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The 29th Annual Membership Meeting

On August 21, 2015 2PM Bantayog ng mga Bayani had its 29th Annual Membership Meeting and a soft launch of the Bantayog ng mga Bayani and National Historical Commission of the Philippines' book project.



https://www.facebook.com/bantayogngmgabayani/posts/994806647206472

A Principled Death: Atty. Vic Mirabueno

The following is part of an article at a 1988 issue of PHRU about the life and death of human rights lawyer Vicente Mirabueno.

A Tribute to Human Rights Lawyer David Bueno (1988)

In 1988, the January 15 - February 14 issue of PHRU published the following tribute and the statement of the Protestant Lawyers' League of the Philippines (PLLP) about the murder of human rights lawyer David Bueno.

YBAÑEZ, Rolan Ylagan

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Rolan spent a simple and quiet childhood in Naujan, Oriental Mindoro. His parents were government employees and the siblings were close to each other. In college, Rolan went to Manila and stayed with elder brother Larry in Cavite City. He liked tinkering with mechanical gadgets, and took a radio technician’s course on the side while taking up a college degree.

In college he was active with the Alpha Kappa Rho fraternity, which was then protesting various education issues such as high tuition fees and commercialization of the educational system. The fraternity joined protest rallies and marches, and were soon involved in protests against the martial law government itself.

Rolan was active in these protests, and he became a student organizer.  He became so involved he stopped going to school. When asked why he was making such a sacrifice, Rolan liked to quote what was then a famous student battlecry popularized in the University of the Philippines’ student publication Philippine Collegian: “Kung di tayo kikilos, sino ang kikilos? Kung hindi ngayon, kalian?”

Rolan moved to Cebu, his father’s hometown, in 1982. He tried to integrate himself into Cebuano society, learning to speak Cebuano and mingling with the poor people in the province. He was in Cebu when Senator Benigno Aquino Jr.  was assassinated, resulting in the explosion of people’s protest against the dictatorial regime.

Various groups emerged in Cebu, such as the Coalition Against People’s Persecution (CAPP), the Cebu Oust Marcos Movement for Nationalism and Democracy, and local chapters of national groups like the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN).

Rolan, who now called himself Levi, found himself a role as part of the secretariat of CAPP, assisting then Fr. Rudy Romano. Rolan helped organize CAPP chapters in the city’s various barangays and sitios. With this work, Rolan succeeded in recruiting for the growing number of protest actions in Cebu, providing and personally supervising the marshalls needed for these protest activities. He opened contacts with radio reporters and other professionals in the city, also interested in joining the protest activities.

By July 1985, Levi was deeply engaged in helping coordinate the protest activities in Cebu.  From someone who had been working behind the scenes, so to speak, he had emerged dealing with high-profile individuals like Fr. Romano and Mrs. Zenaida Uy (chairperson of Professionals’ Forum and later Bayan). Unfortunately, this made him a vulnerable target of the military.

On July 11, 1985, witnesses saw a man that fit Rolan’s description walking in a street in downtown Cebu who was forced into a car that then sped away.  The man was reported to have fought to free himself, creating a commotion that was noticed by several passersby.  One witness said she saw Rolan drop several pieces of paper but these were retrieved by two men who then proceeded to board a public jeep.

Fr. Romano was also abducted two hours later.

His family in Mindoro travelled to Cebu to search for Levi in the military camps, to no avail. Rolan and his girlfriend Lilibeth had plans to get married that year.

The immediate suspects in Levi’s abduction were members of the Philippine Constabulary’s Regional Security Unit (RSU) and the Military Intelligence Group.

Fr.  Romano and Levi’s abduction drew loud and angry protests around the country, especially among religious groups. Friends and comrades in the protest movement organized vigils and letter campaigns, and religious and human rights groups all over the world wrote letters to the Philippine government to press for justice for the two activists. The Philippine Supreme Court ordered the military to produce the two missing persons, and no less than Pope John Paul II sent in his own appeal. The two activists remain missing today.

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.”

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