Diokno: Fight the Fear, Sing Our Own Song

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lessons on Fear in the Grand Manner

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To the UP Law Class of 2018, congratulations.

Maraming salamat at isang mapagpalayang gabi sa inyong lahat.

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

A Prayer for All Ages

(A prayer from Sen. Jovito R. Salonga)

Our Loving, Heavenly Father:

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

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

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

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

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

In Jesus name, Amen.

FLAG Dissents

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

Remembering Two Pillars of Justice


(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


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


(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

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.


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.

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