“…The best way to mark the 150th birthday of Bonifacio is to oppose a regime that has consistently put its interests ahead of Filipinos.” – KMU
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – The Philippines is said to be one of the few countries whose national hero is not the leader of its national revolution. On November 30, the leader of the 1896 Philippine revolution was remembered in protest rallies in the capital and in other urban centers. The date is also the 150th birthday of Andres Bonifacio, the acclaimed leader and organizer of the KKK (Kataastaasang Kagalanggalang na Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan), the patriotic organization that led an armed struggle in 1896. It spread throughout the Philippines, freed the country from Spanish colonialism and resulted in the founding of the first Philippine republic.
“Bonifacio may be 150 years old today but his dreams for workers and all Filipinos will continue to be young for a people who want a government that truly serves them – not foreign powers and the country’s elite,” said Elmer “Bong” Labog, chairman of KMU (Kilusang Mayo Uno). The labor center led thousands of protesters in remembering Bonifacio in two-part rallies today (Nov. 30) in Manila, and in other cities outside the capital. In Manila, protesters from various workers and sectoral groups converged at Liwasang Bonifacio, held a program there and then marched to Mendiola near Malacañang for a program.
The Nov. 30 program in Liwasang Bonifacio and later in Mendiola presented the participants and the public with “Bonifacio’s challenge,” and that, according to various speakers, meant “continuing the unfinished revolution.”
During the more than three hundred years of Spanish colonialism (1571 to 1898), feudalism in the Philippines “ripened” as the people were made to plant crops for the Spaniards and later for export, Gabriela secretary-general Lana Linaban said in a speech at Mendiola. Providing a context for the difficult and oppressed lives of the people then, the forces that prompted the likes of Andres Bonifacio to rebel and struggle, Linaban said, “landgrabbing became rampant as did forced labor.” Plus, the few wage labor available then paid low wages that the likes of Bonifacio, a wide reader and an expert in calligraphy, had to augment his income by crafting lettered fans and designer canes.
But even though the revolutionaries succeeded in driving away the Spanish colonial government and military, “the victory was stolen by US imperialism,” said Linaban at Mendiola. She explained that for the United States and other capitalist countries at the time, “colonialism is one of the few ‘solutions’ they resorted to in order to address the capitalist crisis of overproduction.”
Using dual tactics of counter-revolutionary aggression and deception, the US imperialists managed to impose their colonial government to the Filipino nation, Linaban said. Such dual tactics have remained up to this day, various speakers and leaders of peoples organizations said.
In 1946, the dual tactic of using counter-revolutionary violence and deception against the Filipinos resulted in the granting of “independence,” but one that is dictated by US economic and military interests, imposed on the Filipino nation via onerous treaties and agreements signed by US “puppet governments.”
According to Linaban, these treaties and puppet regimes are to blame for the state of the country’s economy today. She described this economy in Filipino as “stunted, and one whose natural and human resources are being plundered by a few.” Like other speakers before her, she blamed this situation as the cause of worsening poverty and destructive disasters in the Philippines today.
“Filipinos are poor because of landlessness and stunted industrialization,” said George San Mateo, president of transport group PISTON. He complained that largely all vital industries from oil to mining to transportation are “dominated by foreigners.” He warned that Filipinos have “no future” in such a “rotten, semi-colonial, semi-feudal system.”
“Indeed, US imperialists control our economy, politics, military and culture,” said Roger Soluta, secretary general of KMU. He said in a speech that “Our task is to end this rotten system, and to complete the national democratic revolution” that Bonifacio began.
In a statement distributed to the media, Labog of KMU said they held a protest on Nov. 30 Bonifacio Day “because the best way to mark the 150th birthday of Bonifacio is to oppose a regime that has consistently put its interests ahead of Filipinos.”
‘Aquino would have been Bonifacio’s target’
The rallyists excoriated President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III for his various “sins” that would have made him “the target of Andres Bonifacio’s ire had the latter been alive today,” as the KMU said.
In speeches at Mendiola, the said sins included Aquino’s “corruption” ranging from his pork barrel, said to be the biggest pork of all, to his “maneuvers” at using the agriculture department and the state armed forces so his family could further postpone the Supreme Court-ordered distribution of Hacienda Luisita lands, to his PPP (public-private projects) that “would take away Filipinos’ livelihoods, and ultimately kill them,” to his brutal armed oppression of the people via Oplan Bayanihan, among others.
The latest and possibly the worst of his sins so far, according to the rallyists, is Aquino’s alleged criminal negligence at preparing and then attending to the impact of typhoon Yolanda. “Ten thousand people died because of Yolanda’s strength and Aquino’s incompetence,” Labog stated.
The labor group charged that “Aquino showed criminal negligence in the way it responded to supertyphoon Yolanda and has perpetuated corruption in government especially through the pork barrel system.” The protesters burned a 10-foot effigy of Aquino as “pork barrel king,” depicting Aquino sitting on top of a barrel with the face of the pig. They also laid a couple of life-sized effigies of the dead due to Yolanda on the street.
The KMU vowed to hold bigger protests until the end of the year and early next year “to hold Aquino accountable for his criminal negligence in handling Yolanda and to call for the abolition of the pork barrel system.