Profiles of Courage

Wigberto Tañada Sr.

Permit me, finally, to pay my personal homage to a man under whose caring arms I grew up to learn love of country above self, a man who spent a lifetime of untiring struggle for nationalism and independence, a man whose dream of freedom for his people may soon be realized by the vote we are to take, a man whom I am deeply proud to call Tatay (Father),” was how Wigberto “Ka Bobby” Tañada, opened one of his Senate speeches, honoring his father, with whom he fought alongside during Martial Law and whose principles he emulated.

The son of the eminent “Grand Old Man of Philippine Politics” Lorenzo “Ka Tanny” Tañada, Ka Bobby inherited his father’s strong nationalist conviction and love for the Filipinos, and persevered to become a lawyer.[1] Ka Bobby studied in Ateneo de Manila University and Manuel L. Quezon University for his law degree, passing the bar exam and earning his Master of Laws degree from Harvard University afterwards.[2] When the increased militarism of the Marcos administration culminated in the declaration of Martial Law, Tañada, now a full-fledged human rights lawyer, joined his father in opposing the despot and his iron-fisted rule.[3]

Human rights lawyers were at the forefront of the resistance movement, and they worked endlessly to take up cases free of charge of the countless Filipinos unwarrantedly arrested, detained and tortured by the regime. They defended clients with the caveat that they may also find themselves joining their clients in detention. They fought nigh unwinnable legal battles in courts presided by fearful judges.[4] Victims were primarily the poor, the political prisoners, the indigenous peoples, and the student activists facing trumped-up charges of subversion, illegal possession of firearms or similar offenses. Lawyers formed groups and closely worked together to pursue the cases of their clients and to free them from detainment.[5]

One of the leading groups of the time was the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG), founded by Ka Tanny along with Senators Jose Diokno and Joker Arroyo, which Ka Bobby promptly joined. Ka Bobby also joined his father in the Movement of Attorneys for the Advancement of Brotherhood, Nationalism, and Integrity (MABINI). While handling the cases of his clients, Ka Bobby personally witnessed bodies of deceased leaders and farmers being exhumed as they were suspected of being communist rebels or sympathizers.[6]

Their efforts did not wane in the face of death. Well into the 1980s, the father-and-son duo sustained their fight, even outside the hallowed halls of court. One of the more famous moments in the resistance movement occurred in 1984 at the Welcome Rotonda in España. Protesters were marching towards Malacañang linked in arms when armed forces assaulted them with stones and batons, drenched them with water cannons, and blinded them with tear-gas every time they tried to advance. A photograph captured Ka Bobby helping up Ka Tanny along with human rights activist Ed Garcia, helping up the father, as they were being harassed by the police and soldiers. The protesters, led by the Tañadas, Garcia, Rene Saguisag, Butz Aquino, and Tito Guingona, among many other figures, all helped each other and stood their ground and took the attacks head on. It was the soldiers who eventually relented and lowered down their weapons.[7]

After Marcos was overthrown, Ka Bobby carried on with what he loved most, fighting for the Filipinos. He won a seat in the Philippine senate where he championed the cause of the public. Continuing the fight his father started, Ka Bobby was one of the so-called “Magnificent 12,” the senators who stood their ground and voted against the renewal of the RP-US Bases Treaty in 1991. He found himself backed by long-time allies such as Saguisag, Aquino, Guingona, Aquilino Pimentel Jr, Sotero Laurel and Jovito Salonga, with whom he had marched the streets in protests during Martial Law.[8]

Ka Bobby served as Senator from 1987 to 1995, succeeding Salonga to become the president of the Liberal Party in 1993. He then served as the Representative of Quezon’s 4th District from 1995 to 2001.[9] For his pristine record in governance and public service, he was one of the awardees of The Outstanding Filipino (TOFIL) awards in 1999.[10] After his political stint, Ka Bobby has continued to speak out against injustice and repression, warning the people of the maladies of society that has plagued the country since — and even before Martial Law. He has likewise continued to reach out to the Filipinos, imploring them to never yield in their resistance today against oppression and suppression.[11][12]

On 24 October 2016, Ka Bobby was elected as the chairperson of the Bantayog ng mga Bayani Foundation, an institution dedicated to preserve and honor the memory of hundreds of heroes and martyrs of Martial Law.[13] It has built and maintained a museum and library containing countless reference and learning materials as well as hosting activities to help and encourage people to learn and understand the history of Martial Law and the struggle against repression. It also erected the Wall of Remembrance, a towering granite monument inscribed with the names of said heroes and martyrs, in Quezon City in 1992.[14] Ka Bobby is still the current chairperson today.

For their endeavor generations in the making to protect and assist the Filipinos, the Tañadas have etched their place in the annals of history. “Ka Bobby” Tañada, for his fierce and tireless pursuit of defending human rights from withering, is recognized as one of the motu proprio victims of Martial Law.

References:

Bantayog ng mga Bayani. 2017. “Bantayog ng mga Bayani Foundation announces the election of Senator Wigberto E. Tañada as the new chairperson of its Board of Trustees.” Facebook. October 24, 2016. Accessed April 27, 2021. https://www.facebook.com/bantayogngmgabayani/photos/a.334152743271869/1255871414433326.

___________________. “About.” Bantayog ng mga Bayani. Accessed April 27, 2021. http://www.bantayog.org/about/

Coronel Ferrer, Miriam. “Tribute to Ka Bobby Tañada.” ABS-CBN News. August 21, 2009. Accessed April 27, 2021. https://news.abs-cbn.com/views-and-analysis/08/20/09/tribute-ka-bobby-ta%C3%B1ada-miriam-coronel-ferrer.

“Diokno, Jose W.” Bantayog ng mga Bayani. October 15, 2015. Accessed April 27, 2021. http://www.bantayog.org/diokno-jose-w.

Garcia, Ed. “Lorenzo Tañada undaunted in line of fire.” Rappler. October 8, 2017. Accessed April 27, 2021. https://r3.rappler.com/thought-leaders/184586-lorenzo-tanada-undaunted-line-of-fire.

La Viña, Tony. “Reinventing resistance in the COVID era.” Manila Standard. August 4, 2020. Accessed April 27, 2021. https://www.manilastandard.net/opinion/columns/eagle-eyes-by-tony-la-vina/330391/reinventing-resistance-in-the-covid-era.html.

____________. “Marathon run in the mud.” August 18, 2020. Accessed April 27, 2021. https://manilastandard.net/mobile/article/331671.

Robles, Raissa. Marcos Martial Law: Never Again. Quezon City: Filipinos for a Better Philippines, 2016.

Saguisag, Rene. “Sept. 21 a lie; a tale of 3 Mrs. Saguisags.” Philippine Daily Inquirer. September 28, 2014. Accessed April 27, 2021. https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/641142/sept-21-a-lie-a-tale-of-3-mrs-saguisags.

The Laureates: The Outstanding Filipino – TOFIL. 2021. “TOFIL Laureates 1999.” Facebook. January 10, 2021. Accessed April 27, 2021. https://www.facebook.com/thetofillaureates/posts/100644902010477.

[1] Miriam Coronel Ferrer, “Tribute to Ka Bobby Tañada,” ABS-CBN News, August 21, 2009, accessed April 27, 2021, https://news.abs-cbn.com/views-and-analysis/08/20/09/tribute-ka-bobby-ta%C3%B1ada-miriam-coronel-ferrer.

[2] Bantayog ng mga Bayani, 2017, “Bantayog ng mga Bayani Foundation announces the election of Senator Wigberto E. Tañada as the new chairperson of its Board of Trustees,” Facebook, October 24, 2016, accessed April 27, 2021, https://www.facebook.com/bantayogngmgabayani/photos/a.334152743271869/1255871414433326.

[3] Coronel Ferrer, “Tribute to Ka Bobby Tañada.”

[4] Raissa Robles, Marcos Martial Law: Never Again (Quezon City: Filipinos for a Better Philippines, 2016), x, 135.

[5] Rene Saguisag, “Sept. 21 a lie; a tale of 3 Mrs. Saguisags,” Philippine Daily Inquirer, September 28, 2014, accessed April 27, 2021, https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/641142/sept-21-a-lie-a-tale-of-3-mrs-saguisags; “Diokno, Jose W.,” Bantayog ng mga Bayani, October 15, 2015, accessed April 27, 2021, http://www.bantayog.org/diokno-jose-w.

[6] Coronel Ferrer, “Tribute to Ka Bobby Tañada.”

[7] Ed Garcia, “Lorenzo Tañada undaunted in line of fire,” Rappler, October 8, 2017, accessed April 27, 2021, https://r3.rappler.com/thought-leaders/184586-lorenzo-tanada-undaunted-line-of-fire. Other protesters included Cory Aquino, Chino Roces, Etta Rosales,

[8] Coronel Ferrer, “Tribute to Ka Bobby Tañada.”

[9] Ibid.

[10] The Laureates: The Outstanding Filipino – TOFIL. 2021. “TOFIL Laureates 1999.” Facebook. January 10, 2021. Accessed April 27, 2021. https://www.facebook.com/thetofillaureates/posts/100644902010477.

[11] Tony La Viña, “Reinventing resistance in the COVID era,” Manila Standard, August 4, 2020, accessed April 27, 2021. https://www.manilastandard.net/opinion/columns/eagle-eyes-by-tony-la-vina/330391/reinventing-resistance-in-the-covid-era.html.

[12] Tony La Viña, “Marathon run in the mud,” August 18, 2020, accessed April 27, 2021, https://manilastandard.net/mobile/article/331671.

[13] Bantayog ng mga Bayani, “Bantayog ng mga Bayani Foundation announces the election of Senator Wigberto E. Tañada as the new chairperson of its Board of Trustees.

[14] Bantayog ng mga Bayani, “About,” Bantayog ng mga Bayani, accessed April 27, 2021, http://www.bantayog.org/about.

Lorenzo “Ka Tanny” Tañada’s name is etched on the Wall.

Wigberto Tañada as he accompanied his son Lorenzo “Erin” Tañada III in filing the latter’s application for candidacy on October 16, 2018. Photo taken by Avito C. Dalan. Cropped and retrieved from Philippine News Agency at https://www.pna.gov.ph/photos/38064.

Tañada, Wigberto Ebarle Sr.

Birthday: August 13, 1934

Parents: Lorenzo “Ka Tanny” Tañada and Expedita Ebarle-Tañada

Spouse: Azucena Reyes

Children: 4 (Wigberto Jr., Lorenzo III, Ma. Teresa, and Cristina)

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