Remembering Lorenzo “Ka Tanny” Tañada’s public service, human rights legacy to Filipinos

Lorenzo “Ka Tanny” Tañada human rights legacy
Ka Tanny was already retired when Martial Law was declared in 1972 but returned to active duty as a human rights defender. Photo from Lorenzo M. Tañada: A Tribute To A Filipino Hero

Today we remember Senator Lorenzo “Ka Tanny” Tañada’s legacy to the Filipino people on the occasion of the Grand Old Man of Philippine politics’ 124th Birth Anniversary – in the midst of calls not to forget the lessons of history.

Tañada hails from Gumaca, Quezon province and lived a full life as a human rights lawyer and public servant, a Senator of 24 years, and leader of the opposition.

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“Ka Tanny was 84 when the tyrant Marcos fled for his life before the sweep of people power. He was 93 when the other enemy of the sun was made to lower his flag on the last outposts of colonialism in this part of Asia… Ka Tanny outlived the dictatorship and the dictator and saw the last American soldier leave Philippine soil. In many ways, his life exemplified how the impossible could be made possible through sheer determination, strength of conviction and love of country,” Congressman (later Senator) Wigberto “Bobby” Tañada, Ka Tanny’s son, said in a speech delivered during Lorenzo Tañada’s Centennial Birth Anniversary on August 10, 1998.

Today, 30 years after Ka Tanny’s death in 1992, it is the turn of Bobby Tañada’s son, former student leader and House Deputy Speaker Lorenzo “Erin” Tañada III to greet his grandfather.

Following is the excerpt about Ka Tanny from the 2022 Scholarum Award-winning feature by Aurora Quadra-Balibay, editor of GoodNewsPilipinas.com – a story we re-share to contribute to the continuing efforts to help the nation remember the lessons of the past as the foundation for a better future:

Ka Tanny, the “grand old man of Philippine politics”, is fondly remembered in the people’s movement against martial law rule as a grandfather who took his advocacy to the streets alongside younger protesters, braving tear gas and water cannons.

Bantayog ng mga Bayani Foundation records a memorable anecdote of Ka Tanny’s determination:

“Already well into his 80s, the silver-haired grandfather needed to use a cane, but he was more than willing to join the protest rally against the Marcos dictatorship. He had only one condition:

‘Ayaw ko na tatakbo tayo pag dumating ang pulis,’ he told the organizers who had come to see him. ‘We will stand our ground!’ Lorenzo M. Tañada chose to fight very big battles, and he never ran away.”

As a younger man, Tañada fought against corruption in government and defied big-money politics while serving as an independent senator for 24 years.

“When martial law was declared, Tañada was vacationing abroad – only months earlier, he had retired from public office, saying that younger people should also have a chance to serve – but he chose to return to the Philippines and fight what he declared was an illegal act, a usurpation of power by Marcos.”

The silver-haired lawyer and public servant joined the protest rally against the Marcos dictatorship. Photo from Bantayog ng Mga Bayani FB.

Tañada represented political prisoners including Benigno Aquino Jr. and defended the cause of human rights.

Ka Tanny was arrested and detained for one week. As he was being carried away in a police van, he leaned out, raised his clenched fist, and shouted, “Laban! Laban! Laban!”

Tañada protested against the collusion of the US government with the Marcos dictatorship and campaigned against the continued presence of American military facilities in the Philippines, opposed to the Bataan nuclear power plant with its destructive event on the environment, the potential for harm to the people, and linkage to corrupt dealings by Marcos and his cronies.

The Marcos dictatorship fell in 1986, Marcos died in exile in 1989. In September 1991 the Senate voted to reject the Philippines-US military bases treaty. Lorenzo “Ka Tanny” Tañada was able to see the result of his fight before he passed away in 1992 at the age of 93.

Lorenzo “Ka Tanny” Tañada with Jose “Ka Pepe” Diokno and Bishop Felix Paz Perez of Cavite were honored as Lasallian heroes against Martial Law on September 21, 2021, the International Day of Peace and 49th Anniversary of Martial Law in the Philippines.

READ the full article: Lasallian heroes against Martial Law honored on International Day of Peace

Tañada was a member of the De La Salle High School Class of 1918. He studied law at the University of the Philippines and in 1924 topped the government’s examination for Pensionados, the scholarship program for Filipinos to study in the United States. In 1928, Tañada obtained his Master of Laws from Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He also acquired a Doctor in Civil Law meritissimus from the University of Santo Tomas.

SHARE THIS STORY to keep the memory of Lorenzo “Ka Tanny” Tañada and other human rights defenders alive in the minds of the Filipino people who are charting the nation’s course toward a better future for the Philippines.

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The Good News Pilipinas Team is a group of Filipino journalists who advocate putting more good news stories about the Philippines and Filipinos on the media.