DURING THE DARK DAYS of Martial Law, some of the bravest and the brightest of this nation went underground. Some of them defined their fight for the poor and the oppressed asÂ a duty to God.
Many of them were readers of the “Pedagogy of the Oppressed”, “Praxis” and “The Liberation Theology” – the latter pontificating that in a fascistic country like in a dictatorship–Christ willÂ always be on the side of the poor.
To many of them, going underground was a duty to both God and country.Â Many of them startedÂ in the church-inspired Khi Rho Movement that was also very popular in Latin America.
Some of them included Boholanos: Exsam Lloren of JagnaÂ and his future wifeÂ (then) Nimfa C. Abaya (a scholarly lass coming from the College of the Holy Spirit) and then at Divine Word College along with anotherÂ school girl Paterna Merlas who was to be the future wife of priest turned rebel Nick Ruiz.
Many other Filipino priestsÂ also removed their sacerdotal garb and turned into farmers’ attire armed with guns and a deathless ideology of “freedom for the masses”. Among them are now Cabinet secretary (three term Maribojoc mayor) Leoncio “Jun” Evasco,Â the late Fr. Conrado Balweg (The Robin Hood of the Cordilleras), and Fr Edicio de la Torre who founded the Rural Reconstruction Movement .among others.
Most of them joined mainstream society with the expulsion of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos in 1986.
Meanwhile, Bernabe Buscayno or “Kumander Dante”Â (co-founder of the NPA) came down from the hills and helped the Cory government through farmers cooperatives.
“Exsam” Llloren and wife Nimfa , on the other hand, remained in the underground movement for 21 difficult years bearing three children along the way. They were arrested briefly for months, detained in Samar and released after the repeal of the Anti-Subversion Law.
From there on the Lloren couple was a model-exemplar inÂ Jagna of NGO work and in elected public positions. Lloren started as Jagna barangay captain, councilor, three term mayor and vice mayor.
In those 9 years as mayor Lloren led by fiscal discipline, competence and sober planning for his municipality that he became president of the Bohol chapter of the League of Municipalities. He had star charisma.
Suddenly in June 12 last year, regional, provincial and local elements arrested Lloren in hisÂ Jagna home for the alleged murder of 15 rebels in a supposed “purge” in Inopacan Leyte ( in the 80;s)Â after 67 skeletal remains were uncovered.Â He was accused with 53 other principalsÂ including Jose Ma Sison and Satur Ocampo, a party list representative.
Llloren has been detained at Camp Aguinaldo in Manila, In February this year, he refused to enter a plea -claiming thatÂ the recovered “clothes” in the graveyard could not have withstood deterioration after 20 years buried near rain forests, And were therefore manufactured evidence.
His lawyer also argued that the warrant of arrest served did not bear his name “Exuperio” but some other name.
He also sought a certiorari at the Court of Appeals as he was allegedly violated of his statutory rightsÂ not havingÂ been given a preliminary investigation before the filing of the case (during his mayoralty incumbency).
Things may not as be cloudy now.
The Duterte government has started negotiations with the NDF-CPP bigwigs in Oslo Norway recently. The odds point to a renegotiation of the peace process between the government and the Reds.
Among the consequencesÂ of an eventual Peace Agreement will be a blanket amnesty of all political prisoners- to be ratified into law by a Duterte-controlledÂ Congress.
Exsam Lloren is definitely a political prisoner. His alleged crime was in conjunction with his ownÂ protracted political beliefs. In any case, the general amnesty should make him a free man.
Lloren has been a rebel with a cause. AsÂ a free man he had shown what a free man can do – when imbibed with patriotism – for his community. We wish to see Mayor Exam free- soon.
AndÂ we welcome him back to Bohol.
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