In January 1980, the dictatorship held elections for governors, vice governors, mayors and vice mayors. Having just decimated the Liberal Party-Laban coalition in the fraud-ridden election for members of the Interim Batasang Pambansa in 1978, the Marcos dictatorship was then at the height of its powers.
The opposition coalition had decided to boycott the 1980 elections, but Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr. (already in exile at the time) believed that despite the certainty of being cheated, it would be an opportunity to further expose the regime’s oppressiveness, corruption and tyranny. He asked his friend Jose Lingad to run for governor of Pampanga against Estelito Mendoza, a close associate of Marcos.
Lingad had already been governor of the province, and a cabinet member during the administration of President Diosdado Macapagal. He was a congressman representing Pampanga’s first district when Marcos abolished Congress upon declaring martial law. He was arrested and detained for four months following the imposition of martial law, and since then had turned to farming for a living while continuing to participate in opposition activities to depose the dictator.
As expected, Lingad and his running mate for vice governor – the progressive lawyer Jose Suarez – were defeated by the dictatorship’s party, the Kilusang Bagong Lipunan. The so-called election was marked by intimidation, vote buying and plain cheating. Defiantly, Lingad filed a formal protest with the Commission on Elections.
While the election protest was pending, Lingad was shot dead by a lone gunman while sitting alone in the driver’s seat of his car in the morning of December 16, 1980, along the national highway in San Fernando, the provincial capital. Witnesses identified the killer through photographs: he was a former constabulary sergeant. But before he could be tried, he himself was killed in a mysterious car accident. Thus, Lingad’s murder has remained unsolved and the mastermind is still unidentified.
National leaders of the political opposition all attended his wake. (Even Marcos paid tribute to him as “a friend and fellow veteran.”) At the funeral, Joaquin “Chino” Roces said: “Grieve not. We gather here today not to bury a man but to celebrate an event – the planting of a seed – the seed of freedom and liberation.”