The legend lives PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 14 November 2018 12:17



“Democracy must be restored and it is our duty to help even if in the process we are jailed, humiliated, or shot!”

These were the words of the Great Cesar C. Climaco uttered on June 10, 1980 after he anchored the Concerned Citizens Aggrupation (CCA) to an overwhelming victory against the vaunted, well-oiled, well-funded Kilusang Bagong Lipunan (KBL). Four days after his assassination on November 14, 1984, The New York Times ran an editorial captioned: “Death Squads Cross the Pacific.” It said:

“Not one but three treacherous murders: first Benigno Aquino, then Alexander Orcullo, now Cesar Climaco. It may be that each crime came as a shock to Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos. But for these and other killings, no one has been punished. It’s as if Central America’s death squads were taking distant root.

“Death squads are an especially ugly instrument of terror. Recruited by security forces, the killers pretend to operate on their own. Thus government can disavow the marauders yet by protecting them still intimidate opponents.

“Is that what’s happening in the Philippines? When Mr. Aquino was killed at Manila airport in August (21) 1983, the president blamed the communist gunman (Rolando Galman). His own inquiry has now found otherwise and accused high military officers. The promise of swift, impartial trials is not yet kept.

“The latest victims, too, are prominent critics of Mr. Marcos. Mr. Orcullo, the regional secretary of an opposition party in Mindanao, was shot on Oct. 19 by men in military fatigues. His family suspects gunmen belonging to a paramilitary group trained by the army.

“Last Tuesday (as the city council was having its regular session) in what Mr. Marcos calls a major blow against decency, a Mayor was shot by a single gunman. Cesar Climaco is not an obscure victim. When Martial Law was imposed in 1972, he vowed not to cut his hair until it was lifted. Nine years later, when Mr. Marcos yielded a bit,  Mayor Climaco cut his locks accordingly, to shoulder length. He was know for such flair and also for effective campaigns against crime...”

Today, Zamboanga observes yet again with humility and sorrow his martyrdom. If he were still living, he’d feast the media with “pansit” de Savory. The late Emilio Rene R. Fernandez, editor of the defunct The Morning Times that had ace reporters Rolly San Juan, Roy Ramos, Sammy Santos and Armand Nocum, wrote in his editorial entitled: “Forget him not.” I was connected then with the defunct Zamboanga Times.

“A month ago today, Cesar C. Climaco, beloved son of Zamboanga, was felled by an assassin’s bullet in a street that is now associated with infamy. This morning, the groups of outraged citizens will march from five points and converge for a commemorative rally at the spot on Gov. Alvarez Ave. which their mayor had soiled with his blood. They will not allow their compatriots to forget what happened there 30 days ago.

“No, the people of this city must not forget, although forgetting would be more convenient than remembering. To forget would be to dishonor the person who made the greatest sacrifice for his people. To forget would be to devalue that sacrifice and to consign this community to a future of helpless indifference. Zamboanga cannot afford to let the assassination of Mayor Climaco pass into oblivion without taking a lesson from it.

“A more peaceful Zamboanga is every resident’s cherished dream. Individually, they cannot make it come true, but together they are a potent force for reform because a community is only what it’s people want it to be...”

In the still of the night, he knocked on our steel gate in Canelar and asked my wife to clothe Robert, our youngest son, as he was taking us for a ride to the top of the Via Crucez in Abong-Abong. “I want the youngest (Robert was barely a month old) and the oldest (him) to be the first to step on these sacred grounds,” he said.

Thirty-four years after his tragic death, the Great Cesar C. Climaco still lives in the hearts and minds of the people. November 14 will never be forgotten, Rene, never.