A Catholic priest was honored on Nov 30 as a "martyr" and hero of the Filipino people in the resistance against the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos. The late Father Jose Dizon of Imus Diocese was among 11 people whose names were carved on the “Wall of Remembrance” at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani
(Monument to Heroes) in Manila for their roles in defending human rights and democracy. Father Dizon was a national director of the Basic Christian Communities — Community Organizing of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, which helped the formation of peasant organizations during the Marcos regime. Throughout two decades of martial law, Father Dizon also supported workers’ strikes and the right to organize labor unions and founded the Workers Assistance Center that trained workers in organizing and collective action. He also led many protest actions against injustices and corruption in government. Unlike most of the newly named heroes, Dizon was not killed by the state. He died after a long illness in November 2013. Father Nilo de Castro of Imus Diocese told ucanews.com that Father Dizon’s actions remain relevant to the lives of Catholics and workers in the diocese. “His priesthood was practically a life lived with and by the people, especially with the workers. He let his faith be his guide in serving the most marginalized and defended the poor,” he said. “Father Dizon’s life is a testimony that faith has a space in the social movement.” After the assassination of Senator Benigno Aquino in 1983, Father Dizon became a key figure in the formation of broad alliances against martial law. He would conduct a Eucharistic Mass during protest rallies. Through Church-Labor and Church-Peasants conferences, Dizon was able to bring issues and plight of the poor to the bishops’ conference and to the Philippine Church leadership. “We are honoring Father Dizon because of his courage to bring the cause of the poor in the context of national liberation without contradicting his faith,” said Nardy Sabino, secretary-general of advocacy group Promotion of Church People’s Response. Father Dizon’s “commitment to become the priest what Christ wanted him to be, made him embrace the life outside the comforts of the convent,” Sabino said. Edith Burgos, a member of the Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites, urged young Catholics and the clergy to “follow in the footsteps” of Father Dizon in his “role as moral compass.” “Faith and the struggle for national liberation should not be separated. Father Dizon proved that the real moral compass of society should echo the welfare of the poor and marginalized,” said Burgos. Cristina Rogriguez, executive secretary of the Bantayog ng mga Bayani Foundation Inc. said, “It is essential for Filipinos not to fail to remember those who gave their lives for our freedom.”
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“As long as we continue to remember the heroism of Father Dizon and the lives of our martyrs, forces of darkness and the threats of repression will not prevail,” said Rodriguez.