My family are all activists, so growing up I was always at rallies and at meetings. When I was four and a half years old, my father was murdered in his union hall. The pursuit of justice is something that I think is very important. For me, it’s kind of the point in life, to find some sort of justice for yourself and the people around you.

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My father was murdered because of his belief that the Marcos dictatorship was messed up. President Marcos declared the country under martial law. He had control over the whole country and the army carried out his wishes. People couldn’t go out at night, they couldn’t walk about freely, couldn’t go about their lives as they normally would.

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There was a movement here in this country and they were anti-Marcos – second-generation Filipinos and some first-generation immigrants. They didn’t like what was going on in the Philippines and wanted Marcos to step down as president because he was oppressing the people of his country and stealing money from them.

So, he found out about what was going on in this country and didn’t like the fact that there was a political movement against him. He tried to silence it by getting rid of two of the most important players in the movement, and that was my father and a man named Gene Viernes.

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They were also part of a reform movement in their union. The man who was the president of the union at the time—Tony Baruso—was a Marcos supporter. What happened basically, is Marcos paid a doctor in California, who paid the president of the union here—the cannery worker’s union—who paid two union members, who carried out the action to kill them. They made it seem as if it was part of the union and part of the union corruptness.  

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Of course it was partially because of the union president—if he hadn’t taken the bribe, and hadn’t been pro-Marcos it would have never happened. But they tried to make it seem like it was part of a dispatch-scandal because my Dad and Gene Viernes wouldn’t dispatch these two gangsters to the canneries.

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After my father died, my mother really stepped up in the movement and they formed a group called Committee for Justice for Domingo and Viernes. My mother became the union president after a year or so, and she was the president for a long time, like 10 years.

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