The girl in Lean’s car


Sunshine Bietes was five years old when Leandro Alejandro was gunned down on September 19,1987. Lean was 27 when he was killed.

He was the founding secretary-general of the militant Bagong Alyansang Makabayan or Bayan, which was established in 1985.

Sunshine told the Manila Times she does not really remember that she was one of those who were inside the car where Lean was shot dead by unidentified men.
She was with her mother, Gigi, when Lean was shot to death.

Sunshine said she only learned this when she was already eight years old through her mother.

According to her, her mother, Gigi, told her that her playmate during elementary years whose name was Rusal was the daughter of Lean, a mass leader of the ”national democratic” movement.

I asked Sunshine what she remembered after her mother told her about Lean.
“Ah ok sabi ko sa sarili ko [Okay, I told myself],” she said.

Liddy Nacpil, widow of Lean, was surprised that Bietes was one of Lean’s companions on the night of September 19,1987 while the latter was inside his car awaiting the opening of the gate of Bayan office on Rosal Street in Quezon City

Nacpil and Bietes had been in the “national democratic” movement before they were expelled in 1992.

Gigi and other members of Bayan just came from a news conference that afternoon.
She said she and Sunshine did not see the faces of the killers.

According to Gigi, they were shocked when they saw the bloodied Lean after the shooting.
Sunshine told me that she did not really remember that Lean was killed in front of her.
Rather, what she remembered, she said, was that she and her mother were walking away from the crime scene.

“Nagkakagulo noon. May mga sumisigaw. Ang natatandaan ko nagmamadali kami ng mother ko. Siguro sa takot. Iyon ang natatandaan ko [It was chaos. Some people were shouting. What I remember was my mother and I were in a hurry to leave the place. Maybe because of fear. That was what I remember],” she said.

When asked if the incident had a traumatic effect on her, Sunshine said no.

She added that the killing of Lean was a tremendous waste because he had done a lot of things for different sectors and for the country.

But, Sunshine added, it was perhaps part of the life Lean chose to live.

“Nakapanghihinayang lang na kung sino pa ‘yong taong maraming nagawa para sa mga Pilipino at bayan ay siya pang pinatay. Marami naman kasing ibang tao na wala naming pakinabang sa mundo pero nabubuhay pa rin [It’s a waste that one who did things for Filipinos and the country was the one who got killed. There are those who have done nothing and yet are still around],” she said.

Sunshine never became an activist.

But she volunteered that she realizes and understands the reasons and correctness of what Lean and other people who were activists like him was doing and fighting for when she was already in high school.

Her parents, she said, never stopped to explain almost everything that was happening when she was still young until she reached high school and college.

In fact, her parents would always bring her to gatherings of families of political detainees even when the family did not have a relative who was a political detainee.

She said perpetrators of crimes against political and social activists must be captured for them to face the consequences of what they deliberately commit.

“Sana maraming tumulad kay Lean na kumilos or maging aware sa [I hope many would follow in Lean’s footsteps or be aware of the] struggle of people’s organizations to have change in society,” Sunshine, now 33, said.


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