By Philip C. Tubeza
Inquirer News Service
Philippine Daily Inquirer February 13, 2001
SOME 30,000 people yesterday joined the six-kilometer funeral march for labor leader Filemon "Ka Popoy" Lagman from the Parish of the Holy Sacrifice in Diliman, Quezon City, to the Loyola Memorial Park in Marikina.
As the sun set, the labor leader's body was finally lowered to the ground at 6:15 p.m.
His teary eyed comrades sang the "Internationale" and other revolutionary songs, including his favorite, "Kung ako ay Bumagsak (If I Fall)."
Before Lagman was buried, his family requested that the coffin's lid be opened. It was then that Lagman's children hugged their fallen father.
The labor leader’s relatives put in his coffin flowers, two packs of cigarette, a lighter, a necklace, and a sander, which he used to repair furniture whenever he was home.
Dante also slipped inside his father's jacket a slip of green paper. He did not say what was written on it.
A week after he was laid to rest, the gunmen who murdered him inside the UP campus in Diliman, Quezon City, remain free.
Those who attended the funeral were mostly members of Sanlakas, the Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino, and the newly formed Partido ng Manggagawa.
Besides the slain Lagman’s family and supporters, politicians and business leaders attended the Mass and the funeral march.
The Inquirer sighted Ilocos Sur Gov. Luis "Chavit" Singson, businessman Jose Concepcion Jr., UP Professor Walden Bello, actor Danny Javier of Kompil II, Pastor "Boy" Saycon, and former Rep. Jose "Peping" Cojuangco and his wife Tingting.
The leaders of the "reaffirmist" wing of the Leftist movement were not present but Nathanael Santiago, Vic Ladlad and Satur Ocampo came during the wake.
Lagman’s allies in the rejectionist wing, like leaders of the Sosyalistang Partido ng Paggawa, Kilusan para sa Pambansang Demokrasya (KPD), and the Freedom from Debt Coalition joined the funeral march.
What caught the attention of onlookers were the beret-wearing members of the Partido ng Manggagawang Pilipino (PMP), the underground political party that Lagman formed after he broke away from the Communist Party of the Philippines.
PMP members, wearing red shirts and red kerchiefs hiding half of their faces, served as the "close-in security" for the Lagman family. Lagman’s coffin was mounted on a 10-wheel truck.
Director Edgar Aglipay, Task Force Popoy head, told the Inquirer that the police were having a hard time arresting Lagman’s killers whom he described as "professionals."
"But I brief the family everyday about the investigation and they are satisfied with its progress," said Aglipay, who attended the funeral Mass around 1 p.m.
But former Rep. Edcel Lagman, the victim's brother, said he and his relatives were not happy with the "slow pace" of the probe.
"We will only be happy if the culprits are arrested and are put behind bars," he said.
"If they don't fulfill what they promised (to collar the suspects), I myself know what has to be done (Pag di tinupad, ako na mismo ang maniningil)," the senior Lagman said.
The funeral march started at 2:30 p.m. as BMP and Sanlakas members chanted and waived their red and blue banners. They vowed to continue Lagman’s struggle for the welfare of workers.
PMP members carried red flags with the hammer and sickle printed on it. Four PMP members also stood guard beside Lagman’s coffin on the truck.
The march snaked first around the UP campus, passing the Bahay ng Alumni, where Lagman was shot Tuesday last week, and the College of Mass Communication, where he studied journalism for a year before going full time in the revolutionary movement.
Thousands of restaurant workers, students, carpenters, and urban poor lined Katipunan Avenue as the march passed by Miriam College and Ateneo de Manila University.
When the procession reached the boundary of Marikina and Quezon City, Marikina Mayor Bayani Fernando and around 10,000 of his constituents welcomed the funeral cortege.
The march reached the gate of Loyola Memorial Park at 5:10 p.m. but its rear end was still in front of Ateneo, according to Supt. Domingo Alzada, Marikina Traffic Enforcement Unit Chief.
Firecrackers and cries for justice greeted the truck carrying Lagman’s body as it entered the cemetery. Thousands of other BMP and Sanlakas members were waiting.
But as it wound up the final stretch of road from the entrance to Lagman’s grave, the marchers were noticeably quiet except for the chants from the marchers' sound system.
The silence continued as Lagman’s casket was brought down from the truck for the final viewing of his family.
When the coffin was opened, Lagman’s mother Cecilia kept her eyes on her dead son, who still wore his brown jacket and blue pants. She sobbed continuously.
"She is a brave mother," Edcel said as he comforted his mom.
Edcel's brother Hermon, also an organizer, disappeared during martial law. He is presumed dead. It was his birthday yesterday.
"Ka Popoy" was not an "emotionally expressive" father. He left his children to the care of his mother when he went underground and would visit them usually during summer.
He had said that the revolutionary movement was his priority.
"This is not the end. The struggle will go on," said Wilson Fortaleza, Sanlakas president, after Lagman’s grave was finally sealed.
Earlier in the day, comrades of the fallen labor leader trooped to the Bahay ng Alumni for the launching of the new party-list group Partido ng Manggagawa.
Victor Briz, president of the Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino, said the new party-list group would carry out Lagman’s vision for an electoral party for Filipino workers. The party, he said, would campaign to put these representatives in Congress.
The party might also field candidates in the local elections to fulfill Lagman’s dream of empowering the workers.
The goal of its participation in the elections is to enact pro-labor legislation and ensure the implementation of pro-worker policies. Its minimum platform is the protection of workers' interests; its maximum is the emancipation of the working class," the PMP said in a statement.
Elected to represent the party in Congress should it win enough votes in the coming elections were Sanlakas Rep. Renato Magtubo, Briz, Gerry Rivera of the Philippine Airlines Employees Association, Roy Cordova and Leody de Guzman. With a report from Andrea Trinidad-Echavez