By Gerald G. Lacuarta
Inquirer News Service
Philippine Daily Inquirer February 12, 2001http://www.inquirer.net/
ABOUT 40,000 workers are expected to walk out of their offices and factories in Metro Manila and Southern Tagalog today to bring slain labor leader Filemon "Popoy" Lagman to his final resting place.
The militant Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP), which Lagman founded and headed since 1995, called for a work stoppage this noon, in time for the funeral Mass at the Church of the Holy Sacrifice inside the University of the Philippines campus in Diliman, Quezon City.
Benjie Velasco, BMP spokesperson, said some 10,000 members of the urban poor group, Kongreso ng Pagkakaisa ng Maralitang Lungsod, would join the workers in the indignation march from the UP to the Loyola Memorial Park in Marikina City.
"The employers of these workers have already agreed to let them join the funeral march," Velasco said.
The workers belong to unions of big companies in Metro Manila like Fortune Tobacco, Republic Asahi Glass, Gelmart, Wrangler, Noritake and Manila Bay Spinning Mills.
Unions of Philippine Long Distance Co. and Philippine Airlines will also send delegations.
As a tribute to Lagman, Velasco said the Partido ng Manggagawa would hold its founding congress in the morning at the UP Bahay ng Alumni, where the BMP chair was gunned down on Feb. 6 by four still unidentified assassins.
Sack Wycoco calls
A militant fisherfolk group urged President Macapagal-Arroyo to recall the appointment of Reynaldo Wycoco as director of the National Bureau of Investigation for allegedly insinuating that BMP's rival groups in the Left were involved in Lagman's killing.
The Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) made the appeal after Wycoco, a former police official, on Friday pointed at communist groups as the culprits, citing the ideological rift between Lagman and Jose Ma. Sison, founding chair of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).
"The strongest angle would be the rift between Joma and Ka Popoy. As of now, that is the most probable angle based on our assessment," Wycoco had told the Inquirer, though he added that investigators had not ruled out the possible involvement of rightist groups.
Rodolfo Sambajon, Pamalakaya chair, said Wycoco's statements were irresponsible and malicious.
"Wycoco's selling point for his accusation lacks basis. It is plain rumor mongering and highly speculative," Sambajon said.
CPP spokesperson Gregorio "Ka Roger" Rosal has denied his group's involvement in the killing, saying "there was no urgent or grave reason" for the CPP and its armed wing, the New People's Army, to go after Lagman.
Even BMP's Velasco cited a "small possibility" that Sison's group had a hand in the killing, saying Sison has only resorted to character assassination against Lagman.
Velasco said that even if another rival communist group, the Revolutionary Proletarian Party-Alex Boncayao Brigade (RPA-ABB), was involved, the assailants could not be branded as "communists." Lagman used to command the ABB, an urban-based hit squad.
"These elements could be the ones who have already surrendered and are now being used by the military," Velasco said.
Sison has pointed at the "revenge angle" as the main motive in the assassination.
"For the benefit of serious investigators, I wish to point out a probable connection between the ongoing assassination plot against me and the killing of Popoy Lagman," Sison said in a statement e-mailed from his base in Utrecht, The Netherlands.
"Since the exposure of the assassination plot by Col. Reynaldo Berroya and then by me, the plotters, according to reliable sources of the National Democratic Front, have been extremely upset and angry about the leak of information from inside or from the periphery of the circle of plotters and operatives," he claimed.
"It is highly probable that the assassination plotters saw Popoy Lagman as the leak," he said.
"The killing of Lagman is probably a punitive action of the RPA-ABB against a suspected leak in the assassination plot against me, as well as a component of a larger scheme of pro-Estrada groups to sow bloody intrigue and destabilize the new administration," Sison said.
As a result, he said, "it is not at all surprising that, according to reports, the (sketches) in the hands of investigators resemble suspects in previous hit jobs of the RPA-ABB, which is notorious for its close connections with Estrada, Gen. Panfilo Lacson and Eduardo Cojuangco."
The CPP founder, however, clarified that "Lagman had nothing to do with the assassination plot as an active conspirator because he could not be in the same project with his bitter enemies, Nilo de la Cruz and Arturo Tabara."
Sison earlier claimed being the target of an assassination plot hatched by military and police authorities conspiring with former communist rebels. -- With a report from Delfin T. Mallari Jr., PDI Southern Luzon Bureau