Last August, Senator Teofisto TG Guingona III gave a powerful and impassioned speech praising heroes who fought against the Marcos tyranny, including two renowned figures of the underground left.
On Saturday, the underground left tried to kill Senator Guingona’s mother.
She’s 78 years old.
The attack on the elderly mayor of Gingoog City underscored the tragic, deadly turn in the history of a movement once portrayed as the defender of the weak.
In fact, even TG Guingona’s dad, Tito Guingona, a veteran street parliamentarian before he became vice president, appeared to acknowledge the New People Army’s storied past even as he lamented how the underground left has lost its way.
The UG left’s ideology, he said according to a television news report, “seems to have been lost… It need not have happened. Two lives were lost.”
Ruth Guingona survived but her driver and security escort were killed in the ambush. They had just come from a fiesta.
Who could blame TG Guingona from blasting the NPA for attacking “an elderly and innocent woman who is already bowing out of politics” and for killing “loyal employees of long standing in our family’s home in Mindanao?”
From Robin Hood is the underground left morphing into the thugs of ‘Boyz ‘N the Hood?’
Meanwhile, leaders of the UG left have been scrambling to explain and apologize. That’s a good sign. For this undoubtedly was a mindboggling act of political arrogance and violence.
An even better sign is that there’s more talk of advancing ongoing peace talks and ending the decades-old war that has taken the lives of some of the country’s brightest and most promising young men and women.
The biggest irony in this tragedy is that the Guingonas know the stories of these young Filipinos. And they even celebrate their courage and bravery.
Tito Guingona’s book ‘The Gallant Filipino’ featured short biographies of unsung Filipino heroes. One of them was the revolutionary activist Edgar Jopson.
In his privilege speech honoring the late Senator Lorenzo Tañada, TG Guingona also mentioned Jopson calling him “my fellow Atenean.” He paid tribute to another Atenean, the poet Eman Lacaba. Both joined the underground left and died as martyrs of the fight against dictatorship.
“When the martial law regime deprived us of rights and liberties, scores of Filipinos became heroes,” Guingona continued, also paying tribute to Rolando Olalia, Alex Boncayao and Lean Alejandro, as well as Chino Roces, Evelio Javier and Pepe Diokno.
“Those years yielded widespread resistance among lovers of freedom and democracy,” he said.
“The intelligentsia and common tao, the rich and those who toil, they joined hands to fight for freedom in the hills and the streets. Dapat maisalaysay nang paulit-ulit ang kanilang laban. The story of their fight should be told over and over again to warn future dictators that Filipinos will fight for democracy, freedom and our rights no matter how long it takes.”
A noble and important goal, especially for us who were part of that fight.
But then again, telling these stories, while an important task, can also be a challenging one – especially when it comes to dealing with forces and personalities who want to tell a tired, old story, who cling to the belief that only one group, only one ideology can chart the right course for the nation.
For it’s also become increasingly clear, that the stories that heroes like Edgar Jopson and Emmanuel Lacaba began have been twisted and mangled by those who would consider an elderly woman a legitimate political target.
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