After passing the bar in 1980, he started his career almost immediately as a human rights lawyer, becoming known for providing free legal services to the poor. He not only refused to accept legal fees from his indigent clients, mostly farmers or laborers, or victims of human rights abuses, but he would even provide them money for transportation. Of special concern to him were the tribespeople victimized by landgrabbers. These communities also bore the brunt of military atrocities under martial law.
Specializing in labor law, Taojo served as legal counsel of the Solidarity of Workers of Davao, an umbrella organization of labor groups, and notably represented striking workers of a large banana plantation in their negotiations with management.
As a young lawyer in 1981, Dodong Taojo was the first chair of the human rights committee of the local chapter of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines; he held the position for three years.
He was elected chair of the Lumadnong Alyansa alang sa Demokrasya in 1984, and a member of the Concerned Lawyers Union of Mindanao, Multisectoral Alliance for Democracy, the Hukom Demokrasya-Davao, Mindanao Tribal Resource Center, Tagum Cooperative Incorporated (TCI).
As well, he was active in the Nationalist Alliance for Justice, Freedom and Democracy, Coalition for the Restoration of Democracy, Task Force Detainees of the Philippines, Free Legal Assistance Group, the Jaycees, and the Young Men’s Christian Association of which he was a national board member. He was a faculty member of the University of Mindanao in Tagum.
In the so-called parliament of the streets, he was often seen boldly criticizing the policies of the Marcos government.
One year before his death, Taojo was told by a relative in the military that he was being watched because he was being “too vocal.” On his trips to Manila to attend meetings of the Free Legal Assistance Group and other cause-oriented organizations, he complained of being tailed by military agents.
Two days before he was killed, Dodong Taojo told a friend that he did not expect to be “around for long.” He was then preparing to prosecute a case of torture against two Scout Rangers involved in gold-mining activities. On April 2, 1985, gunmen entered his apartment and shot him five times. He was 30. No one has been charged for his murder.
PARENTS Romeo Taojo and Isidra Rosaroso
Elementary/Secondary: Maco, Davao del Norte
College: University of Mindanao, Davao del Norte; University of the Visayas, Cebu