Miyerkules, Enero 21, 2009

Postcript to an Assassination - by Edcel Lagman

by Edcel C. Lagman
former congressman
Opinion page, Philippine Star, February 6, 2003, page 9

Today marks the second death anniversary of Filemon "Ka Popoy" Lagman. It has been two years since the brutal assassination of Ka Popoy in broad daylight at the Bahay ng Alumni on the UP Campus. The crime remains unsolved. While there are credible eyewitnesses, relevant evidence and plausible motives, government lacks the will to unravel the murder. The authorities fear that tracking down the masterminds and assassins could lead to the opening of a can of worms.

The investigation began ang ended with "caricatures" of the suspected assailants which sunsequently must have been consigned to the police dustbin.

The alacrity with which CPP spokesman Ka Roger Rosal admitted that a NPA hit squad killed Romulo "Rolly" Kintanar, a former chiftain of the New People's Army, demolishes the theory of police authoritoes that Filemon Lagman was done in by his former comrades. In the case of Ka popoy, both the CPP and the NPA have consistently denied any involvement in his killing. Armed partisans are not known to be immodest in not claiming a feather in their cap. This development has enhanced the theory of the Lagman family that Ka Popoy's death was masterminded by forces other than the armed left.

Unlike others who were targets of seething vengeance by former comrades, Filemon Lagman has steadfast in his socialist ideology until his death. he broke away from Joma Sison, among other, on tactical differences. After decades of unsuccessful armed struggle with much loss of lives, Ka Popoy resolved to bring the campaign for reforms to the parliamentary arena.

He considered the maintenance of an armed component as a measure of preparedness for contingencies, but protracted armed struggle should not be a primary strategy. Eventual revolution is justified to install a socialist regime to consolidate gains and doom the forces of elitist orthodoxy.

Consequently, Ka Popoy and his numerous adherents supported candidates of kindred spirit and those receptive to his cause. He founded legitimate organizations like the multi-sectoral Sanlakas, Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP) and the Kapatiran ng mga Pangulo ng Unyon sa Pilipinas (KPUP). He founded the Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) shortly before he was killed. PM was formally launched on the day of his funeral.

Sanlakas won a party-list seat in the House of Representative in the 11th Congress. PM and Sanlakas are soon to have two party-list representatives in the current Congress.

In May 1997 Ka Popoy proposed to Government a comprehensive labor agenda requiring the enactment of laws to genuinely equalize the relationship between ascendant capital and marginalized labor. He fought globalization and exposed its deleterious effects to local industries and domestic labor. In November 1996 during the APEC Summit, Ka Popoy was imprisoned for organizing the people's caravan from Manila to Subic protesting APEC. Virtually all the evils of globalization pointed out by Ka Popoy now batter the country's economy resulting in the collapse of local industries and the displacement of workers.

Unlike others who left the underground, Ka Popoy did not engage in the government's counter-insurgency campaign. He never betrayed his comrades of differing persuasion. He did not accept any government position, neither did he intend to run for public office. He was a private person who fiercely and indefatigably fought for the upliftment of the marginalized and the empowerment of the disadvantaged sectors. he was both aboveground and aboveboard.

Verily, there was no overriding motive for the armed left to eliminate him. Their ends were common, only their means differed.

This is not to completely exculpate the armed left of former partisans who have turned killers for hire. They could have their own motives. But so do others.

We have proffered from the start to the investigators the following plausible motives for his assassination:

(a) Before and after EDSA II, the only recognized and relevant groups which did not lend support to the ascendancy of President Gloria macapagal-Arroyo were Popoy's Sanlakas and BMP. Popoy advocated a "Resign All" campaign. With this crucial backdrop, it is likely that certain ambitious personalities desirous of ingratiating themselves to the then nascent GMA administration hatched the elimination of Popoy as a housewarming gift to the new dispensation. This has happened before, it could have happened again.

(b) PM was viewed to blossom into an influential political force under his leadership, given his talent for organization and the potential of 31 million workers nationwide. Not a few had reasons to emasculate PM in its infancy. The surest way to achieve this malevolent objective was to eliminate its leader, Ka Popoy.

(c) The murder of Ka Popoy was proximate to the senatorial elections of may 2001. He had ample dossiers of a particular senatorial candidate's human rights violations and other criminal involvement. Incidentally, this senatorial aspirant had the sophisticated equipment then to accurately monitor the communications of Ka Popoy and decipher his appointments on any particular day.

(d) Ka Popoy and Sanlakas had influence in the politics of Quezon city. He was, to no small measure, instrumental in the election and reelection of Reps. Mike Defensor and Rey Calalay in the 3rd and 1st Districts of Quezon city, respectively.

I was aspiring to run as a candidate for Representative in the 4th District of Quezon City in the May 2001 elections. It was expected that with Ka Popoy's and Sanlakas' support my chances of winning would be greatly enhanced and the possibility of my being cheated obviated. The poll results could have been different if Ka Popoy were wlive.

On this aspect, it is indispensable to thoroughly investigate the circumstances and personalities connected with his afternoon appointment on that fateful day at the Up Bahay ng Alumni. A wink-of-an-eye "question and answer" inquest is a lame investigation.

The foregoing sequence is not prioritized and we have no bias in favor of any of them. We could be wrong in our submission. But the least the police investigators could have done was to sonsicentiously follow up these leads. A sleuth worth his slat does not leave any stone unturned.

The investigation has ominously not progressed. It appears that the mantle of justice has been extended to protect the culprits rather than vindicate the victim.

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