“We organized ourselves… [It was] useless to go to practice law. There were no more real judicial liberties… If you knew the right person, you win; if you don’t, you lose, and you lose in a very dangerous way,” lamented Teofisto “Tito” Guingona Jr. on the state of the judicial processes of the Martial Law years, and why it prodded him to help organize the opposition. Though a human rights lawyer, Guingona was more well-known for joining the ranks of protesters alongside other politicians to oppose the abuses of the Marcos regime, becoming one of the leaders of the entire movement.
Guingona studied at the Ateneo de Manila University, where he took up law and economics while also teaching history and economics. During his law studies in Ateneo, he became acquainted with two personalities that would become key players in Philippine politics during the Martial Law years for both sides: Juan Ponce Enrile and Joker Arroyo. He later became Governor of the Development Bank of the Philippines and President of the Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines. With his background in law and economics, Guingona grew as someone fiercely averse to corruption and injustice.
In 1971, he was elected as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention, where he clashed with Marcos, as the latter was hoping to run again for presidency past his term limit with the aid of constitutional changes. The delegates allied with Marcos succeeded in lobbying a change of government to a parliamentary one, allowing Marcos to extend his stay in power. However, diplomat Eduardo Quintero, out of conscience, dropped a revelation in May 1972 that he and some of his fellow delegates were being paid off by Imelda Marcos. “To get the whole thing off his chest in the interest of truth,” as he put it, Quintero detailed the payments he received from certain delegates, coming from “the First Lady.” This revitalized the fight in Guingona and other convention delegates.
Marcos declaring Martial Law in September 1972, however, tempered the impact of the so-called Quintero exposé. The administration went against the foremost opposition delegates, which were Guingona, Bren Guiao, Ernesto Rondon, Jose Concepcion Jr., Jose Nolledo, Alejandro Lichauco, Natalio Bacalso, Jose Mari Velez, Napoleon Rama and Antonio Araneta Jr. In the years that followed, many of those arrested were released without charges ever being filed. Guingona was released alongside other high-profile personalities such as journalist Chino Roces, politicians Lorenzo Tañada, Francisco “Soc” Rodrigo and Jovito Salonga. They promptly re-organized as part of the opposition movement.
As part of his opposition, Guingona founded SANDATA and was part of Bansang Nagkakaisa sa Diwa at Layunin (BANDILA), two mass-based organizations aligned towards precipitating social and economic reforms. In 1978, he joined the opposition slate Lakas ng Bayan (LABAN) formed by the foremost Marcos critic Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. The pro-Marcos lineup, however, swept all 21 available seats in the Manila area and also won decisively in other parts of the country. Protests erupted in April contesting the result of the controversial elections. The administration responded as police forces commandeered six buses to load nearly all protesters, to be taken to Fort Bonifacio. They were supposedly being arrested for illegal assembly and sedition, as Marcos began alleging that communist and subversive elements haven infiltrated LABAN.
Guingona was one of those arrested with his wife Ruth de Lara, alongside fellow protesters Lorenzo Tañada, Soc Rodrigo, Joker Arroyo, as well as fellow candidates Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel Jr. and Ernesto Rondon. His son, Teofisto “TG” Guingona III, attest to spending time in a jail cell with his parents along with many critics of Marcos, for most parts of his youth. Guingona remained active as part of the opposition movement in the 1980s.
After the deposition of Marcos, Guingona chaired the Commission on Audit before winning a seat in the Senate in 1987 under the Aquino administration. He displayed his non-tolerance of graft and corruption serving these positions. He served as the Secretary of Justice under the Ramos administration and was reelected as Senator in 1998, serving under President Joseph Estrada. Estrada was a long-time friend of Guingona. While Guingona was initially supportive of his compadre, Guingona eventually led calls of his resignation amid evidence of corruption. On October 5, 2000, Guingona delivered the famous “I accuse” privilege speech, setting off the chain of events that led to EDSA II and the ouster of Estrada. “I accuse Joseph Ejercito Estrada, President of the Republic of the Philippines, of betraying public trust,” declared Guingona.
Similarly, while Guingona was selected by subsequent President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as her Vice President in 2001, he did not back down whenever he disagreed with her, a testament to his predisposition of upholding his own principles and beliefs over honoring allegiances and loyalty. In 2005, he led a prayer rally against the administration citing the same elements for which he condemned Marcos and Estrada. Though violently dispersed, they continued their cries for concrete changes in the Macapagal-Arroyo administration amid perceived corruption and repression.
It is evident that Guingona’s spirit of activism did not subside or fade with age. He has written extensively about his life and the Filipinos, with focus on the themes of resistance and resilience, such as Laban: Voice of Resistance, The Gallant Filipino, and Fight for the Filipinos, released in 1987, 1991, and 2008, respectively. Guingona today still maintains his reputation of being a fierce opponent and critic of graft and corruption, a reputation he has long held on to from his days fighting against the same during the Marcos dictatorship. “If you knew the right person, you win; if you don’t, you lose,” Guingona once said of the situation during the strongman’s regime; Guingona was just the right person to help the resistance movement ultimately triumph against tyranny.
Abaya, Hernando J. The CLU Story: Fifty Years of Struggle for Civil Liberties. Quezon City: New Day Publishers, 1987.
Guingona, Teofisto Jr. Martin’s Mancave. By Martin Andanar. June 17, 2016. Accessed May 27, 2021. https://youtu.be/u_6lwf4qlVo.
“Guingona III: Rally dispersal form of tyranny, oppression.” Philippine Star. October 16, 2005. Accessed May 27, 2021. https://www.philstar.com/headlines/2005/10/16/302023/guingona-iii-rally-dispersal-form-tyranny-oppression.
Inquirer Research. “What Went Before: Guingona, Estrada sons like fathers.” Philippine Daily Inquirer. February 19, 2014. Accessed May 27, 2021. https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/579028/what-went-before-guingona-estrada-sons-like-fathers.
Mathews, Jay. “Philippine Police Arrest Hundreds To Block Protest.” Washington Post. April 10, 1978. Accessed May 27, 1978. https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/1978/04/10/philippine-police-arrest-hundreds-to-block-protest/eee6d6d5-8852-42e0-a182-6cb6aae3c48b.
Office of the Vice President. “Teofisto Guingona, Jr.” Office of the Vice President. 2002. Accessed May 27, 2021. http://ovp.50webs.com/bio/tg.htm.
Press Release. “Statement of Senator TG Guingona on the 40th Anniversary of Martial Law.” Senate of the Philippines. September 2012. Accessed May 27, 2021. http://legacy.senate.gov.ph/press_release/2012/0920_guingona1.asp
Robles, Raissa. Marcos Martial Law: Never Again. Quezon City: Filipinos for a Better Philippines, 2016.
Senate of the Philippines. “Teofisto T. Guingona Jr.” Senate of the Philippines. 2002. Accessed May 27, 2021. http://legacy.senate.gov.ph/senators/former_senators/teofisto_guingona_jr.htm.
 Office of the Vice President, “Teofisto Guingona, Jr,” Office of the Vice President, 2002, accessed May 27, 2021, http://ovp.50webs.com/bio/tg.htm.
 Teofisto Guingona Jr., Martin’s Mancave, by Martin Andanar, June 17, 2016, accessed May 27, 2021, https://youtu.be/u_6lwf4qlVo. Both Arroyo and Enrile continued their law studies at the University of the Philippines Diliman, while Guingona continued his studies at the Ateneo.
 Office of the Vice President, “Teofisto Guingona, Jr.”; Senate of the Philippines, “Teofisto T. Guingona Jr.,” Senate of the Philippines, 2002, accessed May 27, 2021, http://legacy.senate.gov.ph/senators/former_senators/teofisto_guingona_jr.htm.
 Raissa Robles, Marcos Martial Law: Never Again (Quezon City: Filipinos for a Better Philippines, 2016), 34. Hernando J. Abaya,. The CLU Story: Fifty Years of Struggle for Civil Liberties (Quezon City: New Day Publishers, 1987), 115-16. The Marcoses categorically denied the accusations and tapped the NBI to persecute Quintero. The public largely believed and supported Quintero until the prelude to Martial Law slowly turned the tides of the country’s political affairs.
 Teofisto Guingona Jr., Martin’s Mancave.
Jay Mathews, “Philippine Police Arrest Hundreds To Block Protest,” Washington Post, April 10, 1978, accessed May 27, 1978, https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/1978/04/10/philippine-police-arrest-hundreds-to-block-protest/eee6d6d5-8852-42e0-a182-6cb6aae3c48b.
 Press Release, “Statement of Senator TG Guingona on the 40th Anniversary of Martial Law,” Senate of the Philippines, September 2012, accessed May 27, 2021, http://legacy.senate.gov.ph/press_release/2012/0920_guingona1.asp.
 Senate of the Philippines, “Teofisto T. Guingona Jr.,”
 Teofisto Guingona Jr., Martin’s Mancave; Inquirer Research, “What Went Before: Guingona, Estrada sons like fathers,” Philippine Daily Inquirer, February 19, 2014, accessed May 27, 2021, https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/579028/what-went-before-guingona-estrada-sons-like-fathers.
 “Guingona III: Rally dispersal form of tyranny, oppression,” Philippine Star, October 16, 2005, accessed May 27, 2021, https://www.philstar.com/headlines/2005/10/16/302023/guingona-iii-rally-dispersal-form-tyranny-oppression.
“That is one sad development I keep hearing about [the youth today]. No consciousness about [Martial Law], how it was during those dark years,” laments Rene Saguisag about the perception of Martial Law today. “For one to take part in an electoral process in a dictatorship is to help forge the links in your own chains,” he also warns of the dangers of complicity of the citizenry amid tyranny.
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