Fr. Rudy Romano was abducted by armed men, allegedly under the orders of the Marcos dictatorial regime, in Barangay Tisa, Cebu City on July 11, 1985. Romano, a Redemptorist priest prominent as one of the activist leaders of the anti-dictatorship movement in Cebu in the early 1980s, was never seen again.
Cebuanos commemorated the 30th year anniversary of his enforced disappearance with a candle lighting ceremony with friends, activists, and church people at a stone marker in his abduction site in the morning and a mass at the Redemptorist Church in the evening.
In a statement read at the commemoration, Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma called Fr. Romano a “modern martyr” who deserves to be emulated by present and future generations.
“He experienced the unjust structures used by the oppressors to exploit the poor. He spoke to denounce the oppressors, and announced the liberating love of Jesus of Nazareth,” said Palma.
The archbishop also compared Fr. Romano to the late Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador in Central America who was gunned down by military agents while celebrating the Holy Mass in 1980. Archbishop Romero was beatified by Pope Francis last May.
“Both Archbishop Romero and Father Romano were privileged to follow the same fate as their crucified and murdered Master, Jesus of Nazareth,” said Palma.
Romano, aged 44 at the time of his disappearance and a local of Villareal town in Samar, was no stranger to the rampant human rights violations in the country with the Island notorious as the most militarized in the country during the dark years of Martial Law.
He actively campaigned against the human rights abuses under the Marcos regime, including the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines-Visayas and the Peace and the Philippine Council for Human Rights-Visayas. He also helped found the Visayas Ecumenical Movement for Justice and Peace (VEMJP) as its first Chairperson.
With Romano at the helm, the VEMJP took on the campaign against Lusaran Dam Project which meant the displacement of peasants from their homes and livelihoods. They also helped organized informal settlers facing the demolition of their homes in Cebu City’s North Reclamation Project.
Fr. Romano was also involved in labor issues, giving his personal presence and support to striking workers at the Visayan Glass Factory in Guadalupe, Cebu City in May 1984 and helping organize workers of the Atlas Consolidated Mining and Development Corp. in Toledo City in the following year.
He was indeed a mainstay of protest actions in Cebu in between his duties as a priest, even getting illegally arrested and briefly detained by the Philippine Constabulary during a rally at the Fuente Osmeña on International Human Rights Day in the year 1979.
Romano actively took part in the formation of broad alliances against the dictatorship, particularly in the Coalition Against People’s Persecution (CAPP) and the Cebu Oust Marcos Movement for the Advancement of Nationalism and Democracy (COMMAND).
At the time of his abduction, Romano was Vice-President for the Visayas of the activist alliance Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) which was at the forefront of a series of lakbayans and welgang bayans that then shook the Marcos regime in Cebu and other major cities and provincial centers nationwide.
After the fall of Marcos in 1986, the Cebu City Government put up a stone marker in the site where Fr. Romano was abducted in Barangay Tisa. He was also adopted as “a son of the province of Cebu” in a resolution passed by the Cebu provincial government for his human rights and pro-poor advocacy.
“Fr. Romano went beyond palliatives. He was particularly vocal and active with the exploited workers, slum dwellers, landless peasants, and other sectors of society oppressed by unjust structures… may we also confront the structures that keep the poor exploited and oppressed,” said Palma.
Note: I wrote this article for thepoc.net.