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Saturday, April 2, 2016

Edgar Jopson

Edgardo Gil Jopson, Edjop as he is more popularly known, was a labor-leader and activist during the Martial Law Period. He was a former president of National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP).

Early Life

Jopson was born on September 1, 1948 to Hernan and Josefa Jopson. He grew up in a well-off family in SampalocManila. His father, then just a starting businessman from Negros, put up a sari-sari store and had his two eldest children as staff. Jopson and his older sister would work in the store before and after school. When the store grew, and life for the family got better, Jopson's father decided to send him to study at the prestigious Ateneo.


Jopson's high school days were well spent; he was involved in various activities. He was part of the Ateneo Catechetical Instruction League, the Solidarity of Our Lady, and the Student Catholic Action, among others. Ateneo and the Jesuits seemed to have had quite an influence on the young Jopson; he wanted to become a priest. He later changed his mind after a Baguio retreat where he realized that he could still help other people without being a priest. Jopson graduated valedictorian from Ateneo High School. The bright young man, a consistent honor student from elementary to high school, continued to perform in college. His leadership started to surface during his stay at the university where he was elected as student council president in 1969. Around that same time, Jopson was named president of a progressive country-wide student organization called the National Union of Students of the Philippines. The following year, he was named one of the Ten Outstanding Young Men of the Philippines.

Martial Law Period

Coming from a family of relative affluence, Jopson seemed like an unlikely activist. He was a calm and moderate leader. In fact, during the First Quarter Storm, when hundreds of radical youth stormed Malacañang, Jopson and his group met with President Marcos. They asked him not to run for a third term, Jopson demanding that the president put it in writing. President Marcos mockingly retorted; "Who are you to tell me what to do? You're only a son of a grocer!".
Jopson would never be the same again. Martial Law would transform the moderate into an activist. Soon, he started joining demonstrations and openly denounced human rights violations brought by the military rule. He became an identifiable and effective organizer of the labor sector helping workers and unions draft collective bargaining proposals. His college education, two years in UP law school, and experience in handling the family business, served him and his advocacy very well during this period.
Later, Jopson would join the underground revolutionary movement.

Communist Party

Shortly after joining the Communist Party of the Philippines, he met with Jose Ma. Sison. Jopson volunteered to be part of the New People's Army's armed expansion teams, but Sison, recognizing his exceptional background as a leader, believed that he would be of greater use to the movement in the cities. Jopson was given assignments to revive the mass movement in the cities and to create resistance against military rule. He quickly and deservingly rose within the ranks because of his ability to assess and organize.
In June 1979 however, Jopson was arrested by the police following a raid of his underground house in Las Pinas. He was tortured and detained. While his father, whom he had not seen in four years, was preparing a counsel for his son, Jopson managed to escape from his captors. He fled to Bataan to meet with his comrades.

Mindanao Assignment

A few months after his escape, Jopson attended a top-level meeting where he learned of the party's plan for Mindanao. Apparently, there was a need for a greater involvement of the movement in its southernly affairs. Jopson again characteristically volunteered to be part of this reorganization. He was appointed to the administrative arm of the movement in the south called the Mindanao Commission. Jopson left for Mindanao in November 1979. After almost three years of organizing there (he could have left for Manila a year earlier but was given one year extension at his own request), Jopson was named head of the Mindanao Commission.


On the tenth anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law, September 21, 1982, Jopson had a meeting at a comrade's underground house. After the meet, the commission head dropped by the house of a former NUSP colleague, and then went home. Jopson, hearing noises from outside, looked out the window and saw armed men. He quickly alerted six other people in the house and ran backdoor. He was gunned down on his way out. Jopson was 34.


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