How the Tiamzon spouses fought the Marcos Sr. dictatorship

(Photo by Jon Bustamante)

In a 2014 interview with Bulatlat, the Tiamzon spouses detailed their political awakening as student activism flourished at the University of the Philippines at the time of the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos Sr.


MANILA – This morning, April 20, the Communist Party of the Philippines confirmed in a report posted by Ang Bayan the deaths of spouses Benito Tiamzon and Wilma Austria along with eight other guerrilla forces.

The CPP said that the 10 were captured alive last year and were subjected to heavy torture before they were killed by the Philippine military. Their remains, the CPP added, were then put in a motorboat and later detonated in the waters of Catbalogan City to “hide all evidence of the ignominy of their fascist crime.”

The statement disputes earlier military claims that the couple was killed in a gunfight on August 22, 2022.

But who are the Tiamzon spouses? Why was the Philippine government hell-bent on silencing them?

In a 2014 interview with Bulatlat, the Tiamzon spouses detailed their political awakening as student activism flourished at the University of the Philippines at the time of the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos Sr.

“I just rode one of those buses parked in front of the AS steps and joined the indignation rally outside Congress where Marcos was delivering his SONA [State of the Nation] speech,” Benito told Bulatlat.

Read: Benito Tiamzon, a worker, a true scholar of the people, a revolutionary at heart

Their involvement in pushing for genuine change deepened as they attended discussions, and later frequented the picket lines of striking workers at the time.

When Marcos Sr. suspended the writ of habeas corpus in December 1971, Austria told Bulatlat that it was when they decided to leave the university to become full-time community organizers.

“My mind and my heart were no longer there,” Austria told Bulatlat.

Community organizing at the heart of struggle against Marcos dictatorship

Tiamzon said he organized workers in Marikina and Quezon City under Marcos Sr., where he was able to work with both new and existing trade unions. Austria, on the other hand, worked with Navotas fishers and later became active in organizing women, youth, and urban poor communities.

Read: From La Tondeña to modern day unions: The continuous struggle against dictatorship and oppression

Both were arrested on separate occasions at the height of the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos Sr.

Tiamzon was arrested in 1973 and was tortured for a month in an attempt by his military captors to extract information from him. Austria was also arrested the same year and was subjected to heavy torture by her military captors. In her interview, she said her captors would beat her everyday for about three to four months following her arrest.

But upon their release, both continued their revolutionary work. This time, they lived with farming communities in the Visayas region.

“We had no regular meals. We usually had lugaw (porridge). Sometimes, we picked up shells by the shore,” said Wilma as she recalled her underground work in Cebu back in 1974.

Tiamzon said they learned more of the anti-feudal struggle of Filipinos when they were assigned to Eastern Visayas.

Why continue to fight?

As in many survivors of martial law, the Tiamzon spouses continued their revolutionary work even after the toppling of the Marcos Sr. dictatorship.

Read: Martial Law survivors now fighting Duterte’s tyranny

“Happiness is in the revolution. I could not think of any other life. There is no other way. The revolution is not a burden, an obligation I perform with a heavy heart. It comes out naturally,” Tiamzon said.

Austria, for her part, was arrested twice after the Marcos dictatorship – in 1989 and 1994. Then, the couple, along with several others, was again arrested in 2014 while overseeing the rehabilitation efforts in the Visayas region following Typhoon Haiyan.

Read: Wilma Austria, a woman, a student of history, a patriot, a revolutionary

“Why should one stop when a lot has to be done to attain radical change not only for Filipinos but for other exploited and oppressed peoples as well?” Austria said.

Calls for investigation

In a statement, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan said the spouses were revolutionaries who engaged the Philippine government in peace negotiations from 2016 to 2017 to address the roots of the armed conflict.

Tiamzon sat as a peace panel member and headed the NDFP Reciprocal Working Group on Political and Constitutional Reforms. Austria, on the other hand, was a peace consultant and was part of the NDFP’s working group on ending of hostilities and disposition of forces.

“We express our condolences with their families as we call for an independent investigation of the gruesome circumstances of their deaths along with eight others. For too long, revolutionaries have been executed in what is routinely made to appear as armed encounters or firefights,” Bayan said in a statement.

Peace consultants of the NDFP were arrested and continue to be detained following the unilateral termination of the peace talks in 2017 under former President Rodrigo Duterte. Others, such as peace consultants Randall Echanis and Randy Felix Malayao, were killed.

Read: Timeline | Attacks on peace consultants under the Duterte administration

Read: ‘Consultants are chosen for their expertise in their fields of endeavor, integrity and progressive views’ – NDFP

In a statement, the CPP said they are holding Ferdinand Marcos Jr., commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and ranking officials of the Philippine military accountable for the gruesome murders.

They said, “the party demands justice for the August 21 massacre of the Tiamzons et al. Their capture, torture, and killing were directed by the top officers of the AFP.” (RVO) (

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