From the start, martial law kept Alex Orcullo busy, denouncing military abuses and defending people’s rights.
Upon its declaration in September 1972, he led a group of young people in marching around the small town of Padada singing “Pilipinas Kong Mahal.” Days afterward, they were arrested and detained at the constabulary barracks.
He had been an outstanding student, and after graduating from college he went on to pursue a master’s degree in economics. At age 24 he was asked to become the president of St. Michael’s College in his hometown, during which time he focused on the development of more young leaders. He was a professional manager with a particular expertise in running housing projects. He also opened and ran a private school.
Orcullo initiated the publication of Mindaweek, edited Mindanao Currents and wrote for the San Pedro Express. His daily radio commentaries reached a wide audience. He was fearless in his stance against repression and tyranny, calling on the people to realize their pathetic situation and to struggle to be free.
His social and political involvement included chairing the LIHUK Mindanao and the Hukom Demokrasya ng Liga ng Ekonomistang Aktibo sa Dabaw. He served as secretary general of the Coalition for Restoration of Democracy in Mindanao and political officer of the Makabayang Alyansa.
He was even barangay captain in his village, Mandug, situated at the outskirts of Davao City. It was a highly militarized area, with armed men in masks roaming during the night. The military and their “assets,” the residents reported, were soliciting information about Orcullo.
But Mandug was “a well-organized community…able to project collective pressures on the local government and military.” In September 1984, Orcullo was arrested and brought to Camp Panacan. A hundred male civilians from Mandug gathered together and proceeded to the military camp and refused to leave until their barangay captain was released.
On the day of his 38th birthday, October 19, 1984, while Orcullo was driving home with his wife and youngest son (2 ½ years old), they were accosted by armalite-wielding men in uniform in barangay Tigatto. He was ordered to leave the car and subjected to a body search. His arms raised, he was ordered to walk. He was then shot from behind, sustaining 13 gunshot wounds. One “Kapitan Inggo”, known to head a paramilitary group calling itself Philippine Liberation Organization, later claimed responsibility for the murder.
The last editorial Alex Orcullo wrote before he was killed was entitled “Why Rage?” In it, he urged his countrymen to rage against oppression and tyranny and to fight injustice without compromise. It was to be his parting message.