August 14, 2008

Ka Tanny’s legacy shall live

The first and last time I spoke with Senator Lorenzo “Ka Tanny” M. Tañada was in 1980 in Bontoc, Mountain Province. UP Professor Randy David introduced me to him. He was with a group going around the country to get the pulse of the people as the anti-dictatorship movement in the cities started to gain ground. I was in awe of the Grand Old Man of the Opposition but he listened intently as I told him about my experiences as a rural health doctor among the indigenous peoples of the Cordillera.

After that I only saw him from a distance as when he, his son Bobby Tañada, Director Behn Cervantes and other prominent figures were being hosed down and tear-gassed at the Welcome Rotunda; I could only watch helplessly from the upper floors of the hospital across that historic site of innumerable rally dispersals. I was then working more clandestinely and could not join much less be at the forefront of such protest actions.

Ka Tanny was elected the founding chairperson of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) in 1985 while I joined the alliance only some ten years later. I never had the privilege of working closely with him unlike the young activist leaders of the time such as Bayan’s martyred Secretary General Lean Alejandro. So when Congressman Erin Tañada asked me if I could write a piece about this great Filipino nationalist and statesman, his lolo, on the occasion of Ka Tanny’s 110th birth anniversary, I was a bit fazed. I had no anecdotes of my own to recount, no fond memories to recall.

Then I remembered Senator Bobby Tañada remarking to me wistfully some years ago, after he had just spoken at the national convention of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines, the decades-old association of campus journalists nationwide, that the youth no longer seemed to know who Ka Tanny was and what was his legacy to the Filipino nation.

It is a fact that the truly towering political leaders of this country, nationalists and democrats all – Claro M. Recto, Jose W. Diokno and Lorenzo M. Tañada – have not received the kind of honor and emulation they deserve and through which their legacy can be preserved and promoted to the next generations. An indication that we still have a very long way to go to realize precisely the causes they fought for.

BAYAN rendered a simple yet heartfelt tribute to Ka Tanny last August 10 at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani. It has devoted a special place in its website to celebrate his lifetime of service to the cause of freedom, justice and democracy for the Filipino people. A related website uploaded tributes to him and photos of the commemoration.

Ka Tanny’s legacy is critically important and relevant to our people’s struggle to freely chart our own destiny without interference from the US and other foreign powers; to establish a truly democratic government; and to develop a progressive economy that will lay the basis for social justice and lasting peace.

He is best remembered for being the leading and uniting figure in the 14-year struggle to end the fascist dictatorship of Marcos; for exposing what he called “the monumental folly” of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant and leading the historic Welga ng Bayan (People’s Strike) against it; and for making the clarion call to reject the RP-US Bases Agreement and free the country of foreign military troops and bases once and for all.

He untiringly fought for honesty and integrity in public office, setting himself up, in his twenty-four years in the Senate, as a sterling example. Under martial rule, he took up the cudgels for the political prisoners and innumerable victims of human rights violations at the hands of the military and paramilitary forces. In his ripe, old age Ka Tanny steadfastly marched in the streets to militantly assert civil liberties and uphold the people’s democratic rights.

He epitomized principled unity within the anti-dictatorship movement: his stature, wisdom and prestige as well as his humility and openness to contrary views served to rein in others’ ambitions, pride, deep-seated prejudices and self-defeating sectarianism. His statesmanship was displayed in his recognition of varying arenas and forms of struggle that were necessary to topple the dictatorship and establish a genuine democracy.

Most of all, Ka Tanny had an abiding faith in the Filipino people, especially the masses of workers, peasants and the student youth, that they, properly awakened and organized, would rise up against their exploiters and oppressors and use their power to usher in real and necessary change.

Faced with the current illegitimate government of Mrs. Gloria Arroyo, one that is extreme in its subservience to US imperialism, its hunger for power, its corrupt and exploitative ways and its bloody suppression of the people, Ka Tanny’s principles and shining example should continue to enlighten and inspire Filipino patriots and freedom fighters everywhere, in this generation and the next.#


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