bantayog.foundation

bantayog.foundation

SISON, Teresito De Guzman

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Teresito Sison, called either Sito or Terry, was one of those gifted teachers who kindled in their students a passionate love of ideas. They learned from him through the books he asked them to read, the discussions he provoked within and outside the classroom, and most of all by the example he gave of intellectual commitment as it should be lived in one's daily actions.

Sito was a sickly youth. His mother washed clothes for the Benedictine nuns of the local Holy Family School. Sito was a toddler and his youngest sibling a baby when his mother died, likely exhausted by all the years of hard, unremitting work. The two youngest siblings were thus raised by grandparents. Wanting to become a priest, Sison started at the Jesuit-run San Jose Seminary in Manila.  Then he shifted and took a teaching job at the prestigious Holy Angel College in Angeles City.

He was in his 30s when nationalist politics came to him.  Ironically, it was the teacher who learned from the students. Among Sito’s pupils were Rodolfo Salas and Nilo Tayag, who by then had become leaders of activist organizations. They asked him to join discussion groups, rallies, marches and other actions critical of the Marcos government. Sito joined the Kabataang Makabayan and the Movement for the Advancement of Nationalism (MAN) then led by Senator Lorenzo M. Tañada.

Being a natural leader himself, Sito was soon leading his own group.  Sison organized the Salaginto Dramatic Guild which put up three socially-relevant, highly-critical plays.  He formed a teachers' union and campaigned for its legal recognition. He led a strike to advance teachers' economic and political rights and student rights as well. As a result of these protests, Sito and several strike leaders were fired by the school.

Sito then took a job as a laborer at Clark Air Base. Harassment against him started. His house was sprayed with bullets, with members of a local private army called Monkees as immediate suspects. Undeterred, Sito went into organizing work among the peasants and farm workers in Hacienda Luisita in nearby Concepcion, Tarlac.

Sito was one of those arrested when President Marcos suspended the writ of habeas corpus in 1971. He was taken from his house in Angeles City, tortured, then incarcerated in Camp Crame in Quezon City. He was charged with subversion along with 13 others. The torture he suffered and the substandard conditions in military detention exacted a toll on Sito’s diabetic body.

The soles of his feet never healed after they were burned with hot iron. His kidneys were damaged and he was practically bedridden after his release from prison in 1973. He went through another brief detention in 1974, this time when the country was put under martial law.

Despite his increasing disability, Sito continued to help in the struggle to defy the dictatorship. He contributed articles and poems, gave interviews, and advocated strongly for the rights of children, peasants and workers.  He died at home on Nov. 30, 1980, significantly, also celebrated across the country as National Heroes Day.

SISON, Modesto Castro

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Modesto’s father was a veteran of the Philippine-Japanese war, a soldier and a disciplinarian. He served as prison official after the war, thus Modesto spent his growing years in Davao del Norte, where his father worked at the Davao Penal Colony. Modesto’s mother looked after the household and the children.

Modesto was caring and responsible even at a young age.  A friend who had been sickly as a boy remembers that Bong, who was younger, behaved like a protective big brother. He liked to look after the underdog. Friends and family called Modesto by the nickname Embong, further shortened to Bong.

An uncle joined the pre-war Olympics as a boxer, so Bong learned to love the sport. Also he liked watching Bruce Lee movies in his free time. He liked to play the guitar. When he started a family, he would sing and play the guitar for his baby daughter.

Modesto taught social science subjects at the Maryknoll High School in Sigaboy, Davao Oriental.  He became an active member of the Basic Christian Community (BCC) program in his parish. Through the BCC, he became acquainted with the Federation of Free Farmers (FFF) and Khi-Rho, a movement of young people sympathetic to peasant causes founded in UP Los Baños in the late sixties.  At the time Bong joined the Khi Rho, the organization was new in Mindanao.  Modesto and fellow youth organizer Eileen, who would later become his wife, helped Khi Rho become established in Davao.

By the early 1970s, Filipinos were restive as a result of the country’s involvement in Vietnam, persistent economic problems, and fears that the country was moving towards dictatorship. Modesto got deeper and deeper into the Khi Rho Movement and the FFF. He became its Mindanao coordinator, and in this capacity, helped organize farmers to join the peasant protests that gained strength towards 1972. Farmers were fighting for tenurial rights, access and titles to their farms, as well as protesting abuses by powerful logging companies operating in their area.

Modesto continued his organizing work with Khi Rho and among the farmers when martial law was installed in 1972, but more clandestinely. By 1976, Modesto and his young family, which then included a daughter and a son, moved to Silang, Cavite.  He took a teaching job at the Cavite Institute.

Modesto intended to pursue his political work. He established contacts around Metro Manila and Southern Luzon, and pursued his political organizing as part of the movement to defeat the dictatorship. Eventually, he left his job and became a fulltime organizer.

He disappeared in late July 1977. He failed to return home for his son’s first birthday on July 29. Alarmed, his wife and other relatives, all aware that Modesto was taking huge risks with his political activities, started an immediate search. They visited military camps and went to places he frequented.

Eventually they learned that Modesto was arrested somewhere in the Makati area together with other activists, namely Cristina Catalla, Rizalina Ilagan, Jessica Sales, Ardiana Villaber, Gerardo Faustino, Ramon Jasul and Erwin de la Torre.

Weeks after his disappearance, a newspaper carried an article about an encounter between government troopers and guerrillas belonging to the New People’s Army in Quezon province. The news item listed the names of those slain but the names were obviously aliases.  The Sison family sought a permit to exhume the bodies. General Fidel Ramos, then Chief of the Constabulary, gave his approval, and an exhumation of a mass graveyard was performed in Mauban, Quezon, Sept. 28, 1977.

There the body of Modesto, riddled with gunshot wounds, was found with three others. The family took back the body and buried it at the Loyola Memorial Park in Sucat, Parañaque. The following epitaph is written today on Modesto’s headstone: “Buhay inialay sa sambayanan, bunga kalayaan.”

MIRABUENO, Vicente Alex Adre

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Court employees remember Vicente Mirabueno, or Vic to his family, as someone who was humble and who bore “no airs.” His daughter remembers him as someone who liked to cook and to play the guitar. Christmas season would find him organizing a round of carolling in the neighborhood, where he was guitarist.

As a lawyer, he was a passionate advocate of human rights and justice. During the time of the Marcos dictatorship, human rights violations were rampant in his home province of South Cotabato. Almost as soon as he started his law practice, he joined the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) and was one of its members in the area. He was besieged with human rights cases involving urban poor groups, teachers’ groups, political prisoners, and victims of harassment or illegal arrest. He gained a name locally as a labor lawyer.

Vic ran a half-hour radio program which mostly tackled social issues. In this program, Vic would urge his province mates to stand up for their rights and to demand democratic reforms. Vic inspired many people, especially students, to act against government abuses and abuses perpetrated by people in authority. He himself filed a case of illegal logging against a powerful logging concessionaire. Vic was concerned about deforestation in Cotabato.

At the time of his death, Vic was provincial chair of FLAG and of Bayan.  Soon he and his family were constantly under threat, and for a time Vic had to lead a fugitive’s existence as a result of constant military harassment. Two attempts were made against him in 1985 and 1986. Vic filed a protest against local military authorities but the military denied any involvement in attempts to harm Vic or his family.

In January 1986, Vic and four others (including two priests, a nun and a doctor) were slapped with rebellion charges, specifically “giving aid and comfort to enemies of the state.” These were later dismissed for lack of evidence.

After the fall of the dictatorship, Vic was appointed and served as OIC vice-governor for South Cotabato. In May 1987, he ran for Congress as an independent candidate but lost.

One of the last cases he handled was as counsel for 47 members of a local group, arrested by the military in connection with a land dispute. The detainees were members of the KPS, an urban poor group protesting alleged fake land claims being made by big businessmen at the Makar townsite.

Vic was warned by friends of the growing threats to his safety, but Vic laid it all on “God’s will.” On the day he died, he had been standing quietly at the entrance of the city’s public market when two men came close and each put a bullet on Vic’s chest. He died shortly upon arrival in the hospital.

Authorities later arrested two suspects. One was a civilian police asset named Mike Sedic, a former soldier. Sedic escaped after a few weeks in detention. (Implicated in Sedic’s escape were four policemen.) The second suspect, one Mohammed Sedic, was positively identified by witnesses as one of the two gunmen.

Vic’s wake was visited by thousands of mourners. Marbel bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez officiated at the funeral mass, after which a funeral march followed, with over 20,000 participants.

MENDOZA, Armando Lano

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Armando was a student at the University of Santo Tomas (UST) in Manila when the First Quarter Storm (FQS) broke in 1970. Armando joined the UST chapter of the Kabataang Makabayan (KM) and was soon one of its leading members. He helped organize KM chapters in nearby schools and communities. While studying at the University of Santo Tomas (UST), Armando worked as an employee of the First Continental Assurance Company.

When martial law was declared in September 1972, Armando left the university and went to live with farmers in the rural areas of Batangas. He lived with them, organizing them, and teaching them about the realities of martial law. He found a niche among farmers, farm workers and sugarcane workers in Batangas. He taught them to organize and fight for their rights, including the right to own the land they tilled and for reasonable working conditions.  He was also involved in organizing to fight and topple the Marcos dictatorship.

By 1973 he had gained a name for himself as an underground political organizer and was a target of military intelligence. Still, Armando would secretly visit his family’s house in Manila, stay the night there with some comrades and leave in the dark hours of the following morning.

At this point, news reached the family about another member of the family, Alfredo, Armando’s older brother and a church organizer, who had disappeared mysteriously from a prison in Davao City. Knowing he risked the same fate, Armando nevertheless did not vacillate with his commitment.

In May 1974, soldiers raided the family house. This effectively stopped communication with Armando. Then in September someone called, asking to talk with Alfredo’s mother Gregoria. The caller, a woman, said that Armando was in prison together with the caller’s son in a military camp in Sta. Cruz, Laguna.

In November of that year, a family friend with the help of a Good Shepherd sister, travelled to Sta. Cruz, and there they found Armando being kept in prison inside a small military detachment. It was six months since he was arrested. He looked dirty and uncared for, and he bore torture signs such as blisters and cigarette burns.

In December, Armando was moved to a regular detention center in Camp Vicente Lim, in Canlubang, Laguna, where he spent Christmas. In January of the following year, his jail visitors were told he escaped with eight others during the last days of December.

A full year passed with no news. Then in December 1975 the family got news that Armando was re-arrested and killed with three other persons in Lucena, Quezon, in October 1975. The family never recovered Armando’s body, as they also have never found the body of his older brother Alfredo.

Armando’s comrades in Southern Tagalog sent the family a document in 1976 titled “Tunay na may mga Leon at Agila ang Rebolusyon,” in honor of Comrade Armando Mendoza. This is the only indirect confirmation they have had that Armando had indeed given his life for his cause.

Armando’s name is inscribed in FIND’s Bantayog ng mga Desaparecidos/Flame of Courage Monument at the Redemptorist Church grounds in Baclaran, Paranaque, and in the  Memorial Wall near Manila City Hall.

MENDOZA, Alfredo Lano

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Alfredo was an articulate person. In school, he expressed himself well. He joined his school’s debating team and was a powerful debater. Later he worked as broadcaster and announcer for Notre Dame Radio Station in Cotabato City. He was also daring and confident, had a strong sense of justice and fair play, and was sympathetic to poor people, qualities that made him an effective organizer.

Alfredo started paying closer attention to pressing political and social issues while in college. As he took his masteral course in Manila, he became involved with Catholic groups with progressive and nationalistic leanings.  He was recruited to work as coordinator of the family life program of the Mindanao Secretariat of Social Action (MISSA) under the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines.

From 1972 to 1973, he worked with MISSA in Davao City, under Maryknoll priest Thomas Marti. He became involved in the struggles of the poor, in fighting oppression and in promoting a theology of liberation among church groups. He was active in the movement to topple the Marcos dictatorship.

On Sept. 10, 1973, Alfredo was working at the MISSA offices when soldiers came and arrested him. They brought him to his home in Davao City’s Agdao district, ransacked it with his 9-month pregnant wife Ruby as a shocked witness. The house was searched for incriminatory materials but only an old typewriter and a mimeographing machine was found. Both were seized.

Then they brought Alfredo to the constabulary camp in the city.  Fr. Marti came to see Alfredo and facilitate his release, but was himself arrested by the authorities. The priest was released after a whole night’s interrogation, but Alfredo remained in incarceration.

No formal charges were filed.

MISSA colleagues took Ruby to safety in Cebu City. There she eventually gave birth to her first child, a son. Fr. Marti and MISSA workers would visit Alfredo in prison to raise his spirits and to bring him supplies, knowing his wife and Manila-based family could not themselves come.

Then towards late December, Alfredo disappeared from the camp’s stockades. Alfredo’s family and co-workers searched but failed to find him in various camps. The following February, a letter from a director of the NBI arrived telling the family that Alfredo was issued a Christmas pass and left camp with another detainee on Christmas Day. Both did not return and could not be found despite a hunt.

When the Marcos dictatorship fell in 1986, the family sought the assistance of human rights groups such as the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines and the Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearances (FIND), as well as the Presidential Committee on Human Rights (PCHR) headed by then Sen. Jose Diokno, to no avail.

Ruby never saw Alfredo again since that day in September when soldiers dragged him to their home. And Alfredo had never seen his son Natdemson. Alfredo’s sister Amelia once wrote that the family had been afraid over his participation in the movement. But if he were alive today, Amelia said in a testimony for Alfredo, “we would tell him that we admire his courage,” and that he is indeed a hero and martyr for his people.

Alfredo’s name has since been included among those inscribed at the FIND’s Bantayog ng mga Desaparecidos/Flame of Courage Monument at the Redemptorist Church grounds in Baclaran, Paranaque City, and at the Memorial Wall near Manila City Hall.

LEAÑO, Salvador Fabella

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Salvador was a World War II veteran, soft-spoken, but unafraid to stand up for what he believed in. He was a teenager when he joined the war against Japan as a freedom fighter. He was a high school graduate who was teaching in elementary when the war broke out.

After the war, he took a job as a policeman, becoming chief of police in his town. His daughter remembers him as a firm but loving father. Once he caught his two young daughters stealing peanuts from an aunt’s garden, arrested them, put them in jail overnight, even as he himself stood guard outside their cell.

In the 1970s he became active in the Foursquare Church in Romblon, later becoming a lay pastor, then pastor.

He was a fan of then senator Benigno Aquino Jr. and a supporter of the Liberal Party, and an outspoken critic of the Marcos regime.  When UNIDO party was organized and were holding campaign rallies, he came to attend these rallies and give the invocations as a denunciation of the Marcos dictatorship: “Panahon na ng pagbabago; tapusin na ang diktadura!”

Some members of his church thought he should limit his activities to church and venture opinions only on church matters, but he believed that the truth must be lived out (and died for) in all areas of life.

Pastor Leaño was appointed a watcher for UNIDO during the 1986 snap presidential elections. He voted early and was at his post in Precinct 11 in Brgy. Jun Carlo, San Andres, Romblon.  In prior rallies, a known Marcos loyalist, Nemesio Ganan Jr. , had been threatening residents around Precinct 11 not to vote for Cory Aquino.  At around 9 that morning, Ganan came with two bodyguards and invited Leaño out to talk and to take some refreshment.  Leaño refused, saying he was on duty at the precinct. Ganan returned to the jeep. Then the men with him came and pointing a gun at his back, dragged Leaño into the waiting jeep and went off with him. As he was being pushed inside the jeep, he shouted to someone: “Jun, maski ano man ang mangyari sa akon, ayaw guid pag baya-e ang urna, dal-a guid sa munisipyo!.” (Jun, whatever happens to me, do not leave the ballot box, bring it to the town hall!”)

Not long after, a shot was heard in the distance.

Family and friends looked for him but found him only six days later.  His body was stuffed inside a sack and buried in a shallow grave in Brgy. Pili, Looc, a few kilometers away. He had a gunshot wound in the head. In his jacket pocket was found a small New Testament bible which he always carried.

The EDSA people power revolt happened a few weeks later, and Corazon Aquino became president. The family realized that he was one of those who sacrificed their lives to protect the ballot that made Aquino president. Thus daughter Lani says: “We (feel) proud and privileged to be his offspring.”

The trial for the conviction of his killers took several years but the family strove to see justice served. On Feb. 7, 1995, Ganan was finally convicted. In an eloquently written decision, Judge Placido Marquez praised the pastor’s dedication to duty and country with his sacrifice of life so that   “  …(our) sacred vote and freedom to choose should never be compromised…”

Judge Marquez also wrote to Ms. Ceres Doyo on 28 Nov 2002: “There was this man – the late Salvador F. Leaño Sr. – whose heroism touched my life many years ago. I never met him but perhaps the Bantayog ng mga Bayani Foundation might find it worthy to honor him at the Bantayog Memorial Center. I respectfully submit his name for the purpose.”

LANZONA, Eduardo "Taking" Estrella

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In the 1960s, a red Jaguar would streak around Davao City, and all city residents knew the driver was that charming boy “Taking,” because who else had a red Jaguar anywhere? Taking was Eduardo Lanzona, who belonged to a very prominent family in the city.

Taking completed his economics course at the Ateneo de Davao, took further studies at the Ateneo de Manila University which he completed in 1969, then went back to teach economics at his alma mater.

In 1969, he married his college sweetheart.

He was always smiling, always had something nice to say to a new acquaintance. And he loved to play the guitar and sing Beatles’ songs.

Taking started to take an interest in politics because of the influence of politicians and professors in Ateneo such as the senator Raul Manglapus, and Fr. Francisco Araneta. He was a voracious reader and the debater in him took delight engaging in philosophical and political discussions about Karl Marx or Mao Tse Tung.

In the early 1970s, student activists had started organizing in Southern Mindanao. He had become a member of Samahang Demokratiko ng Kabataan in Manila and due to his influence, the Ateneo de Davao campus became the hub of the student protest movement.

He was passionate about the farmers’ movement for land to the tiller and along with other concerned Ateneans, joined thousands of farmers in 1969 to ask for real land reform. The mass action was led by the Federation of Free Farmers.

He helped organize a union of college professors at Ateneo de Davao and a bank employees’ union at the Davao branch of the Bank of the Philippine Islands.

When martial law made it impossible for him to work openly, he resigned his post at the Ateneo faculty and joined the left underground movement in Davao, moving in and out of the city to meet his growing family. He was regarded by then as an important political leader in the underground, particularly in the united front organization.

He was arrested on Jan. 17, 1975, in Davao del Norte (now Compostela Valley), together with four other activists. They were tortured then executed.

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Today, some of the bank employees remember Taking, and give thanks to him because through the unions he organized, the workers enjoyed higher living standards and stronger bargaining power.

Friend and fellow activist Mac Tiu admired Taking because, while most activists were single and had few possessions, Taking was rich and had a family and yet chose to go underground to fight the dictatorship. Former comrade from the SDK, Juan A. Perez III, now a physician, points out that Taking Lanzona had been about to reach the height of his career but he chose to fight the dictatorship.

Historian Rudy Rodil said that activists (like Taking) are driven by “the consuming conviction that one was doing the right thing, the only right thing to do, and nothing else mattered.”

GALACE, Arthur Erfe

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The young Arthur was a bright and diligent young boy. The young Arthur used his spare hours after school to shine shoes and augment the family’s small income. He was a working student throughout most of his school years. In college, he worked as part time bookkeeper and government checker of moviehouses. He worked for ten years as a civilian employee at the Philippine Military Academy and for another five years as clerk at the auditor’s office in Baguio City.

Always hungry for knowledge, Arthur was a voracious book-reader. As a student, he spent hard-earned money to buy pocket books and read them between lessons and work hours. He read Shakespeare and the Bible. He pored through at least three newspapers everyday until diabetes destroyed his eyesight.

He took the bar in 1976 when he was 34 years old, and got the third highest grade that year.

Knowing poverty first-hand, Arthur often gave free or minimal legal services to poor clients. Destitute clients trooped to his office, his wife Nida recalled. Arthur began to offer his services to victims of the Marcos dictatorship not long after he passed the bar. He became one of the most active members of the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) in Baguio City. Later he served as FLAG coordinator for the Benguet province and regional chairperson for Northern Luzon. He was counsel for nearly all political detainees in Northern Luzon, including many student activists, tribal leaders, farmers, and two fellow lawyers who struggled against the Marcos dictatorship in the province of Abra. He handled the defense of students and activists jailed for rebellion, and prosecuted cases filed by members of rural communities against abusive soldiers.

He also was active with the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), becoming president of the local chapter and executive director of its legal aid committee from 1983 to 1985. During his incumbency the legal aid committee won a national award for being a model legal aid program in the Philippines.

He was member of the Lawyers’ Committee for International Human Rights, based in New York, USA.

Arthur and fellow rights advocates established the Northern Luzon Human Rights Organization (NL-HRO) in 1984. Arthur became its chair. He helped organize other human rights groups throughout Northern Luzon.

Arthur was appointed deputy commissioner of the Presidential Committee on Human Rights (PCHR) under the late Senator Jose W. Diokno. His stint in government was short-lived because members of the commission resigned in protest over continuing military abuses.

To use the new democratic space, Arthur started a column titled “The Occasional Chair” for the local newspaper Gold Ore. He used this space mostly as a forum to raise awareness about human rights and the human rights violations that were still happening in Northern Luzon. In 1988, he took up the case of farmers massacred by soldiers in Nueva Vizcaya. He testified in 1989 before the Senate Committee on Human Rights about government abuses persisting in Northern Luzon despite the lifting of martial law.

Arthur believed that friends, not money, made a person rich. “Why look for material wealth”, he would say, “if one had enough friends?” Arthur treated many of his clients as friends, and had been known to offer temporary lodgings to clients, including former political prisoners, or families of clients, or even give some of them transportation money.

In 1991, disaster fell on Arthur and his family when the big earthquake that damaged many parts of Luzon wrecked his house and thieves stole the rest. Suddenly Arthur was poor as a rat, but he remained undaunted. “We will survive this,” he told his wife. Arthur’s friends proved their worth on that occasion because many came to help his family deal with the disaster.

In the 1990s, Arthur had to fight a war on another front as he fell ill with diabetes. “We will fight this,” he told his wife once more. He did fight the disease until the end of 1993, when he died quietly in his bed the day after Christmas.

Relatives, neighbors, colleagues from the Knights of Columbus, and friends in the human rights movements all gave tribute to this man’s humanity and his commitment to human rights. He was alternately described as bright, witty, having phenomenal memory, a sharp-tongued lawyer, a sweet husband and a loving father, and a person who gave himself way beyond the call of duty.

FERNANDEZ, Jesus Flor

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Three sisters preceded Jesus, so that when his devoutly Catholic mother became pregnant again, she vowed that, if she had a son this time, she would name him after Jesus Christ. The family resided in San Carlos City, Pangasinan.

Jesus was born with one blind eye due to congenital cataract. His mother, who tended to be over-protective because of his disability, made herself his first-grade teacher. But in his young as well as adult life, Jesus never let this disability stop him. Jesus also kept changing the name he was born with.

Jesus, or Jess to friends, joined the Student Alliance for Nationalist Democracy (STAND) in 1971 when he was only a third-year high school student.

In college, his organizations included the Alpha Sigma fraternity and the Political Science Club, where he pursued his own brand of activism. In particular, he grappled with the problem of fraternity wars and sought to direct the fraternities’ energies into more positive expressions, such as social activism. He became a popular activist leader in the Diliman campus of UP.

After martial law was declared in 1972, activism became more difficult. Jess and his activist friends, undaunted by the martial law edicts prohibiting associations and gathering in groups, as well as by the proliferation of spies in campus, secretly went about organizing student opposition to martial law. Jess became a key figure in building the anti-martial law forces at UP from 1972 to 1976. Soon, the campus was alive with activities pushing for student rights and welfare.

After graduation from college, Jess had the option to take up law as his father wanted, or find a cushioned job using his family and fraternity connections, and his own personal attributes and good education.

Instead, Jess pursued clandestine organizing against martial law. Now known in the underground circles as Ka Tembong, Jess frequented Manila’s university belt. He also enroled in a graduate program at the University of the East to facilitate his entry into what was then the university with the largest student population.

By 1977, the university belt was noisy with student protests and boycott calls against tuition fee increases, a feat that can partly be attributed to Jess’ organizing skills. Then Jess and his comrades dared to defy martial law and moved to launch open protest rallies. Jess acted as the central command in one held in front of the Adamson University and another at the Avenida Rizal. As expected, the rallies were dispersed with truncheons and water cannons.

But the students and student leaders who participated in these rallies learned from the experience and became seasoned protesters. These protest actions that Jess helped organize can be said to have helped break the terror effect of martial law among Metro Manila’s student population. Moreover, as these students graduated and spread across the country, many later became participants and even leaders in the widespread anti-Marcos protests that were sparked by the assassination of the late senator Benigno Aquino.

The following year, 1978, the Marcos regime called for “interim” parliamentary elections. Jess by then has shifted to organizing among the urban poor of Tondo. He had become Ka Nol among the members of the Zone One Tondo Organization (ZOTO). By way of testing the waters, progressive groups fielded several candidates, including politicians Ninoy Aquino, Aquilino Pimentel, and Tito Guingona, community leader Trinidad Herrera, student leader Gerardo Barrican, and labor leader Alex Boncayao.

Jess was part of the core group that coordinated and directed this electoral campaign. They called on the people to vote for the anti-martial law candidates, and to act boldly to protect their ballots. When the Marcos regime rigged the elections, massive protests erupted, culminating in a historic noise barrage on April 6, 1978.

After the electoral campaign and the ensuing protests, Jess and his comrades dove back into the quiet work of building anti-martial law opposition among Metro Manila residents. They clandestinely distributed opposition newsletters, carried on discussions in the privacy of residences, built core groups, searched for new contacts, and so on.

In 1981, with the visit of Pope Paul II to Manila, massive protests were planned in order to highlight the repressive conditions under martial law. Jess was selected coordinator and ground commander of highly successful protest actions, including one around the Quezon City Memorial Circle.

After Ninoy Aquino was assassinated in 1983, rage against martial law rose to higher and higher levels. This time, Jess, now called Ka Les in his circles, was given the task of directing the student movement nationwide. As a result of his leadership, thousands of students from various schools in Metro Manila joined the almost weekly mobilizations against martial law for the next three years. In many occasions, students actually formed the bulk of the mobilizations, again a quiet testament to Jess’ planning and organizing skills.

After martial law was dismantled in 1986, Jess stayed in the underground for a few more years. By the mid-1990s, Jess decided to test the broader “democratic space” and surfaced. At first he found work as consultant to various local leaders and executives, including Governor Oscar Orbos of Pangasinan.  In 1998, he joined the staff of Senator Gregorio Honasan as a senior member. He stayed with the senator’s team up to 2004, then moved to support the presidential bid of Fernando Poe Jr. Later he helped launch the United Opposition and became active in the Kilusang Makabayang Ekonomista.

Jess was diagnosed with lung cancer in January 2007. He died from complications arising from the disease four months later. During his wake and after, friends wrote of him and sent in their tribute.

Writer Noel Pangilinan recalled an occasion when in fun, friends threw their Ka Nol into the deep-end of a swimming pool. It turned out that Jess couldn’t swim and had to be towed in. But his worried friends couldn’t help but laugh and hoot when Jess, rising from the gutter, coughing and hair and face dripping, said offhandedly: “Ang babaw!”

Political and economic analyst Filomeno Santa Ana said that Jess’ life fits the song from the Sound of Music: “Climb every mountain, search high and low, follow every byway, every path you know, ford every stream, follow every rainbow, till you find your dream.”

Jess used many names in his life. But he lived that life much like his great namesake, working for the poor and helping establish peace and justice in the world, climbing every mountain, and in the process, touching many lives.

CHUA, William Tiu

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William’s parents were Chinese who migrated to the Philippines in the early 1950s in search of better opportunities. They struggled to eke out a living in Manila but remained poor. Life got so difficult, William’s father left to try his luck in Butuan City. There he put up a restaurant, and found business better. He sent money and visited his family occasionally. Eventually William’s mother Songo also started her own business. When family finances were more secure, Songo moved her young sons to Quezon City and put them in the private Xavier School.

William was a quiet and unexceptional teenager, quite short for his age. He was a college sophomore when Ferdinand Marcos imposed martial law. He became an activist, revealing previously unseen gifts and skills.

He turned out to be an exceptionally daring person. He joined rallies and protests which Marcos had banned under martial law. In one occasion, soldiers hunted for him in La Salle, and he had to hide in the car trunk of one of the more understanding teachers so he could leave the campus.

He was also resourceful. Soldiers came to raid his family’s apartment house looking for him and threatened the family if they did not reveal his whereabouts. William asked help from a school friend, who was a general’s son, and suddenly, he was not being hunted anymore.

In his senior year, he became editor of the campus paper The La Sallian, and he showed a keen writing ability.

He moved to the University of the Philippines to pursue his law degree, joining the fraternity Scintilla Juris. He continued to write critical articles, contributing them to Nassa News, a church newsletter that had become one of the most valued outlets for views and news about the anti-martial law resistance. The stories about the sufferings of sugar workers in Negros province made a huge impact on him. He began to see the role he could play as a lawyer for poor people. Among his idols were the late senator Jose W. Diokno.

He married his college sweetheart Betty, then graduated in 1983, the year the late senator Benigno Aquino Jr. was killed. As he started his law practice, William joined the Movement of Attorneys for Brotherhood, Integrity, Nationalism, Inc. (MABINI) and immediately started representing laborers and human rights victims in court.

He helped publish a satirical newsletter called Sick of the Times, whose biting essays and editorial cartoons made fun of the dictatorship and its abuses. One of the most memorable articles in the newsletter is a satire on an ailing president. The article was titled “Autumn of the Patriarch,” taken from another article written by Colombian writer and journalist, Gabriel Garcia Marquez. The newsletter was witty, funny, irreverent, defiant, and with a funny sense of the absurd, so much like William himself.

William pursued his bias for laborers, defending workers of Shoemart in Makati in a strike (although he counted a son of the SM owner Henry Sy as one of his school friends). He handled a case for workers of Baxter-Travenol, and won it before the Supreme Court.

After the fall of the Marcos dictatorship, William turned his attention to exposing and prosecuting corruption and crime. He served as legal counsel for the nongovernment Citizens’ Action Against Crime, taking up mostly pro bono cases of kidnap victims. He prosecuted 20 kidnap-for-ransom cases, many high-profile and dangerous. He prepared for these cases so purposely he won convictions in all cases.

He also offered his legal services to the Foundation for Worldwide People Power, the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, and the Pinoy Times. He helped Haydee Yorac, then with the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), expose questionable issues about the coconut levy under martial law. He also assisted Yorac in government efforts for peace talks with armed groups.

He handled right to information cases, such as the Aquino-Sarmiento vs Morato et al, and freedom of expression cases, such as the Gonzales vs Kalaw-Katigbak et al. One of his best-known cases was in 1992, when as counsel for then Congressman Joker Arroyo he exposed a syndicate in Congress manipulating election results. This led to the dismissal of several electoral tribunal officials in the House.



He was awarded the Jose Rizal Award for Excellence in 2003 given out by the Manila Times and the Filipino Chinese community and posthumously received  the Parangal Lingkod Sambayanan (Public Service Award) given by the Ateneo de Manila University in 2005.

At the time of his death, William was managing partner of Arroyo Chua Caedo and Coronel Law Offices. He had a very wide circle of friends coming from the left, right and center of the political spectrum, who mostly admired his talent, his guts, his commitment, and his integrity. Writer Sheila Coronel said William showed that lawyering was “about justice and compassion.”

William battled with pancreatic cancer and died in hospital in 2004.

Old friends noted that William grew much taller than his old classmates over time. He had become, quite unlike his teenage image, a big man, with a big voice, and big gestures. It was more than William’s physical self that had expanded. He gave as much of himself to others as he could, and in so doing, just grew and grew.  A former classmate from La Salle had written about him after his death: “(William) kept on growing even after most of us had stopped.”

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