Six years before the split into two main groups (reaffirmist and rejectionist) in 1993, the “national democratic” movement had few mass leaders who can talk about issues in front of a huge crowd and confront the police every time the lawmen block them on their way to a protest rally.
The reaffirmists remained loyal to Jose Maria “Joma” Sison, founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).
They insisted on armed struggle against “US imperialism, bureaucrat capitalism and feudalism.”
The rejectionists, meanwhile, wanted armed and parliamentary struggle against the three isms.
One of those mass leaders was Lean Alejandro, who did not figure in the split since he was gunned down by heavily armed men believed to be members of the military in 1987.
Who is Lean Alejandro?
Liddy Nacpil-Alejandro, Lean’s widow, said her husband is no longer popular these days, unlike when he was alive more than 28 years ago.
According to Liddy, she has accepted the fact that there is no extensive discussion about her husband at this time, especially now that the movement is divided not only into two groups but several.
Before and after the downfall of strongman President Ferdinand Marcos in 1986, Lean was a hot topic among activists in the student, out-of-school youth, women and even labor sectors partly because he was an effective public speaker.
His real and complete name was Leandro Legarda Alejandro. Lean was his nickname.
He was a son of an average middle-income family from Navotas City (Metro Manila).
His mother, Sally, was a public school teacher for 20 years and his father was a government employee before he went abroad as a migrant worker. He was born on July 10, 1960 in Malabon City but he grew up in Navotas.
After finishing basic education, Lean enrolled in the Chemistry program at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City in 1978 but shifted to Philippine Studies the following year.
In the same year, he was recruited by “national democratic” activists to join a national academic organization at the university’s College of Arts and Sciences.
From there, he became member of several student organizations controlled by ‘national democrats” at UP, including the official campus paper Philippine Collegian, where he was feature writer.
Lean also became a Student Council officer and eventually a member of the Board of Regents, being the chairman of the council.
During the 1970s and 1980s, UP Diliman was one of the universities in the country that was penetrated by the “national democratic” movement.
It should be noted, however, that there were also activists who offered different analyses of Philippine society and advocated a different form of struggle with a different set of goals and objectives.
Liddy said the fight against Marcos and the struggle to attain freedom, justice, truth and democracy were not exclusive to the “national democratic” movement.
It appeared so, she explained, because the movement was simply the dominant one at the time.
Lean did not finish the Philippine Studies program that he was pursuing because, according to a eulogy of P.N. Abinales in 2007, “Lean… opt[ed]to temporarily leave the academe to pursue a different level of serving our people and fighting for their liberation.
Besides [Lean] confessed that he [could]not imagine himself going through two years of military training under CMT [Citizens Military Training] program, which basically reflected the militarization of society.”
He worked full-time as a mass leader and social activist.
After former senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. was assassinated on August 21,1983, Lean was one of the student leaders assigned by the movement’s leaders to put up and lead the Justice for Aquino and Justice for All (JAJA) movement.
He also was one of the leaders of the Coalition of Organizations for Restoration of Democracy and the Nationalist Alliance for Justice, Freedom and Democracy.
Lean was only 25 years old when he became the first secretary-general of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan or Bayan, the biggest alliance of different organizations that wanted to end Marcos’ rule, in 1985.
From 1979 to 1987, Lean’s role and assignments strongly suggested that he was extremely important in the “national democratic” movement despite the fact that he was then very young.
If one would compute, Lean had only eight years in the movement.
Alex Padilla, a former activist and now president of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. or PhilHealth, three years ago said Lean was “a leader beyond his time.”
Reaffirmist or rejectionist?
To the reaffirmist group belonged activists who agreed with the top leaders of the “national democratic” movement to affirm once again the validity and correctness of the views and analysis of the movement in Philippine society through a “protracted war.”
The rejectionists referred to the groups and individuals who firmly decided to separate from the “national democratic” movement and put up their own organizations.
Liddy said she was one of those activists who had a lot of questions and criticisms on various issues, policies and concerns but were not properly and accurately answered by higher-ups of the movement.
Instead of making things clear to those who raised questions and criticisms, according to her, the top honchos of the movement simply kicked them out.
She said the top leaders did not want to settle the dispute through debate.
They simply wanted all the members, Liddy added, to abide with decisions imposed by the top leaders of the “national democratic” movement.
Kicking Lean out of the “national democratic” movement that taught and convinced him to dedicate his life to the cause of the armed revolution to attain a society where the ‘national democratic” agenda would be carried out, according to Liddy, was not a loss because he would still serve the Filipino masses.
Gigi Bietes will never forgot September 19, 1987 because she was inside the vehicle where Lean Alejandro was mowed down by armed men.
Bietes, a member of the secretariat of Bayan-National at the time, was shocked and almost could not say even a single word after Lean was shot to death.
Reports of the Quezon City police showed that Lean was shot dead while inside his vehicle waiting for the gate of Bayan’s office at No. 5 Rosal Street to open.
The reports also showed that Lean sustained several gunshot wounds in different parts of the body, which strongly indicated that the killers wanted to be sure that Lean was dead.
Shortly after the incident, the news about his death had reached various organizations belonging to the “national democratic” movement like wild fire.
Regie Castro, who was then an architectural student at the Mapua Institute of Technology, said he was shocked when he heard that Lean was gunned down.
Castro added that he could never forget the killing of Lean even after 28 years have lapsed because he was his “idol.”
Liddy asserted that from the very beginning, justice would not be attained because probers assigned by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to the case never approached and asked her about Lean’s brutal killing.
“Isn’t it basic or SOP [standard operating procedure]that if a crime happens, the police probers or the NBI investigators will ask the wife or the husband of the victim?” she asked.
“But, I was never asked. I was never investigated… The NBI [people]never did that. So, sa ganyan pa lang ay ano pa ang maaasahan mong hustisya [So, what justice can you expect]?” Liddy said.
She maintained her view that justice for Lean is impossible under the government at present–not even in the next administration.
Who was the mastermind?
A few days after the incident, it was reported in the media that the principal suspects in the murder of Lean were members of the Reform the Armed Forces of the Philippines (RAM).
RAM was an association of members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) that was put up to oppose Marcos. Its objective was to end massive corruption and politicking in the AFP during the Marcos regime. The group played a key role in the 1986 EDSA revolution.
Senator Gregorio Honasan, one of the known officers of RAM, has repeatedly and vehemently denied the group’s alleged involvement in the murder of Lean.
There was also a media report that the killing was hatched by the so-called “Marcos Army,”
supposedly a big group of active AFP soldiers who were very much loyal to Marcos.
It was alleged that the group decided to form a special unit for the sole purpose of liquidating Lean.
This theory, however, was not pursued by the NBI because of the absence of pieces of evidence that could ascertain who among the group of soldiers loyal to Marcos could have possibly murdered Lean.
Was Lean a target under a counter-insurgency program of the Corazon Aquino administration called Lambat-Bitag?
The counter-insurgency program was the government’s strategy and tactics in fighting the Maoist rebellion being spearheaded by the CPP and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA).
The government considers Bayan, Kilusang Mayo Uno, League of Filipino Students and other people’s organizations as part of the whole communist rebellion.
The media reported that during 1987, more than 30 “national democratic” mass leaders were killed after the CPP, through the Partido ng Bayan, actively participated in elections in that year.
Lean Alejandro was one of the 30 victims.
In remembering his 28th death anniversary on September 19, Lean’s widow said the most important thing is that all activists must realize that the struggle to achieve truth, justice, freedom and liberation is not yet over.
They must always bear in mind, Liddy said, that there is “no such thing as monopoly of dedication.”