By ARTUR ALLAD-IW
Grand old man of Philippine politics. Militant and Nationalist. Principled statesman. Brilliant legislator. Principled statesman. Civil libertarian.
The above are among the words used to describe the late Senator Lorenzo Tanada, especially remembering him on his 110th birth anniversary last August 10, 2009.
I also remember the late Sen. Tanada as the founding leader of then the newly founded militant alliance of multi-sectoral groups, the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan or Bayan. In Bayan’s founding after the assassination of Ninoy but before the EDSA Peoples Power Revolution, Gary Pekas, then a leader of an Igorot students group in Baguio City, brought us the news as he had attended the Bayan founding congress. He made us know that when Tanada was nominated as head of the organization, everyone of the participants stood in unanimous approval.
Moving the period forward, Tanada, who was in a wheelchair, was regularly seen in the Senate in 1991. That was the period where the senators – then headed by Jovito Salonga, and his son Wigberto was a member – deliberated in heated debate whether to extend the stay of the US Military Bases on Philippine soil.
After the military bases extension was rejected by the senators, the old man was received in standing ovation. Tanny, as he was fondly called has been consistently against the US military bases in the Philippines.
Last week, I was reminded of his birthday when I saw the statement on his grandson Erin (Lorenzo Tanada III’s posting on the face book. I wrote a short note about the grand old man.
Although I was too young then when the Kalinga and Bontoks opposed the World Bank-funded Chico River Dam Project of then Pres. Ferdinand Marcos, I was told by early Igorot fighters for Cordillera Self-Determination, of his involvement in the Chico issue. He and Sen. Jose Diokno, went into the heart of the Kalinga struggle against the Chico Dam. They witnessed the peoples’ anger and preparedness to fight at all cost against the administration then.
They met Macliing Dulag and other Kalinga papangat, who were then strengthening their villages’ bodong or peace pacts against the dam that they percieved would submerge their ancestral homeland.
In the meeting with the elders, Tanada and Diokno offered their legal services in a court remedy that could stop the dam project. The elders acknowledged the braveness and offer of the two brilliant lawyers but they did not believe that the system under Marcos would work.
I saw at least two black and white pictures of Tanada and Diokno with the Kalinga elders. One of my mentors in community journalism told me that the two lawyers removed their shirts as they were in a village near Chico River where it was very hot during day time.
I never met the grand old man during his life time. But I was able to meet his son Sen. Wigberto Tanada and his namesake grandson Lorenzo Tanada III. Sen. Wigberto, popularly known as Bobby, was supported by people’s organizations in the Cordillera when he ran for senator because of his pro-people track-record and for being the son of the grand old man. I was in the youth movement who campaigned for him in the region.
His grandson, Lorenzo, popularly known as Erin, was known to me since our student days in the National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP), an alliance of student councils and governments nationwide. This guy has the potential to follow the footsteps of his grandfather. And he can do that by taking the nationalist legacy of the grand old man. Wherever you are, happy 110th birth anniversary. # nordis.net