FLAG Dissents

Jose Manuel I. Diokno, law dean of De La Salle University, signs this statement for the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG), a lawyers’ group organized during the Marcos dictatorship to provide legal assistance to dissenters of that regime and to campaign against its massive violations of people’s rights. In a separate interview, Atty. Diokno described the Supreme Court’s May 11 decision to oust its own Chief Justice, Ma. Lourdes Sereno, based on a quo warranto petition: “The Court has not only emasculated its own powers, it has abdicated its great role as guardian of the Constitution.” Dean Diokno is the son of the late senator, human rights champion, and FLAG founder Jose “Ka Pepe” Diokno.

A Prayer for All Ages

(A prayer from Sen. Jovito R. Salonga)

Our Loving, Heavenly Father:

Even as we celebrate the 73rd Anniversary of this Church, we pray for all the members of this fellowship.
We pray for all children, that they may have a happy childhood and that we do not give them a bad example or teach them how to hate, but that we may lead them to know the truth that will set them free.

We pray for our young people, whose lives lie ahead of them, that they may go forward with open and receptive minds to meet their future, that they may learn to live with life’s uncertainties and disappointments, that they may learn to accept themselves as they are, and not to be discouraged or lose heart.

We pray, dear Lord, for those who are in the springtime of life, that their lives may be fruitful, that they may not be proud or self-seeking, but that they may learn to be humble, seeking always the welfare and good of others.
We pray for those who are in the cold twilight of their lives, that despite their waning strength, they may not feel being left behind but still put their experience and their love to good use in the service of others;
We pray for those among us who are afflicted with illness, for those who are anxious and worried and afraid, that they may walk with You so that as they reach the end of their journey, they may be imbued with hope and faith and love and the blessed assurance of eternal life.

Dear Lord, we often wonder what is happening to our country. Our hearts and minds grieve over some leaders of this land who play God with the lives of others, cleverly twisting half truths to attain more power and more wealth. Save us from our sinful selves, dear Lord.

Many, many years ago, You gave our forebears pure air, green hills and forests and clean rivers but some of us have selfishly grabbed the gifts of Your bounty. In our selfishness and greed, we never really learned how to care for one another, particularly the poorest of the poor, the sick, and the thousands of our people who are homeless, hungry and forgotten. We are smothered in the waste of our self-centered living. Teach us, our gracious, loving God, how to care once again for one another, remembering what You said – “Inasmuch as you have done this unto the least of your brethren, you have also done it unto me.”

In Jesus name, Amen.

Lessons on Fear in the Grand Manner

(This is the valedictory address of Maria Patricia S. Valena during the graduation of the University of the Philippines Diliman College of Law was first published by Rappler.)

If I may, I’d like to begin with a story.

My parents had me when they were 21-year-old college students. I grew up going to UP not just to play in Sunken Garden, but also to sit quietly in the back of my mother’s undergrad classes and wait till she could take me to get ice cream at Shopping Center.

It took them a little longer than 4 years, but somehow, my parents both made it through UP while at the same time raising a family. They went to their classes, went to work, then came home to take care of me and my siblings. While times were sometimes rough, and money never enough, they always made sure that we were fed and clothed and most importantly, happy.

My mother, in particular, has shown me every single day what it means to live for others, and how to be a good person. I will never know anyone as hardworking and selfless as my parents, and I will never be able to thank them enough for everything they’ve done. To my parents – this is for you.

Of course my parents aren’t the only people I need to thank, since we all know that getting through law school is never a solo effort. In my case, I want to thank the rest of my family, friends, blockmates, sorority sisters, champion teammates in the Stetson and Jessup moot court competitions, everyone I worked with in the Bar Operations Commission Academics Committee and the Institute of International Legal Studies, and all my professors. I would not be here today if not for you. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

I was requested to keep this speech short, so to make this easier for everyone, I decided to forego writing a fancy speech and to stick with what I already know, which is law school.

While everyone’s law school experience is unique, I believe there’s at least one thing we all have in common: fear. If there’s anyone here who never felt even the slightest bit nervous or anxious or afraid during their stay in the College, then I stand corrected, and I salute you. For everyone else though, I’m sure we all know what it feels like to be afraid.

Afraid of a professor, of recitation, of an exam, of stepping foot inside Malcolm Hall on days when it’s all just too much. Afraid of even getting out of bed in the morning because doing so means facing yet another day as a UP Law student. I’ve been there, we’ve all been there. We hear a lot about the grand manner of UP Law, but sometimes it feels like much of the grand manner is really just fear. From the moment we attended mock recitation before our freshman year and prayed we wouldn’t be called, till now, sitting here today, with the threat of November looming before us, we’ve constantly been taught to be afraid.

As a female student in this college, I’ve had to face an additional set of fears. The fear of being seen as overly competitive, overly ambitious, overly intense. The fear of being judged for my appearance, rather than for my work. The fear of having my accomplishments disparaged as products of charm, or any means other than actual blood and sweat and tears. For the most part, I and other women in this college have learned to rise above these fears. But they are real.

The College of Law teaches us fear, yes. But at the same time, it also teaches us how to overcome these fears, and if we can’t overcome them, to pretend they don’t exist and to keep going anyway. We learn to recite without our palms sweating. We stop breaking into a cold sweat every time the terror professor walks into the classroom. We realize that one failed Criminal Law II midterm is not the end of everything, and that a terrible recit will one day be a funny story.

In sum, we’ve all overcome fear in one form or another, one way or another, during our stay in UP Law. Today, we graduate and finally leave those fears behind. However, we leave Malcolm Hall only to face the so-called real world. And what kind of world awaits the UP Law graduates of 2018?

At times it feels as though we are graduating from one set of fears only to face even greater ones. There is much to fear in the Philippines today, from the rampant killings to the deliberate and calculated consolidation of power in the executive branch of government and its flagrant abuse of this power, in which the other branches of government are complicit. The current administration thrives on fear – creating it, perpetuating it, using it to immobilize those who dare to speak out. From the attacks of internet trolls to barely disguised political persecution, this administration has mastered the art of using fear to entrench itself in power and to silence dissent.

In this environment of fear, the rule of law has been perverted to mean nothing more than mindless acquiescence to the injustices perpetrated by the administration, all under the cover of so-called legality. Public office is treated like a commodity to be awarded to the highest bidder, and forfeited at the whim of the executive. Arrests are made on trumped-up charges or no charges at all. People are killed by the very authorities tasked to protect them. All this is done in the name of protecting the rule of law and bringing peace and order to the country.

In his address to the newest members of the Philippine Bar a few weeks ago, Justice Lucas Bersamin defined the rule of law as “the recognition that ours is a government of laws, and not of men, and the abiding belief in law.” I agree with this definition wholeheartedly. However, Justice Bersamin then went on to say that the principal ingredient of the rule of law is respect for the institution of the courts and of the duly constituted authorities. On this point, I must respectfully disagree.

Justice Aharon Barak of the Supreme Court of Israel wrote in the Harvard Law Review that “the substantive rule of law is the rule of proper law, which balances the needs of society and the individual. This is the rule of law that strikes a balance between society's need for political independence, social equality, economic development, and internal order on the one hand, and the needs of the individual, his personal liberty, and his human dignity on the other.”

When the institutions of democracy become agents of fear rather than protectors of each individual’s personal liberty and human dignity, such institutions lose the right to demand the people’s respect. The rule of law does not demand blind deference to institutions; rather, as Justice Barak wrote, it guarantees fundamental values of morality, justice, and human rights, with a proper balance between these and the other needs of society. Fear of the institutions of government has no place in a society governed by the rule of law. The duty to respect the rule of law is the burden not only of the governed, but even more so of those who govern. Its principal ingredient is not the people’s unconditional respect for government, but government’s respect for the rights under law of each person it is sworn to protect.

The true rule of law should be the goal of every democracy, yet it is sorely lacking in the country today. This is the real world we enter as graduates of the UP College of Law. What then is our duty, and how do we serve the rule of law when those in power are determined to destroy it, and to silence every dissenting voice?

There is no one answer to that question. We leave the College to pursue our own dreams and ambitions, and to carve out our individual paths as future lawyers. As we go our separate ways, perhaps we can all take to heart Chancellor Michael Tan's words at yesterday's University Graduation – that we must always do our best to curb anger and unkindness.

Above all else, we all have in common the duty to remember what Malcolm Hall taught us about fear, and more importantly, how to overcome it.

The College taught us that in the face of our fears, we are capable of much more than we think. Today, more than the cases and the codals and the commentaries, it is this lesson we need to take away from our stay in the College.

We need to remember that the rule of law is more than mere adherence to the rules we’ve memorized, and when faced with a choice, we must choose to uphold that which protects the rights and freedoms of each individual, and guarantees fundamental values of morality, justice, and human rights. We must choose to uphold the true rule of law, even when those in power use fear to attempt to silence us. The grand manner of UP Law requires nothing less.

To the UP Law Class of 2018, congratulations.

Maraming salamat at isang mapagpalayang gabi sa inyong lahat.

(Patricia Valeña is the UP College of Law's first female valedictorian since 2013. She won the Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition national rounds, winning Best Oralist of the Finals, and represented the Philippines in the international rounds in Washington, D.C. She also won the regional championship of the Stetson International Environmental Moot Court Competition and was the Best Oralist in the international rounds. She was a research assistant at the Institute of International Legal Studies at the UP Law Center.)

Diokno: Fight the Fear, Sing Our Own Song

(This was originally published at the Philippine Daily Inquirer as an opinion column by Boying Pimentel)

Jose Diokno was the activist-intellectual, the human rights warrior and the brilliant, fearless opponent of dictatorship we revered and respected. Ka Pepe was the hero of my generation.

This week, we mark his 95th birthday and the 30th anniversary of his death.

Amid the gloom and bitterness as the nation reels from another fascist ruler, it was a stunning surprise to read the Diokno name in the news recently.

Jose Diokno was the activist-intellectual, the human rights warrior and the brilliant, fearless opponent of dictatorship we revered and respected. Ka Pepe was the hero of my generation.

This week, we mark his 95th birthday and the 30th anniversary of his death.

Amid the gloom and bitterness as the nation reels from another fascist ruler, it was a stunning surprise to read the Diokno name in the news recently.

“‘Fight the fear’ under Duterte rule, FLAG’s Diokno urges Filipinos,” read the headline in a story in the Philippine Daily Inquirer last week.

FLAG stands for Free Legal Assistance Group, the organization of committed, activist lawyers Pepe Diokno founded in 1974 to help defend victims of the Marcos dictatorship.

It was, of course, a different Diokno featured in the story. It was his son Jose Manuel “Chel” Diokno, now the national chairman of FLAG and dean of the De La Salle University College of Law.

I share the view of many Filipino activists of my generation who believe that any struggle for freedom and democracy must be based on collective action, not the glorification of one individual or one family.

The Dioknos believe this, too. Despite the prominent role Ka Pepe played in the defeating the dictatorship and in advancing the cause of human rights in the Philippines, the family has kept a fairly low profile since the 1980s.

I wrote about Pepe Diokno in September, on how the nation badly needs a leader like him in the age of Duterte. One of Ka Pepe’s daughters, Maia Diokno, an old friend, thanked me for it, though she said she was “embarrassed to like” the article partly because of her family’s “horror of self-promotion.”

But as the country struggles under the leadership of another Marcos, when a state-inspired bloodbath has led to the deaths of more than 6,000 Filipinos, it was inspiring to read what Chel Diokno had to say about the state of the country, and what needs to be done.

In fact, to appreciate his words, one really has to read and even watch Chel Diokno’s complete statement. The headline, “‘Fight the fear’ under Duterte rule,” doesn’t capture the complete essence of his message.

“Fight the fear by standing up,” he said. “Fight the fear by conquering it. Fight the fear by accepting that the fear is there and doing what you have to do because you know you have to do it. In that manner I think just as fear is contagious, that kind of action I believe is also contagious and the more people will stand up and the less people will be fearful.”

Those of us who lived through the Marcos nightmare would understand Chel Diokno’s message. Just like for many Filipinos today, the Marcos years were a time of fear. We were afraid and we had to accept that it made sense for us to be afraid.

But we also learned to tap into that fear and transform it in the fight against the regime. As one of our popular sayings back then went: “Fear is contagious, but so is courage.”

And no courage was more contagious than that shown by Pepe Diokno.

The news story about Chel Diokno quickly reminded me of “To Sing Our Own Song.” That was the 1983 BBC documentary on the Marcos dictatorship that was narrated by Pepe Diokno.

I still think it is the most compelling documentary about the Marcos years, and I encourage you all to watch it on the Diokno website.

Amid what some portray as the perversion of the country’s legal system by Duterte and his allies, Ka Pepe’s advice to young lawyers and law students during those dark years comes across as powerfully relevant today.

“Don’t ever confuse legal rights with justice,” he says during a FLAG gathering featured in the documentary. “As lawyers and as law students, our function is not only to cause respect for law, it is improve law.”

That was precisely the role he played when he joined the administration of Cory Aquino after Marcos was overthrown.

Diokno helped introduce legal reforms to better protect the civil and human rights of Filipinos in the post-Marcos era. He spearheaded the creation of the Commission on Human Rights, now led by activist Chito Gascon, and now a besieged institution under Duterte’s fascist government.

Rabid Duterte supporters will likely dismiss Ka Pepe as another “yellowtard,” a diehard supporter of Cory Aquino. Young Filipinos who are still on the fence on what to believe about that period should know this: On issues of human rights and sovereignty, Pepe Diokno took strong positions that were sharply opposed to Cory and her cohort.

By the end of his life, he had become a critic of the elitist hacendero order under Cory Aquino. He was in the hospital when farmers and their supporters were mercilessly gunned down and killed outside Malacanang in what is now known as the Mendiola Massacre.

Ka Pepe was deeply affected by the massacre on Jan. 22, 1987. “It was the only time we saw him in near tears,” Ka Pepe’s daugher Maris Diokno recalled.

Pepe Diokno died a month later, a day after his 65th birthday.

“To Sing Our Own Song” was Ka Pepe’s call to the world to support the struggle of the Filipino people against the Marcos dictatorship.

It took guts for Ka Pepe to agree to narrate the documentary, which came out when Marcos was still at the height of his power. Even watching the documentary was dangerous. Remember, this was the time before the World Wide Web and YouTube. We had to watch it secretly, usually during house meetings using Betamax machines.

“To Sing Our Own Song” is about an hour long, but you can go to the 4:00 mark of this video clip to understand the power of the documentary:

As the documentary ends, Ka Pepe looks at the camera as he denounces the repression and injustice under Marcos.

“How can such a government stay in power?” he asks. “Because powerful nations principally the United States support it. And they support it because of my country’s strategic location and the profits that their multinationals make here….

“It looks impossible for my people and people of the Third World to get out of this trap. But we will,” Ka Pepe declares. “It would be a lot easier if you of the First World were to give us your sympathy and your understanding and prevail upon your governments to stop supporting repressive governments like the one in my country.”

Then comes the part that I still like watching over and over again, for it never fails to make me feel profoundly moved and inspired by this great Filipino:

“But whether your governments do or not, I know my people, I know other Third World people. I’ve worked with them I’ve lived among them.

“Whatever your governments do, whatever our own elites and our own rulers do, and even if we have to wade through blood and fire, we will be free, we will develop. We will build our own societies. We will sing our own songs."

Debunking the Marcos Golden Years, Straightening Facts

ABS-CBN Online's original article featured an interview with UP School of Economics Professor Emmanuel De Dios.
Martial law under former President Ferdinand Marcos continues to stir spirited debates, 45 years since it was declared, as his heirs reassert national influence and human rights victims seek justice.

During the late strongman's 100th birth anniversary last Sept. 11, his son, former Sen. Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. said their family's history was "still being written."

With 6 in every 10 Filipinos born after the Marcoses were ousted by a People Power uprising in 1986, their supporters insist they brought the economy to its golden years with growth reaching record highs and the peso almost at par with the dollar.

But for those who lived through the regime, like UP School of Economics Professor Emmanuel de Dios, such a view is distorted.

The so-called good years were but a “flash in the pan" until the economy collapsed in the early 1980s

“That’s why you cannot judge the Marcos regime only on the good side. You have to take the entire period,” De Dios said in an interview with the ABS-CBN Investigative and Research Group.

"You did experience high growth in the early years, but you also experienced the worst recession in the latter years.”

The ABS-CBN Investigative and Research Group looked at key economic indicators during the Marcos years and compared them to the terms of other Philippines presidents, as well as other economies in the region.

Read it in full here.

Recently, Professor Emmanuel De Dios had a presentation, a critique, of President Duterte's economic policy. Delivered last July 6, 2018, the presentation was titled: The insulted economy: Economic and business policy reforms under the Duterte administration.

Watch Professor De Dios' discussion below:

Video from Dana Batnag's Facebook

You can download your copy here:

Insulted Economy by Emmanuel De Dios

Pat Valera and Black Box: Lualhati Bautista's Dekada '70

Lualhati Bautista's novel, Dekada ’70, is interpreted in theater by Pat Valera and the Black Box.

Show dates: September 7-11, 2018 7pm, The Doreen Black Box, Areté, Ateneo de Manila University. The final presentation on September 11 is for the benefit of Bantayog ng mga Bayani.

We Won't Be Erased

A week ago Juan Ponce Enrile, Marcos' former defense minister and currently a senator, spoke on video in a documentary that no one was incarcerated during Martial Law for their political beliefs. In response, Bantayog ng mga Bayani's current Executive Director May Verzola Rodriguez wrote this well received letter online.

(The image of the newsclip above is from Nestor Castro who was together with her at Camp Dangwa in 1983.)
Dear Mr. Enrile,

You have to be more careful with your lies.

I was a political prisoner in 1983, arrested by virtue of a presidential commitment order (PCO) signed by President Marcos. My prison cell was in Camp Dangwa in Benguet, an office room converted into a prison cell (whose most memorable feature was that it had no toilet facilities).

A few weeks after my arrest, a military helicopter came for me and airlifted me to Camp Aguinaldo, where to my surprise, I was brought before you in your office. I had no idea why. Maybe your intelligence people had tagged me as someone important in the Left (wrong), and was worth personally interrogating (wrong again).

You are likely to have forgotten that half-hour of our meeting. It’s been 35 years, we have both grown older, and you had a busy life as Marcos’ secretary of national defense implementing his martial law, likely overseeing the arrest of more dissenters like me, and then saving your skin and your name later.

But I haven’t forgotten. You had a male, brown room. You sat on a huge padded chair and rocked it as we spoke. Behind you was a shelf full of books. Above you was a huge painting of your wife Cristina.

I sat on an office chair in front of your table. I was wearing slippers. I sat there hearing you claim you read all of Marx’s books, and knew more about communism than most communists. It’s useless to fight Marcos, you said, and young people are wasting their lives doing it.

Cristina’s painting looked down on us. Here were two Cristinas, I thought, one the wife and the other his prisoner. Fidel Ramos dropped by, took the other seat in front of me, and addressed me in Ilokano. He said the same thing: you are wasting your lives; cooperate with the government instead.

What exactly am I doing with these two monsters of martial law, I thought.

My crime, when finally I was slapped charges, was subversion, specifically membership in the communist party. Prison life was slow and killing. But us, political prisoners, we always fought back.

Fast forward a few months in 1983. It was a day in December. Marcos, looking and talking like a dying man, had a few of us brought to him personally and given orders for our release. Of course it was the year Ninoy Aquino was killed and some brownie points were called for.

Name one, you said last week. I name myself one then. We won't go away, Mr. Enrile. We won't be erased.

Share us your thoughts at the Bantayog blog.

Golden Age During Martial Law? Watch This Short Film.

"Kayo ang hihirap, Kami ang yayaman" is the 9th episode in a series of short films by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines explaining what the "golden age" of the Philippines really was.

Watch below! Share your thoughts about it at our blog.

Martial Law Films Only a Threat to Those Who Want to Hide Past Crimes

(Originally posted at GMA News Online and written by Joseph Tristan Roxas)

Films about the Martial Law era are meant to awaken the minds of the youth to the lessons of the past, and only those involved in atrocities during those years could possibly be concerned about them, a foundation dedicated to the memory of those who resisted the Marcos dictatorship said Thursday.

"We must be careful to distinguish whose interests are being damaged by the showing of such films," Bantayog ng mga Bayani executive secretary May Rodriguez told GMA News Online.

"The interest we think is in the favor of truth, to let the people really know what happened. It's a good thing that young people know our history," she added.

"What is harmed is the keeping of secrets. If you want to hide the crimes of the past government, then your interest is harmed by those films. Important na malaman ng kabataan ang nangyari. No, it's not a threat to national security," Rodriguez continued.

(Dekada '70 poster from Star Cinema)

Armed Forces Chief of Staff Carlito Galvez Jr. had earlier claimed that the Communist Party of the Philippines was recruiting students from several universities as part of "Red October," a supposed ouster plot against the Duterte administration.

Among the activities the military had pointed to as evidence of this is the screening of films about the Martial Law years.

The object of the activity, the military said, was to rouse students against the Duterte administration by likening it to the Marcos regime.

'Not subversive'

The Commission on Human Rights has objected to the characterization of such film screenings as seditious.

"[I]t bears stressing that film showings of Martial Law should not in any way be deemed as subversive, especially because it is a part of our nation's history and an established fact, the teaching of which is required by various laws and therefore, not illegal," it said in a statement.

University of the Philippines Diliman Chancellor Dr. Michael Tan was more blunt about the subject.

"Of course we show anti-Martial Law videos. And you consider that communist?" he said in an interview on News To Go on Thursday, adding that UP is a "free forum."

"Ang mga estudyante namin nae-expose sa lahat ng pananaw, lahat ng activities ng iba't ibang sektor ng lipunan. And now if that is seen as recruiting communists, wala akong masasabi dito," he said.

"We've been doing this for decades. There's nothing new about exposing our students to this."

(Mike De Leon's recent film Citizen Jake. Photo from the film publicity.)

Students' safety

On Wednesday, AFP deputy chief of staff for operations Brigadier General Antonio Parlade Jr. released a list of schools where he claimed the communist recruitment was going on.

Several schools on the list have issued statements both denying the allegation and pointing out that it could pose a danger to the safety and security of their students.

Rodriguez said that Bantayog ng mga Bayani will continue its support of film showings about Martial Law and its information campaign on the era's impact, especially now that the Ferdinand Marcos has been allowed to be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (LNMB).

"Hindi dahil nailibing si Marcos sa LNMB ay hindi na makakalkal ang mga lihim niyang iniwan at mapipigilan ang pagsingaw ng mga bahong kanilang itinago at sinisikap pang itinago. Gising na uli ang mga kabataan at di madaling takutin," she said.

(Dukot, a film by Joel Lamangan. Poster from IMDB.)

Counter historical revisionism

Thaddeus Ifurung, national coordinator of the Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto, also pointed out that the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act mandates the Department of Education and the Commission on Higher Education to teach students about the atrocities committed during Martial Law.

"It is but proper to study our nation's dark history so as not to repeat it again. And make it a constant warning to tyrants that the youth and the people are vigilant against any attempt to toy with martial law and fascist dictatorship," he said in a text message.

Ifurung said that the military's claim is only a ploy to curtail academic freedom and student protests amid the deadly war on drugs, widespread poverty, and the rising prices of basic goods.

Campaign Against the Return of the Marcoses to Malacañang (CARMMA) suggested that those trying to link the supposed "Red October" plot to these film screenings could be "apprehensive about the message of collective action displayed by the Filipino people who decisively chose to end repression and oppression by a tyrannical regime."

CARMMA and Claimants 1081 executive director Zeny Mique added that the screening of these films "are efforts by various progressive groups and sectors to counteract attempts of the Marcos family and their allies to revise our history." — BM, GMA News

ANG SINCO, Edgar Catacutan

Edgar Ang Sinco was born in San Fernando in Pampanga but the family moved in 1961, when Edgar was 9 years old, to Mati in Davao Oriental , his father’s hometown. He completed his elementary and secondary education there.

Edgar enrolled at the University of the East in Manila for college and took up Business Administration. The year was 1969, and the nationalist ferment was sweeping through the universities. Downtown Manila was the scene of many a protest action over simmering issues – price hikes, US intervention in the Vietnam War, inefficiency and corruption in government, among others. Disenchantment over the Marcos government was also widespread.

Edgar joined the Samahang Demokratikong Kabataan (SDK) and one summer in an SDK living-with-the-masses program, spent a month in Central Luzon, living in a farmers’ community. That summer, he returned home to Mati and enrolled at the University of Mindanao.

“Bugoy nga adunahan” – was how Edgar was endearingly referred as in his younger years, roughly translated as a fun-loving, devil-may-care yet down-to-earth guy. When he returned from Manila, his hometown friends found him much more serious, and preoccupied with the many problems besetting Philippine society.

At the University of Mindanao, Edgar became one of well-known student leaders. He continued to recruit for the SDK. A friend recalled how he would invite his friends for a stroll and bring them to places to see where poor people lived. He tried to tell his friends of the people’s dire circumstances, and engaged them in political discussions.

Later that year, UM students under the leadership of Saf Respicio, then Supreme Student Council president, launched a strike over academic issues – tuition and miscellaneous fee increases and improvement of school facilities that dragged on for three months.

On February 16, 1971, Edgar was a speaker at a student rally. A huge crowd of young people had massed in front of the UM building, listening to him speak. Suddenly shots rang out and Edgar fell, microphone still in his hand. Fellow students rushed him to the hospital where he died of gunshot wounds. Witnesses identified a policeman as having made the shot.

In Manila, protesting students were also being killed in rallies -- four in the previous year during the First Quarter Storm of 1970, high school student Francis Sontillano in December 1970, and UP’s Pastor Mesina, just days before on February 4.

All these deaths, and Edgar’s in particular, sparked widespread outrage in the city of Davao. The night of Edgar’s shooting and for the next two days, in what is now called the “Battle of Claro M. Recto,” students went on a rampage in Bolton street, where the UM is located, up to Bangkerohan, and on to C.M. Recto street (where the United States Information Service library, deemed a symbol of US imperialism, was located and was a particular target of protest).  Military checkpoints were set-up all over the city, and establishments closed in support of the students’ protest.

Davao-based professor Macario Tiu describes the atmosphere in Davao during those days: “Practically all the student governments and student papers in the city and in major towns became very active. They did not only voice the concerns of the students; they also became vehicles to expose the ills of Philippine society and to demand reforms. There were frequent marches and rallies in 1971 and in the early part of 1972.” (Mac Tiu, Pre martial law student activism in Davao, situationer given to Bantayog research, 2015.)

Edgar Ang Sinco was 19 years old when he was killed. He is regarded not only as Davao City’s martyr but its first in the struggle against the Marcos dictatorship.

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