local officials, lawmakers, bureaucrats and foreign service officers were given a chance to learn broader perspectives and appreciate better systems, while developing greater sensitivity and compassion to people's needs. Under him, AIM opened new programs catering to social issues, such as women in development, agrarian reform and environmental protection.

In those few short years, Ortigas also committed himself to the advocacy of agrarian reform and the pursuit of a peace process with antidictatorship movements that remained in the underground after February 1986. “Gasty” died on August 31, 1990 after a lingering illness.

Ateneo de Manila University established the Gaston Z. Ortigas Peace Institute six months after his death.

ORTIZ, Pacifico A.

Just weeks after President Marcos had imposed martial law, on December 1, 1972 the Jesuit priest Pacifico Ortiz stood before the assembly that had put together a new Constitution. In voting No to the document, Ortiz firmly warned:

“I believe no nation…can survive that would surrender her freedom and her future to the wisdom or mercy of one man, whoever that man may be, however great that man may be. […] Through this Constitution, we are establishing for many years to come nothing less than a dictatorial government, a government through ‘diktat’ or decree, by a one-man Executive who is likewise vested with full legislative powers (since his proclamations, orders and decrees shall have the validity of law even after martial law is lifted) and, who through his unlimited power of appointment and removal can control the judiciary, including the members of the Supreme Court.”

Elected in 1969 as the first Filipino president of Ateneo de Manila University, Ortiz resigned the post in 1971 after being elected delegate of Rizal province to the Constitutional Convention. Here he was frustrated in trying to put in safeguards that would prevent Marcos from perpetuating himself in power. It was also he who supported fellow delegate Eduardo Quintero in exposing the massive bribery that took place to ensure that Marcos would get the Constitution he wanted.

On January 26, 1970, Ortiz was asked to deliver the invocation at the opening of the joint session of Congress. In it, he described a situation where the people had lost their “political innocence” and now knew that “salvation can only come from below, …from the people themselves..." The country, he went on, stood “on the trembling edge of revolution.”

Only hours later, violence would erupt as security forces beat back tens of thousands of students and workers rallying in front of that same building. That historic demonstration ushered in the period of massive protests known as the First Quarter Storm.

With the martial law regime consolidating its monopoly of power, as he had foreseen, Ortiz continued to resist. As secretary of both the Episcopal Commission on Justice and Peace and the Church-Military Liaison Committee, he exerted himself to mitigate oppression and the violation of human rights.

Pacifico Ortiz was born to a landed family in Surigao province in Mindanao. Before World War II broke out, he had been appointed personal chaplain to President Manuel Quezon; with the escalation of hostilities, the president went into exile in Australia and then the United States, and Ortiz was a member of his entourage.

After the war, Ortiz pursued his studies in America. Upon his return, he became Catholic chaplain of the University of the Philippines in Diliman, at the same time serving as secretary of the Bishops' Commission on Social Action.

In 1961, he moved back to the Ateneo de Manila to teach political science. There he remained for the next 11 years, except for a one-year teaching stint at the Ateneo de Zamboanga. He also held other positions such as dean of the graduate school, regent of the school of law, and executive vice-president.

He died after a stroke in 1983, at the age of 70.

OSORIO, Magnifico L.

Magnifico Osorio had no political affiliations nor leanings, and he didn’t join rallies or openly defy the dictatorship. He only wanted to help the people he was serving – the indigenous communities of Palawan. Yet in being killed for his social justice advocacy against those in powerful positions to oppress and exploit the weak, he became a martyr of the struggle against the martial law regime.

He had aspired for the religious life even as a young boy. He achieved this dream, serving as pastor of the United Methodist Church, first in Masbate and then in Palawan.

Arriving in Palawan in the mid-1960s, he first settled in Bugsuk, a small island with a mixed community of native Palawans and settlers. The sea was so bountiful that fish would leap into the fishermen's boats. This garden of Eden was destroyed when the residents were driven out to make way for a vast coconut plantation owned by Marcos crony Eduardo Cojuangco. Osorio helped the people fight the eviction but they lost, and the pastor himself had to leave Bugsuk.

Osorio continued his ministry in another Palawan town, Bataraza. There he started a special ministry for the indigenous tribes because he saw that they were losing their ancestral lands to big corporations. Some were actually being jailed for cultivating lands that had already been abandoned. Osorio opened literacy classes, where people learned reading, writing and farming techniques. He believed that this was the best way for them to protect their interests and to defend themselves from the rampant landgrabbing and other abuses to which the native communities fell victim.

As a pastor, Osorio was basically self-supporting. For his family’s needs, he tilled a tract of land (14 hectares), putting to good use the knowledge he had gained as an agriculture graduate of the University of the Philippines in Los Baños. But the land was later grabbed by another Marcos crony, his presidential assistant for national minorities, who believed that valuable minerals could be found in it.

Osorio became a dedicated campaigner for indigenous peoples' rights. He gave his all to this advocacy, at his own expense often shuttling to and from the capital, Puerto Princesa, to accompany villagers facing court cases regarding land disputes or guiding them through government red tape.

On March 10, 1985, he accompanied a group of villagers to meet with then Palawan governor Salvador Socrates who promised that their land rights would be respected as long as he was governor. The villagers were so thankful for Osorio's help, saying they wanted him as their adviser in all negotiations with government agencies as well as the big corporations that wanted to use their ancestral lands. Osorio himself was happy about this event, writing to his brother that "with God, we can accomplish something worthwhile."

On the day he was killed, March 29, Osorio was in high spirits. He was still euphoric from the successful dialogue with the governor. A case against two Muslim men he had been helping had just been dismissed. He went to his farm to burn a clump of bamboos in order to expand his rice paddies.

It was late when his wife Florenda went out to call him for supper. She found him lying on the ground; he had been clubbed on the head and then shot dead. No witnesses came forward to tell what they knew, and no search was ordered to find out who killed Osorio. However, many believe that Osorio was eliminated to deprive the native communities of an effective defender. To this day the murder has not been solved.

PALABAY, Romulo D.

Usually the brightest in class, Romulo Palabay was called the "walking dictionary" by his high school classmates. Teachers liked him because he always came prepared for the day’s lessons. Though he was a shy boy, he also excelled in extracurricular activities. In his senior year, he was editor-in-chief of the school paper.

Entering college as an entrance scholar at the University of the Philippines in 1968, he also took a job as student assistant to support himself.

In UP Diliman Palabay’s awareness of the many ills besetting the country became more focused as he was drawn into student activism. He joined the Student Cultural Association of the University of the Philippines and later the UP chapter of Kabataang Makabayan (KM) and its cultural arm, Panday Sining. He organized the Progresibong Samahan sa Pangangalakal, an organization of business administration students in his home college. He also kept in touch with friends in his hometown, organizing the Youth and Student Cultural Association of La Union. He also served as La Union coordinator of the UP Special Committee on the Constitutional Convention.

Eventually he became chairman of the KM chapter in La Union. His mother recalls meetings and discussion groups being held in their house in San Fernando. She would hear their stories about government soldiers and their abusive behavior: how “they took the villagers’ goats, pigs, dogs and chickens without paying and ordered these to be cooked” (this was before martial law). Palabay and his friends organized rallies, marches, strikes and demonstrations. They staged plays in public plazas depicting the injustices and atrocities of those in power.

When President Marcos imposed martial law in 1972, Romulo was arrested in La Union together with his brother Crisanto and other activists. A third brother, Armando, arrested later, joined the two Palabay boys in detention in Camp Olivas. All three underwent torture. They were released a year later under a presidential amnesty.

Romulo and Armando went back to UP to continue their studies. After his graduation in 1974, Romy, armed with letters of recommendation from the dean of the UP College of Business Administration, went job- hunting. But without a security clearance, which the military refused to give, prospective employers had to turn him down.

In July 1974, the authorities were looking for Romulo again. Failing to find him at home, they “invited” his mother and siblings for interrogation at the PC headquarters in La Union. Meanwhile, the siblings studying in Manila were held in Camp Olivas, Pampanga, for three days of questioning.

Romulo and his wife, a nursing student, left home to move to the Cordilleras where they helped organize the Igorot people to fight against the dictatorship. It helped very much that they both had some medical knowledge; Romulo, in particular, knew how to administer acupuncture treatments and herbal medicine. With this, they were able to successfully treat some cases, which assured a warm welcome in the mountain villages for the group. Soon, the people were calling him “duktor.”

Romulo Palabay was killed in Hungduan, Ifugao, two weeks before his 23rd birthday. During a surprise attack by a team of local CHDF members, he was hit in the back of the head by a shot fired from a grenade launcher. When his family received news of his death, “we were able to get Romy’s body after paying P500 to some PC soldiers and supplying food for three days,” according to his mother, “although it took them only one day to get it and bring it to Kiangan, Ifugao.”

The remains were transported to Baguio, then to his hometown in La Union, and from there to the UP Chapel in Diliman where friends held necrological rites in his honor. But the Palabay family has not yet been able to retrieve the body of his brother Armando, who died in Abra.

PASETES, Benedicto M.

Benedicto Pasetes was the eldest of seven children of a soldier couple, a US Army veteran of World War II who survived the Death March, and a nurse in the Philippine Army. After the war the elder Pasetes worked at the Bureau of Animal Industry while his mother went into the real estate business. The family lived in a middle-class subdivision in Mandaluyong.

Valedictorian in both grade school and high school, Pasetes enrolled for a degree in veterinary medicine at the University of the Philippines in Diliman. It was here where student activism stirred up his love of country, sympathy for the poor and oppressed, and his desire to contribute to social change.

He was in third year when he joined the UP Nationalist Corps and the Samahang Demokratiko ng Kabataan. He and his friends started conducting teach-ins and discussion groups in UP and top-ranked private schools such as in Ateneo, La Salle, Maryknoll and St. Scholastica's College. They bolstered the picket lines of striking workers and went on extended visits to poor farming communities. During the First Quarter Storm of 1970, Benny Pasetes was a mainstay of the radio committee of the Movement for a Democratic Philippines, with the program Radyo Pakikibaka running from 10-12 p.m. every evening. They attended every rally and demonstration.

Two particular incidents highlighted this period of his life. “During one rally,” his family recalls, “he proudly related to [us] that he was the one who brought down the American flag which used to fly side by side with the Philippine flag in Luneta.” The other incident was during a strike at a paint factory in Caloocan, when he saw the company’s hired goons fire their guns at the picket line, hitting one worker. Benny brought the wounded man to the hospital, a “turning point” for him, after which he became more deeply involved.

Towards the end of 1970, Pasetes quit school to join other student activists in Central Luzon. They helped farmers in Zambales and Nueva Ecija deal with land tenancy, usury, and carabao rustling, and farm workers who had no lands to till. Some of them were captured and detained by the military. Nevertheless, he continued his organizing work, notably among the workers in several textile mills in Bulacan and even in small factories manufacturing bihon and sotanghon noodles.

In time Pasetes, as Ka Willy, became part of a unit of the New People’s Army that operated in the area of San Ildefonso, San Miguel, Angat and Norzagaray in Bulacan. On January 26, 1976, he was captured and killed in a military raid in the sitio called Buhol na Mangga in the barrio of Sta Catalina in San Ildefonso town.

Led by a civilian informer, combined constabulary and police forces had surrounded the house where Pasetes’ group was staying, and called on them to come out and surrender. The guerrillas responded by saying that the farmer and his family must be allowed to leave the house first. When they had done so, the guerrillas tried to jump out of the window but were captured and immediately executed. Also killed with Pasetes was Salvador Policarpio, a Protestant minister.

Their bodies were laid out in front of the municipal hall of San Ildefonso. Pasetes was then buried in the town’s Catholic cemetery (and exhumed some years later for burial in the family’s own plot) while Salvador’s remains were taken home to Capas, Tarlac.

YUYITUNG, Quintin G.


Born and educated in the Philippines, Quintin Yuyitung was the eldest son of Yu Yi Tung, who founded the Chinese Commercial News in 1919. He was in his senior year as a student in commerce at the Far Eastern University when World War II broke out in the Pacific. The Philippines was invaded and occupied by the Japanese military. The elder Yu closed his newspaper and refused to allow it to be used by the invaders. For this he was court-martialed and executed in 1942.

At the end of the war, Quintin Yuyitung decided to continue the work for which his father had given up his life. He reopened the Chinese Commercial News in 1945, and built it up to become the most widely circulated Chinese-language newspaper in the Philippines, respected for its independent positions and coverage of the news.

Quintin and his younger brother Rizal, who was editor of the newspaper, were advocates of closer integration of the local Chinese community into mainstream Philippine society. At the time (the People’s Republic of China had been established in 1949), this was considered a ‘subversive” idea by the Philippine authorities and the conservative leadership of Chinese-Filipino businesses in the country. In 1962 the brothers were arrested, detained and threatened with deportation but eventually released.

Still they were fearless in reporting the news as it was happening, covering the accounts of fraud that marked President Marcos’ reelection in 1969, and the series of protest actions of the First Quarter Storm. Together with other leaders of the Philippine media, they defended press freedom and warned against the looming possibility of martial law.

Late one night in May 1970, Quintin and Rizal Yuyitung were picked up by immigration personnel and sent off to Taiwan on a military plane. “Now we have an undeclared state of martial law,” Senator Jovito R. Salonga said of their abduction.

Although the brothers had renounced their Chinese citizenship and had never set foot in Taiwan before then, the Kuomintang regime in Taipeh subjected them to a military trial. Quintin was sentenced to imprisonment of two years, and Rizal, three years. In Manila, their friends took over the newspaper’s operation.

Shortly before the declaration of martial law in the Philippines, Quintin Yuyitung had been released and allowed to leave Taiwan after serving his sentence. He proceeded directly to Jerusalem where an annual convention of the International Press Institute was being held. There he denounced the Marcos dictatorship and its suppression of press freedom.

He spent his exile in San Francisco, California, participating in many activities alongside other anti-dictatorship activists based in the United States. His brother went to Canada.

After the Marcos regime fell in 1986, the Yuyitung brothers returned to the Philippines and revived the Chinese Commercial News. In 1990, Quintin Yuyitung died in San Francisco after a stroke. Rizal Yuyitung died in Canada in 2007.

In his life, Quintin was also noted for his dedication to the welfare of Manila’s urban poor who had been resettled in Sapang Palay, San Jose del Monte, Bulacan. For many years, he spent weekends helping them, contributing substantial personal funds and soliciting donations from friends and the public through his newspaper.

ZALDIVAR, Calixto O.


Calixto O. Zaldivar is remembered for his courageous solo refusal, in the early months of martial law, to let President Marcos get away with a claim of legitimacy for his 1973 Constitution.

An associate justice of the Supreme Court since 1964, Zaldivar declared that the 1935 Constitution was still in force and that therefore the new basic law had not been validly ratified through the prescribed procedure. But the other justices chose to accept Marcos’ argument that his Proclamation 1102 had the force of law when it announced such ratification by the citizens’ assemblies.

Held under the rule of the gun, a series of barangay assemblies were allegedly conducted all over the country from January 10 to 15, 1973. It supposedly involved gathering the residents of each barangay, and asking them to raise their hands if they approved the new Constitution. Of course the fake plebiscite produced overwhelmingly positive results.

Again in March 1973, Zaldivar issued a second dissenting opinion, this time with Chief Justice Roberto Concepcion, categorically declaring that the new Constitution had not been validly ratified and therefore could not be enforced. But they were not able to convince the other justices.

Zaldivar was one of those rare public officials who served in each of the three (the legislative, then the executive, and finally the judicial) branches of government.

In 1934 he served as elected representative for Antique, and again in 1938 as his province’s representative in the First National Assembly. During World War II, he served as deputy chair of the Civilian Emergency Administration in Antique. Later he served with the Judge Advocate Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines holding a lieutenant colonel's rank.

He was elected Antique governor in 1951.

Later he was appointed member of the Reparations Commission, which tested his integrity as a public official. Gaining the president's confidence, he was then appointed acting assistant executive secretary, concurrently as reparations commissioner in 1963. One year later, he was appointed acting executive secretary to President Diosdado Macapagal.

Appointed associate justice of the Supreme Court by Macapagal in 1964, Zaldivar distinguished himself further as a man of courage, integrity, and independence, someone “whom money could not buy.” He is remembered for his landmark decisions and opinions upholding the freedom to form associations, religious freedom over contract rights, equal protection of the law, social justice, and the reserved power of the state to safeguard the people’s vital interests.

After his retirement from the court, at the height of the Marcos dictatorship, Zaldivar served as president of the Philippine Organization for Human Rights in 1976-1979.

Chief Justice Concepcion called Zaldivar "a great man…, who had the courage to act in accordance with the dictates of his conscience," who was "firm in his defense of his conviction and the rule of law." President Macapagal said Zaldivar "did not join in delivering a free people to the slaughterhouse of totalitarianism" and was a "gigantic figure in the libertarian struggle of his people."



Justice for the Farmers in Cotabato!

Open letter to President Benigno Simeon Aquino III

Justice for the Farmers in Cotabato!

Mr. President, we appeal to you to take a decisive executive action on the violent dispersal of farmers attending a rally at Kidapawan, Cotabato, by the local police.

Already, the dispersal caused the death of three farmers, and wounding many more – including women and children.
It is bad enough that the harsh weather conditions of Mindanao had destroyed rice fields and other agricultural crops, it is worse - and heartbreaking - that those who may have sincerely sought assistance to have rice on their tables have been killed or wounded.

It has become even heart-rending, because the problem was so simple, it could have been solved by delivering rice to the farmers. The police force’s solution was far worse than the problem.

Our brother farmers belong to the class which plays a great role in assuring food security for the country. And, yet they are the first victims of a severe lack of that food security.

They were at the rally asking for “bigas” (rice), but the heartless policemen, in supreme irony, responded with “bala” (bullets). We are distressingly reminded of the violent dispersal of rallies under the Marcos dictatorship, when protesting farmers were killed in Daet, Escalante and elsewhere. We must assure our people, who suffered so much under martial law, that we are determined to help make things better today.

Mr. President, we appeal to you to order a swift and impartial investigation to identify those responsible for this nameless cruelty, and bring them to justice.

And we affirm our shared faith in our Filipino farmers – their peaceful existence and their future!

Bantayog ng mga Bayani Foundation

Open Letter to the President

(Photos from Kilab Multimedia & Pinoy Weekly)

Open Letter Featured Photo

Kidapawan 1

Kidapawan 2


Pedro Dungoc was a farmer in the village of Bugnay in the Cordillera mountains in northern Luzon. He supported himself through elementary and high school and two years of college. He then worked as a telephone operator for the Ministry of Public Highways.

Pedro and his village of Bugnay got drawn into national politics early in the martial law regime when the Marcos government decided in 1974 to build dams along the Chico River. The project would generate 1,000 MW of electricity but drown villages and ricefields, and culturally valuable sites such as sacred grounds and burial sites. About 100,000 Kalingas and Bontocs would have been displaced, along with their traditions.

Pedro joined the active opposition to the project. Because he was one of the very few in his tribe who was literate, and who spoke Ilokano and Filipino, soon he was the spokesperson for Macliing Dulag, one of the Bugnay elders, and one of the staunchest oppositionists to the dam.

Pedro was not an elder as Macliing was. But he helped forge a pact among Cordillera elders consolidating their opposition to the dam. He served as liaison of the oppositionists to support groups in urban areas. Of particular merit was his work for the establishment of a functional literacy program in the localities. It is to his credit that many peace pact holders in Kalinga can at last sign their names to documents.

Militarization of the villages did not cow the oppositionists. Checkpoints and searches were established. Soldiers raided villages, burned granaries, raped women, and mauled men. Pedro's village was under constant watch, and dam oppositionists harassed constantly.

Pedro and another villager were arrested and beaten up by soldiers in 1980 on charges they had stolen a rifle. The missing rifle was found the next day, but the two were detained a few days longer, released, bruised and hungry, on the intercession of Macliing.

One night in April 1980, soldiers came to the village and shot down Macliing in cold blood. They also tried to kill Pedro, but he managed to escape, suffering only an arm wound. The incident changed Pedro. Although then a family man with five children, Pedro decided that the fight against the dictatorship could not be waged on the legal front and alone. He joined the New People's Army.

Pedro died at the height of a typhoon named Kuring in the early morning of 22 June 1985. He and a comrade had been huddled under a tent as the winds wrought their destruction. An old, dying tree fell on their tent. Pedro's companion died instantly. Pedro's ribs and legs were broken but he and his comrades were hours away from any medical facility. Pedro died after a few hours.

The government discontinued plans to build the dam along the Chico river, and no other big dam has been built in the Cordillera.

Born 1943

Died 22 June 1985

Place of birth : Bugnay, Tinglayan, Kalinga‑Apayao

Parents : Dungoc Puyoc and Chucnoy Dungoc

Spouse : Alice Chuki

Children: Julie Ann, Pedro Jr., Gilbert, Lorenza and Ramon

Education : High School - St. Teresita's High School

College - St. Louis College, Tabuk, Apayao, 2 years

UMALI, Ysmael Gonzales


Ysmael Umali was a familiar figure at the Western Philippine Colleges in Batangas City, not only because he was visibly a polio survivor, or that he was a friendly and happy person but also because he was a well-known student leader, a fighter for student rights.

He was a senior political science major when he started to become involved in school activism. At first, the students were calling for the restoration of their student council. Then when tuition fees were raised by 15%, the students demanded that the increase be lowered to 5%. Ysmael and two of his friends, Noel Clarete and Aurelio Magpantay, formed the Makisama Party that led the successful opposition to the tuition fee increase.

The assassination of Benigno Aquino Jr. had a big impact on the three, and they joined the Batangas chapter of the Justice for Aquino Justice for All movement. In 1984, the military briefly detained them when they tried to organize a rally in Batangas calling on people to boycott the Batasang Pambansa elections.

He became a member of the League of Filipino Students, the Youth Citizens of Student Committee, and the Batangas City Student Forum. He was also an officer of the Omega Epsilon fraternity.

Umali disappeared in March 1984, together with Clarete and Magpantay, after they joined the Lakbayan, a massive people’s march that ended in a big rally in Manila. Their battered bodies were found in Cavite after days of searching by their families. Umali’s remains were easily identified from the slight deformation of his leg caused by polio. But the handicap did not affect the patriotic spirit of this young man, who was willing to walk many kilometers in support of justice and freedom.

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