PEÑA, Jacinto D.

One of the methodical steps taken by President Marcos when he declared martial law was to immediately seize control of the mass media. Troops were sent to padlock the different newspaper offices and radio and television stations. Many journalists were detained by the military; the rest lost their jobs. Sometime later, the regime began allowing the mass media to operate again, but under strict surveillance and, eventually, self-censorship.

A tiny underground press immediately sprang to life, scrambling to disseminate the information, analysis and calls to action that were eagerly awaited by the anti-dictatorship resistance.

As soon as they could, those student activists who had not taken to the hills, or been arrested or killed, went into action by reviving the campus press. They moved cautiously at first, limiting themselves to the discussion of nonpolitical, “safe” issues. But it didn’t take long for the school publications to become vehicles for consolidating the resistance. Even before the legal opposition’s commercial publications emerged, the campus press was already publishing articles analyzing programs and policies of the dictatorship, as well as interviews with the victims of human rights violations.

During the early phase of the struggle against martial law, Jacinto Peña was a key figure among those who proudly called themselves revolutionary propagandists in the tradition of Rizal, Lopez Jaena and Antonio Luna.  At the University of the Philippines Diliman, he was a reporter for the Philippine Collegian. While devoting much of his time to organizing and training student journalists in other campuses, he pursued his studies and graduated with a journalism degree in 1975.

In 1978, Peña joined the campaign for the LABAN team, led by imprisoned Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr. that contested the Interim Batasang Pambansa elections.  Although they knew that Marcos would not allow anyone from the genuine opposition to win, still Peña and his coworkers worked hard to voice the message of resistance, and to strengthen the people’s unity against the dictatorship.

By that time, the underground press had taken root in all the regions of the country, keeping pace with the growth of the organized resistance. Despite the use of primitive technology, and the very real danger to the safety of their staffmembers, these regional newspapers helped spread the message of struggle and liberation from tyranny. Jack Peña was then asked to train grassroots activists how to gather accurate news reports, how to write for their intended audience, how to produce an attractive newspaper.

It was on one of those trips to the countryside that Jack Peña was caught in a military operation. He had just arrived and was preparing to travel on foot further inland, when government forces dragged him out of a house. After forcing him to admit that he was a member of the New People’s Army (which he was not), they shot and killed him in cold blood.

BORN                                    :               March 26, 1949 in Iloilo City

DIED                                      :               November 11, 1979 in Gattaran, Cagayan

PARENTS                             :               Faustino M. Peña and Gorgonia Dechavez

EDUCATION                       :               Elementary: Ilaya Elementary School, Iloilo City

Secondary: Iloilo High School, Iloilo City

College: University of the Philippines Diliman