Chochoy Medina, my friend and hero

Today, September 17, 2018,  is a wonderful  day for the Ateneo de Manila University. Our community will gather together in Irwin Theatre in the Loyola Campus for the conferment  of the 2018 Traditional University Awards. The awardees, as they are every year, have diverse backgrounds: a printmaker, a human rights lawyer, a peacemaker and a diplomat are this year’s awardees. For sure, Virgilio Aviado, Carlos Medina, Zenaida Brigida Pawid and Albert del Rosario are great Filipinos. The Ateneo de Manila University honors itself more in honoring these individuals.

Aviado is the 2018 Gawad Tanglaw ng Lahi awardee. The Ateneo de Manila University created this award to recognize “those who have dedicated their life’s work to the pursuit of Filipinism and the Filipino identity through any of the channels of culture”.  This award was first given in April 1970 to Mr. Amado Hernandez and was conferred on violinist Alfonso Bolipata last year,

In conferring the Tanglaw ng Lahi Award to Pandy Aviado, the university recognized his dedication to the art of printmaking and the excellence with which he pursued it. He has produced hundreds of prints, garnered a multitude of awards, and have participated in more than a hundred exhibitions here and abroad. The university also recognized this artist’s work in promoting the use of printmaking techniques in contemporary and hybrid forms, through workshops for students and practitioners of printmaking and in successfully lobbying for a permanent workshop space for the Printmakers Association of the Philippines, now called the Association of Pinoyprintmakers (A/P).

Zenaida Brigida H. Pawid, Manang Briggs to us who have worked and fought policy and governance battle with her, will be conferred the Ozanam Award. The Ozanam Award honors Christian laymen or laywomen who work for charity and justice.  The Award is named after Frederick Ozanam, now Saint, the great French Catholic leader, who founded the St. Vincent de Paul Society for the relief of the poor. It was awarded last year to Synergeia Foundation under the leadership of Milweda Guevarra.

Manang Briggs is a known stalwart in peace and development community, having dedicated more than 30 years of her life to protecting the rights of the indigenous peoples (IP) of the Cordillera region in northern Philippines, focusing especially on the restoration of their ancestral rights and peacebuilding. She has also been active in peace work, among others representing the IPs during the government’s peace negotiations with the Cordillera People’s Liberation Army and the Communist Party of the Philippines.  In relation to this, Manang Briggs was instrumental in creating peace zones in the region and was vital to the passage of the Indigenous People’s Rights Act (IPRA).

One of the big joys in my professional life as an indigenous people’s rights and environmental lawyer has been collaborating with Manang Briggs from the 1990s when we were both in civil society and more recently when she became Chair of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples during the Aquino (PNoy) administration.

Speaking of the Aquino administration, the Ateneo de Manila Univerity will be conferring on Albert F. del Rosario, former Foreign Affairs Secretary, one of its highest awards – the degree of Doctor of Humanities, honoris causa. This award is in recognition of del Rosario’s brilliance as a diplomat, his love for all Filipinos and especially those in our diaspora, a strong commitment to good and effective governance, personal discipline and an incredible work ethic, his devotion to family, and for patriotism beyond the call of duty.

As described in the university citation: “Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Albert del Rosario pursued a foreign policy that was truly independent, principled and based on the rule of law, and relentlessly promoted and defended the national interest of the Philippines in the global arena. His dedication to the protection and welfare of Filipinos in all  parts of the world was legendary. Under his leadership, the Philippines won a big victory in the arbitration case it filed against China. If in the end, we will triumph against attempts to undermine our territory and sovereignty, it is because Secretary Del Rosario, with other like-minded Filipinos, stood their ground and drew sharp lines in the seas. Future generations will benefit.”

Finally, there is Carlos P. Medina Jr  who will receive the Parangal Lingkod Sambayanan. The Award is in recognition to outstanding public service of an individual or organization, with public service defined :as areas of endeavor that supplement or complement what government should be or is doing e.g., helping the needy, protecting the environment, promoting public discourse, promoting peace and development. Karl Gaspar was the 2017 awardee.

Chochoy to all of us who loved him, Medina was director of the Ateneo Human Rights Center (AHRC) for more than 20 years. He was a pioneering and leading light in the alternative law community of the Philippines. Regionally, he played a strategic role in the promotion and defense of human rights in the Philippines and ASEAN region, succeeding in what was thought to be an impossible mission – the establishment of a regional human rights mechanism, the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights.

Equally important was Chochoy’s  work in electoral reforms and election monitoring. In the crucial elections of 2007, which followed the 2004 elections plagued with allegations of cheating by the Arroyo administration, he led the convening of the Legal Network for Truthful Elections (LENTE) which continues to be a leading advocate for clean and honest elections. President.

In July 2010, Noynoy Aquino appointed Medina to the Truth Commission headed by former Chief Justice Hilarion Davide. Unfortunately, the commission was not able to continue its work when the Supreme Court declared its creation unconstitutional.

I have known Chochoy for forty two years. I first met him in 1976 when we were first year students in Ateneo de Manila. Being both Mindanawons, we stayed in Cervini Hall, Ateneo’s dormitory for students. Later, we became classmates in most of our subjects being both philosophy majors, influenced by our brilliant and wise dorm prefect Eddie Calasanz.

Chochoy was so impressive during our college years; he commanded attention and respect being focused, disciplined, and articulate. He was passionate too – I can still recall how he mesmerized us with his rendition of Andres Bonifacio’s Pag-ibig sa Tinubuang lupa (English Translation: Love for One’s Homeland) which he recited on the martial law anniversary of 1979.

I was so sure that Chochoy would one day be a congressman and senator and eventually the President of the Philippines, the first from Mindanao and his hometown Davao City. He seemed to have been destined for politics. But he chose a different path, a better one in my view – he chose to become a human rights lawyer and a law professor. Using the AHRC and the Ateneo law School as his base, Chochoy mentored and formed hundreds of human rights lawyers in the Philippines and abroad. Through this work, he has ensured that the work of defending and promoting human rights will be continued by new generations of lawyers and advocates.

In 2001, Chochoy suffered an aneurysm, from which he still have to fully recover. In these last seven years, we have seen him struggle with its impacts on his motor and skills even as his intellectual abilities have remained the same. He avidly follows what is happening in the country and the world.

The Ateneo de Manila University is honored to confer its Parangal Lingkod Sambayanan award to Carlos Medina Jr. His professional life has always been a public service – as a teacher and lawyer, and for human rights, clean election, and good governance. And today, Chochoy’s choice to live and love courageously is a public service – he challenges us, he ennobles us. Welcome back, Chochoy!


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