DE JESUS, Jeremias S.

de jesusA local leader of the political opposition to the Marcos regime, Jeremias De Jesus was killed fighting for genuine and honest elections to replace the oppressive dictatorship.

De Jesus was a trusted supporter of Senator Benigno Aquino Jr. who had been murdered in 1983 as he returned from exile in the United States. When martial law was imposed in 1972, he had been working for Jose Yap, Aquino’s close ally who represented the province of Tarlac in the House of Representatives.

Thus, throughout martial law and especially with the persecution of Aquino by the Marcos regime, De Jesus remained loyal to the cause; by the 1980s he was known in his hometown of Capas as the “grand old man” of the political opposition. When Marcos called for a “snap” presidential election in 1985 in an attempt to provide legitimacy to his extended rule, De Jesus worked tirelessly in support of Corazon Aquino’s campaign to oust Marcos through the ballot. He was named municipal chair of the PDP-Laban party in Capas.

Marcos desperately wanted to win in Tarlac to show he could beat Corazon Aquino in her home grounds. Also, “the Kilusang Bagong Lipunan or KBL [Marcos’ party] is bent on winning by a wide margin [here] so massive electoral frauds will be justified elsewhere,” according to some.

The atmosphere in the province became very tense. Armed supporters of the mayor would take pictures of inspectors in election registration centers, and harassing those who stayed loyal to the Aquinos. Members of the Civilian Home Defense Force went around telling people to vote for Marcos and threatening to kill opposition leaders. De Jesus was repeatedly warned.

On January 14, 1986 – the snap election was scheduled to be held on February 7 – De Jesus joined a group that went to the United States embassy in Manila to complain about the electoral terrorism in Tarlac.

The following day, back in Tarlac, De Jesus was on the road after having distributed food to PDP-Laban poll watchers in Barangay O’Donnell. The car that he was riding was stopped along the way by an unidentified person, who sprayed bullets from an M-16 automatic rifle and then escaped. De Jesus and the car’s driver, Alberto Briones, both died.

Thousands came to his burial, including provincial and municipal officials who joined the funeral march to express their protest. By that time the international media were focusing on the Filipino people’s struggle to oust the Marcos dictatorship, so that the brazen murder was widely reported abroad.

When the snap election was held just a few weeks after, Corazon Aquino beat Ferdinand Marcos in her home province, thanks in large part to people like Jeremias de Jesus who sacrificed their lives to help end the dictatorship.