When President Marcos appointed his friend Claudio Teehankee to the Supreme Court in 1968, some critics warned that he may have done this in anticipation of the latter’s cooperation in the event of a presidential election contest the following year.

But Teehankee proved to be a devoted defender of the rule of law, courageously upholding constitutional democracy against the dictatorial regime imposed in 1972.

He affirmed the right of citizens, even under martial law, to be tried by civilian courts rather than military tribunals. He challenged the validity of various amendments to the 1973 Constitution that extended Marcos’ term and gave him even more powers. He defended civilian supremacy over the military, and the right of citizens to liberty and due process, against the abuse of power through such instruments as the Presidential Detention Action.

These were dissenting opinions that failed to sway the majority of the justices, and when vacancies occurred at the top Marcos showed his displeasure by not appointing Teehankee to be chief justice, twice, despite his seniority in the court.

With the declaration of her victory over the dictator in the February 1986 snap election, President Corazon Aquino asked Teehankee to swear her into office, which he did in the morning of February 25 at the Club Filipino. She appointed him chief justice shortly after.

During the short period that he headed the court, Teehankee ordered a retrial of the Aquino-Galman murder case, declaring that “the Supreme Court cannot permit a sham trial and verdict and travesty of justice to stand unrectified.” He retired in 1988 upon reaching the age of 70.

Before serving in government – he was named justice undersecretary in 1966, secretary of justice in 1968, and associate justice of the Supreme Court in 1979 – Teehankee was a distinguished lawyer and civil libertarian. He co-founded the Nationalist Citizens' Party with senators Claro M. Recto and Lorenzo Tañada.
Teehankee is remembered as a competent and honest administrator at the justice department, and mostly as a courageous justice of the Supreme Court, especially during martial law.

No one, least of all Marcos, expected him to defy tyranny and cast doubt on the regime’s validity and to question the justness of its cause. His erudite dissenting opinions stripped away the shroud of legality that Marcos sought to drape over his abuses. He wrote bold dissents against the majority position, and spoke at public forums on the importance of upholding the rule of law, and the independence of the judiciary.

Under his leadership, he fought to keep the judiciary worthy of the people's respect and confidence.

Teehankee died of lung cancer in 1989 while serving as Philippine ambassador and permanent representative to the United Nations.

PARENTS Jose Teehankee and Julia Ong
SPOUSE / CHILDREN Pilar D. Javier / 9

Elementary / Secondary: Ateneo de Manila
College: Ateneo de Manila

TAYAG, Carlos N.

tayag final

In 1970, several months before his scheduled ordination as a priest, Carlos Tayag asked for this important rite to be suspended, and instead entered the University of the Philippines, where he immersed himself in political-social organizing while pursuing a master’s degree in Philippine literature.

Tayag had spent ten years studying for the priesthood as a member of the Order of St. Benedict, where he took the name Carlos Maria (his baptismal name was Bartolome). In the latter years of the 1970s, the emerging Theology of Liberation posed a challenge to him, as he embraced a definition of his Christian faith that addressed itself directly to the liberation of, in his words, “those who are losing hope, the poor and powerless, those being held captive.”

Such faith, he continued, was rooted in promoting human freedom within the political, economic and cultural context: “this is a human duty brought forth by the spirituality and the experiences of a suffering humanity.”

He joined the Student Christian Movement of the Philippines, and became a leader of the Kilusang Kristiyano ng Kabataang Pilipino (KKKP) whose newsletter Breakthrough he edited from 1967 to 1972.

The Benedictine deacon was one of the organizers of the Christians for National Liberation, which (with KKKP) was declared illegal when martial law was imposed in 1972. Tayag went underground to continue his organizing work among church people, with the added dimension of mobilizing support for the popular resistance to the Marcos dictatorship.

Tayag disappeared without a trace sometime in August 1976. His family, whom he would contact from time to time while he was in the underground, believes it was the military who abducted him.

After years of searching for him, Tayag’s younger sister says: “We have stopped looking for Caloy, the physical Caloy. After all, he spent most of his years away from home. We are used to his physical absence. Instead we have now focused our search for that part of Caloy which is more real, indestructible and eternal: who he was, what he was fighting for, and why?”

TAOJO, Romraflo R.

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Son of a poor Cebuano couple who migrated to Mindanao from the Visayas, Romraflo Taojo knew poverty first-hand. He went through college and law school by sheer hard work and perseverance.

After passing the bar in 1980, he started his career almost immediately as a human rights lawyer, becoming known for providing free legal services to the poor. He not only refused to accept legal fees from his indigent clients, mostly farmers or laborers, or victims of human rights abuses, but he would even provide them money for transportation. Of special concern to him were the tribespeople victimized by landgrabbers. These communities also bore the brunt of military atrocities under martial law.

Specializing in labor law, Taojo served as legal counsel of the Solidarity of Workers of Davao, an umbrella organization of labor groups, and notably represented striking workers of a large banana plantation in their negotiations with management.

As a young lawyer in 1981, Dodong Taojo was the first chair of the human rights committee of the local chapter of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines; he held the position for three years.

He was elected chair of the Lumadnong Alyansa alang sa Demokrasya in 1984, and a member of the Concerned Lawyers Union of Mindanao, Multisectoral Alliance for Democracy, the Hukom Demokrasya-Davao, Mindanao Tribal Resource Center, Tagum Cooperative Incorporated (TCI).

As well, he was active in the Nationalist Alliance for Justice, Freedom and Democracy, Coalition for the Restoration of Democracy, Task Force Detainees of the Philippines, Free Legal Assistance Group, the Jaycees, and the Young Men's Christian Association of which he was a national board member. He was a faculty member of the University of Mindanao in Tagum.

In the so-called parliament of the streets, he was often seen boldly criticizing the policies of the Marcos government.

One year before his death, Taojo was told by a relative in the military that he was being watched because he was being “too vocal.” On his trips to Manila to attend meetings of the Free Legal Assistance Group and other cause-oriented organizations, he complained of being tailed by military agents.

Two days before he was killed, Dodong Taojo told a friend that he did not expect to be "around for long." He was then preparing to prosecute a case of torture against two Scout Rangers involved in gold-mining activities. On April 2, 1985, gunmen entered his apartment and shot him five times. He was 30. No one has been charged for his murder.

PARENTS Romeo Taojo and Isidra Rosaroso

Elementary/Secondary: Maco, Davao del Norte
College: University of Mindanao, Davao del Norte; University of the Visayas, Cebu

TAÑADA, Lorenzo M.


Already well into his 80s, the silver-haired grandfather needed to use a cane, but he was more than willing to join the protest rally against the Marcos dictatorship. He had only one condition:

“Ayaw ko na tatakbo tayo pag dumating ang pulis,” he told the organizers who had come to see him. “We will stand our ground!” Lorenzo M. Tañada chose to fight very big battles, and he never ran away.

In his younger days, he was much admired for his fight against top government officials whom he accused of graft and corruption. Then he went on to defy big-money politics in his 24 years as an independent senator, serving only the people and not the interests of any major political bloc. The struggle against the Marcos dictatorship was the one that called on his entire being as a Filipino, a nationalist, a lawyer, a politician.

When martial law was declared, Tañada was vacationing abroad – only months earlier, he had retired from public office, saying that younger people should also have a chance to serve – but he chose to return to the Philippines and fight what he declared was an illegal act, a usurpation of power by Marcos.

He represented political prisoners being tried before military tribunals (foremost among them Benigno Aquino Jr.), counselled and defended the rights of the many who were being detained, gave comfort to their families, encouraged everyone to resist the dictatorship, gave speeches, signed petitions, endured tear gas and water cannons as he walked the streets at the forefront of the many mass protests that erupted after Aquino was assassinated.

Because he identified so completely with the people’s movement, the one occasion when he got arrested and detained for one week was a high point of his involvement. He leaned out of the police van that was carrying him away, raised a clenched fist, and shouted, “Laban! Laban! Laban!” (Laban, or People’s Power Party, was the name of the political party he organized in 1978 to campaign for Aquino.)

But Tañada – by this time fondly known by all as Ka Tanny – was also deeply aware that without the support of the US government, the Marcos dictatorship would not have happened nor be able to continue oppressing the Filipino people. He campaigned against the continued presence of American military facilities in the Philippines through the Anti-Bases Coalition which he headed. He was also adamantly opposed to the Bataan nuclear power plant, with its destructive event on the environment, potential for harm to the people, and linkage to corrupt dealings by Marcos and his cronies.

The Marcos dictatorship fell in 1986, Marcos died in exile in 1989. In September 1991 the Senate voted to reject the Philippines-US military bases treaty. Before he passed away in 1992 at the age of 93, Ka Tanny witnessed both historic events in which he played a key role. His son Wigberto (Bobby) observed:

“(He) outlived the dictatorship and the dictator and saw the last American soldier leave Philippine soil. In many ways, his life exemplified how the impossible could be made possible through determination, strength of conviction and love of country.”

PARENTS Vicente Lopez Tañada and Anastacia Martinez
SPOUSE / CHILDREN Expedita Z. Ebarle / 9

EDUCATION University of the Philippines, Harvard University (USA), University of Santo Tomas



Antonio Tagamolila was an intense, quiet young man who detested the system of corruption and exploitation that kept the country underdeveloped and the masses in age-old poverty. At the same time, he realized that to be true to himself, he had to act on these ideas.

Thus, he shifted from engineering (for which he had a government scholarship) to economics, thinking that the course would be more relevant to the nation’s needs. He did graduate in 1971, with a bachelor’s degree in economics, in effect banishing hopes of any substantial contribution to the family’s finances.

Early on, Tagamolila – whose older brother Crispin, an Army lieutenant, defected to the New People’s Army – had already made a name for himself as editor of the Philippine Collegian where week after week he wrote about politics, foreign affairs, and social questions. Then, elected national president of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines, he exercised leadership over other student writers in carrying forward the kind of committed journalism that he was already practising.

Membership in radical organizations at the time molded Tagamolila’s thinking; he joined Kabataang Makabayan in 1966, and then the Samahang Demokratiko ng Kabataan. But he would never forget that he came from a poor family; his father didn’t have stable jobs, and scholarships enabled the Tagamolila siblings to get higher education.

“Never forget where you came from,” he would tell his wife Vicky. College sweethearts, they married in May 1972. After that he worked for a time on the staff of Romeo Capulong, Nueva Ecija delegate to the 1971 Constitutional Convention.

When martial law was declared in September 1972, Tagamolila did not hesitate to take his convictions to a higher level. He left for Panay in November. “He wanted to go back to his roots,” his wife said. “He was going to give back everything that he had learned… it was his obsession.”

Over a year later, Tagamolila was killed in a remote village situated on the common border between Aklan and Capiz provinces. Others who died in the same incident, when government troops attacked a small hut where they were staying, included Antonio Hilario and Rolando Luarca who had both been students in Manila.

A widowed mother at 23, Vicky Tagamolila chose to return to the area where Tony died, “to pursue our ideals.”
The people were so poor, she found, they only ate kamote and palawan (tubers and roots); no rice could be grown because the land was so full of rocks and stones. They sewed their own clothes from handwoven abaca fibers (biray). “When we were there, we set up a literacy program… the regular schoolteachers came only once every two weeks.”

During the late 1940s, the Hukbalahap movement had already been established there, as the location was advantageous for guerrilla warfare. Tagamolila’s group was sent there to begin again, and in the years afterward, before the situation got better, the place was a kind of “black hole,” where many lost their lives.

PARENTS Manuel Tagamolila and Casiana Sandoval
SPOUSE / CHILD Victoria Segui / 1

Elementary: La Paz Elementary School, Iloilo City
Secondary: University of the Philippines High School, Quezon City
College: University of the Philippines Diliman

SALVADOR, Soledad N.


Soledad Salvador came from a family that had been tenant farmers in Ilocos Norte for many generations. By working as a housemaid then as a parish worker, she pinned her hopes for a better life on getting an education. Sympathetic church people helped her along, and she was able to graduate from college with a bachelor’s degree in industrial education. But then she had to work again as a maid in Manila because she could not get a job as a teacher, having failed the licensure exam.

Eventually Salvador decided to return to Ilocos Norte to teach catechism at the Badoc parish church. It was there that she became acquainted with the spiritual and social foundations of the Basic Christian Community program. Having grown up in poverty, it was easy for her to see how landlessness, militarization and the historical struggle of the Ilokano peasants were all tied up together.

In 1983 Salvador joined a guerrilla network that was coordinating anti-dictatorship activities, assigned the dangerous task of passing messages back and forth between the town centers and the villages. Then she began to go deeper into guerrilla territory, moving around with teams that were organizing in the rural areas of Ilocos and the Cordillera region. Despite the hardships and a few close encounters with hostile fire, she was always cheerful and ready to go. She got along well with the people, especially the women and children; it was a surprise for them to learn that she was a college graduate, for she had no airs, they said.

Salvador was with a group of armed guerrillas when she was killed in a raid by military troopers in sitio Beyeng, Bakun, Benguet in 1985. The others who died were Fr. Nilo Valerio and Resteta Fernandez. The three were decapitated, their heads stuck on poles and displayed in some sitios of Benguet. Relatives of the three tried to locate where they were buried, but their bodies have never been found.

PARENTS Guillermo Salvador and Pacita Nacional

Secondary: Araullo Vocational School
College: Mariano Marcos State University, Ilocos Norte

ROXAS, Sofronio P.

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Sofronio Roxas was born in Leyte. His family, like many landless peasants in the Visayas, moved to Mindanao after the end of the Japanese Occupation in World War II. They were able to find some land to till, and Roxas developed a deep love for the soil – even preferring to stop formal schooling after three years and devoting his time instead to producing crops and seeking better methods of farming.

He developed the idea of cooperative farming, in which groups of 10 to 15 farmers agreed to set aside a common piece of land and to take turns cultivating it, so that the proceeds from the crop could be pooled and set aside as a kind of mutual fund for use in emergencies and common projects such as a community fishpond. Because he was a natural leader and organizer, Roxas was able to set up 25 such groups in his area, Lampayan village, in the town of Matalam, North Cotabato. He worked with Bisayan settlers and Manobo communities alike.

In 1978 the Roman Catholic diocese of Kidapawan in North Cotabato asked Roxas to join its social action center. As a community organizer under the Basic Christian Community program, his job involved visiting many barrios, conducting Bible study sessions, helping the farmers solve local problems. He continued to work on his farm, with his growing sons now providing much of the needed manpower.

But the North Cotabato area was heavily militarized. The authorities soon suspected Roxas of having links to the rebel guerrilla units operating there. Maybe it was because he refused to be submissive, and insisted on carrying out the programs that he thought would help the people become more self-reliant and aware of their rights. He was arrested twice. The first time he was charged with rebellion and subversion but was released and never tried. No charges were filed against him the second time, which lasted two months.

The harassment and the risks intensified as he pursued his work. Many times threats were publicly made by the local militia, the CHDF. Friends suggested that Roxas abandon his work in the diocese, but he continued. He attended protest actions. He criticized corrupt officials. He tried to prepare his family for what he had accepted was inevitable: his own death. In April 1984 his son Diomedes was badly beaten up by soldiers conducting a military operation; one month later the young man died of the injuries to his liver.

One hot noontime, on August 29, 1984, Roxas was heading home from town when he was intercepted by a gunman hiding in the sugarcane field beside the road. A single M16 bullet was fired, knocking him off his horse. Witnesses pointed to a paramilitary man as the likely suspect.

Some 500 placard-bearing mourners joined the funeral march, including priests and other religious and lay people from the diocese's 15 parishes. They called him a true Christian. Kidapawan bishop Orlando Quevedo's paid tribute to him during the funeral mass, saying: "He is one of the people who impressed me. Most of us have had more education, …more technical knowledge than he. But he was a wise man…dedicated, zealous and humble. He served his people and community in Lampayan in a way all of us would wish deep in our hearts but oftentimes fear to do.”

The prelate continued, “I don't hesitate to call Sofronio a martyr. It is for speaking and defending justice and truth that his life was sacrificed."

PARENTS Eulalio Roxas and Basilia Pongos
SPOUSE / CHILDREN Visitacion Cano / 8

ROMANO, Rosaleo B.


The abduction and disappearance of Redemptorist priest Rudy Romano in 1985 was one of the best known such cases under the Marcos dictatorship. It drew numerous appeals for his release both here and abroad, and even from Pope John Paul II.

Romano was an activist priest who was at the forefront of the anti-dictatorship movement in the Visayas (he was executive secretary of the Coalition against People’s Persecution, based in Cebu, and national vice-president for the Visayas of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan).

He was on board his motorcycle, returning to Cebu City, when he was stopped by a group of armed men in Tisa, Labangon, a city suburb. Local residents had seen the group apparently waiting for him for hours. There were several strong indications that the military was involved in the crime. Later, two men were tried by a military court for their role in the abduction and kidnapping, but were eventually cleared.

The authorities made a show of finding out what happened to Romano, but his family and supporters were to be disappointed. The brother of one witness was killed while the investigation was going on, and Alfonso Surigao, a lawyer for the Redemptorist priests, was also shot dead in his own backyard.

Romano, 44 years old at the time of his disappearance, was the eldest of nine children of a devout Catholic couple. He spent his boyhood in the family’s hometown of Villareal, Samar. After high school, he began studying to be a Redemptorist missionary in India and Cebu. He was ordained a priest in 1964.

His first assignments were in Samar and Leyte and later to other areas in the Visayas and Mindanao. Then he was appointed regional vocation director for Visayas and Mindanao, traveling to different provinces seeking out candidates for the priesthood and brotherhood. In 1982 he went to Ireland for further studies in theology.

Romano returned to the Philippines in 1983 just as the social and political movement was growing tremendously in the wake of the assassination of Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr. He enthusiastically stepped into his tasks for the Redemptorist Social Apostolate for the Urban Poor in Cebu.

Laborers in Cebu wanted to rise up after years of oppression and exploitation. Romano took their struggles to heart. He helped put up the AMA-Sugbu, a militant workers' alliance in Cebu. He was also spokesman for three city-wide transport strikes in 1984 and 1985.

As the country grew increasingly militarized, he joined Task Force Detainees of the Philippines, helping give shelter and refuge to victims of military harassment. He was himself arrested twice and briefly detained.

But he knew that his safety was in danger. On his last visit home, his father tried to turn him away from his activities in behalf of the poor. “I know they will torture you, they will punish you,” the old man pleaded. “You will die early… And he said, Tatay, don’t you worry… if I die, I have no family and you will know who have killed me. Those were the last words I heard from my son.”

PARENTS Gaudencio Romano and Adelaida Boller

Secondary: Villareal West Coast Academy, Samar
College: Redemptorist Preparatory Seminary, Iloilo; Redemptorist Novitiate, Cebu;
Redemptorist House of Studies, India; Redemptorist Major Seminary, Cebu

RODRIGO, Francisco A.


Francisco Rodrigo was a proud son of Bulacan province, counting as relatives such heroes as the brothers Gregorio and Marcelo H. del Pilar, and masterfully composing prose and poetry in his native Tagalog language.

Widely known as Soc – the nickname, from the Greek philosopher Socrates, came from a teacher impressed by the young man’s keen mind – Rodrigo was a lawyer, an orator and champion debater.

He was a senator for 12 years, from 1955 to 1967. He was also a prominent civic leader, notably serving as president of the Catholic Action of the Philippines, Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines and the Civil Liberties Union.

Unusually for someone of his generation, Rodrigo gained a wide following in all the three traditional mass media: print, radio and television. During the period of martial law, he was a mainstay of the so-called alternative press, We Forum and Malaya, where he wrote political commentaries in Filipino verse, articulating themes of nationalism, protest and reform.

He was imprisoned three times under martial law – first in Fort Bonifacio for 10 weeks, in the company of other political figures; the second time in Bicutan, 1978, eight weeks; and then in Fort Bonifacio again in 1982, one week, after which he was released under house arrest.

Rodrigo campaigned against the ratification of the 1973 martial law constitution and supported an action before the Supreme Court challenging its unconstitutional ratification through citizens' assemblies.

In 1978, despite the overwhelming force of martial law, he joined the political opposition and ran as candidate for the Interim Batasang Pambansa under the Lakas ng Bayan (Laban) party. Then in 1981, he supported the boycott call against the presidential elections, believing that it was merely meant to legitimize the continuation of Marcos' regime.

In 1985, Rodrigo chaired the opposition's National Unification Committee, helping build unity during the 1986 snap presidential elections.

When Corazon Aquino became president, she appointed him to be a member of the Commission that drafted the 1986 Constitution.

Soc Rodrigo died of natural causes in 1998.

PARENTS Melecio Rodrigo and Marcela Aldana
SPOUSE / CHILDREN Remedios Enriquez / 6

Elementary: Bulacan Elementary School
Secondary: University of the Philippines High School
College: Ateneo de Manila; University of Santo Tomas; University of the Philippines

ROBLES, Reynaldo L.


Reynaldo Robles had a good singing voice. As a teenaged boy of 18 he participated in the talent search Student Canteen, and was declared champion of that week. That same year, he joined Sing-out Philippines, a well-known musical group as a guitarist and singer. He played in “combos,” as youth bands were called at the time (Bob Dylan was his favorite artist), and he enjoyed partying with his sisters and friends.

But Rey also had a serious side. In high school, he helped in drug education campaigns; beautification drives in his community in Kamuning, Quezon City saw him cleaning up and sprucing up the neighborhood together with the other young people.

In college, Robles was not an activist – he was somewhat turned off by their strong language – but he could sympathize with them on the issues they raised. He wanted explanations for the gross inequalities in Philippine society. He wanted government to be responsible to the citizens.

After earning his license as a chemical engineer in 1970, he was about to take a job at a multinational corporation. But he decided instead to volunteer for a program under the archdiocese of Manila, called Action Leaven, which involved organizing poor communities, establishing cooperatives, conducting discussions among the residents to talk about their problems. In the crowded district of Tondo he soon learned that poverty and crime were not one and the same, and that the poor were far from being lazy and stupid. His first organizational attempt resulted in the Progresibong Kilusang Binhi, a livelihood movement for poor families.

Then he joined the Kilusang Kristiyano ng Kabataang Pilipino (KKKP), where he came to learn about liberation theology, which showed him that religious faith could be a powerful motivation in activism for social change. Here he met priests and nuns, pastors and church intellectuals, organizing protests and joining politically-oriented rallies against the growing authoritarianism of the then Marcos administration. Once he went with a group of priests to Negros where he experienced working in the sugarcane fields alongside the sacada migrant workers, nearly collapsing from the heat of the sun and his hands bleeding from the toil.

Robles became a leader in the KKKP, and a founding member of the Christians for National Liberation when it was organized on the eve of martial law. Despite the restrictions, they continued to meet and organize; Robles was tasked to build a network of students and church members in the Quezon City-Marikina area. In 1973, he was arrested and imprisoned for six months. After his release, he worked in a youth program of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines.

But he felt that his calling was to take up the hard life and sacrifice of a community organizer in the rural areas. Thus he left for Oriental Mindoro and bought a small farm there, establishing himself in the remote town of Gloria. Although Robles had no roots in the area, his natural warmth soon won the hearts and trust of the peasants among whom he chose to live. That, of course, was enough to make the military suspicious of him.

One morning in September 1977, Rey Robles was boiling some bananas for breakfast when government troops made a surprise attack. He was killed instantly by a bullet to the head. His neighbors gave him a proper burial in town. After the fall of the Marcos dictatorship, the Robles family were finally able to exhume his remains for reburial in Manila.

PARENTS Toribio Robles Sr. and Sixta Laminaria

Elementary: Kamuning Elementary School, Quezon City
Secondary: Quezon City High School
College: Mapua Institute of Technology
Postgraduate: Ateneo Graduate School

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