QUESTION OF PRIVILEGE OF REP. GUNIGUNDO
Journal No. 55, House of Representative, Feb. 6, 2008, Wednesday
Two nights ago, the clamor for change reverberated in this august hall. Tonight, this Representation, who is the voice of the Second District of Valenzuela City – a city that used to be dubbed as the strike capital of the Philippines – would like to hear once more the voice of an advocate and catalyst of change more particularly in the labor sector.
Seven years ago today, Filemon “Ka Popoy” Lagman was felled by an assassin’s bullet that was meant to silence him forever, to isolate him from the working class he had loved and served so well, to obliterate his ideas and principles from the labor front.
In the November 25, 2006 issue of the Daily Issue, Ka Popoy wrote, Mga kasama, magtago ako’t mag-underground, ako’y hina-hunting. Mag-legal ako’t mag-aboveground, ako’y inuusig. Iisa lang ang gustong mangyari ng gobyerno – tumigil ako, isuko ang aking prinsipyo. Pero ang prinsipyong ito ay dinilig ng dugo, hindi lamang ng libo-libong martir ng kilusang manggagawa. Dilig ito ng dugo ng aking kapatid at asawa, at ito’y nananalaytay sa aking isipan, at kailanman ay hindi nila magagawang ito’y ipiit o kitilin sapagkat ito’y dumadaloy sa kamalayan ng lahat ng manggagawang naghihimagsik sa sistemang mapang-alipin..
Indeed, Ka Popoy, who was perennially maligned by his critics and detractors, was arrested and incarcerated three times but he never surrendered. He never gave up his principles and the cause he consistently fought for. Kahit kailan, hindi siya naging balimbing, gaano mang panggigipit at pag-uusig ang kanyang hinarap. Neither was he ever a fence sitter in his steadfast quest for social change. He would always make an unwavering stand on issues and problems that confronted the working class and the nation.
Ka Popoy’s political activism began when he was just a student at the Caloocan High School. He took pride in being a walk-in member, not a recruit, of the Samahang Demokratiko ng Kabataan (SDK). He decided on his own. He freely chose the organizations he would join.
It was in the first semester of his first year as an AB Journalism student in the University of the Philippines-Diliman when he became a staff member of the Philippine Collegian, the University’s official newspaper. Two semesters later, without consulting his family, he dropped out of school to go underground where he clandestinely led the mass movement until he was arrested in June of 1994. After he was released, he decided to stay aboveground. He was again arrested in 1996 to prevent the mass protests against the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit. The Buklurang Manggagawang Pilipino or BMP which he founded in 1993 and chaired in 1995 was one of the leaders of the mass protests.
Shortly before Ka Popoy was assassinated, he advocated and laid the groundwork for the formation of a labor party, the Partido ng Manggagawa or PM. PM was founded on February 12, 2001, the day Ka Popoy was laid to rest. But has Ka Popoy really rested? Has the ruling class succeeded in buying his ideas and principles six feet under?
Ka Popoy asserted that his enemies will never be able to kill his principles for they already run in the consciousness of the working class. After all, his principles were forged in his living and working with and for the working masses more than half of his life.
Ka Popoy would have been 55 years old this coming March 17. But now he is ageless. He belongs to the ageless as long as there are abusive capitalists and deprived workers, uncaring government leaders and neglected citizens, a super rich few and impoverished multitudes.
Ka Popoy is alive. His assassin’s bullet killed his body but not his mind. His spirit lives on.
His spirit lives on among toiling underpaid workers in factories, among vigilant union members in picket lines, among crusading activists in rallies and demonstrations, among nameless struggling occupants of informal habitats. His spirit lives on to monitor and identify corrupt and inept labor arbiters and commissioners in the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) as well as in the chambers and salas of errant and biased judges and justices. His spirit lives on to be a zealous sentinel of lawmakers, policymakers, bureaucrats and government executives who perpetuate inequities and discrimination against the marginalized and disadvantaged sectors of society. His spirit lives on in the board rooms of corporate interests and in the elitist conclaves to ceaselessly guard against continuing anti-labor policies and anti-poor agenda. His spirit will live on as long as his labor advocacy does not find fruition.
It is lamentable that Ka Popoy was assaulted by black propaganda. He was basically a man of peace. He was an advocate of industrial peace. To him, strikes are the last resort. He would first try to settle labor disputes on the bargaining table where he had achieved numerous meaningful and productive collective bargaining agreements acceptable to both labor and capital. He believed that hard-fought battles of labor in the streets could be also won in the halls of Congress. Hence, his advocacy of a labor party that could represent the working class in the legislature.
As workers dare this august body to fight for decent work and decent pay, as they challenge your Committee on Labor to enact a genuine Labor Code, I hear Ka Popoy ask, “If the owner of capital has the right to sell his product above its cost, why is the lowly worker deprived of his right to sell his own commodity – his labor power – even at its value? Why must the State and society hold sacred the privilege of capital to wealth and profit but deny the ordinary worker the dignity of earning a living wage?”
On the seventh death anniversary of Ka Popoy, this Representation calls on this august Chamber to enact laws that would accord labor the dignity, respect and importance that it rightly deserves. Today, the assassins and masterminds in the killing of Ka Popoy Lagman have not been apprehended; possibly they will never be. But they are not free. They are handcuffed by their guilt. They are prisoners of the government’s continuing culpable neglect, even furtive complicity. They have not been brought to justice. Subalit ang pinakamahalagang hustisya na maibibigay kay Ka Popoy ay ang pagpapatuloy ng kanyang laban sa labas at loob ng Kongreso.
Magandang gabi po sa ating lahat.