At Cesar Climaco’s funeral, some 200,000 people joined a five-hour procession that walked him to his grave on a hilltop in Zamboanga City. It seemed the people could not do enough to show how much they loved their mayor: they showered his coffin with petals and confetti, they prayed and wept, they put up placards and streamers along the way.

Certainly he knew his life was in danger – he was shot by an assassin firing from behind – but Climaco wasn’t afraid to go on doing what he had always done: fighting injustice and corruption, trying to make peace in the community, defending the poor and weak from the powerful.

The Marcos dictatorship was the most powerful of all his adversaries, and he wasn’t afraid of it either. He openly denounced the imposition of martial law in 1972, because it robbed Filipinos of their basic rights and liberties. He vowed never to cut his hair until it was lifted. When Marcos announced that he was lifting martial law, Climaco called it a sham and still refused to cut his hair.

When Benigno Aquino Jr. was killed in August 21, 1983, he had a shrine erected in his honor and inscribed it with bold accusations against the military as perpetrators of the crime. He sent several telegrams to Marcos urging him to set up an independent tribunal to try the case, and urging him to order the legal panel to cooperate with the Tanodbayan.

Climaco devoted a total of 30 years to public service. Aside from some years spent in national positions – as customs commissioner and presidential assistant on community development in the 1960s – he was most well known as the fighting mayor of Zamboanga City. Before being elected (as an oppositionist) in 1980, he had already served, and made his reputation, in that position from 1953 to 1963.

An unconventional man, Climaco obviously loved his job. He liked to go around by himself on his motorcycle, dressed like any ordinary person. Muslims and Christians in the Zamboanga community got along with each other, thanks to his leadership. He was always telling jokes and playing pranks, but he was serious about curbing abuses of authority. He publicly blamed the military and police for the many crimes in his city that were being committed and going unpunished.

Cesar Climaco was killed at a time when the struggle against the dictatorship was reaching its height. President Marcos was very sick, but few were allowed to know it. Protest actions were raging every day against all aspects of the dictatorship. Two weeks after Climaco’s death, cause-oriented organizations struck back by launching a ten-day welgang bayan throughout Mindanao.

Despite the widespread indignation, however, the murder remains unsolved.

CLARETE, Ronillo Noel M.

clarete final

Ronilo Noel Clarete was a senior commerce student in Batangas City when he was killed.

Clarete, who was Noel to friends and family, was active in various organizations in and out of school. He was vice-president, then president, of the organization of banking and finance students in his school. He joined the Omega Epsilon Xi fraternity and was a member of the Batangas City Student Forum.

School authorities took notice of him when Clarete and two other student leaders, Ysmael Umali and Aurelio Magpantay, created the Makisama Party, which led the students in protesting against tuition fee increases. Their party also accused the school administration of restricting campus press freedom and of refusing to recognize an elected student council.

Clarete was suspended for his participation in these school protests.

In the aftermath of the assassination in 1983 of Senator Benigno Aquino Jr., he started joining rallies denouncing the abuses of the Marcos regime. He became an active member of the Batangas chapter of the Justice for Aquino Justice for All (JAJA) movement.

He went missing with three other young men who had joined a Lakbayan (Lakad para sa Kalayaan ng Bayan) in Manila in the first week of March 1984. Clarete had told his wife and mother that he needed to go to Manila to secure a government clearance. He never returned home. His mutilated body and that of the others were found weeks later in Silang, Cavite, in a shallow grave.

The four “Lakbayanis” were given a solemn funeral together in Batangas City on April 13, 1984.

CHUIDIAN, Mary Consuelo Remedios


Remedios Chuidian, later known as Sister Mary Consuelo or Sister Elo, was born into a life of privilege. She had her fill of parties and pampering, and she was able to study for a master’s degree abroad. Many were surprised when in 1961 she chose the life of a nun, joining the Religious of the Good Shepherd (RGS).

She surprised many again by volunteering to be assigned to Mindanao. Martial law had been imposed; the Roman Catholic church was actively promoting its social teachings. With these new developments, Chuidian’s lifestyle, priorities, and even the target of her apostolate, were also changing.

As she embraced a life of poverty and sacrifice among the oppressed and marginalized people in Mindanao’s rural areas, the woman with a conservative upbringing turned into an “ibong pumipiglas” – a bird struggling to be free, celebrated in the song “Bayan Ko.” She began attending protest rallies. She started giving awareness seminars. She opened her school facilities to be used for meetings and forums by tribal groups, labor groups, and others who could not afford to rent expensive venues.

Her first assignment as a missionary sister was in Maragusan, Davao del Norte, where upland farmers grew coffee and cacao, and life was very hard. People depended on rain for water. They had no electricity. Landslides hit frequently.

Among the Mansaka, an indigenous community, the nuns started a program to train lay apostolates, "kaabag," who went out to the villages to hold prayer services and give communion in the absence of a priest. The sisters also trained catechists and organized a social action center. Sister Elo learned to wear bakya or wooden clogs, and to bathe in the creek, like everybody else.

She learned to take these difficulties in stride, in the same way that she remained unfazed by the mistrust shown towards them by government troopers and New People’s Army (NPA) guerrillas both operating in the same area. "You don't have to shout," she once told an angry soldier, in a cool tone that distinguished her as a lady from a refined background.

Her next post was in Laac, Davao del Norte, where the people had been forced to relocate from their original communities and regroup in so-called hamlets, so as to remove them from the influence of anti-government guerrilla units. (This was a counterinsurgency tactic used in the Vietnam war.)

The people could not return to their farms, so there was little food and much discontent. The hamlets, under the strict control of the military, had no running water, no toilets, and no bathrooms. Epidemics broke out, and children were getting sick and dying. One Christmas Eve, Sister Elo and another nun had to bring a sick person down a bad road from the hamlet to a hospital in town. The nuns ate the same food as the other people, mostly camote, corn and bagoong. Sister Elo lost a lot of weight. Her letters to her family, however, spoke not of her own difficulties but of military atrocities, corpses, torture, weeping widows, starving children, droughts and floods.

In 1982, Chuidian moved to Davao City when she was appointed superior of the RGS community there. She was also elected chair of the Women's Alliance for True Change and coordinator of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines for South Mindanao. She became a leading figure in the Sisters' Association in Mindanao and the Association of Religious Women of Davao.

These new responsibilities allowed her to help more people suffering from martial law, victims of ambushes needing medical attention, families forced to live in hamlets, activists on the government's wanted list seeking refuge, rape survivors, and even wounded guerrillas.

Sister Mary Consuelo Chuidian, nicknamed “Rubia” as a child because of her naturally light-colored hair, transformed into the much-loved, ever helpful Sister Elo who lived to serve the poor. She was much admired for her sincere spirit of self-sacrifice. She was one of those who died in 1983 when their ship, the MV Cassandra, sank on their way to a meeting in Cebu. Survivors said the nuns were among those who took care of the children and helped organize the distribution of life vests, not taking any for themselves.

CATALLA, Cristina F.


As the child of a government auditor whose work assignments took him and his family to various areas of the country, Melania Cristina Catalla was born and spent her early childhood in Manila but lived and studied in Mindanao for several years, before finishing high school in Quezon City.

Her father was then assigned to the University of the Philippines in Los Baños, Laguna. Cristina, or Tina to friends, enrolled at the College of Agriculture, majoring in economics. She was soon active in many extracurricular activities. Besides the UP Student Catholic Action and the Delta Phi Omicron sorority, she joined the Cultural Society where she became active in the education committee. In her senior year, she was named associate editor of the campus paper Aggie Green and Gold where she wrote thought-provoking columns.

Although she was a quiet young woman, in 1969 Catalla already began actively participating in university-wide protest activities. Friends saw her everywhere: sitting in discussion groups, marching in rallies, going to protest concerts, attending lecture-forums. The following year, she joined the militant Samahang Demokratiko ng Kabataan.

For many student activists, the 1971 suspension of the writ of habeas corpus by President Marcos was a turning point. Catalla became filled with a sense of urgency and mission. She stopped going to school, deciding instead to work fulltime as student and youth organizer. At first she worked in areas around the campus then later moved to the nearby towns of Laguna.

She showed outstanding leadership qualities as she helped organize marches, mobilizing the public to protest Marcos' growing abuses and imminent move towards creating a dictatorship. These efforts culminated with the organization of the Southern Tagalog Movement for Civil Liberties in 1972. Catalla was put in charge of coordination for Batangas sectoral organizing, as well as the training of instructors for popular education courses.

She was with five other youth activists in Makati, Manila, when all six disappeared on July 31, 1977. Family and friends made repeated efforts to find them – Catalla, Manuel Sison, Rizalina Ilagan, Jessica Sales, Ramon Jasul and Gerardo Faustino – but they could not find the youths. In 1978, military authorities wrote to the families of the three missing women, saying they had been killed in an encounter between soldiers and New People’s Army guerrillas in Mauban, Quezon. However, no bodies have been produced, except for Sison’s which was found in a common grave at the public cemetery in Lucena City.

CASTRO, Rolando M.


They were really close friends, these three: Rolando Castro, Claro Cabrera and Pepito Deheran. When Roland’s eldest son was baptized in church, Peping Deheran stood as godfather. When the second boy was baptized, Lito Cabrera was asked to be his godfather.

Castro was the first to get married and raise a family. He and his wife Elvira met while they were working at a hotel: he was a laborer and she washed bed linens. Upon settling down in Angeles City, the young husband supported his brood by driving a tricycle. Sometimes he would also find temporary work, building houses, at the nearby US military base. “He was a good man, thoughtful and hardworking,” Elvira said. “I never had any problem with him.”

When Roland became an active member of Concerned Citizens of Pampanga, a cause-oriented organization that campaigned against human rights violations by the martial law regime, he didn’t exactly inform her but she knew. “When he made remarks about Marcos’ policies not being good for the country, I thought to myself that he was probably hanging out with the activists. That was three or four years before he died.”

She would learn from his friends about the rallies they joined. “Once, Roland was gone for a week. It turned out he had joined a Lakbayan [protest march]. He showed us pictures of him and his friends. Many people from Sapang Bato were also there.”

Castro divided his time between his growing family and his community work, where he aimed to help the youth spend their time wisely by teaching them handicraft skills and involving them in sports activities. The three buddies built themselves a small hut near Cabrera’s place, and used it as their own sort of clubhouse.

The three became very active in the campaign to boycott the 1984 Batasang Pambansa elections that the Marcos regime had called. It was obviously intended to pacify the people’s raging protest movement, especially after the assassination of Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr. On the local level, government supporters had instructions to suppress any dissenters and push through with the exercise.

Shortly after the elections had been held, Castro, Deheran and Cabrera were abducted from their little hut by a team of militia led by a soldier. They were brought to a military detachment where they were interrogated, beaten and stabbed repeatedly. Afterwards the bodies of Castro and Cabrera were dumped into the nearby Apalit River. Deheran survived, and made a statement before dying later; in it he named two of their attackers.

Elvira was left to raise their four boys by working again as a laundrywoman. The families of the three friends sued but the case did not prosper.

CALDERON, Jose R., Jr.


The young Jose R. Calderon was his school's most outstanding student from first grade to fourth year high school. He showed interest in the arts, particularly in drama and dance, and was active in the Methodist Youth Fellowship.

Addressing his classmates as their valedictorian upon their graduation from high school, he stressed the role of the youth in helping create a society where economic justice and political freedom prevail: "We may not live to see the fulfillment of this dream but certainly, we can lay down the foundation of its beginning. Let us therefore dedicate our golden hours, enthusiasm and energy to the challenge of the times – economic development, freedom and security."

When he entered the University of the Philippines as a political science major, campus activism quickly drew him in. He joined the Nationalist Corps of the UP Student Council, the Samahang Demokratiko ng Kabataan and the Alpha Sigma fraternity. Summer breaks found him and his friends living in the rural areas, as part of a "learning from the people" campaign.

Calderon was active in the big demonstrations in Manila, in what would later be known as the First Quarter Storm of 1970. When student rallies were violently dispersed on January 30 and 31 in Mendiola, near Malacanang Palace, he was there.

Reared in the Methodist Church, Calderon interpreted his growing involvement in activism not only as a social demand but as an expression of his Protestant faith. When in July 1971 he finally decided to leave the university and commit himself fulltime to the movement, he wrote his parents:

"Kung tatandaan lamang ninyo na narito sa kilusan ang aking kaligayahan at wala sa pag-aaral, marahil ay matutuwa pa kayo sapagkat ang anak ninyo ay nakatagpo ng magandang kahulugan para sa kanyang buhay—isang buhay na sa aking palagay ay higit na kristiyano at maka-Diyos kaysa sa palaging pagpunta sa kapilya nang hindi naman isinasabuhay ang turo ng bibliya." (If you consider that it is being in the movement and not being a student that makes me happy, you may be glad that your son has found positive meaning in life – it’s a life that I think is more christian and godly than if one were to spend his time praying in the chapel but without practising what the Bible teaches.)

He asked his parents not to blame themselves for his decision. "Blame the system," he said, "which created millions of poor people, exploited by foreigners and a few greedy Filipinos." As long as that kind of system prevailed and a fairer system not put in its place, he wrote, "more parents will lose their children, more children will lose their parents, and more husbands or wives will lose their spouses." He was ready, he declared, to give up his life in the struggle to establish this radical change in society.

In July 1971, Calderon went to the jungles of Isabela in Northern Luzon to join the New People’s Army (NPA), then a newly-organized guerrilla group. In his letters, he described the numerous hardships and sacrifices they were going through, as the Marcos regime launched all-out efforts to eliminate them while it was still early enough. Taking the name Ka Elmo, he served with the NPA until he was killed in a battle with government forces in May 1974 in San Mariano, Isabela.

His letters have been compiled by his family in a book Mga Liham ni Ka Elmo (Letters from Ka Elmo), a record of his patriotism and bravery, his efforts to overcome material and emotional difficulties, and his unwavering solidarity with the people.

FAVALI, Tullio


A Roman Catholic priest who had been serving in Mindanao for less than a year, Tullio Favali was the first foreign missionary to be killed, in 1985, by the martial law regime’s paramilitary forces.

Favali was a native of the northern Italian city of Mantora (or Mantua), and was ordained a priest in June 1981. He belonged to the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME), an international society of priests and brothers exclusively dedicated to the evangelization of predominantly non-Christian nations and underdeveloped countries. In the Philippines, they are assigned in the Zamboanga provinces, North Cotabato and in Metro Manila.

Arriving in the Philippines in November 1983, Tullio Favali was named parish priest of La Esperanza in Tulunan, North Cotabato, in June 1984. At the time of his murder he was just beginning to adjust to a different culture, but his parishioners loved him for his gentleness, simplicity and humble ways. He was always ready to serve.

Large areas of Mindanao, including the North Cotabato area, were then in the grip of armed pseudo-religious cults who roamed around sowing terror among the people. These groups, of Bisayan origin, and which came about in the late 1960s, originally acted in defense of Bisayan settler communities against Moro attackers, who in turn accused them of grabbing lands belonging to the Moros.

Under the dictatorship, with the growing strength of the revolutionary guerrilla movement, the fanatical cults were turned into useful pawns for the government’s anti-insurgency campaign. They were accorded recognition as paramilitary units and allowed to freely operate as Barrio Self-Defense Units or BSDU, later renamed Integrated Civilian Home Defense Force or ICHDF.

“The pacification drive to counter the growth and influence of the dissidents has assumed the character of a sordid war which does not spare any civilian who nurtures discontent with the present political, social and economic system,” observed a fact-finding mission that investigated Favali’s killing. “Entire communities have often been labelled ‘hostile territory’….”

The Manero brothers, including the wife of one of them, led the Ilaga group in Cotabato; they even garnered citations and medals from the AFP. Notorious for their killing sprees, which included cannibalism, they enjoyed the protection of the military and powerful local civilians. (Their father was barangay captain of La Esperanza.)

On April 11, 1985, Norberto, Edelberto and Elpidio Manero along with other members of their ICHDF band had already been drinking in public all morning and brandishing their high-powered weapons. Elpidio Manero brought out a placard showing a list of people they suspected to be siding with the rebels. When asked by one of these persons (the local tailor) to explain why he was on their list, the group got angry and Edelberto fired his gun, hitting the man.

The tailor and his wife fled into a house nearby, and others in the neighborhood also took cover. Some ran to find the priest and ask for his help. Mounting his motorcycle, Favali rushed to the house where the people had sought cover. Outside, the militiamen set his motorcycle on fire causing Favali to hurry out, asking, "What have you done to my motorcycle?" Edelberto then replied, "Father, do you want your head blown off?" He proceeded to do exactly that, shooting the priest pointblank in the head; he further desecrated the dead body by kicking it in the head, shooting it again in the face, and stamping his feet on the corpse.


The killing provoked a huge outcry from the public and from the Vatican and the Italian government. It called international attention to the Marcos dictatorship’s human rights violations, including the rampant and uncurbed abuses of the paramilitary forces, the continuing recruitment and arming of civilians for military uses, and the military’s encouragement of fanatical pseudo-religious cults in counter-insurgency.

Because of the outcry, the martial law authorities arrested the Manero brothers in 1985 after several months of dilly-dallying. That same year, seven individuals were convicted for Tullio Favali's murder, including Norberto Manero. However, they continued to be seen in public even if they were supposed to be in prison. In 1999, President Joseph Estrada granted Norberto pardon and let him out of jail. But Estrada had to withdraw the pardon because of the overwhelming negative reaction from the public. Norberto Manero was rearrested in 2000 and remains in prison.

Notorious Barrio Self-Defense Units

Ferdinand Marcos publicly endorses the BSDUs, later to be known as Civilian Home Defense Forces CHDF.

Ferdinand Marcos Became President

Senator Ferdinand Edralin Marcos wins the Presidency against re-electionist Diosdado Macapagal.

The Jabidah Massacre of 1968

(From Inquirer's In the Know. The above photo of graffiti left by Tausog "jabidah" soldiers in Corregidor before they were massacred is from

Out of the roughly 27 Muslim youth allegedly summarily executed in 1968 in what is known as the Jabidah Massacre, only Jibin Arula survived to tell the tragedy.

Arula recounted the alleged massacre in interviews with the Inquirer in March 2008 and March 2009.

In his account, Arula said he was among those who were brought to Corregidor island on Jan. 3, 1968, to train on guerrilla tactics in preparation for “Operation Merdeka,” an alleged top-secret plan of the Marcos administration to invade Sabah in Malaysia.

Named after a beautiful woman in Muslim lore, Jabidah was the commando group that was to carry out the operation. “Malaysia was the target of our mission. We were to invade Sabah. If Malaysia would file a formal complaint in the United Nations, the government was to deny us. It (the government) would claim that we were members of the private army of Sultan Kiram (of the sultanate of Sulu),” Arula said.

“We were promised P50 allowance per month but we received not a centavo. We were fed dried fish, and for coffee, we would use rice leftovers. The commanders were living in luxury while we were living with almost nothing at all,” Arula added.

To air their grievances, the trainees wrote a secret petition to President Ferdinand Marcos. But the letter most likely was intercepted by their training officers, which led to the tragedy, he said.

Before dawn on March 18, 1968, the training officers fired at them on Corregidor’s airstrip, Arula said.

Arula, who was wounded by a bullet in his left knee, swam for his life on Manila Bay, only to be fished out of the waters off Cavite province the next morning.

On March 28, 1968, opposition Sen. Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. delivered an exposé speech titled “Jabidah: Special Forces of Evil?” in which he alleged that aside from the recruitment of Muslims to infiltrate North Borneo, former convicts and former members of the Hukbalahap had also been enlisted to wipe out the opposition in 1969, an election year.

Aquino said: “I charge President Marcos with building a secret strike force under his personal command, to form the shock troops of his cherished garrison state.”

Marcos dismissed the accusations as an opposition plot to discredit the administration.

The Jabidah Massacre inspired Nur Misuari, then a political science professor at the University of the Philippines, to establish the Moro National Liberation Front, which fought for a separate Moro homeland in Mindanao.

Arula died in a vehicular accident in 2010.

jabidah (1)

The following report is from Paul Whitman and posted at

The codename for the destabilization plan was Operation Merdeka. The plan involved the recruitment of nearly 200 Tausug and Sama Muslims aged 18 to 30 from Sulu and Tawi-Tawi and their training in the island-town of Simunul in Tawi-Tawi. Simunul was where the first Arab missionary Makhdum built the first mosque in the Philippines in the 14th century. The recruits felt giddy about the promise not only of a monthly allowance, but also over the prospect of eventually becoming a member of an elite unit in the Philippine Armed Forces. That meant, among other benefits, guns, which Muslims regard as very precious possessions. So from August to December 1967, the young recruits underwent training in Simunul. The name of the the commando unit: Jabidah.

On December 30 that year, from 135 to 180 recruits boarded a Philippine Navy vessel for the island of Corregidor in Luzon for "specialized training."

This second phase of the training turned mutinous when the recruits discovered their true mission. It struck the recruits that the plan would mean not only fighting their brother Muslims in Sabah, but also possibly killing their own Tausug and Sama relatives living there. Additionally, the recruits had already begun to feel disgruntled over the non-payment of the promised P50 monthly allowance. The recruits then demanded to be returned home.

For the Jabidah planners, it seemed that there was only one choice.


As the sole survivor later recounted, the plotters led the trainees out of their Corregidor barracks on the night of March 18, 1968 in batches of twelve. They were taken to a nearby airstrip. There, the plotters mowed the trainees down with gunfire. Jibin Arula, the survivor, said that he heard a series of shots and saw his colleagues fall. He ran towards a mountain and rolled off the edge on to the sea. He recalled clinging to a plank of wood and stayed afloat. By morning, fishers from nearby Cavite rescued him.

The truth of the massacre took some time to emerge. In March 1968 Moro students in Manila held a week long protest vigil over an empty coffin marked ‘Jabidah’ in front of the presidential palace. They claimed “at least 28” Moro army recruits had been murdered. Court-martial proceedings were brought against twenty-three military personnel involved. There was a firestorm in the Philippine press, attacking not so much the soldiers involved, but the culpability of a government administration that would ferment such a plot, and then seek to cover it up by wholesale murder. The matter even made its way to the Supreme Court in 1970, on a preliminary issue.

Although the exact number of deaths still continues to vary depending upon the source of the reference, there is no denial of the fact that Corregidor was host to a massacre on that night.

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