MANILA, Philippines – They fought against the Marcos dictatorship when they were students at the University of the Philippines Diliman, but they fought harder against each other in student politics.
Thirty years ago, it was nearly impossible for Commission on Human Rights (CHR) chairperson Chito Gascon and lawyer Susan Villanueva to cross paths in protests let alone hold a joint press conference.
In 1985, Gascon was the standard-bearer of the moderate student political party Nagkaisang Tugon. Villanueva was was one of the leaders of the radical party Sandigan ng Mag-aaral para sa Sambayanan (SAMASA). Gascon’s Tugon defeated Villanueva’s SAMASA in a landslide victory that ended the radical party’s dominance in UP Diliman politics since the student council was restored in 1980.
“Nakaisa!” Gascon recalled how his rivals mocked Nagkaisang Tugon’s win. But on Friday, April 15, the bitter rivals breathed the same air in the same room to unite against the vice presidential bid of Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr, son of the dictator they helped overthrow in 1986.
Other former rival student leaders who attended the press event were Jose "Pepe" Alcantara, the 1981-1982 chairman of the University Student Council (USC), who was detained without charges by the Marcos military; Lidy Nacpil, SAMASA stalwart and widow of Lean Alejandro; and JJ Soriano, founder of Tugon.
They were joined by former chairpersons, vice-chairpersons and councilors of the University Student Council and college councils in UP Diliman.
The 80s activists called on their fellow UP alumni to "unite and oppose the Marcoses", urging them to sign a petition posted on Change.org. Their calls included the following:
- Condemn the attempts to whitewash the Marcos regime’s vicious violation of human rights, its abuse of power and its plunder of the economy;
- Support all efforts to ensure that all generations learn the real facts and lessons from the Marcos dictatorship to ensure it never happen again;
- Call on fellow UP alumni, especially those involved in the 2016 elections, to take a strong stand against the abuses of the Marcos dictatorship; and
- Oppose and resist any attempt to give Ferdinand E. Marcos a hero’s burial at Libingan
"This unity reflects a deep understanding of the need to take a common stand in this critical juncture in history. To address the needs of the times, we have to set aside our differences to prevent a great injustice from happening – the return of the Marcoses to the center of political life without remorse and without reparation," Villanueva told Rappler.
The petition noted that after the declaration of martial law, "student councils, publications, and organizations were banned, free expression and assembly were brutally suppressed, and student leaders and activists were arrested and often tortured while detained without charges."
"We have to acknowledge the fact that there were human rights violations during Martial Law," Gascon told Rappler, stressing that he's concerned about attempts by Senator Marcos and his supporters to revise history.