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Known as the “grand old man of the Philippine politics” due to his reputation as one of the Philippine’s foremost nationalists, he was the longest-serving senator in Philippine history. He served as a Philippine senator for 24 years from 1947-1972.
A law student of University of the Philippines, he urged his fellow Reserved Officer’s Training Course (ROTC) cadets to take their training seriously as they will soon be called upon to use their skill against the Americans if the country’s independence is not granted. In 1928 he obtained his Masters in Law from the Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He also acquired a Doctor in Civil Law meritissimus from the University of Santo Tomas.
Tañada was also a longtime opponent of the U.S. role in the Philippines. He was the organizer of the Anti-Bases Coalition and other groups that rallied public opposition to the presence of American troops in Philippines. He was a familiar fixture during the Martial law era of Ferdinand Marcos, leading rallies and demonstrations being the founding chairperson of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (New nationalist alliance). During Corazon Aquino’s presidency, he was a staunch anti-U.S. Bases activist and an anti-nuclear power plant advocate. On September 16, 1991, he received a standing ovation from the Senate after rejecting a new lease for the Subic Bay naval base, which was the last American military installation in the Philippines.
Tañada is described to be a “person who metamorphosed from a graftbuster to a nationalist and… a crusader of various causes.” Apart from being characterized as an esteemed nationalist, Tañada was also regarded as the leader of the “parliament of the streets”. He had an infallible stance against graft and corruption, inequality, and tyranny. He was also the chief prosecutor against Japanese collaborators. Because of his political reputation, Tañada became a Filipino praised by all sectors of Philippine society, a person honored by both the Communist Party of the Philippines and the Reform the Armed Forces Movement, and a man who was acknowledged as a man of principles even by Benigno Aquino, Sr., who Tañada himself once charged as a “collaborator.”