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Before Trillanes was Vizmanos, the ‘original rebel soldier’

by First Quarter Storm Network (FQSN) Sunday, May. 11, 2008 at 4:21 PM
magsasakapil@hotmail.com 213-241-0906 337 Glendale Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90026

efore the likes of Antonio Trillanes IV, there was Danilo “Ka Dan” Vizmanos, the quintessential “young rebel officer” who fought against martial law and continues to wage the good fight. A retired Navy captain, Vizmanos resisted Ferdinand Marcos’ dictatorship despite torture, crusaded against US military bases on Philippine soil, and campaigned to terminate the RP-US Balikatan war games in the South. “Ka Dan is the original rebel soldier,” said Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) secretary general Renato Reyes Jr.

Before Trillanes was...
img_1461-resized.jpg, image/jpeg, 600x450

Before Trillanes was Vizmanos, the ‘original rebel soldier’

By DJ Yap

Philippine Daily Inquirer

First Posted 03:14:00 05/07/2008

MANILA, Philippines—Before the likes of Antonio Trillanes IV, there was Danilo “Ka Dan” Vizmanos, the quintessential “young rebel officer” who fought against martial law and continues to wage the good fight.

A retired Navy captain, Vizmanos resisted Ferdinand Marcos’ dictatorship despite torture, crusaded against US military bases on Philippine soil, and campaigned to terminate the RP-US Balikatan war games in the South.

“Ka Dan is the original rebel soldier,” said Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) secretary general Renato Reyes Jr.

“Trillanes and other rebel soldiers will do well to emulate the man’s example,” Reyes said after a tribute to Vizmanos’ life and times held at the University of Makati on Monday night.

At the end of the two-hour program, which was highlighted by an emotional rendition of “Ikaw Lamang” by his grandchildren, an overwhelmed Vizmanos struggled to hold back tears.

“I can’t control my tears from flowing. I was imprisoned in [Camp] Crame but nobody saw me shed even one tear. But now, I can’t control it,” he said, lying on a recliner.

“I can never forget this night,” he said.

Frail at 79, Vizmanos is fighting what may well be his last battle. The enemy: Prostate cancer and a number of other ailments.

Arriving at the mini-theater, he was wheeled to the recliner with rose sheets and propped up with blue pillows. He would remain on the recliner throughout the program and deliver his speech from there.

Far-reaching change

His ill health notwithstanding, Vizmanos displayed youthful defiance.

Change, he said, would not happen with the mere removal of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo from office.

“I’m not just looking at Gloria. I’m looking at our system of government. We have been practically nailed to the culture of the Spaniards and the Americans,” he said, eliciting applause.

“Democracy will not remain if the attitude of Filipinos will not change. The government must change, and so must the Armed Forces of the Philippines,” he said.

It was a night of remembering Vizmanos’ early years, which were marked by political activism and critical writings.

“He is a principled man … a real man,” said Edita Burgos, mother of the missing activist Jonas Burgos, who was invited to the program.

Said Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Satur Ocampo: “The admirable qualities of Ka Dan are his openness to new and radical ideas, enthusiasm in making everyone understand, and unpretentious leadership.”

In a recorded tribute sent from his base in the Netherlands, Communist Party of the Philippines founding chair Jose Maria Sison said: “We and all his [other] countrymen take pride in Ka Dan Vizmanos, great hero and true soldier of the people.”

Vizmanos’ hope for national independence, democracy, social justice, equality, and firm and just peace is true and undoubted, Sison said.

Also present at the tribute was Rodolfo “Jun” Lozada, star witness in the Senate inquiry into the controversial National Broadband Network deal with China’s ZTE Corp., who remains in the protective custody of the Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines.

Marcos’ ‘private army’

Observers may see rough parallels in Vizmanos’ early life and that of Senator Trillanes, a former Navy lieutenant whose own sallies into political activism have led to his detention.

Vizmanos renounced a promising military career when he retired from the service upon the declaration of martial law in 1972, citing “incompatibility with an Armed Forces that was converted into a huge private army and oppressive instrument of the Marcos dictatorship.”

He was incarcerated for more than two years at Camp Crame, Fort Bonifacio and Bicutan with no formal charges filed.

While in detention, he was subjected to physical and psychological torture, including the injection of “truth serum,” in an effort to get him to betray his comrades in the resistance.

“My mind was slowly giving up but I still had control,” Vizmanos recalled in an on-camera interview, parts of which were shown in a documentary that night.

He remembered one of his interrogators as saying: “I think Captain Dan is evading the questions. Let’s give him another shot.” And then he lost consciousness.

Activist and author

Vizmanos said he left the “reactionary organization” to become a “militant activist.”

Upon his release from detention, he went on to assume leadership positions in such organizations as Bayan, Samahan ng mga Ex-Detainee Laban sa Detensyon at para sa Amnestiya (Selda), Ibon Foundation and Philippine-Cuba Friendship Association.

In 1992, he testified at the US Federal District Court of Hawaii about the atrocities committed during the Marcos dictatorship. The same court would later hold the strongman liable for human rights violations.

Vizmanos has authored three books—“Through the Eye of the Storm,” “Martial Law Diary” and “A Matter of Conviction”—which Bayan described as “a critique of a social order that has chained the country to its colonial moorings and perpetrated social injustice.”

Addressing the audience, Bayan chair Carol Araullo encouraged the youth to know Ka Dan more deeply by reading his books.

“His work is not ponderous reading, just true stories we can all learn from,” she said.

Araullo then led the audience to a rousing ovation for Vizmanos, who later said: “This is the first time I have felt so honored.”


The evening truly took on emotional resonance when Vizmanos’ nine grandchildren took the stage to perform a surprise number for the honoree.

Despite lapses in tune, the children—A.G., Joseph, Demi, Veron, Angelique, Jupeth, Shem, Carolyn and Kevin—sang their hearts out in the well-applauded number. At the end of their performance, many of the singers were in tears.

“He’s a kind, supportive grandfather,” said A.G. “We’re very proud of him and what he has accomplished.” With Angela Casauay, contributor

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