Mid 80s to Early 90s

The year 1985 witnessed two of the most celebrated cases involving religious priests. The first was the gruesome murder of Tulunan Parish Priest Fr. Tulio Favali, PIME by a group of ICHDF members led by the right-wing fanatic, Norberto Manero, on 11 April 1985. A few months later in the Visayas, 11 July 1985, Fr. Rudy Romano, CSsR was abducted by the military and was never heard of since. These two cases were concrete examples of the continuing crisis in the mid-80s. This crisis led the AMRSP to focus on the theme “Towards a Better Understanding of the AMRSP in its Response to the Call of the Times” for its 1985 Joint Convention. In 1986 AMRSP came out with the monograph, “Signs of the Times.”

In 1981, WITNESS, a joint publication came out. The articles focused on the search for an authentic witness to Gospel values in the context of present realities and concrete situations found worldwide. Though Asian in context, this publication featured articles which particularized on the Philippine situation. The first issue carried reflections on the visit of Pope John Paul II to the country in February 1981.

A snap-election for President and Vice-President was held in January 1986. Marcos, together with his running-mate, Arturo Tolentino, were declared as winners by the COMELEC. NAMFREL, an alternative poll-watch body, came out with results that showed otherwise. This led Cory Aquino, the opposition candidate for President, to call for a national boycott to protest the results of the election, claiming that such was rigged and was characterized by fraud.

It was in February 1986 when the EDSA “People Power” uprising took place. People from various sectors, including church people, lay and religious alike, took to the streets. This led to the ouster of Marcos on 25 February 1986 and ended his 14-year dictatorship. Cory Aquino then assumed the Presidency, established a “revolutionary” government, and convened the 1986 Constitutional Convention.

The hope for change was characteristic of those times. And everyone wanted to give the new administration a chance by extending its support. In its 1986 Convention, the AMRSP focused its discussions on the theme, “AMRSP: Its Role and Contribution to National Renewal.” The AMRSP had then President Corazon Aquino as guest speaker for the said convention. Some would even remember with fondness how Aquino took time, even braving the storm, just to come to the convention. Sadly though, the ‘honeymoon’ of the Aquino administration with the people, and even with the Church, did not last long.

Peace talks between the government and the National Democratic Front (NDF) took place in 1986. Again, most people were hopeful that this process would work. This gave birth to a number of organizations and coalitions advocating peace. The AMRSP also took part in the ongoing effort for peace, not only through statements, but also through active participation and networking with the peace advocates. The ceasefire between the CPP-NPA-NDF and government troops was declared in December 1986. However, this was cut short with the Mendiola massacre in January 1987, where 18 farmers were killed by government troops while holding a peaceful rally at the foot of the Mendiola bridge.

Shortly after the breakdown of the talks, Aquino declared the “unsheathing of the sword of war” in 1987. The “Total War” policy of the Aquino administration then gave rise to further human rights violations — tens of thousands of peasants and indigenous people were displaced from their homes, salvaging and forced disappearances were on the rise, arbitrary arrest and detention went on — all in the name of the government’s counter-insurgency efforts. Again, even church people were not spared.

Throughout this time, the AMRSP continued to reaffirm its prophetic role in society, as evident in its convention themes from 1987 to 1991, “Consecrated Life in Today’s Mission of the Church” (1987): “The Present and Future Life in Prophetic Mission of the Church” (1988); “Religious Spirituality in Our Prophetic Ministry in the Philippines Today” (1989); “Rerum Novarum: AMRSP in Solidarity with Labor!” (1990); and “PCP II: Its Implication and Challenges to AMRSP” (1991).