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Green Left Weeky on Popoy Killing

PHILIPPINES: Popoy Lagman assassinated

14 February 2001


MANILA — The leader of the militant BMP trade union federation and prominent leftist, Filemon “Popoy” Lagman, was assassinated on February 6. Four gunmen opened fire while Lagman was visiting the Diliman campus of the University of the Philippines.

Happening just weeks after the fall of President Joseph Estrada, it is the first political assassination to occur under the new regime of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and signals the possible beginning of a campaign of terror targeting the country's leftist movement.

Many suspect that a rightist faction of the military loyal to the ousted president Joseph Estrada was behind the killing, with the intention of destabilising Arroyo's government and sowing intrigue among the competing armed factions of the left. The assassins have not yet been apprehended, although two suspects have been identified.

Lagman was a long-time leader of the country's revolutionary movement. Joining the underground Communist Party of the Philippines in the 1970s and rising to become the head of its metro Manila unit, he played a central part in the movement against the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos.

When the urban-based strategy of Lagman and other Manila party leaders came into conflict with the dogmatic pronouncements of CPP chairperson Jose Maria Sison, the entire metro Manila unit split from the party and turned its attention to the urban mass movement. The BMP, with Lagman at its head, was formed in 1995, as part of the Sanlakas federation of mass organisations.

While the BMP and Sanlakas have since undergone a series of sometimes acrimonious splits, Lagman was still widely regarded as a revolutionary leader of considerable stature.

The assassination was made to appear the work of rival left factions, an impression possibly aided by Sison who publicly implicated other leftists in Lagman's slaying. The CPP chairperson refused to express even a modicum of sympathy or solidarity in his public statements.

Most on the left, however, condemned the killing of the veteran leader. Liddy Napcil-Alandjro of the Anti-Trapo Movement, a coalition which groups many left organisations opposed to Estrada, stated she was “outraged by the cruelty of this act”.

“His death appears to follow the pattern that occurred after the anti-Marcos revolt”, she said. “Right-wing military groups stepped up terror and repression against the left as a way of destabilising the new regime and in this instance sowing intrigue within the progressive movement.”

Sonny Melencio of the Socialist Party of Labour agreed: “Popoy remained a political militant and his assassination is an attack on the whole progressive movement.”

“While it may be prejudging the situation, it appears to be part of a destabilisation campaign aimed at the current administration of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo by pro-Estrada loyalists. It demonstrates the instability and hollowness of democracy in the Philippines.”

“It is really only the military that had the capacity to carry out an assassination such as this. It follows the pattern of the December 31 bombing that was attributed to the Islamic rebels in Mindanao. We have very low expectations that justice will be done.”

Wilson Fortoleza, the spokesperson for Sanlakas, stated “Ka Popoy was not only the leader of the most militant labour union organisation but a true-blooded revolutionary and socialist. So he had a lot of enemies: the state, the capitalists and rivals within the leftist movement. He earned a lot of enemies, but also a lot of friends.”

“We are not pointing our fingers at any group at this time. What is certain is that this act was a politically motivated attack against the enemies of the ruling class.”

ka popoy's selected writings


PSR: A Semi-feudal Alibi for Protracted War, 1994
A critique of Sison's book (under the nom de guerre - Amado Guerrero) Philippine Society and Revolution, which characterized Philippine society's mode of production as semi-feudal and semi-colonial

PPDR: Class Line vs. Mass Line, 1994
A critique of the CPP's 'People's Program for a Democratic Revolution, which laid down its standpoint on the bourgeois democratic revolution and the agrarian question.

PPW: A New-Type Revolution of the Wrong Type, 1994
A critique of Sison's dogma of the armed struggle as the primary form of struggle for the Filipino proletariat, a review of Chinese society and history

The man who called for a revolution in Ayala (Feb.7, 2001)

Philippine Daily Inquirer February 7, 2001

The man who called for a revolution in Ayala

By PDI Research

See related story:

Labor leader assassinated

FILEMON "Popoy" Lagman was a maverick nationalist, veteran activist and trade union organizer.

An activist since high school, he had in the last five years ventured into organizing a legal mass movement. At the time of his death, Lagman headed the Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP) since its founding in 1995. BMP is a federation of more than 200 local unions with a mass membership of about 100,000 workers.

Lagman had a vision of uniting all progressive unions, build a top-caliber labor law office, start the groundwork for organizing an electoral labor party, put up a radio program and a daily tabloid for the cause-oriented movement, and establish a workers' bank to further bolster the livelihood requirements of the sector.

This was a vision that almost came true at the height of the protest to oust Joseph Estrada, when the different workers federations united on a common action for Estrada's ouster.

Lagman's group was one of the first to be at the Edsa Shrine after the Senate's rejection of the opening of the second envelope[1]. When it was Lagmanfs turn to speak, people from Makati
reportedly did not know how to react[2] when he called "for a revolution in Ayala."[3]


Lagman led protest actions in many of the BMPfs member unions. Other protest actions were directed against oil price hikes, the expanded value added tax, the Anti-Terror Bill, the Visiting Forces Agreement and for the resignation and ouster of President Joseph Estrada.

Active in the underground struggle against the Marcos dictatorship, he used the alias "Carlos Forte" or "Ka Popoy." He was a member of Samahang Demokratiko ng Kabataan in UP in the 1970s.[4] He went underground after finishing only a year of journalism at University of the Philippines.

During martial law, he headed the Manila-Party Regional Committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines till his suspension by the Executive Committee of the Central Committee in 1978 due to differences in the participation in the elections called by President Marcos.

Lagman advocated for participation against the party's boycott stance.

Suspected by the military as the chief of the Alex Boncayao Brigade, the dreaded communist hit squad, he was arrested in 1994 and went aboveground after his release.

Again, he was arrested in 1996 at the height of protests against the Asia-Pacific Economic summit which Manila was hosting. The BMP was a breakaway group from the Kilusang Mayong Uno (KMU).

Protest actions

Two weeks after his arrest, protest actions by 183 unions erupted in Metro Manila, demanding his release.The workers action included mass walkouts, work stoppages, demonstrations, pickets and hanging banners at factory gates. Lagman was released on Nov. 28, three days after the Apec summit, which confirmed Lagmanfs suspicions that his arrest was merely part of the security arrangements for the visiting heads of state in Manila.

The order for his release came from the Quezon City court, which cited the lack of due process in his abduction and imprisonment. Lagmanfs lawyers filed a charge of grave abuse of authority against the state prosecutor who ordered his arrest.The BMP traces its origins to the split within the KMU in 1993, when the entire regional chapter in Metro Manila collapsed. The chapter accounted for more than half the total membership of the KMU.

Split within split

The split occurred after a major split took place in the underground Communist Party of the Philippines, when almost half the membership rejected its Stalinist-Maoist politics.

Lagman led the breakaway from the CPP in 1991 due to differences with founding CPP chair, Jose Ma. Sison, on the question of strategy of guerrilla war and the analysis of Philippine society as semi-feudal and semi-colonial.

Lagman advocated a shift to the workers movement, combining parliamentary and extra-parliamentary means and a "strategy of a workers uprising toward a socialist revolution."

Lagman's splinter group is called the RJ (Rejectionist) to differentiate it from the mainstream RA (Reaffirmist).

Today the RJ group is said to be hopelessly split into three.[5] Among the splinters, Lagman at the time of his death was said to be the only one to hold a truly urban mass following. The rest are said to be "paper tigers" which do not have countryside fronts or bases.

Lagman had once lamented that the KMU had been treating the BMP as an "enemy." The KMU had attacked the BMP and accused it of being "insurrectionist" and a partner of government at the same time. The rift was a product of differences between Lagman and Sison. The KMU is said to be aligned with Sison.

But consistent to his "rejectionist" image, Lagman scored Sison for being "constitutionalist" by endorsing Vice President Macapagal-Arroyo to succeed President Estrada in the event of Estrada's impeachment or resignation.

Consistent with his vision for reform, Lagman took a "resign all" position.

Notes: Assisted by M.S. in Philippine

[1] "the opening of the second envelope" - The 2nd envelop was the evidence given by the PCI-Equittable Bank (Philippine Commercial and Industrial Bank), which is owned by the Go Family, one of Erap (Estrada) cronies and member of Erap midnight cabinets, to the Prosecutor containing the alleged secret account of the Deposed Presient Erap. This is a very discriminatory documentary evidence against Erap because it allegedly contain bank deposit amounting to 3 Billion pesos of unexplain wealth of Erap. On the last day of the trial, 11 senators voted not to open this envelop. This trigger the anger of the people against the government that created the spontaneous and greater mobilization. (People Power ll)

[2] "people from Makati reportedly did not know how to react" -The Lagman group was partially isolated because of their call for "Resign All". Sanlakas would like that all government official will resign together with Erap and the Chief justice will become the caretaker government and appoint all gov't position before a election is held. This is a unpopolar stand especially to those who works in the financial center like Makati.

[3] "a revolution in Ayala" - Ayala is a street of Makati, the financial center of the Philippine. The first scandal of the Erap government, that is, the Best World (BW) resources stock manipulation started in Ayala. BW is a company in a stock exchange rumors to be own by Erap but was headed by Dante Tan. who is Erap cronies and also a member of midnight cabinet. Midnight cabinet is a group of drinking buddies of Erap compose of big businessmen, and the most favor. Lagman groups first mobilization was held in Ayala. Many employees of big companies joined, but because of their call to "Resign All", the masses isolated them. Demonstration in Ayala was organized by big businessmen against Erap.

[4] "Samahang Demokratiko ng Kabataan" - Organization of the Democratic Youth

[5] "Today the RJ group is said to be hopelessly split into three." - RJ has many splits.

1. AKBAYAN - literally means shoulder to shoulder; its members came mainly from the NOD (National Organizing Depeartment; NDF - National Democratic Front cell) of the CPP before. They don't have mass base and concentrated to electoral process.
2. Partido ng Manggagawang Pilipino(Phil. Workers Party)- this is the political party of Lagman groups. Together with other sectoral groups like SANLAKAS (means one force), BMP, KAMPI - Kaisahan ng Mga Anak ng MAnggagawang Pilipino( Organization of Filipino workers) a student organization, PCUP - Philippine Confederation of Unions President and others
3. RPA/ABB - this groups was headed by Tabara, and Sergio Romero. They have a Armed group in Negros but has turn into Private armies of Danding Cojuangco (Erap cornies). They had already surrendered to the Erap government in exchange of 10 million pesos cash and 45 million pesos rehabilitation fund. Some of RJ's of Mindanao has merged with RPA/ABB, while others joined Sanlakas.

4. Marxist-Leninist Party of the Philippines (MLPP) and its legal front; KPD - Kilusan para sa Pambansang Democrasya (Movement for National Democracy) - A group from Southern Luzon. They have also an armed group called Rebolusyonaryong Hukbong Bayan (Revolutionary Peoples Army). THis is a small and loose groups of former revolutionary.
5. Sosyalistang Kilusang Manggagawa SOCIALIST WORKERS MOVEMENT - a group of Sonny Nemenzo - split from Lagmans group

Note: On 2002, three parties merged - the Partido ng Manggagawang Pilipino (PMP), Sosyalistang Partido ng Paggawa (SPP), and the Partido Proletaryo Demokratiko (PPD)