Guingona leads necrological rites for press freedom icon
() - November 24, 2003 - 12:00am
Press freedom icon Jose Burgos Jr. was laid to rest in simple but moving sunset rites at the family farm in San Miguel, Bulacan on Saturday after a two-hour necrological service.

Vice President Teofisto Guingona led a crowd of about 500 people, including former newspaper dealers, vendors, staffers and unsung benefactors of the "Mosquito Press," in assuring the family of Burgos Jr. that they will support the various causes that the late journalist-farmer had advocated up until he succumbed to cancer on November.

"Those of us who lived through the dark days of the dictatorship, those who stood at the ramparts and withstood the blasts of the water cannons, and formed unyielding human chains while being pummelled with truncheons, will forever be in Joe’s debt," Guingona said.

"For with his unflinching commitment to truth, with his courageous pen, Joe stood by the Filipino people in fighting the dictatorship," he added.

He said the Mosquito Press–the term used to describe the alternative press that challenged the Marcos dictatorship, and of which Burgos was considered the leading symbol–had given all leaders of the democratic resistance against martial law the continuing hope that their then-seemingly-vain struggle would bear fruit someday, if only because Burgos and company were there to tell the story.

"Sa tulong ni Joe, nanatiling buhay ang aming loob at matibay ang paninindigan, patuloy kaming naniwala na kahit kaming lahat nina Ninoy, Tanny Tañada, Pepe Diokno, Chino Roces at iba pa, ay ipakulong ni Marcos, hindi maitatago at malalaman ng sambayanan–mabubunyag sa buong mundo ang kasamaan ng diktador–at pagdating ng panahon ay lalaya ang mga Pilipino at babalik ang demokrasya (With Joe’s help, our hopes remained high and our conviction unflagging, that even if Marcos jailed all of us–Ninoy, Lorenzo Tañada, Jose W. Diokno, Chino Roces, among others–the truth about this evil regime will be known to the world, and we will all soon be free,") Guingona said in his eulogy.

Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr., a close friend of Burgos, described the late journalist as a "long-distance runner," someone who was always lonely because he was far-seeing and dared do things ahead of his time.

Rep. Satur Ocampo, who was a columnist of Burgos’s publications WE Forum and Malaya in between his work in the Left (including columns written from military prison), also paid tribute to him.

Burgos’ exploits as an award-winning police reporter with the Times-Mirror chain of newspapers of Chino Roces, were recalled by Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye.

Others who paid him tribute were Philets Foundation colleague Rey Datu; Today editor in chief Lourdes Molina-Fernandez, on behalf of all those who worked with Burgos in the Mosquito Press; and Today Nation editor Lyn Resurreccion, who extolled Burgos’s work as a science and environment journalist.

Burgos’s wife Edith, once described by Sen. Joker Arroyo as "the rock of Joe," told the crowd that the gratitude the family felt, over the outpouring of love and support for the man awarded in year 2000 by the International Press Institute as one of the 50 World Press Freedom Heroes of the Century, will be expressed in the way they all live his legacy from now on: "The legacy of living the truth and seeking it. The legacy of living a life in witness of God’s love and mercy."

The final blessings were administered by Msgr. Ramon Tronqued and Fr. Emmanuel Alparce.

Former President Corazon Aquino, who a few months ago described Burgos as like a light at the end of the long tunnel of martial law, paid her respects before the service.

Former senator Rene Saguisag, one of Burgos’s lawyers who tangled with the military raiders of WE Forum, also joined the crowd that carried Burgos’s remains down a torch-lit narrow path to a grassy knoll by a pond in the farm. There, he was laid to rest with the help of hundreds of Bulacan farmers.

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