MENDOZA, Alfredo Lano

mendozaalfredoAlfredo was an articulate person. In school, he expressed himself well. He joined his school’s debating team and was a powerful debater. Later he worked as broadcaster and announcer for Notre Dame Radio Station in Cotabato City. He was also daring and confident, had a strong sense of justice and fair play, and was sympathetic to poor people, qualities that made him an effective organizer.

Alfredo started paying closer attention to pressing political and social issues while in college. As he took his masteral course in Manila, he became involved with Catholic groups with progressive and nationalistic leanings.  He was recruited to work as coordinator of the family life program of the Mindanao Secretariat of Social Action (MISSA) under the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines.

From 1972 to 1973, he worked with MISSA in Davao City, under Maryknoll priest Thomas Marti. He became involved in the struggles of the poor, in fighting oppression and in promoting a theology of liberation among church groups. He was active in the movement to topple the Marcos dictatorship.

On Sept. 10, 1973, Alfredo was working at the MISSA offices when soldiers came and arrested him. They brought him to his home in Davao City’s Agdao district, ransacked it with his 9-month pregnant wife Ruby as a shocked witness. The house was searched for incriminatory materials but only an old typewriter and a mimeographing machine was found. Both were seized.

Then they brought Alfredo to the constabulary camp in the city.  Fr. Marti came to see Alfredo and facilitate his release, but was himself arrested by the authorities. The priest was released after a whole night’s interrogation, but Alfredo remained in incarceration.

No formal charges were filed.

MISSA colleagues took Ruby to safety in Cebu City. There she eventually gave birth to her first child, a son. Fr. Marti and MISSA workers would visit Alfredo in prison to raise his spirits and to bring him supplies, knowing his wife and Manila-based family could not themselves come.

Then towards late December, Alfredo disappeared from the camp’s stockades. Alfredo’s family and co-workers searched but failed to find him in various camps. The following February, a letter from a director of the NBI arrived telling the family that Alfredo was issued a Christmas pass and left camp with another detainee on Christmas Day. Both did not return and could not be found despite a hunt.

When the Marcos dictatorship fell in 1986, the family sought the assistance of human rights groups such as the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines and the Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearances (FIND), as well as the Presidential Committee on Human Rights (PCHR) headed by then Sen. Jose Diokno, to no avail.

Ruby never saw Alfredo again since that day in September when soldiers dragged him to their home. And Alfredo had never seen his son Natdemson. Alfredo’s sister Amelia once wrote that the family had been afraid over his participation in the movement. But if he were alive today, Amelia said in a testimony for Alfredo, “we would tell him that we admire his courage,” and that he is indeed a hero and martyr for his people.

Alfredo’s name has since been included among those inscribed at the FIND’s Bantayog ng mga Desaparecidos/Flame of Courage Monument at the Redemptorist Church grounds in Baclaran, Paranaque City, and at the Memorial Wall near Manila City Hall.