Politics of the Masses: Mendiola Massacre survivor, labor leader and urban poor luminary lead new party-list electoral bid in May 2004

Scores of presidentiables and senatoriables attended recently the convention of the new sectoral party for the basic masses, Anakpawis, vowing to support their legislative cause. Their appearance only confirmed that Anakpawis, which boasts of 250,000 organized members nationwide not only has a vote power but also showed that the time has come for the poor to take Congress by storm.

By GERRY ALBERT CORPUZ
Bulatlat.com

A veteran labor leader-turned-party-list lawmaker, a survivor of the 1987 Mendiola Massacre and an urban poor leader will lead the five nominees of the newest party list group that would seek congressional seats in the May 2004 elections under the party-list system.

The three nominees of the newly-formed Anakpawis (toiling masses) political party are labor leader Crispin “Ka Bel” Beltran, peasant activist Rafael Mariano and urban poor leader and Kabataan para sa Demokrasya at Nasyunalismo’s (Kadena) oldest member Carmen “Nanay Mameng” Deunida.

Their peers chose the three street parliament veterans as their nominees during Anakpawis’ national convention held last Jan. 8-9 at the Amoranto Multi-Purpose Hall in Quezon City. About 3,000 delegates from 15 regions nationwide attended the party convention.

“We are confident of Anakpawis’ chances in the 2004 party list elections,” Beltran, Anakpawis chairperson said. “The poor and the working people would bring us to the House of Representatives under the banner of their own political party.”

Ka Bel, 71, resigned from Bayan Muna party list, a staunch ally of Anakpawis on Nov. 23 last year to lead the militant party list in the May 2004 elections.

“The entry of Anakpawis in the electoral battlefield will turn the tables around in favor of the oppressed and the exploited. We will challenge elite and reactionary rule at their own turf,” Beltran exclaimed before the jampacked crowd.

Filipino of the Year

The labor leader was adjudged Filipino of the Year 2002 by the Philippine Graphic Magazine for carrying the fight against the anomalous Purchased Power Adjustment (PPA) and was voted as one of 10 outstanding congressmen by Congress Magazine of the National Press Club in 2003.

The 44-year old peasant leader Rafael Mariano survived the brutal attack against peasant activists on Jan. 22, 1987 at the Mendiola Bridge near the Malacañang presidential palace when hundreds of military and police elements fired shots at protesting farmers demanding land reform from former President Corazon Aquino.

“Mendiola Massacre always reminds me of the peasantry’s mission in life – to win their freedom from the bondage of feudal exploitation,” Mariano told Bulatlat.com. “Thousands of peasants, including the martyrs of Mendiola gave their life for the struggle and continue to inspire us to win our cause for land.”

About 13 of Mariano’s fellow farmer-marchers from Central Luzon and Southern Tagalog regions were killed during that day now remembered in history as Mendiola Massacre. “We will voice our demands for genuine land reform and social justice in Congress – the same demands echoed in Mendiola 17 years ago,” he said.

Anakpawis’ Mariano is the chair of both the militant alliance Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) and the activist peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP). He came from a poor peasant family in Nueva Ecija. He was in first year college taking up agriculture and cooperative when his father died. Mariano stopped schooling and attended to his family’s needs after his father’s death.

Youngest at 50

Carmen “Nanay Mameng” Deunida’s political activism spanned four decades which began in early 1970s when she became the oldest member at 50 years of the youth group Kabataan Para sa Demokrasya at Nasyunalismo (Kadena).

“Life begins at 40, but my activism started at the age of 50,” says Nanay Mameng. “Now I feel 40 years younger because this electoral battle is something new for me. Age does not matter as far as serving the people is concerned. We will literally and politically take Congress by storm to promote the politics of the masses and politics of change.”

Nany or Ka Mameng, one of the brilliant figures of the anti-Estrada movement that ousted President Joseph Estrada from power in January 2001 chairs the militant urban poor group Kadamay or the Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap. Prior to that, Deunida took herself to task in organizing the urban poor women’s group Samahan ng Maralitang Kababaihang Nagkakaisa (Samakana) on Sept. 14,1983.

Her life story was produced and shown by ABS-CBN’s long-running and top-rating drama show Maalaala Mo Kaya a couple of months after People Power II uprising that ousted Estrada from power. Veteran actress and public service figure Rosa Rosal played Ka Mameng in that episode.

Card-bearing

Anakpawis’ 250,000 card-bearing members, according to Ina Alleco Silverio, the group’s media relations chief, boast Anakpawis winning chances in the May 2004 elections under the party list system.

“Our nominees are also among the biggest, most respected names in the progressive people’s movement,” Silverio added. “The workers, the peasants, the rural and urban poor form the backbone of our political party.”

On the other hand, Anakpawis secretary general Cherry Clemente said the party will banner the fight for genuine land reform and national industrialization and will serve as the masses’ collective voice in carrying out the cause for just wages, national patrimony and sovereignty, women and children’s rights,
national minorities ‘rights among others.

“We have 250,000 card-bearing members. They will serve as the ‘electoral people’s army’ in reaching the huge population of the masses that would organize and bring the masses cause to the halls of Congress in May 2004,” she said.

Strictly politics

Politicians supportive to Anakpawis’ electoral goal to win three party list seats in Congress went to the convention. Election campaign adviser Sen. Vicente “Tito” Sotto III represented presidential candidate
Fernando Poe Jr. Another presidential contender Raul Roco gave a glimpse of his presidential platform. The same applies to leading Vice-Presidential candidate Loren Legarda.

Aside from Sotto, Roco and Legarda, other big names in national politics who attended the national convention were senatorial candidates Rodolfo ” Pong” Biazon, Rep. Carlos Padilla, celebrated lawyer Batas Maurico and former solicitor general Frank Chavez.

“This is one historic convention because it will serve as inspiration to further rally the marginalized sectors to advance their cause through electoral politics. I support Anakpawis’ initiatives for poor Filipinos,”
said Legarda, the opposition’s standard-bearer for the vice-presidential elections.

Legarda cited her role in the peace negotiation during the Estrada administration, as well as her stand on issues regarding environment, Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and other matters affecting national
sovereignty. She worked hand-in-hand with the negotiators of the communist-led National Democratic Front of the Philippines in the release of military officials captured by the New People’s Army.

Biazon told Anakpawis delegates that he too was critical of the policies governed by the World Trade Organization (WTO) and unstoppable dumping of foreign agricultural products in the country. He said he is also critical of Balikatan exercises and supportive of the peace talks between the government and the NDF.

He recalled that during Ramos time where he was the chief of staff of the Armed Forces, he even suggested to President Fidel Ramos to release then political prisoner now Bayan Muna party list Rep. Satur Ocampo as part of confidence-building measure with the NDF.

No to Cha-cha

Anakpawis leaders likewise rejected the proposed Charter Change or Chacha being revived by House Speaker Jose de Venecia. The House leadership recently asked its Senate counterpart to jointly pass a bill that would allow charter change through constitutional convention where delegates will be elected simultaneous with the May elections.()

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