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Remembering Two Pillars of Justice

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(In Remembrance of Two Heroes – Chief Justice Teehankee and Justice Zaldivar by Chief Justice Andres R. Narvasa. Speech delivered during the Annual Celebration Honoring Martyrs and Heroes, Bantayog ng mga Bayani, November 29, 1995.)

To George Santayana, from his work “Life of Reason,” we are indebted for the oft-quoted aphorism that “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” The same thought has since found expression in many other ways, and is as true of nations as it is of individuals. In the context of what we celebrate today, perhaps it can be paraphrased, without any loss of meaning, in the statement that a nation that forgets its heroes is doomed to re-live the times that called for them.

Today we remember the martyrs and heroes of the Marcos years, and enter them into the scroll that lists the names and deeds of those others who had lived and died for this country since the beginning of its history. It is altogether fitting that we do so on the eve of the day when we remember all men and women of our race whom love of country had drawn to the altar of service beyond thought of self, often to the sacrifice of life itself.

As a member of the judiciary, I take special pride in the fact that two of those who graced it in years past have been deemed worthy to join those whose courage nursed and kept alive the flickering light of freedom during the dark years of the dictatorship. They have added new dimensions to service in the cause of law and justice; their lives bring home the lesson that heroism is earned in other battlefields than those of war, in the struggles to preserve a people’s free institutions – non-violent but no less perilous, no less demanding of great courage and resolution.

It is chiefly about these two jurists – Chief Justice Teehankee and Justice Zaldivar – that by your leave, I would speak this morning.

It was my privilege to be associated with Chief Justice Claudio Teehankee in the Supreme Court for a period of about two years, from my appointment on April 10, 1986 until his retirement in May of 1988 after a tenure of some eighteen (18) years spanning more than the entire lifetime of martial rule.

He was a man of enormous talent; my association with him served but to confirm what before I knew mostly by word-of-mouth and from published accounts of his scholastic accomplishments and legal and judicial career. His academic record was, to say the least, outstanding – A.B. summa cum laude in 1938, Ll.B. also summa cum laude in 1940, both at Ateneo de Manila, a brilliant performance capped by his taking first place in the bar examinations of 1940 with an average of 94.35%. Thence to a highly successful 25-year practice as a partner of the law firm Tañada, Pelaez and Teehankee (which later became Tañada and Teehankee). Then, bitten, as it were, by the public service bug, he joined the government, first as Undersecretary, later Secretary of the Department of Justice where he served until his appointment to the Supreme Court on December 17, 1968. In between, he found time to answer the call of civic duty, serving entirely in such organizations as the Civil Liberties Union, the NAMFREL, the Knights of Rizal, and others. He co-founded, with Senators Claro M. Recto and Lorenzo Tañada, the Nationalist Citizens Party.

To the Supreme Court Justice Teehankee brought not only the accumulated experience and expertise of close to forty years of law practice and high public office, but also the analytical and incisive mind of the born logician. He had a tremendous, almost photographic memory, a mastery of the English language and a good command, too, of the Spanish tongue. He combined a forceful personality with an unshakable confidence and imperturbable equanimity, and won the admiration of his colleagues with the unabashed respect and devotion, even reverence, for the Court which he conspicuously demonstrated. His was a great dream: of a judiciary independent and fearless, manned by men and women of genuine ability and unchallenged integrity, impervious to pressure and influence.

To a man like him, who though the way he did and showed it in every word and action, martial rule was rampant evil let loose on a helpless nation. His was the lone – or almost the lone – voice in the Court of that time that spoke out against the excesses of the martial regime, his that spoke out in defense of civil liberties and the supremacy of the rule of law.

Consider, for example, what he told the graduating students of the San Beda College of Law at their commencement exercises on April 21, 1979:

“The stock argument of the proponents of martial law is that the democratic process is often slow and time-consuming and inhibits the pace of development and there is need therefore for executive and administrative shortcuts that bypass the dilatory machinery of the legislature and the judiciary and that the people of a developing country such as ours are more in need and interested in their physical and economic well-being, food and industrial production, roads and bridges than abstract human rights which can come later. My view on this is simply that human rights and material rights go together and should not be presented to the people as alternatives.”

He stood by his principles and never wavered in his convictions all throughout the dark years of martial law, never overlooking any opportunity to speak out in defense of the Rule of Law, and in opposition to absolutism and oppression. He thus fell into disfavor with the President, and was twice by-passed in appointment as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

On a personal note, he was a source of comfort and inspiration when I and a small group of fool-hardy individuals, struggled in 1985 to frustrate the manipulations in the Sandiganbayan aimed at negating the conclusions of the Fact-Finding Board that Senator Benigno S. Aquino had been a victim of a military conspiracy directly involving President Marcos’ Chief of Staff, Gen. Fabian Ver, and other senior officers. We lost those court battles. The Sandiganbayan ruled to exclude the testimony of Gen. Ver and the other military officers and men given before the Fact-Finding Board, and thus laid the predicate for their subsequent acquittal. When the Supreme Court quickly struck down our efforts to nullify those rulings of the Sandiganbayan, it was Justice Teehankee who raised his voice in dissent, in which he was later joined by Justice Vicente Abad Santos and Justice Ameurfina Melencio-Herrera.

The People Power Revolution of 1986 brought vindication to Justice Teehankee. He swore President Corazon Aquino into office, at her explicit request. Less than two (2) months later, President Aquino reorganized the Supreme Court, beginning with the appointment on April 2, 1986, of Claudio Teehankee as Chief Justice.

One of the first things done by the reorganized Court under Chief Justice Teehankee’s decisive leadership was to order the reopening of the questioned proceedings in the Sandiganbayan which, as I mentioned, had already acquitted the 26 accused in the Aquino-Galman killings. A fact-finding body composed of retired Supreme Court Justice Conrado Vasquez, and retired Appellate Court Justices Eduardo Caguioa and Milagros German, was appointed to receive evidence on the disclosures of collusion and pressures at the highest levels of government to procure a sham trial. In a resolution written by Chief Justice Teehankee, with no dissents and only three abstentions (Justices Feria and Fernan, and myself) (144 SCRA 43-101), the Court approved the report, nullified the acquittal of the 26 accused of the Aquino-Galman killings, and ordered a retrial of the cases. Chief Justice Teehankee closed his ponencia with the following stirring words, so characteristic of him (at pp. 93-94):

“Now that the light is emerging, the Supreme Court faces the task of restoring public faith and confidence in the courts. The Supreme Court enjoys neither the power of the sword nor of the purse. Its strength lies mainly in public confidence, based on the truth and moral force of its judgments. This has been built on its cherished traditions of objectivity and impartiality, integrity and fairness and unswerving loyalty to the constitution and the rule of law which compels acceptance as well by the leadership as by the people. The lower courts draw their bearings from the Supreme Court. With this Court’s judgment today declaring the nullity of the questioned judgment of acquittal and directing a new trial, there must be a rejection of the temptation of becoming instruments of injustice as vigorously as we rejected becoming its victims. The end of one form of injustice should not become simply the beginning of another. This simply means that the respondents-accused must now face trial for the crimes charged against them before an impartial court with an unbiased prosecutor with all due process. What the past regime had denied the people and the aggrieved parties in the sham trial must now be assured as much to the accused as to the aggrieved parties. The people will assuredly have a way of knowing when justice has prevailed as well as when it has failed.

The notion nurtured under the past regime that those appointed to public office owe their primary allegiance to the appointing authority and are accountable to him alone and not to the people or the Constitution must be rejected… While the appointee may acknowledge with gratitude the opportunity thus given of rendering public service, the appointing authority becomes functus officio and the primary loyalty of the appointed must be rendered to the Constitution and the sovereign people in accordance with his sacred oath of office…”

The rest is history. And Chief Justice Teehankee’s place in history would be secure, did it but rest on that single achievement which, however, is only one of the many for which he fitly deserves the accolade we now pay him.

Unlike Chief Justice Teehankee, whose fixed star was a career in law and the judicial system, Justice Calixto O. Zaldivar had a many-sided record of public service. Born soon after the turn of the century, on September 13, 1904, he finished his legal education in the University of the Philippines in 1928 and passed the bar examinations of 1929, with the third highest mark among the successful candidates. Following a brief stint in the law offices of Justice Jose P. Laurel, he struck out on his own, practicing law until 1962. Within that period, he also answered other calls on his talents and energies; at various times, municipal councilor of Pandan, antique; representative, assemblyman and governor of the same province; officer in the Judge Advocate Service where he rose to the rank of lieutenant-colonel; assistant and later acting executive secretary and reparations commissioner, among others.

Appointment to the Supreme Court on September 12, 1964 came as a fitting capstone to a multifaceted public career that had ranged almost all branches of government, executive and legislative, administrative and military. He retired ten years later, on September 13, 1974.

Justice Zaldivar would not have been human if such a wide-ranging public career, such marked success in the political exercises of representative democracy did not inspire and instill in him a lively devotion to libertarian ideas and lifelong distaste for political tyranny in any form, for government imposed by force and without the free consent of the governed. That his faith in democratic processes and in the rule of law never wavered despite what may have seemed the hopeless prospects of opposing a well-entrenched authoritarian regime is evident in the opinions he wrote during the last two years of martial law. A striking example is his lengthy and well-written dissent in Planas v. Commission Elections, 49 SCRA, which questioned the validity of Presidential Decree No. 73 submitting to the people for ratification the proposed Constitution approved, after martial law was imposed, by the Constitutional Convention convoked a year earlier, in June 1971. Declaring that “(t)he rule of law must be upheld,” he said that the voting in the citizen’s assemblies mandated in PD 73 was not a legally effective vehicle for ratification, and that the subsequent Proclamation No. 1102 declaring that the proposed constitution had, through such a mode of voting, been duly ratified was repugnant to the 1935 Constitution. It was not my good fortune to know him, but I am certain that he fully merits the honors we now pay him.

The state of Israel had its Yad Vashem, a national memorial to the millions of Jews who perished in the holocaust and an enduring reminder to its people that tragedies of such magnitude, ravaging the imagination and almost defying belief, will never be allowed to happen again. Let the Wall of Remembrance you have put up fulfill a like purpose, and, by enshrining the memory of those who fought and died in the dark night of one-man rule, serving notice of our determination as a people that nothing like it shall evermore come to pass.

Soledad "Nanay Soling" Duterte, Anti-martial Law Activist

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Soledad "Nanay Soling" Duterte, mother of current Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, is well acknowledged as one of the pillars of the anti-dictatorship movement in Davao. Watch this excerpt of the iWitness documentary made by Howie Severino about Nanay Soling.

Rappler's March 2017 article describe Nanay Soling as a symbol of resistance.
In the documentary, Eleanor "Baby" Duterte, her eldest daughter, said even the wealthiest citizens of Davao would go to Nanay Soling to complain about beheadings, about their money or property being taken away from them by the military.

This so angered the tough single mother of 5 and widow of a former governor of Davao that she took to the streets to voice her indignation.

Former Gabriela Party representative Luz Ilagan, a young activist in those days, remembers a Nanay Soling who was not afraid to speak her mind, even to the powerful.

For example, when then defense minister Juan Ponce Enrile came to Davao, Nanay Soling supposedly told him, "This is what you've been doing, you are guilty of the persecution of people."

Ilagan said:" "When all others would keep quiet, when all others would be afraid to speak out, Nanay Soling would not hesitate to express what others were merely thinking."

The presence of the feisty Soledad in any anti-Marcos rally lent "credibility" to the affair, said Labor Secretary and Duterte family friend Silvestre Bello III.

She became such a figure of the opposition that she caught the attention of then president Ferdinand Marcos.

Honoring Davao's Contributions to the Struggle for Rights, Freedom

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(From Konsensya Dabaw's statement Honoring Davao's Contributions to and Continuing the Struggle for Rights and Freedoms, released for the 32nd anniversary of the EDSA People Power)

On the 32nd anniversary of the 1986 Revolution that expelled the dictator Ferdinand Marcos, Konsyensya Dabaw honors Davao’s contributions to the social upheaval that was a major milestone in the ongoing struggle of Filipinos.

Davao was host to political struggles such as the groundbreaking Welgang Bayan, which demonstrated the multisectoral and nationwide character of the opposition to authoritarian rule. Pres. Rodrigo Duterte himself acknowledged that his mother, Nanay Soling Duterte, was among the leaders of the “Yellow Friday Movement” in the city. The first pastoral letter against Marcos’s Martial Law, "Reign of Terror in the Countryside,” was issued by then Davao Archbishop Antonio Mabutas over abuses committed against church workers at that time, particularly the torture and killings in Catalunan Grande. We have a long list of martyrs and heroes—who originated from Davao as well as those from other places but came to regard it as home—whose rights were violated through illegal arrests and detentions, torture, and killings and who endured innumerable hardships in their resistance against authoritarianism.

All these happened despite Davao being under the control of local leaders who were known as long-time allies of Marcos. All these affirmed Davao’s connectedness to—rather than superiority over—the rest of the peoples and communities of Mindanao laboring for societal transformation.

Thus, Davao and its peoples have long-standing traditions of asserting rights and freedoms, as well as creating and holding multiple spaces where these can be expressed and claimed by different groups.

Davaoeños can attest to the importance and benefits of standing up to tyrants. The expulsion of the Marcoses made adjustments to local political arrangements possible that enabled the rise of alternative leaders like then appointee vice-mayor, Rody Duterte.

But the 1986 uprising is an unfinished one in that the liberal democratic governance that came afterwards did not adequately address fundamental problems and ease peoples’ frustrations with economic and political elites. This dissatisfaction continued to manifest in the different movements and struggles that made their aspirations known in the various arena of Davao from the mid-80s.


Davao's new challenges


New challenges confront Davaoeños today and they are not simply about terrorism as we are being conditioned to think. The challenges are to our appreciation and assertion of our rights and freedoms and our relationships to government and fellow citizens.

Having gotten used to unchanged political arrangements and relative progress in three decades, there is a danger that Davao would mistake sterile security and superficial stability for durable peace and order. Basking in its new status as the de facto Philippine political center and its claims to being a model and top performer, Davao might miss out on extending solidarity to besieged peoples and communities and succumb to the arrogance it accuses Metro Manila of—thinking that its way is the superior, if not the only, way; that the rest of the country revolves around it; and that each and every criticism constitutes a malicious attack. Seeing so many familiar names and faces from Davao and Mindanao now in leading positions, we might misconstrue that legitimate support for change means an uncritical stance and absolute acquiescence to government.

To face and overcome these challenges, we invoke Davao’s tradition of making spaces for democratic critique and contestation. We trust that Davaoeños would hold fast to the active exercise of engaged and critical citizenship. These would propel us forward towards our next collective milestones for justice, equality, and democracy.

For these reasons, we bid welcome and express solidarity to the Mindanaoans for Civil Liberties (M4CL) which is set to hold the 7th Mindanao Human Rights Summit in the city on February 23-24. May the discussions, learning, agreements, and resolutions reached in the Summit translate into vibrant actions for rights and freedoms that Davaoeños will keep on supporting.

Mags Z. Maglana
KONSYENSYA DABAW
magszmaglana@gmail.com

Bayani Lubid at Ang Dekada Ng Martial Law



Never again to dictatorship! On the occasion of the 32nd anniversary of EDSA People Power, Bantayog ng mga Bayani invite you to a restaging of Ramces M. Dili's "Bayani Lubid at ang dekada ng martial law." This is a play about the lives of ordinary people who fell victim to the abuses of the police under the Marcos regime. Saturday, February 24, 2018, 11 a.m., at the Alfonso T. Yuchengco Auditorium, Jovito R. Salonga Building, Bantayog ng mga Bayani. Open to the public.

Join us as well as we remember and pay homage to our martyrs and heroes in a simple flower offering ceremony after the play at the Wall of Remembrance.

Open house, Museo Bantayog, 9am to 12 noon only.

Honoring the Heroes of EDSA

Edsa Anniversary

This classic mural painted by Egai Talusan Fernandez can be viewed at the halls of Bantayog. Bantayog joins the Filipino people in honoring the heroes and martyrs who fought the dictatorship.

The world celebrates with us the uprising that broke the Marcoses' hold on power. A regime marked with thousands of Filipinos imprisoned, tortured and killed, institutions and ideas were twisted, and an economy in total breakdown and only benefiting a few while the many remain poor.

Let us remain steadfast and vigilant as we commemorate the 32nd year of the EDSA People Power! We call on freedom-loving Filipinos here and abroad to resist the lure of dictatorship. Never again should we surrender our rights to a fake messiah.

The Annual Honoring of Martyrs and Heroes 2017

The Bantayog ng mga Bayani Foundation, Inc. holds its Annual Honoring of Heroes and Martyrs under the Marcos dictatorship on Thursday, November 30, 2017, at 4:00-7:00 pm  at the Bantayog Center, Quezon Ave. near cor. EDSA, Diliman, Quezon City.

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Guest speaker is Dr. Reynaldo B. Vea, president of Mapua University.

Bantayog undertakes its honoring ceremonies every year, usually on this important date, Bonifacio Day. It has so far honored 287 individuals, and will add 11 more this year, for a total of 298 individuals.

This year’s honorees are Tayab (Arthur) Aboli, Cesar T. Cayon, Coronacion Chiva, Dalama (Elma V. Tangente), Fr. Jose P. Dizon, Pablo G. Fernandez, Lumbaya Gayudan, Antonio Maria O. Nieva, Sabino G. Padilla Jr., Francis S. Sontillano, and Amb. Alfonso T. Yuchengco.

YUCHENGCO, Alfonso Tiaoqui

Yuchengco

Alfonso T. Yuchengco gave his wholehearted support to the people’s opposition to the Marcos dictatorship as open resistance was building up in the urban areas towards the late 1970s. Before then, many citizens had been willing to keep their peace, but now more and more of them were telling each other: “We need to do something.”

His quiet involvement, in the form of valuable moral and material assistance, gave hope in particular to those oppositionists in the Light a Fire Movement. They had drawn up plans to destabilize the regime by planting small explosives in selected government buildings and properties owned by some Marcos cronies.  However, the arrest, detention and trial of several members of the group effectively put a stop to these activities.

Scion of a wealthy family descended from Chinese immigrants, Yuchengco was born and educated in Manila. He attended high school in De La Salle College, where he enjoyed the company of boyhood friends like any normal teenager. After the Japanese occupation of the Philippines during World War II, he enrolled at the Far Eastern University where he earned a degree in commerce.  After passing the public accountancy board examinations (with flying colors), he was sent to the United States to study at New York’s Columbia University for a master’s degree in business administration.

Upon his father’s death in 1953, Yuchengco took over the family interests in trading, construction and insurance.  He steadily expanded, built up and diversified the various businesses that today include banking, pharmaceuticals, education, etc. His progressive outlook and management practices earned for him a good reputation in the Philippines as well as in Southeast Asia.

Although he could have taken advantage of his power and influence to further his own interests by collaborating with the Marcos regime, like many others, Yuchengco chose to keep his independence. There came a point, however, when he could no longer stand apart. “I could not just sit back and watch, as the greatest plunder in Philippine history was going on, wreaking havoc on the economy and driving capital and our best minds and talents to foreign lands.”[1]

After the fall of the dictatorship, Yuchengco served as the country’s ambassador to China, and later to Japan and the United Nations. He was proud to have the chance to represent the Philippines, as he had always thought of himself as a Filipino first and foremost.

In 1990, upon the invitation of his good friend Jovito R. Salonga, Yuchengco joined and was elected to the Board of Trustees of the Bantayog ng mga Bayani Foundation, Inc. Subsequently he became a strong supporter of the foundation's activities, staying as trustee and holding positions of vice-chair, chair and eventually chair emeritus, until he died in 2016.


[1] As quoted in Wilfrido V. Villacorta, “Alfonso T. Yuchengco: A Lifetime of Integrity,” Manila, De La Salle University, 2003, p. 21.

SONTILLANO, Francis Superal

Francis Superal Sontillano died at 15, a young martyr in the fight against injustice during the time of Ferdinand Marcos.

Born on May 5, 1955, Sontillano came from humble origins in Santa Barbara, Iloilo where he grew up. He was the eldest of three children, who was valedictorian of of the Santa Barbara Elementary School in 1968. His academic record earned him a scholarship at the prestigious government-funded Philippine Science High School in Manila.


Fighting for Students Rights


At Pisay, as the school was called, Sontillano wrote poetry for the school organ called Lagablab, played basketball, and eventually was drawn to social activism. He joined discussion groups, and helped mobilize students in social actions geared to helping farmers, workers, and the urban poor.

He became close to Bantayog martyr Ronald Jan Quimpo and their schoolmate, Marie Hilao, the sister of the first known female martial law martyr, Liliosa Hilao.

They were young men and women at the forefront of the fight against institutional injustice. On campus, they struggled against the lack of clean water fountains and functioning bathrooms. They challenged the school administration to improve conditions at the school.


Taking On a Corrupt Government


Even they took the fight off-campus, as they saw connections between conditions at Pisay with the corruption under Ferdinand Marcos. Sontillano eventually became a respected member of the Malayang Kilusan ng mga Kabataan, or MKK.

By 1970, marching to denounce corruption and political abuse under Marcos became routine for the young activists of Pisay, including Sontillano. In fact, during one march, on December 4, 1970, he was so in a hurry to join a demonstration that he neglected to wear shoes, and ended up joining the protest in rubber slippers.

The Philippine Science High School contingent joined other students from the University Belt in Manila. The marched, chanting slogans and urging other young people to join. Then, when they reached Feati University, something happened.


Death of Young Sontillano


Sontillano

There was an explosion which one witness described as like “a thick plank of wood smashing itself onto my nape and back.” The students dispersed, run for safety -- except Francis Sontillano, who had collapsed on the street, bloodied and his head shattered. A security guard had thrown a pillbox at the student demonstrators. He was later charged and sentenced to life in prison.

Francis Sontillano, the teenager from Iloilo, became one of the first martyrs of the fight against Marcos. Two years later, after martial law was declared, other young people from Pisay and other schools followed his example in joining the fight against the regime.

In September 2011, more than 40 years after Sontillano’s death, the Philippine Science High School honored twenty-one Marcos-era martyrs, including Francis. The ceremony served as an opportunity to discuss with millennial students the brutality of the Marcos regime and the young Filipinos who waged the fight to end it.

One millennial used social media to join Sontillano, his niece Lexley Maree Villasis. With the help of her mother who is Francis’ younger sister, Siena Sontillano, the 11-year-old created a Facebook page in honor ofthe teenager who joined the fight against tyranny.

PADILLA, Sabino "Abe" Garcia

Sabino

Sabino Garcia Padilla Jr., known as Abe, was an academic, anthropologist, artist and organizer who got involved in important activist struggles during the Marcos regime.

Born in Davao City, Padilla was the son of a devoted teacher and a surgeon in the U.S. military during the Commonwealth period. Although the family had the option of immigrating to the United States, they opted to stay. They later moved to Manila where his father opened a clinic and his mother taught in a private school.

As a young man in Manila, Abe Padilla became politically involved and was arrested for his activism after martial law was declared. Released after three months, he took some vocational courses on mechanics before enrolling at the University of the Philippines where he took up history.

For his undergraduate thesis, Abe explored the history of the Moro struggle in Mindanao. He inevitably was drawn to the struggles on the UP Diliman campus where he joined numerous campaigns for the restoration of student rights that were curtailed under martial law. He joined the staff of the revived Philippine Collegian and wrote student campaigns for better facilities and against rising tuition rates.


Campus Activism


Eventually, Abe Padilla was drawn to other issues and concerns outside the campus. He became involved in the struggles of the urban poor and the batilyo workers  in Navotas where he also helped oppose a plan to bring environmental waste into the country.

In August 1977, he joined demonstrations that sought to expose human rights violations under Marcos during the World Law Conference in Manila. The street protests turned violent after demonstrators were met with water canons and truncheons by security forces, a confrontation that was featured in the state-controlled Daily Express.

Abe Padilla also turned to art in opposing the regime. He led a group of artists in producing materials for political protests and activities, including leaflets, T-shirts, arm bands and posters.

While conducting research for his masteral studies, he got a broader view of the conditions outside Manila. This led to his involvement in Isabela with the Diocese of Ilagan’s Social Action Center, then under Bishop Miguel Purugganan, who asked him head the organization’s  research and documentation desk in 1979. It was while working for the Social Action Center that Abe Padilla met  his wife, Maria Teresa. Their son May-i was born in Ilagan.


Struggles in Isabela


It was during this time that Padilla became involved with tens of thousands of farmers in their struggle against Marcos ally, Eduardo Cojuangco and his associate Antonio Carag.

Cojuangco and Carag sought to change a Spanish-era grant stipulation that would have returned vast tracts of land to the farmers after a hundred years. Cojuangco was able to block the turnover and purchased the Tabacalera tobacco plantation at  Haciendas San Antonio and Santa Isabel in Ilagan, Isabela.

Through Courier, the SAC news letter, Padilla helped document and expose the Cojuangco maneuvers in collusion with the provincial government and the military which terrorized the farmers. Padilla also helped draw attention to the farmers resistance movement and the attempts to demolish their homes and relocate them to other areas.  The struggle culminated in a march of about 12,000 protesters from northern and southern Isabela towns to Ilagan. The campaign paved the way for 4,000 farmers to get titles to their land.

The Courier also documented other vital issues of the people of Isabela. The newsletter exposed violations of human rights by government and the military, including arbitrary and illegal arrests, detention, extrajudicial killings, torture,  rape, hamletting, land grabbing, and arson.


Political Prisoner


His political involvement inevitably made Abe Padilla a target. In July 1982, he was arrested with other activists in Bayombong, Nueva Ecija, during a meeting in the residence and clinic of Aurora Parong, the respected medical doctor who was involved in the community-based health programs in Cagayan Valley.

Padilla’s group came to be known as the “Vizcaya 13.” The arrests were denounced as illegal, especially since  ‘presidential commitment order’ (PCO) issued by President Marcos was signed six days after the arrest.

Padilla’s mother, Josefina Garcia-Padilla, with the aid of lawyers from the Free Legal Assistance Group, filed what eventually became the landmark “Garcia-Padilla v. Enrile Case.” The Philippine Supreme Court sided with the dictatorship by declaring the arrests legal.

Detenion at the Bayombong Stockade of the Philippine Constabulary was rough for Padilla and his fellow political prisoners. They suffered from inadequate food, poor living conditions and constant harassment from soldiers, led by the notorious Rodolfo Aguinaldo, known as one of the most brutal torturers of the Marcos security apparatus.

Padilla and his fellow detainees fought back by calling for better conditions for all political prisoners. Again, he turned to art in this campaign, organizing his fellow detainees in creating cards, decorative flowers, and wall hangers with inspirational quotes on human rights.

After his release in 1985, Padilla remained active in the fight against the Marcos regime, and even worked with Amnesty International exposing to the world media the deplorable social conditions in the country.

After the fall of the dictatorship in 1986, he focused on his academic pursuits, earning a PhD in anthropology in 1991. His academic work focused on the plight of indigenous communities. Among the projects he pursued during this period is developing geo-mappnig systems to better understand the health concerns of indigenous peoples. He was working on genetic studies of Negrito populations in the Philippines when he died on March 22, 2013 from cancer.


Impact of Sabino's life


There are many stories about Abe Padilla’s life and times, most of them highlighting his love of country, selflessness, and passion to help build a better life for all Filipinos. Many endorse his nomination to Bantayog’s roster of martyrs and heroes. Here are some of them:

“... I remember him attending a number of PNHS Conferences... I was saddened by news of his death - he was so young and full of determination, passionate to do what is good for the country and our people, especially the IPs. I am heartily endorsing his nomination to Bantayog ng mga Bayani where he will be in the company of students, friends, and colleagues who have sacrificed their lives for our country and for all of us.” - Bernardita Reyes Churchill, Professor of History (retired), Department of History, College of Social Sciences and Philosophy, University of the Philippines Diliman, and President, Philippine National Historical Society, Inc.

“We saw in Abe a dedication and an unwavering commitment to serve the people before, during  and after incarceration. We saw it in his research work, his teaching and in public service in working with non-government organizations and people's organization... His battle against the dictatorship and continued service to the people thereafter up to his death epitomizes the "Bayani" or "Para sa Bayan" life that he led. He deserves a place at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani.”-Ariel S. Betan, Associate Professor, UP Manila and Assistant Vice President for Administration, UP System

“... The late Abe Padilla was my colleague in the UP Faculty. I can vouch for his relentless but quiet and low profile work for the cause of freedom and justice in our country, particularly during the dark times of Martial Law.” - Randy David, Emeritus Professor, University of the Philippines

“Abe’s memory deserves to be enshrined in the Bantayog ng mga Bayani. His work offers a fine example to guide the youth. His life as an activist embodies the historical developments in the larger protest movement in the Philippines. And given the dreams that my good friend Abe placed in the nation’s service, it is a final act of justice for us, the living, to recognize formally the noble sacrifice Abe lived out daily in his life.” – Raul C. Pangalangan, Judge, International Criminal Court

And from activist writer and community organizer Violeta de Guzman, something short but succint– “Put his name on that wall. In these turbulent times, we should cherish the memory of heroes like Abe.”

NIEVA, Antonio Ma. Onrubia

Onrubia

Antonio “Tony” Nieva was a writer, journalist, union organizer and activist who devoted his life to the defense of press freedom, the rights of workers and the defeat of dictatorship.

He grew up in Zamboanga where his father was a teacher at the Ateneo de Zamboanga who wanted his children to nurture their intellect and to be wide-readers. As Tony Nieva once wrote: “As far back as I can remember, it had always been an uphill struggle against bills—water bills, electric bills, the monthly rent. While we had few luxuries, we were rich in reading material. We never ran out of books, magazines, and newspapers.”

Tony excelled in school, graduating with honors from his elementary school and winning gold medal that year as the school’s campus journalist. He was a college student in Zamboanga when he began his first journalism stint as a reporter for The Philippines Herald. He worked with Herald for almost a decade. In 1972, he became managing editor of Mabuhay, a sister publication of Herald. Tony later moved to Bulletin Today, working as a desk editor.

By 1972, Tony Nieva was a journalist with strong beliefs and a staunch opponent of the government of Ferdinand Marcos. When he heard that martial law had been declared in September that year, it is said that he ran to the National Press Club building in Manila to warn the organization’s officers, Antonio Zumel and Eddie Monteclaro, who were able to escape the first wave of arrests.


Fighting for Workers’ Rights


It was during martial law that Tony Nieva also became deeply involved in the struggles of Filipino workers, particularly those who worked in media. He came to see unions as an important force in the fight against dictatorship which took control of major media outlets.

He helped start the union at Bulletin Today and even became the union’s president. He also campaigned for the unionization of workers at newspapers, including the Daily Express, the Manila Times and other publications that were part of the Journal group of companies. He co-founded the short-lived Brotherhood of Unions in Media of the Philippines (BUMP). Later, he self-published a workers’ magazine called Bagwis.

From the late 1970s to the late 1980s, Tony also became an influential member of the National Press Club, serving as president from 1984 to 1986. Once known primarily as a social club, the NPC was transformed into an activist organization fighting for press freedom during the Marcos regime.


Tony Nieva is a Champion of Press Freedom


Under Nieva’s leadership, the NPC became more of a political center where journalists and activists held discussions about democracy and dictatorship. The NPC headquarters became a hub of journalists seeking to assert their rights and pursue honest reporting despite the constraints of martial rule. The NPC also spoke out against attempts to harass critical reporters and independent newspapers.

When the We Forum, an independent newspaper critical of the regime, was shut down by the regime which raided its newspapers and jailed members of its staff in December 1982, Nieva led the campaign to free publisher Jose Burgos Jr. and the other journalists. The Supreme Court later declared the arrest and raid as illegal.

A few months after Burgos was released, in 1983, Tony Nieva himself was arrested and detained following a military raid on his house in Malate, Manila.

His commitment to press freedom was rooted in history. Under his leadership, the NPC declared Aug. 30, 1984, the birth anniversary of Marcelo H. del Pilar, the journalist-activist of the Philippine revolution against Spain, “Press Freedom Day,” starting an annual tradition for the organization and other press freedom advocates. Two years later, in 1986, he helped launch the People's Movement for Press Freedom (PMPF).


Defying a Dictatorship


Nieva’s opposition to the Marcos tyranny included secretly supporting the underground movement against the Marcos dictatorship. On occasion, he offered the use of his car to fugitive leaders of the underground, and at times even drove them himself.  In 1985, Tony Nieva personally helped in the escape of imprisoned journalist Satur Ocampo during an NPC event that the famed political prisoner was allowed to attend.

Nieva remained active in media organizing even after the fall of Marcos in 1986. He helped start two new organizations: the Kapisanan ng mga Manggagawa sa Media ng Pilipinas (Kammpi) and the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP). By then, he was respected internationally as a champion of press freedom and the welfare of journalists.

In 1995, Nieva was appointed secretary-general of the Prague-based International Organization of Journalists (IOJ), the first Asian to hold that position. He served in this post until his death from natural cases in 1997.

Tony Nieva was respected and admired by his colleagues as these comments show:

Joel C. Paredes, Interaksyon
Tony Nieva advocated the rights of workers as a part of the Filipino journalists’ struggle for press freedom during the martial law years. In 1980, Nieva, then president of the Manila Bulletin Employees’ Union asked my help in the preparations for putting up an independent labor center which was later launched as the Kilusang Mayo Uno on May 1 that year.

Jaime Jose (Nonoy) Espina, member of the Directorate, National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP)
Antonio Nieva is, without question, one of the legendary figures in Philippine journalism. Many journalists who had fought the dictatorship’s efforts to suppress the truth can attest to how Tony helped keep the flames of resistance burning among them. In the early days of the NUJP, Tony would exhort the younger members NEVER to allow the mass silencing of media that Ferdinand Marcos pulled off when he declared martial law in 1972.

Sheila Coronel, Dean of Academic Affairs, Graduate School of Journalism, Columbia University
As a journalist, Nieva was a trenchant critic of martial rule. He wrote fearlessly and well, with a clarity and toughness that was rare in those difficult times when the press was cowered by fear and intimidated (or bought off) by the powers that be.

Lazaro "Jun" Medina (formerly with Herald)
Tony could not be a member of the Herald union by virtue of his (managerial) position as editor. But he supported the union in a strike that was probably the first successful one ever staged in any company owned by the very powerful Sorianos, who also owned then the giant San Miguel Corp.

Carolina "Bobbie" Malay
 At the National Press Club elections held in May 1985, Satur Ocampo was able to return to the club and cast his vote—and mysteriously disappeared into the underground right after. The dramatic escape from military custody was celebrated then and there by the NPC journalists as an act of defiance against the regime, and Tony Nieva played an important role in it. He gave an example of principled courage and perseverance in fighting for the people’s rights against an all-powerful dictatorial regime.

Al Mendoza (President, Bulletin Employees Union, 1983):
The reason I became president of the Bulletin Employees Union (BEU) was Tony Nieva. As BEU president from 1975 to 1983, Tony inspired me with his unflinching pro-worker stance. His heart was always there for the labor force.  He would give his last buck to a worker in need.

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