Profiles of Courage

JOSE VIRGILIO “JV” L. BAUTISTA

Jose Virgilio “JV” Bautista is a human rights lawyer with a string of achievements in advocacy work that traces back to his student days at the University of the Philippines.

On 17 January 1981, Ferdinand Marcos formally lifted martial law through Proclamation No. 2045 on the grounds that anarchy had been “successfully checked,” and that the rebellion had been “substantially contained.” The martial law period was marred with the violent repression of dissent, amounting to extrajudicial killings, enforced disapperances, torture, and other forms of harassment targeting civilians under suspicion of subversion or mere criticism of the government. A genuine lifting of martial law would have manifested itself in the restoration of the democratic rights to organize and protest without fear, but Marcos’ true intentions were viewed with suspicion. Following the proclamation, the League of Filipino Students (LFS) carried out a series of protests to challenge the government to follow through with its word, and to once again allow the formation of organizations, student councils, student publications, and protests, and to stop the militarization of campuses. This was carried out in a continuing climate of fear.[1] No proclamation could wipe out a culture of impunity overnight.

Bautista, who was then a second-year student at the UP College of Law and the National President of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP), was among these students calling for legitimate reforms.  After about a year of continuous protests, the government, through the Department of National Defense (DND), agreed to hold a dialogue with the student leaders on 21 October 1981. Representing the students were LFS Chairperson Sonia Soto, Youth for Nationalism and Democracy Chairperson Manny Ceneta, and Bautista, who was representing the CEGP.[2] This landmark event became the basis of what is now known as the 1981 Soto-Enrile Accord, in which the DND agreed to pull out all police detachments inside all campuses in the country and guaranteed the non-interference of peaceful student protests. The DND also committed to investigate police and security personnel allegedly involved in manhandling or injuring student protesters, and to prosecute all those found culpable.[3] This document served as the DND’s written obligation to desist from unsolicited acts of repression within campuses, an obligation that stands to this day. By reclaiming the right to organize and protest within their campuses, the students were also able to pave the way for countless other protest actions that brought back the legalization of student councils, student organizations, and campus newspapers.[4]

In 1985, Bautista was arrested with fellow activist Lean Alejandro while negotiating on behalf of student demonstrators.[5] The following year, while the events of the People Power Revolution were unfolding, Bautista was in Geneva, Switzerland with Sr. Mariani Dimaranan, SFIC of the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP), reporting on the human rights situation in the Philippines at the 42nd Session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.[6] This was the beginning of a career in the defense of human rights; he served the TFDP as Chief Legal Counsel and Board of Trustees member from 1992 to 1996, and became a member of the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) in 1995.[7] In more recent years, he has been involved in representing mass organizations in Congress;[8] he teaches law and continues to provide counsel for human rights cases.

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[1] Sonia Soto, “Sonia Soto on end of UP-DND pact, student activism,” interview by Bonz Magsambol, Rappler Talk, January 19, 2021, https://www.facebook.com/rapplerdotcom/videos/119029396689284.

[2] Ibid.; “Who’s JV?,” JV Bautista: Defending the Filipino (blog), accessed May 31, 2021, https://jvbautista.wordpress.com/about/; Juan Ponce Enrile, letter to Ms. Sonia Soto, Mr. Manny Ceneta, and Mr. JV Bautista, published in the University of the Philippines Gazette, Vol. XII, No. 4 (Oct.-Dec. 1981): 110-1. Released online at https://osu.up.edu.ph/wp-content/uploads/gazette/1981.pdf.

[3] Enrile, letter to Soto, Ceneta, and Bautista.

[4] Eimor Santos, “Despite abrogation of UP-DND pact, this 1981 agreement still bars police and military from campuses, former student leaders say,” CNN Philippines, January 19, 2021, https://cnnphilippines.com/news/2021/1/19/UP-DND-pact-Soto-Enrile-agreement-.html?fbclid=IwAR3DQKuwcZ79ug0G1LmKLUmr7YxAmpjrl5f9pgAMw7xqOl6hBQxR3OoWHZw.

[5] “‘The line of fire is a place of honor’: Activism is not a crime,” Philippine Daily Inquirer, June 30, 2020, https://opinion.inquirer.net/131293/the-line-of-fire-is-a-place-of-honor-activism-is-not-a-crime.

[6] JV Bautista, “Reflections on EDSA I,” JV Bautista: Defending the Filipino (blog), February 22, 2010, https://jvbautista.wordpress.com/reflections-on-edsa-i/.

[7] “Who’s JV?”

[8] “Roster of Philippine Legislators,” House of Representatives, accessed May 31, 2021, https://www.congress.gov.ph/legislators/?v=members.

Atty. JV Bautista in 2015, during his stint as the Secretary-General of the United Nationalist Alliance. Photo retrieved from Radyo La Verdad (cropped) in https://www.radyolaverdad.com/magiging-running-mate-ni-vp-binay-maaring-ihayag-sa-susunod-na-buwan/.
Atty. JV Bautista in 2015, during his stint as the Secretary-General of the United Nationalist Alliance. Photo retrieved from Radyo La Verdad (cropped) in https://www.radyolaverdad.com/magiging-running-mate-ni-vp-binay-maaring-ihayag-sa-susunod-na-buwan/.

BAUTISTA, JOSE VIRGILIO “JV” L.

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