One of the most well-known personalities of the antidictatorship struggle was a small, dark-skinned Catholic nun who worked tirelessly to seek out and defend victims of human-rights violations, presenting factual data that the regime could not deny.
For 21 years, Sister Mariani Dimaranan headed Task Force Detainees of the Philippines, (TFDP, popularly known as TFD), which had been created in the early years of martial law by the Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines precisely to investigate and document human rights abuses and, whenever possible, intervene with the military for the release of detainees.
Under her fearless leadership, TFD played a critical role as an independent agency documenting and publicizing those abuses. She set up local TFD offices to provide direct service to prisoners and their families, worked out prisoner releases, and built up an international network to campaign against political detention in the Philippines. By 1986, the final year of the Marcos dictatorship, TFDP had 65 local offices across the country, and Sister Mariani’s name had become synonymous with the defense of political prisoners and human rights in the Philippines.
Dimaranan was a member of the Franciscan sisters (SFIC), and taught high school and college courses in the congregation’s schools in Luzon. Before devoting herself fulltime to the work in TFD, she was the registrar and head of the social sciences department at St. Joseph’s College in Quezon City, and assistant dean at Our Lady of the Angels Seminary also in Quezon City.
Because of her concern for the plight of the poor, on her own she had been participating in protest actions as early as the 1960s. In 1973, Dimaranan was detained for six weeks in Camp Crame and Fort Bonifacio for alleged involvement in subversive activities. It was a disturbing experience. Being a nun gave a measure of protection from her military captors, but in detention she learned the truth about the huge number of those who had been arrested and tortured by the authorities. Thus, upon her release she volunteered to join the newly set-up TFD.
Dimaranan was an exemplary teacher who taught by example. She trained countless volunteers in gathering reliable data, and trained staff and paralegals in development work. Today many Filipino aid workers who learned from her serve humanitarian organizations all over the world.
The fall of the dictatorship in 1986 did not convince Dimaranan that the defense of human rights had become irrelevant. Until her failing health obliged her to slow down, she continued to lead Task Force Detainees actively until 1996. Still, she did what she could, until her death in 2005 at the age of 81.
BORN : February 1, 1925 in Lubang, Occidental Mindoro
DIED : December 17, 2005 in Quezon City
PARENTS : Mariano Dimaranan and Maria Cuevas
EDUCATION : Elementary: Stella Maris School, Lubang
Secondary: Holy Infant Academy, Calapan, Mindoro
College: Divine Word College, Calapan; University of Santo Tomas,
Postgraduate: De La Salle University, Manila; Maryknoll School of
Theology, New York (USA)