YBAÑEZ, Rolan Ylagan
Rolan spent a simple and quiet childhood in Naujan, Oriental Mindoro. His parents were government employees and the siblings were close to each other. In college, Rolan went to Manila and stayed with elder brother Larry in Cavite City. He liked tinkering with mechanical gadgets, and took a radio technician’s course on the side while taking up a college degree.
In college he was active with the Alpha Kappa Rho fraternity, which was then protesting various education issues such as high tuition fees and commercialization of the educational system. The fraternity joined protest rallies and marches, and were soon involved in protests against the martial law government itself.
Rolan was active in these protests, and he became a student organizer. He became so involved he stopped going to school. When asked why he was making such a sacrifice, Rolan liked to quote what was then a famous student battlecry popularized in the University of the Philippines’ student publication Philippine Collegian: “Kung di tayo kikilos, sino ang kikilos? Kung hindi ngayon, kalian?”
Rolan moved to Cebu, his father’s hometown, in 1982. He tried to integrate himself into Cebuano society, learning to speak Cebuano and mingling with the poor people in the province. He was in Cebu when Senator Benigno Aquino Jr. was assassinated, resulting in the explosion of people’s protest against the dictatorial regime.
Various groups emerged in Cebu, such as the Coalition Against People’s Persecution (CAPP), the Cebu Oust Marcos Movement for Nationalism and Democracy, and local chapters of national groups like the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN).
Rolan, who now called himself Levi, found himself a role as part of the secretariat of CAPP, assisting then Fr. Rudy Romano. Rolan helped organize CAPP chapters in the city’s various barangays and sitios. With this work, Rolan succeeded in recruiting for the growing number of protest actions in Cebu, providing and personally supervising the marshalls needed for these protest activities. He opened contacts with radio reporters and other professionals in the city, also interested in joining the protest activities.
By July 1985, Levi was deeply engaged in helping coordinate the protest activities in Cebu. From someone who had been working behind the scenes, so to speak, he had emerged dealing with high-profile individuals like Fr. Romano and Mrs. Zenaida Uy (chairperson of Professionals’ Forum and later Bayan). Unfortunately, this made him a vulnerable target of the military.
On July 11, 1985, witnesses saw a man that fit Rolan’s description walking in a street in downtown Cebu who was forced into a car that then sped away. The man was reported to have fought to free himself, creating a commotion that was noticed by several passersby. One witness said she saw Rolan drop several pieces of paper but these were retrieved by two men who then proceeded to board a public jeep.
Fr. Romano was also abducted two hours later.
His family in Mindoro travelled to Cebu to search for Levi in the military camps, to no avail. Rolan and his girlfriend Lilibeth had plans to get married that year.
The immediate suspects in Levi’s abduction were members of the Philippine Constabulary’s Regional Security Unit (RSU) and the Military Intelligence Group.
Fr. Romano and Levi’s abduction drew loud and angry protests around the country, especially among religious groups. Friends and comrades in the protest movement organized vigils and letter campaigns, and religious and human rights groups all over the world wrote letters to the Philippine government to press for justice for the two activists. The Philippine Supreme Court ordered the military to produce the two missing persons, and no less than Pope John Paul II sent in his own appeal. The two activists remain missing today.