Remembering Lean Alejandro, 25 years after his death
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Who was Lean Alejandro? In this brief essay, the Leandro L. Alejandro Foundation summarizes what this youth leader did to inspire a generation of activists to raise the level of protests against the Marcos dictatorship.
He was one of the finest examples of our nation's youth - with his brilliant mind, boundless energy, deep compassion for his people, and willingness to offer his life to the cause of freedom and justice.
Lean first made his mark in the Philippine struggle for social transformation as a student leader from the University of the Philippines, where he served as the chairperson of the College of Arts and Sciences Student Council 1980-81. During this time he also chaired national youth organizations. His leadership and services were also called upon in the formation of multi-sectoral alliances fighting the Marcos dictatorship, working with stalwarts in Philippine politics such as Senators Jose “Pepe” Diokno and Lorenzo “Ka Tanny” Tanada.
He left the University of the Philippines in 1984 to work full-time in the anti-dictatorship movement, serving as one of the national leaders of historic organizations such as the Justice for Aquino, Justice for All (JAJA) movement, the Coalition of Organizations for the Restoration of Democracy (CORD), the Nationalist Alliance for Justice, Freedom, and Democracy (NAFJD), and the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan). A tireless worker, an inspiring and eloquent speaker, a courageous leader, a relentless opponent, Lean was much admired and respected even by those who held views different from his.
Lean eluded various attempts by the dictatorship to arrest him. Like many other leaders of the democratic movement, he was the object of the infamous ASSO (Arrest Search and Seizure Order, later replaced by the PDO or the Presidential Detention Order). He was eventually arrested in February 1985 while negotiating with the police who were trying to disperse a group of demonstrators. He was detained for two months, released in April 1985, and promptly resumed his work.
Lean was born in Malabon on July 10, 1960 and grew up in Navotas. In 1987, he dared challenge traditional politicians, running as district representative for Navotas-Malabon in the local elections and using the electoral campaign to raise social awareness, organize and inspire people to action, and introduce a “new politics” of genuine service to the people. He “lost” the elections but won the love of people from all walks of life and inspired them to stand up for their rights.
On September 19, 1987 Lean was assassinated by forces widely believed to be part of the Philippine military while he was sitting in his car waiting for the gate of the Bayan office to open. He had just come from a press conference where he had been warning of renewed threats of political repression under what was already a post-Marcos regime.
Lean Alejandro - His family, friends, and colleagues remember him best as a warm, funny, caring human being. An exemplary Filipino in life and in death, he remains an inspiring force in the continuing struggle for social change.