Lunes, Pebrero 2, 2009

500 firms affected by work stoppage for Popoy funeral

500 firms affected by work stoppage for Popoy funeral
by Mayen Jaymalin and Pia Lee-Brago
(The Philippine Star) Updated February 13, 2001

More than 500 factories and commercial establishments stopped operations at noon yesterday as thousands of workers walked out of their jobs to join a funeral march for slain labor leader Felimon "Popoy" Lagman.

Wearing red shirts to symbolize their struggle, the workers marched to the University of the Philippines chapel in Diliman, Quezon City, where a Mass was said for Lagman.

The workers held a brief noise barrage, which singer Danny Javier of the Apo Hiking Society said was originated by Lagman as a form of protest during the Marcos dictatorship.

In a homily, Fr. Robert Reyes described Lagman as "someone who would not fit in the mold of a traditional religious follower" as he had died fighting for the oppressed.

Lagman’s casket was brought out of the UP cha-pel at around 2:45 p.m. and placed in an open truck with wreaths and his posters for the funeral procession to Loyola Memorial Park in Marikina City.

Among those who attended the Mass and Lagman’s burial were Ilocos Sur Gov. Luis "Chavit" Singson, Isabela Rep. Heherson Alvarez, Quezon City Rep. Dante Liban, businessman Jose Concepcion, former Tarlac Rep. Jose "Peping" Cojuangco and his wife, former Tarlac Gov. Margarita "Tingting" Cojuangco.

About 1,000 policemen were deployed to escort the marchers, while at least 100 others stood guard at the Loyola Memorial Park against possible saboteurs.

Members of the Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP) vowed to "hunt down" the killers of Lagman, who founded the militant labor union.

"We will render justice in our own way," the BMP said in an official statement yesterday. "We will hunt down the perpetrators and mastermind of the heinous crime to the ends of the earth."

While Lagman lay in state at the UP chapel yesterday morning, his followers held the founding congress of the Partido ng Manggagawang Pilipino and announced that it would take part in May’s congressional elections.

Lagman organized the party before he was shot dead by four unidentified assassins in front of the Bahay ng Alumni inside the UP campus last Feb. 6.

At MalacaƱang, Presidential Spokesman Renato Corona told reporters the huge march could scare away investors at a time when the economy needs healing following the ouster of President Joseph Estrada last month.

"We are hoping that there will not be any work stoppage because we are conditioning foreign and local investors and we are trying to turn the economy around and a work stoppage is something negative," he said.

Corona said President Arroyo was disappointed that Lagman’s killing took place during the first two weeks of her administration when her desire was to have peace in the country.

"The death of Ka Popoy was really saddening because he is a great person whom many admire," he said. "He will forever go down in the history of Philippine labor as the pillar of the labor movement."

Corona said authorities are working overtime to track down Lagman’s killers, but BMP leaders refused to rule out retaliation for his death.

Authorities said Lagman’s murder could be part of a larger plot to destablize the fledgling Arroyo administration which came to power following a military-backed people’s uprising.

Police are gathering evidence against a businessman who allegedly shelled out the P5-million bounty for the assassination of Lagman.

Sources told The STAR yesterday two of Lagman’s suspected killers, who were found to be former communist hit men on the payroll of police and military intelligence, have been arrested and are now in police custody.

The police "handler" of one of the suspects is the brother of a prime mover of people power II at EDSA, which catapulted President Arroyo to power, sources added.

Two other suspects who acted as lookouts have also been identified as former communist hit men who were allegedly on the payroll of the defunct Presidential Anti-Crime Commission.

On the other hand, exiled communist leader Jose Ma. Sison said in a statement yesterday the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) "had no urgent reason" to kill Lagman because it could have had a "probable connection to the assassination plot" against him.

"The New People’s Army has more important things to do than shoot down someone who had just participated in the broad united front to topple Estrada," Sison’s statement said.

Sison said the CPP-NPA-National Democratic Front and militant groups led by Bagong Alyansang Makabayan had criticized the "Resign All" slogan of Lagman’s Sandigang Lakas ng Sambayanan (Sanlakas).

Sison said despite their ideological difference that led to factionalism in the communist movement, "there had been no urgent and strong reason for the CPP to undertake punitive action" against Lagman.

Sison said police investigators should look into the "probable connection" between the killing of Lagman and the assassination plot against him.

"It is highly probable that assassination plotters saw Popoy Lagman as the leak," read Sison’s statement. "Popoy had nothing to do with the assassination plot as an active conspirator."

At the Senate, the committee on justice and human rights is set to investigate the killing of Lagman and the disappearance of public relations man Salvador "Bubby" Dacer last Nov. 24.

In a resolution Sen. Renato Cayetano said the investigation will assure the people that the government is capable of protecting them from lawlessness.

Expected to testify at the hearing are the director of the National Bureau of Investigation, and the chiefs of the Philippine National Police and Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. –With Non Alquitran, Benjie Villa, Perseus Echeminada, Marichu Villanueva

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