Local Heroes

Giant Lantern


Pedro was born January 31, 1876 in San Fernando to parents Vicente Abad Santos and Toribia Basco (native of Guagua), while Jose was born 10 years later, on February 19, 1886. But it was the younger Jose who achieved greater prominence because he would become the country’s Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and suffer high-profile martyrdom during the Japanese occupation. Pedro, on the other hand, would be increasingly marginalized from civil society as he went farther and farther left in his political ideology. While both of them had the same mission in life, which was to improve the condition of the masses, they held opposite view on how to attain this. Thus, Pedro Abad Santos and Jose Abad Santos attempted to impose on history their separate ideologies, representing revolution and evolution, respectively, as means of securing change in the existing order.
Pedro finished Bachelor of Arts in the University of Santo Thomas; he took up law and was admitted to the bar in 1906. During the Philippine-America war, he became Chief of Staff of Gen. Maximino Hizon’s Command. He was captured and charged with guerilla activities, for which he was meted a death sentence. He joined Hizon, Apolinario Mabini, Artemio Ricarte and Melchora Aquino in exile in Guam; upon his return, his death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. US President Theodore Roosevelt pardoned him later. He joined politics, first running as municipal councilor and later as representative of the province’s second district; in 1992, he joined the independence mission to the United States headed by Speaker Sergio Osmena.
His brother Jose also passed the bar, in 1911. He was given a license to practice law in the United States. Unlike his ascetic and celibate brother, Jose married a town mate, Amanda Teopaco, with whom he had five children. He became the first Filipino corporate lawyer of the Philippine Natiopnal Bank, Manila Railways and other government agencies. In quick succession he became Attorney General and then Secretary of Justice, and ultimately Chief Justice of the Supreme Court during President Quezon’s term.
Meanwhile, Don Perico, as Pedro was now being called, ran as Governor and was defeated, although he was gaining popularity as a champion of the poor, offering free legal assistance and helping organize labor organizations.
In 1932 when the Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas (PKP) was outlawed by the Supreme Court, Don Perico founded the Partido Sosyalista ng Pilipinas (PSP). Two years later, together with his assistants Agapito del Rosario, Luis Taruc, Lino Dizon and others, he organized the Aguman ding Talapagobra ning Pilipinas (ATP) into the Aguman ding Maldang Talapagobra (AMT), similar to the general workers’ unions in Spain, Mexico and France, which advocated the expropriation of landed estates and friar lands, farmers’ cooperative stores and the upliftment of peasants’ living conditions. On November 7, 1938, during the anniversary of the Russian Bolshevik Revolution, members of the PKP and the PSP held a convention at the Manila Grand Opera House where they declared their merger as the Communist Party of the Philippines. Crisanto Evangelista was elected president, Pedro Abad Santos Vice President, Guillermo Capadocia secretary general.
In those few remaining years before World War II, socialism was sweeping the Kapampangan Region. The Socialist Party even went as far as fielding candidates in local elections. Pedro Abad Santos’ stature was reaching mythic proportions. He has known to have the biggest collection of Marxist and Soviet literature in Asia. He often advised peasants to keep all harvest and promised legal assistance if sued by landowners.
The paths of Pedro and Jose Abad Santos crossed in a dramatic public confrontation on Valentine’s Day in 1939, when President Quezon accepted Pedro’s invitation to a farmer’s and worker’s rally in San Fernando, Eager to please the troublesome peasants’ hero and assured by Pedro’s Brother Jose who was then Secretary of Justice, President Quezon came to the public gathering. Don Perico introduced the Presidents as “ a friend of the masses and the poor” and admonished his listeners “to plant in your heart what he will say”. Just as Quezon was rising from his seat, Don Perico enumerated the peasants’ grievances, accused judges and fiscal of being pawns of rich landowners, and then turned to his brother Jose, who was seated beside the President, and challenged him as Justice Secretary to clean up the courts. Unable to hide his contempt for Jose’s peaceful temper and methods, Pedro added, “ the Secretary cannot help us if he just sits in his office.”
When the war broke out, the Japanese jailed Don Perico and other communist leaders at Fort Santiago. Secretary Jose Abad Santos, on the other hand, was left behind by the evacuated President Quezon to head the caretaker government. He was arrested by the Japanese in Carcar, Cebu, subjected to grueling interrogation and asked to swear allegiance to the Japanese flag. Justice Abad Santos told his captors: “to obey your command is tantamount to being a trailor to the United States and my country. I would prefer to die than live in shame”. He was taken to Parang, Cotobato and then to Malabang, Lanao del Sur, where he was executed on May 2, 1942. He had told his son, Jose Jr., “not to cry and to show these people that you are brave. It is a rare opportunity to die for one’s country. Not everybody is given that chance.”
Pedro Abad Santos, meanwhile, had been released from prison due to his failing eyesight and stomach alignment, and was instead put under house arrest in his nieces’ residence, right beside that of the leader of the puppet government, Jose P. Laurel. He reportedly asked Laurel to allow him to return to his people in Pampanga to die, which Laurel granted. Ka Roberto Datu of Abelardo Dabu’s Squadron in the Hukbong Mapagpalaya ng Bayan (HMP), fetched Don Perico; they escaped by boat through Bangkusay in the Tondo area, made their way to the Manila Bay and into Pampanga River. Pedro Abad Santos stayed in the residence of the Manansala family in Alasas Village in San Isidro, town of Minalin where he died on January 15, 1945, three years after his younger brothers’ execution.
Reference: Singsing Magazine

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