Cebu’s anti-Marcos movement

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Wednesday, February 26, 2014


IN HIS speech in Cebu City yesterday during the 28th anniversary of the 1986 Edsa People Power uprising, President Noynoy Aquino talked about a visit to Cebu the month after his father, former senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr., was assassinated on Aug. 21, 1983.

He described Cebu as seemingly already being freed from the clutches of the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos. Indeed, long before Edsa 1, Cebu was already considered “bastion of the opposition.”

Unfortunately, the narrative about Cebu’s stance against the Marcos dictatorship can no longer be told as vividly now because most of the leaders of the anti-Marcos struggle in Cebu have died. What we can gather now are mostly stories handed down by the elders to the next generation.

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The Cebuanos that surfaced in the nation’s political arena from the ’80s onward were mostly products of the anti-Marcos movement. And if one would create a timeline out of that struggle, one may have to begin with 1978, or when Marcos allowed the holding of elections for a stamp pad legislative body called the Interim Batasang Pambansa (IBP).

In Metro Manila, the opposition Laban fielded a powerhouse cast of candidates led by the still incarcerated Ninoy Aquino against the Kilusang Bagong Lipunan (KBL) led by then first lady Imelda Marcos. Marcos made sure no opposition bet would win in that rigged polls.

In Region 7, the KBL fielded big names in Cebu politics (an Osmeña, a Cuenco, a Durano, etc.) against the ragtag Pusyon Bisaya led by the charismatic Natalio “Talyux” Bacalso. Pusyon won all of the 13 seats as the administration’s attempt to rig the result of the count failed. When the IBP convened, only Pusyon floated in the sea of KBL lawmakers.

I was a young man when I listened to Talyux wave an Amnesty International report about the human rights abuses committed by the Marcos regime in his campaign speeches. In a way, the 1978 elections allowed the opposition to publicly expose the ills of the dictatorship.

It was during this period when Bacalso and other Pusyon stalwarts like the priest Jorge Kintanar, lawyers Hilario Davide Jr. Valentino Legaspi, Filemon Fernandez and Mariano Logarta and Bohol’s Bartolome Cabangbang carved their names in the fight against Marcos.

Davide would soar even higher after the Marcos regime was ousted in 1986. He is now in retirement while the other Pusyon stalwarts are either dead or have receded too far away from the limelight.

The next stage was the rise of street protests in Cebu in 1979 to the early eighties initiated by activists led by Fr. Rudy Romano, businessman Paul Rodriguez, lawyer Vicente Balbuena, professor Zenaida Uy, etc. Opposition politicians also jacked up their protest actions through so-called Freedom Marches led by former mayor Vicente del Rosario and some Pusyon stalwarts.

The killing of Ninoy Aquino fueled more protest actions that were done by both the left and local politicians, sometimes together and at other times separately.

Thousands participated in these rallies. It was during this time that Nenita “Inday Nita” Cortes Daluz and other radio personalities like lawyers Migs Enriquez and David Ompoc became popular.

Local political leaders like Antonio Cuenco and Emilio “Lito” Osmeña, who both ran under the KBL banner in 1978, and Lito’s brother John (who returned from exile in the United states), became active anti-Marcos politicians. They put up Partido Panaghiusa that won majority of the seats in Cebu in the elections for members of the regular Batasang Pambansa in 1984.

It was in the Batasan where Marcelo Fernan started his rise to national prominence. Other names: Regalado Maambong and Adelino Sitoy.

(khanwens@gmail.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on February 27, 2014.

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