Press Release
July 28, 2021

Senators hail rights activist Nini Quezon Avanceña, daughter of wartime President Quezon

The Senate on Wednesday, July 28, 2021, hailed Maria Zeneida "Nini" Quezon-Avanceña, a human rights activist and the last surviving child of President Manuel Quezon, the first President of the Philippine Commonwealth.

Senators adopted Senate Resolution No. 776, introduced by Sen. Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan, "honoring the life of service" of Avanceña, and "expressing the profound sympathy and sincere condolences" on her passing last July 12. She turned 100 years old last April 9.

Avanceña devoted her long life to various causes leading to her appointment to the Presidential Committee on Human Rights of then President Corazon Cojuangco Aquino in 1986. The committee, chaired by former Sen. Jose W. Diokno, was created prior to the 1987 Philippine Constitution that created what is now known as the Commission on Human Rights.

During the Martial Law years, Avanceña co-founded Concerned Women of the Philippines, a socio-civic organization, the objectives of which were to promote human dignity, preserve and protect civil liberties and human rights, defend the poor, exploited and victims and injustices, and assure the legacy of justice, freedom and peace, Pangilinan said in his resolution.

"The organization courageously made its stand against tyranny and published it manifestos on the pages of government-controlled newspapers," he added.

She was also a member of Movement Against Presidential Commitment Order (PCO), an issuance of the late President Ferdinand Marcos when he placed the country under military rule in 1972 to quell dissent.

Her political activism saw her joining Kilusan sa Kapangyarihan at Karapatan ng Bayan (Kaakbay) which was founded by Diokno. "The group advocated for human rights and the end of dictatorial rule through non-violent means," the resolution stated.

She visited and advocated the release of Satur Ocampo, the longest political detainee during the Marcos administration long before he was elected Bayan Muna Partylist Representative.

Avanceña co-founded the Citizens Organization for Political Detainees and served on the board of the Philippine Union for Human Rights and the Ecumenical Commission for Displaced Families and Communities.

Reports said Avanceña submitted the family's landholdings in Arayat, Pampanga, and in Baler, Aurora, to agrarian reform in 1949 and after the 1986 revolution, respectively. For this, she received an award from the Department of Agrarian Reform as the first to submit to the land redistribution program.

She also served as president of the Philippine Tuberculosis Society (President Quezon died of TB) and as the first president of Assumption College Alumni Association in 1965.

After the EDSA Revolution in 1986, to which she actively participated to depose Marcos, she was appointed to the PCHR. She later resigned from her position in protest of the Mendiola massacre on January 22, 1987. She also took part in EDSA II that forced former President Joseph Estrada to step down.

"As a private citizen, Nini Quezon-Avanceña continued to silently work for and support worthy causes, reaching out to the grassroots and helping many Filipinos. She also unhesitatingly called out social inequalities and injustices," Pangilinan said.

"Nini Quezon-Avanceña lived for a century showing her deep love of country, sense of duty, and unwavering faith in our countrymen. She left behind a nation grateful for her commitment to defend human rights and uphold the principles of freedom and democracy," he added.

She married Felipe Buencamino III in 1947. Two years later, however, on April 28, 1949, Buencamino, her mother Doña Aurora and her elder sister Maria Aurora, were ambushed and killed by members of a guerrilla group Hukbong Bayan Laban sa Hapon (Hukbalahap) in Bongabon, Nueva Ecija.

She had two children with Buencamino and seven with her second husband, Alberto Avanceña, whom she married in 1951.

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