Achieving Happiness

November 27, 2009

Rage against the Ampatuan Massacre

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ina Alleco @ 2:37 am

The bloodied and mangled bodies in the field. Men and women who started the day not knowing that it would their last, that they would meet devils along the way to the Commission on Elections office, and that these same spawn of evil would spare none of them in their rampage. The image will forever stay in this nation’s collective consciousness, and as we remember this, we must also rage at how savage the times have become; how uncivilized and inhumane. Those who promised to protect are the destroyers; and the damage they inflict is beyond forgiving or forgetting.
Never in Philippine history have so many journalists been murdered. The Ampatuan Massacre that claimed the lives of 57 civilians including 13 members of the media is a brutal wake-up call for those who remain asleep of indifferent: human rights and press freedom in the Philippines are under siege.

These unspeakable killings, combined with the murders of human rights advocates, progressive lawyers and religious, point towards the horrifying and despicable truth that private armies and death squads legally operate within the Philippines; and that they operate with the guidance of the powers-that-be with the aim of targeting dissidents in the attempt to stifle dissent.

The media environment in the Philippines continues to undergo a serious and shocking deterioration since the ascent to power of the Macapagal-Arroyo administration in 2001. The late issuance of clear statement of condemnation from the head of the Malacanang, combined with the fact that so little progress has been made in investigating a string of previously unsolved press murders, creates an atmosphere of impunity that can only lead to more bloodshed.

Who now can we rely on to help us? Who can we turn to for justice?

Maguindanao and the rest of the Philippines where this illegitimate and most despicable government allows the operation of private armies and death squads remain a dangerous place for journalists.There is no more need to belabor the motives behind killing journalists, but the climate of impunity created by the failure to fully investigate and prosecute previous murders clearly send the signal to the perpetrator killers that they can get away with it.

Since at this juncture it seems almost futile to ask help from the government, journalists seek the aid of the Filipino people and all who seek genuine democracy and freedom to devote their time, strength and efforts to break this cycle of impunity by calling for the relentless pursuit of investigation into the killing of journalists and all human rights advocates and demand that those responsible are apprehended and punished.

The pattern of impunity surrounding the murder of Filipino journalists and citizens must end. Journalists must be allowed to carry out their work without fear of attacks from those who are meant to serve the public. It is urgent that the Filipino people to become vigilant in defending our civil, political and human rights, and demand justice for the victims of the Ampatuan Massacre. All Filipinos must unite in the struggle for human rights which includes fighting for the rights of a free press and the protection of all journalists so they will be able to perform their duties without fear for their lives.

And now, even as the rest of the nation grieves and rages against the unspeakable horror that is the Ampatuan Massacre, Macapagal-Arroyo via her moronic deputy spokesperson Lorelei Fajardo says that Malacanang will remain friends with the Ampatuans despite what has happened.

It’s not loyalty that Macapagal-Arroyo has for the Ampatuans — its fear. The Ampatuans made it possible for Arroyo to win the 2007 presidential polls by rigging the process in the Maguindanao region. The Ampatuans deployed their private armies to harass the supporters of opposition candidate Fernando Poe and made sure that Poe lost by at least 1 million votes.

If Arroyo drops the Ampatuans now and severs her ties with them, the Ampatuans just might sing an aria on how they helped her cheat her way to another term in Malacanang.

So quiet she is on the Ampatuans’ guilt, and quiet she will most likely remain. She’s probably hoping for extra-terrestials to come and visit the Philippines so everyone will be distracted and however temporary forget the Ampatuan Massacre.

Reflect on this: It took two long days for Macapagal- Arroyo to issue a statement on the Horror and to order the military to take action. The violence that characterized the Ampatuan Massacre is not new under this administration, and the pattern continues to repeat itself because of the administration’s own bent towards violating human rights and promulgating the culture of impunity.

It comforts and assures no one that Malacanang has promised that justice will be rendered to the victims, because in the same breath, its various officials and spokespersons are already issuing excuses that there is no sufficient evidence to pin down the perpetrators. Strong words are all very well and good, but they are useless with no strong and just follow-through, and Malacanang is never known for carrying through any of its promises to uphold human rights and to go after those who violate them.

November 18, 2009

Satur and the Martial Law Years Part I

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ina Alleco @ 3:00 am

The year is 1972.

One late afternoon in early September as he was on his way to work, Satur was accosted by an armed man. His bag and all its contents were taken, but he himself was left unharmed. Even then it did not appear to him as an ordinary crime. The then worsening political climate — the bombing of Plaza Miranda the previous August , the roving police patrols — were enough reason to make him suspicious.

Upon the advise of friends, he began to side-step. He filed for a leave from the Manila Times and resigned from his post as assistant business reporter and regular reporter but retained a position as roving correspondent. He and his wife Bobbie Malay began to limit their movements in the city and moved to a house in a location they informed to no one.

Sure enough, on Sept. 21, 1972, then dictator Ferdinand Marcos signed Proclamation 1081, implementing martial law in the Philippines.

Without warning, police squads walked into Manila’s newspaper offices and broadcast stations, ordered staffers to leave. They posted announcements saying “This building is closed and sealed and placed under militar control.”

Local airline flights were cancelled. Overseas telephone operators refused to accept incoming calls. Marcos went on nationwide radio and TV to declare the state of martial law. He said that the functions of the civil government would continue, but schools and campuses would be closed. He announced restrictions on travel, the press and communications, and that these would remain in effect until the government dealt with “a conspiracy to overthrow the government.”

When the police raided the Manila Times office, Satur had already gone semi-underground. His name, along with other journalists, columnists and editors such as Alejandro Roces, was in a list released by Malacanang and read by then press secretary Kit Tatad as individuals to be immediately arrested.

Satur changed his appearance. His hair which he usually wore short grew long, and he stopped shaving.

The entire time that he was living underground, he sought and was given help by friends and allies, many from the business community and from former government officials. He and his staff in the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) national liaison committee and subsequently the national press bureau maintained very simple work and living quarters, and they continued to do their organizing and other political work under the regime’s tightening noose.

In 1973, on his birthday, April 7 that same year, he and Bobbie Malay began producing the Balita ng Malayang Pilipinas (BMP), a bi-weekly publication clandestinely printed on a mimeograph machine and when security compelled it and they had to move quarters, printed via silk screen and squeegee.

The BMP contained economic reports and political pieces analyzing developments in the country, and its copies — less than 200 — were carefully and secretly sent to former members of Congress, the business community, and members of the international press. Its five pages were all in defiance of the Marcos dictatorship and martial law, and appealed to its readers to resist the regime by supporting the growing revolutionary movement and its efforts.

Lacking sophisticated technology, Satur et al produced the BMP esentially sitting on the floor. Another staff, Julius Fortuna, called the small, squat and wobbly table on which Satur placed his typewriter as their publication’s ‘economics desk.’

In 1974, Satur was assigned to Central Luzon, and was integrated in the NDF’s territorial work in the region. He led efforts to organize nationalist businessmen and political personalities critical of Marcos, among them former Con-Con delegates, former government officials, and local civilian activists involved in the First Quarter Storm of 1970.

As he went out seeking support for the revolution and the anti-dictatorship movement, Satur spoked plainly and simply: it was the cause of democracy he was selling, and his quiet manner all but hid a strong commitment prepared to defy danger even to self. He was never turned away, and many pledged their support both to him and the revolution.

An ally from a big corporation, however, one time felt it right to admit to Satur that previously he had qualms about helping because of the risk that the regime would catch wind of it and punish him and his business. The ally informed his lawyer, a known personality who had ties with Malacanang, that he was helping Satur. To his surprise, his lawyer told him: “Satur may be a communist, but he is a good man. Go ahead and help him.”

For the next two years, Satur continued to write for BMP, and other revolutionary publications like Liberation that sought to counter the lies of the newspapers Marcos allowed to continue such as the Manila Bulletin and the Daily Express.

By 1976, Satur had been elected to an elevated position in the NDF. It was after the 3rd Plenum in Zambales, however, that the strength of his commitment was tested.

Two of the participants to the plenum had been captured, and under torture, gave their captives’ the names of others who attended. By then, Satur had returned to the NCR, but upon hearing the news, he hastened to the UG house he and his staff kept in Olongapo with the intent of cleaning it from any and all materials that could endanger the unit and other comrades.

Alone and on his own, he arrived at the house. Thinking he had gotten there safely, he proceeded inside and was met by military who, it turned out, had been keeping watch for the last few days.

Satur was handcuffed. The arresting official, a major, shoved Satur. The man angrily bared his chest and pointed out numerous scars – bullet wounds which he said was courtesy of Satur’s comrades in Isabela. Satur quietly answered: “Bakit ka naman humarang sa bala?”

The major grew livid, and again pushed Satur as his men took him into custody.

The next days and months were a series of serious physical, moral and ethical challenges. Satur faced all in relative silence, even as his body was beaten and tortured, and he was viciously verbally abused and threatened with every possible punishment short of a brutal death.

There was seldom a quiet moment except for those spent in sleep. His hours – when he wasn’t being interrogated and tortured — were spent counting cracks on the wall, the ants that traversed its surface. To break the monotony of the activity he would sometimes talk to the ants (he said more to the insects than he ever did to his captors).

Soldiers would mock him, “Nababaliw ka na dyan, luko-luko!”. Satur always ignored them.

Then, every four to six hours he would be taken out of his solitary cell– whether it was in Camp Olivas or Camp Crame– and tortured. His eyes were blindfolded, and handcuffed, he would receive blows from all directions. He was kicked on the chest and back, he was slapped and pummelled. His genitals were electrocuted. All the while he kept his silence, even as he swayed, fell and was dragged back up to be beaten yet again. And again.

Sometimes his torturers would make fun of him by speaking to him in English. “Writer ka pala, ha!” they said, and mocked him in ungrammatical English. He could not stop himself from begging them, “Mag-Tagalog na lang kayo kaysa mahirapan pa sa kaka-Ingles…”

The moment he was arrested, he immediately resolved that he would not answer even the most seemingly harmless question. Self-hypnosis, he called his method of enforced indifference. He would take his mind somewhere else, and he would not focus on the pain and instead ignore it.

He was certain that if he did not break his silence and refused to speak, he would keep his dignity and more importantly, his loyalty to his comrades and the revolution. He knew that the men who tortured him needed information from him, needed him ALIVE to show to their boss in Malacanang. So he waited, and waited until his captors would let up and, perhaps, give up and just throw him in solitary confinement.

One day, grow tired they did. The man who led his torture was a lieutenant named Rodolfo Aguinaldo.

Aguinaldo was exceptionally vicious even when compared with his fellows. While others — when they took Satur out of his cell to subject him to more torture and abuse — blindfolded him, Aguinaldo ripped off the blindfold and all but foamed at the mouth as he hissed at Satur, “Putangina mo, I want you to look at me as I beat you up!”

And Satur would stare back at him, defiant but still silent.

Aguinaldo was relentless, but Satur refused to even faint. He struggled to get up on his own unassisted as blow after blow fell on his half-naked body under the weak yellow light of the 20-watt bulb.

Aguinaldo did his best to break his spirit, spat at him, pulled his hair, struck his head again and again.

“Walang human rights-human rights sa akin!” Aguinaldo yelled.

Frustated that Satur would not answer any of his questions, Aguinaldo lifted his foot then clad in a heavy army boot and landed a blow on Satur’s chest. The mark would not fade for the longest time, and Satur never forgot long afterward; but at the time, he refused to give Aguinaldo the satisfaction of seeing him express the slightest pain.

“Putanginang ‘to, ayaw magsalita! Pagod na ako!” Aguinaldo yelled to the soldiers who helped him.

It was then than Satur spoke up. It was impossible for him to not to, even as his breath came in gasps.

“Sige, Gen. Aguinaldo, magpahinga muna kayo.”

For the next nine years, Satur Ocampo was an inmate in various prison camps. He suffered torture in various forms, but he not once wavered. Though tried by a military court for rebellion, he was never found guilty.


November 11, 2009

Dalaw ni Hillary Clinton, ano kaya ang tunay na layon?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ina Alleco @ 12:07 pm

HCParating na si US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Partikular na layunin daw niya ang alamin ang kalagayan ng mga biktima ng mga nagdaang bagyong Ondoy at Pepeng. Si US Ambassador Kristie Kenney ang nagsabi nito, at ayon pa sa kanya, walang matinding pulitika ang pagdalaw dito ni Clinton. Hindi daw pag-uusapan ang Visiting Forces of the Philippines (VFA). Hindi daw pag-uusapan ang naiipit na tulong militar ng US sa Pilipinas. Ang mga biktima ng kalamidad daw ang pokus ni Clinton.

Ang tanong, may naniwawala ba dito?

Ang hirap paniwalaan ang mga paliwanag ni Kenney na relatibong ‘mababaw’ at ‘makatao’ ang layunin ng pagpunta dito ng ikatlong pinaka-makapangyarihang opisyales ng pinakamakapangyarihang bansa sa daigdig. Hindi pipitsuging opisyales si Clinton, hindi siya mascot na walang utak, at may bigat ang kanyang mga sinasabi para sa US foreign policy ng administrasyong Obama at sa kalagayan ng mga relasyon nito at pakikitungo sa ibang gobyerno’t bansa.

Pupunta siya sa Pilipinas para alamin kung ilan ang rubber boats na nabili? Kung kamusta ang mga toilet sa mga evacuation centers? Kung humupa na ang mga baha sa mga nasalantang lugar at probinsya? Eeksaminin niya ang kalidad ng pinamimigay na relief goods — kung may bukbok ang bigas, kung expired ang mga delata?

Sino ba ang niloloko ni Kenney at ng kanyang pamahalaan? Walang ginawang hakbang ang US na walang kahalagahan sa pandaigdigang agenda nito. Hindi kailanman umaastang simpleng turista ang mga opisyales ng White House o ng Pentagon; hindi rin sila mga tipong ambassadors of goodwill na namimigay ng mga kahon ng gatas sa mga feeding centers.

Ang hindi maikakaila ay may seryosong pakay si Hillary Clinton sa Pilipinas, kay pekeng pangulong si Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo; at kung ano ang mga pakay na ito ay madaling hulaan.

Isang mala-kolonya ng US ang Pilipinas. Walang nagbago sa relasyong amo at alipin sa pagitan ng dalawang bansa. Pag sinabi ng US na ‘talon!’, ang sagot ng Pilipinas ay ‘gaano kataas?’

Wala ring makitang kaibahang malaki sa nagdaang rehimen ni George W. Bush at ng bagong gobyerno ni Barack Obama — hayaan at tuloy pa rin ang panghihimasok ng US sa internal at security affairs ng ibang bansa, ayan at tuloy pa rin ang pagpapadala ng mga sundalo sa Afghanistan (kahit talagang bugbog sarado na ang mga tropang Kano at hindi iilan ang umuwi sa mga saradong kabaong na hindi pwedeng buksan dahil sa kaawa-awang lagay ng mga katawang sumabog kasabay ng mga improvised explosive devices ng Taliban).

Hindi pa rin nababawasan ang kapal ng mukha ng US na bantaan ang mga bansang Iran at North Korea dahil nangangahas sila na paunlarin ang kani-kanilang kakayanang nukleyar.

Samantala, matindi din ang kalagayang pang-ekonomya ng US– hindi pa rin nakakabangong buo mula sa matinding resesyon, at mataas pa rin ang bilang ng mga walang trabaho, nawalan ng trabaho, kulang sa trabaho. Gera pa rin ang hinaharap ng mga sinasabing reporma sa sistemang pangkalusugan at iba pang serbisyo sosyal na talagang tinamaan ng mga balikong patakarang kontra-mahirap ng nagdaang gobyerno.

Sa harap ng napakaraming isyung kinakaharap ng US, ipapadala ba nito ang  isang mataas na opisyales para lang tignan ang lagay ng bansang sinalanta ng mga lampas-taong baha at malagim na pagguho ng lupa?

Pasensya na kung di ako maniwala na may humanitarian side ang gobyerno ng US; na hindi ko kayang hwag magsuspetsya na may seryoso — at masama– na pakay ang US pag may pinapadala silang opisyales sa bayan ko.

Ilang buwan na lang at eleksyon na. Gustong tiyakin ng US na may halalan ngang magaganap, at may uupo na hindi kaaway ng US.

Gusto rin ng US na tiyakin na mananatiling postehan ang Pilipinas ng mga Amerikanong tropang militar; na hindi matitibag ang VFA.

Sa dalawang isyung ito, marami nang maaring pag-usapan kaugnay sa soberenya ng Pilipinas at ang kabulukan ng gobyernong walang kakurap-kurap na sunod-sunuran sa mga dikta ng dayuhang kapangyarihan.

Hindi man tuwiran o diretsahang banggitin ni Clinton ang mga tunay na dahilan ng kanyang dalaw, tiyak namang nagkaka-intindihan na ang gobyernong US at Pilipinas. Kumbaga, nangangamusta lang…

Haharap si Clinton si mga peryodista at mamamahayag bukas. Ano-ano naman kayang kasinungalingan, pambobola at pampapa-lubag loob ang ang kanyang sasabihin?

November 9, 2009

November 16, 2004. We have not forgotten the Hacienda Luisita Massacre

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ina Alleco @ 3:37 am


Much of the Philippines’ sugar supply comes from Hacienda Luisita Incorporated (HLI) and its sugar mills. Comprising 6,453 hectares, the Hacienda occupies two municipalities in the province of Tarlac. There are 11 barangays within the Hacienda, and it is the  second largest single piece of contiguous land in the country. The estate was purchased in 1957 by the Cojuanco family, which named the estate after its second generation daughters Carmen, Corazon, Josefine, Pacita and Teresita. Besides the sugar cane fields and the sugar mills, HLI also includes the  Luisita Golf and Country Club,  individually titled lots, a fully operational sports complex, multi-purpose community clubhouse, function room, swimming pool and picnic area.

In 1986 then-President Corazon C. Aquino launched the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law (CARP) as  the centerpiece program of her administration. She promised to put  Hacienda Luisita under the land reform, but in 1989, instead of having the land distributed,  Aquino implemented the  Stock Distribution Option (SDO) program under which the 5,000 farm workers  were given  shares of stock in the company instead of individual titles to the hacienda land. This was widely viewed as an attempt to skirt the CARP redistribution of the hacienda.

Before the implementation of the Comprehensive Agrarian Program in 1986, farm workers received very low wages.  When the SDO was offered to them, they were told the SDO would  improve their livelihood and welfare. The opposite happened. Under the SDO, the work days were reduced and so did their wages.

Before the SDO, farm workers worked seven days, with overtime. By 1989 , these work days were reduced to five, the four, three until many were working only one day out of every week. This reduced their wages to P9.50 a week because workers were given only P9.50 for every day of work, and they worked only one day every week.

The farm workers petitioned the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) in November 2003 to revoke the SDO and distribute the land to the farm workers. They formed the Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid sa Hacienda Luisita or AMBALA, and eventually the United Luisita Workers Union (ULWU). They put together a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) wherein they sought higher wages and better benefits, and called for negotiations with  the HLI management.

The management turned a deaf ear to the calls for negotiations and instead said that the company was losing money.

AMBALA filed a case against the management at the National Conciliation and Mediation Board (NCMB) Region III office.  They were met with the company lawyer and the DOLE Representative, as well as officials of the ULWU and the Central Azucarera de Tarlac Labor Union (CATLU).

At the NCMB they discussed the management’s counter-proposal t the workers’ demand for a wage increase and additional days of work which was to lay-off 326 permanent and seasonal workers. There was a deadlock, and the management also  fired seven  members of the union’s Board of Directors, as well as the ULWU president Rene Galang and  the vice president. The union proceeded to file a notice of strike against the management’s refusal to uphold the CBA and its attempts to bust the union.

The workers launched their strike on November 6, 2004. Two unions led the strike, ULWU and CATLU.

On the first night, the police attempted to destroy the picketline and disperse the strikers with water cannons and teargas. Many were hurt.

The same happened the next day, as well as on November 6, 7 and 15. On November 15, the strikers were forced to contend with the biggest number of police and military. They stood their ground against tear gas and chemical-laced water that stung when it hit their skin.

Elements of the military and the police were deployed to help destroy the picketline.They were there upin the request of the Cojuangcos. On November 15, estimates of the number of police went around 2,000. They coordinated with the Hacienda security guards in attacking and beating up the workers. Despite their best efforts, however, they failed to disperse the strikers and put an end to the strike.

The next day, November 16, the workers sent a delegation to the house of former congressman Jose ‘Peping’ Cojuangco, HLI’s director. They were accompanied by Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo and Tarlac Councilor Abel Ladera to discourage Cojuangco’s security guards from attacking the delegation and the picket they held in front of the house. ULWU and CATLU officials sought to dialogue with Cojuangco and call for an  end to the police and military attacks against the picketline. The ULWU president was not allowed inside the house on the grounds that the management had already fired him, and only Ocampo, Ladera and CATLU officials were  admitted.

The dialogue took an hour, but nothing was resolved. Cojuangco said that the matter was already of his hands and that the decision on the strike lay with the DOLE.

Soon information came in that trucks filled with soldiers were on their way to the Hacienda The delegation quickly  decided to return to the picketline. They left Cojuangco’s house at 12nn and arrived at the picketline at 3:00pm.  When they reached  the picketline, the Gate 1 of the Hacienda sugar mill, they saw a large number of police and soldiers milling about, two armored personnel carriers and four fire trucks. Estimated number of combined police and military was around 2,000 or more.

Almost immediately the dispersal started. The combined security forces comprised of Hacienda guards, the police and the military trained water cannons and lobbed canisters of teargas at the main body of strikers which numbered 13,000 to 15,000.

There seemed to be no end to the teargas and the blasts from the water cannons continued. The security forces also threw middle-sized to big rocks. The workers put up strong resistance. They rushed to get water to wet towels with which they covered their heads and faces. They also threw up some of the rocks that were hurled at them.

The attack lasted over an hour , and soon the water cannons ran out. The APC began to move closer to Gate 1, as if to destroy it and run over the strikers. The strikers did not back down and instead gathered in front of the Gate 1 to block the APC if they could.

Seeing that the strikers refused to yield, the APC retreated. It was then that the strikers thought the dispersal operations were over. They had emerged victorious against almost two hours of continued attacks. They began to rejoice with many workers raising their fists in jubilation,  or waving and clapping their hands.

Suddenly, guns were fired and there was a hail of bullets. The shots were continued, and the workers ran every which way, searching for cover, away from the source of the bullets which from behind Gate 1. They could see there were SWAT and military elements behind the Gate 1 because they were wearing fatigues and black uniforms.

Many were hurt. At the final count, 72 were badly injured, 27 sustained gun shot wounds, and 110 were arrested by the police. By early evening, it was also discovered that seven were killed. The Hacienda Luisita Massacre as the event would be called, was fully captured on video by an amateur documentarist .

Killed were Jhaivie Basilio, 20 years old; Juancho Sanchez, 20; Jessie Valdez, 30; Jaime Fastidio, 46; Jesus Laza, 34; June David, 28; and Adriano Caballero Jr. 23.

Among the 110 who were arrested were seasonal farm workers (sacadas) from Negros who were rounded up from their bunkhouses by the military after the assault on the picketline.

As for the rest of the strikers, they were forced to disperse and rush to their own homes. It was soon after revealed that during the melee, the police and security guards proceeded to destroy the picketline and everything in it. Many strikers retreated to the farther fields nursing various cuts and bruises.

When the dust had settled and the shooting stopped, the workers began returning to what was left of the picketline. They rushed the wounded to the hospitals and attended to the families of those were killed.

The next day, November 17, sympathetic people’s organizations and human rights groups conducted a fact-finding mission in the area. They were accompanied by many members of the media. They went through the entire area where the massacre took place, particularly focusing on Gate 1 where the shots that killed seven strikers were fired.

On November 18, the workers  rebuilt the picketline and put up the barricades in front of Gate 1, ignoring the jeers and threats of the security forces. They brought the bodies of the slain to the picketline and held the wake there.

The harassment did not stop even then. The workers testify that drunken soldiers often paraded in front of the picketline, carrying with them loaded guns.

A month after the massacre, on December 4, 2004, four armed men were spotted near the Hacienda’s West gate, the entrance to the Hacienda Luisita Golf and Country Club, and the Cojuangco Villa. There were usually policemen stationed there, but it was also there that two unionists George Loveland and Ernesto Ramos were shot and wounded.  The police station was only 15 meters away from where the strikers were attacked, but when questioned the police said that they neither saw nor heard anything. Even if they did see anything, they did nothing to arrest the gunmen.

In March 2005, the City Councilor who accompanied the strikers to the November 2004 dialogue with Pepin Cojuanco, Atty. Abelardo Ladera, was ambushed in Tarlac. He was a staunch supporter of the Hacienda Luisita strike and a firm advocate of agrarian reform. Prior to his assassination, the military had accused him of being a leader of the New People’s Army (NPA).

More killings followed. On March 14, Iglesia Filipina Independiente priest Fr. William Tadena was ambushed. He started a program to solicit rice donations for the strikers and also active supporter of the strike.

Next to be killed was CATLU president Ricardo Ramos. The ULWU and the CATLU had just won the negotiations for their members’ early wages and benefits.   Ramos was gunned down as he was celebrating with fellow unionists inside a bamboo hut  50 meters away from his house. He was shot twice and died on the spot.  A fact-finding  team determined that found out that the perpetrator was only about 12 meters away from where Ramos was sitting inside the hut.

Some 10 soldiers also rented a house near the home of the ULWU union president Rene Galang. On September 5, armed men broker into the union president’s house. Thankfully, he wasn’t there as he was attending a wake for a fellow union president who has been gunned down, Diosdado ‘Ka Fort’ Fortuna of the Nestle workers union. Otherwise, he would have met the same fate as Ramos.

On December 8, 2005, the chairman of the Alyansa ng Magsasaka sa Tarlac and a witness to the massacre Marcelino Beltran was killed. He was shot in front of his own home. With his dying breath he told his family who rushed to his aid that it was the military who did it.

On March 17,  2006, Tirso Cruz, a member of the ULWU Board of Directors and Barangay Councilor of Pando in Tarlac was killed near a military detachment. Cruz was walking home when gunmen riding on a motorcycle shot him and killed him. He suffered six gunshot wounds. He had just attended a pabasa or Lenten reading of the Passion of Christ when he was killed.

Cruz was the 14th person to be killed in Hacienda Luisita. Prior to his killing, Cruz had received a number of death threats. He was also active in protests  against the construction of the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway project [SCTEP] and the deployment of soldiers inside the hacienda. He also  led union members and residents in a protest calling for the withdrawal of soldiers deployed inside the hacienda and demanding that the  SCTEP construction be stopped.

Seven case have been filed against the GRP at the Joint Monitoring Committee, with case number 343 to 349. Filed on May 4, 2005,  the cases are on the crimes committed against the workers and farmworkers, namely assault at the picketline resulting to multiple murder (massacre and extrajudicial killings), multiple frustrated murder, multiple attempted murder, serious and less serious physical injuries, illegal arrests and arbitrary detention, theft, and malicious mischief.  The labor dispute between the workers and the HLI management  has also resulted in various violations against labor rights, including the right to unionize, collectively bargain and to strike. All these are  serious violations of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), and the cases are more than sufficient both in substance and form. There are also hundreds of witnesses who can testify on what happened on the day of the massacre and the attacks that followed against the union leaders and officers.

Among those being charged as perpetrators and co-conspirators are Don Pedro Cojuangco, president of Hacienda Luisita Inc., former congressman Jose Cojuangco Jr; Ricardo Lopa, HLI general manager, Jose Manuel Lopa, resident manager of Central Azucarera de Tarlac and  Ernesto Teopaco, chief negotiator for the management in the CBA negotiations with the workers from HLI. From the government, charged are former labor secretary Patricia Sto. Tomas; DOLE undersecretary for Labor Relations Manuel G. Imson and Francis Reyes, DOLE sheriff, and various officers of the Philippine National Police Region 3, the Northern Luzon Command (NOLCOM) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the 69th IB and the 33rd Light Armor Company of the Philippine Army (PA).

Cases have also been filed at the Office of the Ombudsman and the DOLE. The 13th Congress of the House of  Representatives through the Committee on Human Rights and the Committee on Labor and Employment conducted a series of inquiries into the massacre, but yielded no satisfactory results because of the refusal of HLI officials to cooperate.

The Permanent People’s Tribunal (PPT) during its second session on the Philippines in March 2007 also delved into the massacre and declared the Arroyo government guilty for the massive human rights violations perpetrated against the workers.

For their part, the HLI management, the PNP and the AFP have made  the ridiculous and incredible counter-allegations that the attacks against the picketline that culminated in the November 16 massacre was instigated by the New People’s Army.

In December 2005, the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC) and then Agrarian Reform Secretary Nasser Pangandaman issued an order revoking the SDO agreement, instead directing that the hacienda land be parceled among the tenant farmers. Many saw this however as politically-motivated attack against  Cory Aquino for issuing a call to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo Arroyo to resign following the ‘Hello Garci’ election controversy, and not so much as a response to the demand of the farmworkers.

In June 2006, the Supreme Court reversed the PARC order by issuing a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the PARC plan to parcel out Hacienda Luisita to farmer-beneficiaries.

In March 2007, the Supreme Court ruled that sugar lands remained within the coverage of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP.) In response, the Cojuangco family petitioned the court to honor the stock distribution option (SDO) scheme at the hacienda.

As of October 2007, there has been no significant movement in the  legal cases surrounding Hacienda Luisita whether on the land dispute, the labor dispute, or the massacre.  The Hacienda remains under the control of the  Cojuangco family, and the strike of the farm workers continue even as they press for justice for the slain.

In the meantime, theHacienda Luisita Land Use Plan shows that Cojuanco family seeks to convert all its agricultural lands in Tarlac into commercial, industrial, residential and recreational parks. Several parts of the hacienda have already been converted to alternative uses since 1989: the Luisita Industrial Park 1 (120 hectares), the Aqua Farm and Homesite Phases I and II (50 hectares), the Luisita Business Park (20 hectares), the recently-converted Luisita Industrial Park 2 / Central Techno Park (500 hectares). #

Those presidential wanna-be tv ads

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ina Alleco @ 3:26 am

Boys over LorenThe presidential contenders and vice-president wanna-bes have released their tv ads, and so far, it’s been obvious:all the ads feature the candidates with members of the masa; all the ads make it appear that the candidates are saviors and that they will be the ones to provide solutions to the problems of the masa.

For the longest time, government employers and officials have been called ‘public servants’ because their salaries come from taypayers’. The elected officials got into office precisely because they were supported by the citizenry (if they didn’t cheat their way to victory, or killed their opponents. It’s already a given that some of them got votes by buying them and issuing various promises).

Public servants. So how come they never obey their masters?

In the tv ads, Gilbert Teodoro, Manny Villar, Loren Legarda, Mar Roxas, Noynoy Aquino are seen mingling with the ordinary Filipinos, hugging their children, being sympathetic, listening, looking kindly.

The masa, in turn, speak out about their problems- unemployment, low wages, the difficulties of making ends meet. Their are images of them struggling against the atrocities of life, both man (government)-made and borne of natural calamities. They are in turn defiant, despairing, angry, desperate. As they tend to their chores, as they go about their menial jobs and worry about where the next meal will coming from, they look for saviors, and it is to the presidential contenders they turn (because the incumbent president and her corrupt government has failed them).

And the clincher of the ads? The candidate steps in and presents himself/herself as the one who will provide the solutions.

Of course he/she says that he/she will work with the people to find the said solutions, but who believes this?

In reality and in actual practice, politicians ignore the demands of their constituents, defy their calls for reforms and refuse to heed their pleas for help. Once elected, all the professed love, all the compassion and sympathy are gone, and the so-called public servant turns tyrannical master.

Among all the ads, I like Gibo Teodoro’s best. They’re quiet, and the masa are depicted with dignity. They’re not desperate — they’re assertive: they say that they want a leader who offers intelligence and not just heart.

But intelligent as Teodoro may be, how intelligent can he be if he professes to believe in the program of government begun by Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo? And what kind of heart has he if he believes that taking the military solution is of the utmost importance when addressing the civil war in the Philippines?

Manny Villar’s leave me angry and frustrated. The masa are shown as snivelling, weak and prostrate. They often are, I know- – nothing breaks the human spirit like intense poverty and the problems created by lack of opportunities; but it still sets my teeth on edge at how the ads convey the message that all the Filipino people need are dole-outs. That their problems can be solved if they’re given jobs and food by some charitable and kind soul who also happens to be running for the presidency.

On a personal level, I appreciate Manny Villar’s efforts to bring home stranded OFWs. It’s just so self-serving the way his campaign is being conducted: he has to be depicted as a strong hero. His money and his generosity are supposedly what make him heroic.

Ditto for Mar Roxas’ ads and his pedicab.

Loren Legarda’s ad is downright annoying. Climate change-climate change, huwaaat?! Talk about jumping on popular issues (that aren’t known or important to ordinary folk, by the way) and trying to run away with! It would have been more practical, more real if she said that she was going to help improve the efficiency of the country’s garbage and waste disposal systems; that she would help improve city planning so there would be no more floods everytime there’s a drizzle; that she will put an end to the endless traffic jams because she will fix the public transportation system!

Noynoy’s ad. What to say, what to say. It’s condescending. Does he actually believe that Filipinos will vote for him because he has so-called stars behind him? Filipinos are not that easily swayed; so many actors and actresses have learned their lesson the hard way when they ran for public office in 2007: they failed to secure the support of voters.

In any case, he had a pot belly, he looked ridiculous when he got on top of that rock-pedestal thing with the lit torch. He had a goofy smile on, and it was embarrassing. I actually winced when I saw the ad for the first time. Anger came next as I saw the simulated sugarcane fields and remembered Hacienda Luisita and how Noynoy looked like he wanted to throw a chair at Bayan Muna and Anakpawis lawmakers Satur Ocampo and Rafael Mariano when they brought up the massacre of November 16, 2006 in plenary.

Chiz Escudero’s ads. I still have to think about them in the light of all the ambiguity of his plans. Is he running for president or isn’t he? Because he’s the one I will vote for if he is. It’s so frustrating because because among all the candidates, he’s the only one who has previously shown any sense and intelligence; a genuine grasp of economic and political issues; and he’s media savvy and popular, too (doesn’t hurt to be that). He has shown that he has already achieved a level of political maturity and it’s not only in words  because he was prepared to go off on his own to prove a point.

His break from the NPC is seen by many as a positive step, and perhaps it is. I can acknowledge that now, in hindsight. Perhaps there really was sincerity in his move, in his motives for leaving.

But I will give his ads this — the tagline “Para maiba naman,” is catchy, and so is the melody of the line “May bagong pag-asang darating.” A bit messianic, but hey, aren’t they all?

My baby dances whenever Chiz’ ads are shown. The moment she hears the jingle, she’s on her feet and swaying.

November 6, 2009

Why I will vote for Satur Ocampo on May 10

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ina Alleco @ 5:41 am

SO1. Because Satur Ocampo is a good man.

He is a good man in the most essential sense: his selflessness has enabled him to live and work for the poor and the oppressed of the Philippines. He chose to forego his own wants and needs and patterned his life after the lives of great men and women. He is self-sacrificing, he is compassionate, he practices what he preaches. He lives simply. He has no measure for his own greatness as humility is ever-present in his character. He has no ambitions for himself, only for the causes he espouses and the poor whom he represents.

2. Because Satur Ocampo does not work for money.

As a journalist, he was offered bribes, and he never accepted them. As a congressman, he was also offered the same, and again he refused them. His principles are not for sale. He is a man who cannot be bought. He tirelessly works for the Filipino people , for the cause of human rights, for social justice and equality. He believes that fighting for justice is its own reward, and the very hope that one day true democracy and freedom will dawn on the  Philippines is enough payment for his efforts.

3. Because Satur Ocampo is a gentleman and respects women and the youth.

He has the highest respect for women and their rights. He recognizes their value in society, and deeply appreciates that women are equal with women in building a better country for tomorrow’s Filipinos. He supports their aspirations and their ideals. He believes that Filipinas can serve well beyond the hearth and home — they belong in every arena where genuine progress and development can be achieved for the greater good.

He respects the youth. He relies on the enthusiasm of the youth and believes that they truly are the future. Hence he does his best to be an inspiration to them. Teaching indirectly by being a living example. A leader worth emulating. He encourages the youth to be daring and to not sell their votes. He believes that it is not enough to simply register for the polls; it’s not enough that one votes. It’s important to him that the youth be well aware whom they are voting for and why; to realize that the democratic exercise is the least they can be involved in if they genuinely want change to happen.

Satur challenges the youth to aspire to higher challenges.

4. Because  Satur Ocampo fights for human rights.

And unfailingly so. His track record as a human rights advocate and a genuine freedom-fighter is beyond reproach. He has fought against fascist regimes and their policies and programs that undermine and attack human rights and not once has he buckled down. As a journalist and as a congressman, he has helped expose issues that seriously impact on the civil, political and economic rights of Filipinos.  He has not shied away from sensitive issues of national concern, and instead fearlessly spoke out either in support or against them as the case may be in relation to the public welfare.

The US-Marcos dictatorship’s attempts to break to his spirit failed, and so have succeeding governments’. The Macapagal-Arroyo government’s own moves to have him jailed and locked-away in Hilongos, Leyte backfired because it was clear even to the blind that the charges against him were malicious and manufactured.  So long as he breathes, he will defend the cause of human rights and be a defender of Filipinos.

5. Because Satur Ocampo is a good husband, father and grandfather.

Family is important, and he has done his best to be a role model as a father, as a husband, as a grandfather. Despite the various challenges that he has met in the conduct of his life’s work and committment to serve the people, he has not neglected his family and has done his best to there for them. He also remains the loyal and loving son to his elderly mother who still resides in Pampanga.

6. Because Satur Ocampo does not have personal ambition.

In his humility, he still believes that he is not worthy of the admiration and respect people from all walks of life give him. Evan now as he is being asked to represent the basic sectors in the senate, he remains critical of his own self and his worthiness.  He is, however, not one to turn away from duty when it is presented to him, and he will do all in power to do his duty faithfully and well.

7. Because Satur Ocampo’s heart is for the masses.

He grew up the son of peasants, and he genuinely knows what poverty and deprivation are. He studied and worked hard not to leave behind his class origins, but so he could learn and find means to help his family, and by extension others like them. His commitment to help his family extended and expanded to others, and as he grew older, his committment only strengthened, sharpened, and grew in scope and depth to lead towards goals of social emancipation.

He is a defender of peasants’ rights and their call for genuine agrarian reform.

He is a defender of labor and migrant rights. He believes in socialized housing, subsidized/free education and health services. He is against militarization in the countryside and believes that all foreign debt should be cancelled or at least an indefinite moratorium on debt payments should be implemented. He believes in defending the country’s economic, political and cultural sovereignty from the influence and interference of foreign powers. He is against trade liberalization at the expense of economic sovereignty and security. He is against privatization and deregulation of major industries, and lobbies for nationalization and greater state subsidies for social services.

He believes that it is the Filipino masses themselves who will free themselves from enslavement, and they themselves will lead efforts to build a renewed Philippines.

8.  Because Satur Ocampo  believes in science and progress for the people.

He believes in establishing a system of education that is nationalist, scientific and mass-oriented. He believes that Filipino scientists and researchers need to be supported — their works given attention and encouraged. To him, the Filpino system of education needs to be overhauled and reoriented towards serving the needs of the people and the establishment of an economy that is self-sustaining and aimed towards raising the standards of health and living of the Filipino people.

9. Because Satur Ocampo is one heck of a good-looking senior citizen who will also fight for the rights of the elderly.

For instance, he wants the EVAT to be repealed, and at the onset, for the EVAT to exclude all medicines for senior citizens.

10. Because Satur Ocampo, for all the reasons previously mentioned and more,  is better than most other candidates running for the senate put together, and I want my vote to count.

November 4, 2009

Satur Ocampo, may puso, prinsipyo at paninindigan

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ina Alleco @ 8:23 am

Halaw ang sumusunod sa isang interbyu ni Ka Satur sa isang personality-profiles show noong 2007, panahon nang siya’y muling arestuhin at kasuhan ng rebelyon.  Batay ang mga linya sa mga aktwal na salitang kanyang binitiwan. Nauna na itong pinost  ni Tonyo Cruz sa kanyang blog noong 2007, at ngayon ito ay inaamyendahan at pinagyayaman sa intensyong ito ay palalaganapin.

so & anto beforeSino ni Satur Ocampo?

Ako si Satur Ocampo, kongresista, aktibista.

Apat na dekada na akong nakikibaka sa lansangan, sa peryodiko, sa kabundukan noon, sa larangan ng Kongreso naman ngayon.

Nagsimula ang lahat noong nasa Grade 4 ako.

Ang kalaban ko sa scholarship ay anak ng principal ng elementary school na kakumpitensiya ko hanggang high school. Palagi akong nalalagay sa 2ndso & anto after honor kahit sa hindi naman ako nagkulang sa grades.

At dahil magbubukid lang ang tatay ko at mayaman ang kaklase ko, salutatorian lang ako nagtapos.

Lumuwas ako ng Maynila, bitbit ang pagnanasang maging pantay ang pagkakataon para sa mayaman at mahirap.

Hindi ako naging doktor gaya ng pinangarap ko.

Ako’y naging mamamahayag.

Sumapi ako sa Kabataang Makabayan, nagprotesta laban sa pagtaas ng presyo ng langis at political repression.

Nang magdeklara si Marcos ng martial law, sumali ako sa kilusang lihim o underground. Tumulong ako sa pagtaguyod ng National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

Payak ang naging kasal namin ni Bobbie Malay.

Sa isang maid’s room kami kinasal. Gaya sa lahat ng bagay sa kilusan, ang haba-haba ng naunang diskusyon!

Sa underground movement isinilang sina Silahis at Antonio, mga bunga ng pagmamahalan at ng aming pinaglalaban.

Pero nahiwalay ako sa kanila nang ako’y arestuhin.

Dumaan ako sa matinding torture — electric shock sa katawan, karate, buntal, umpog sa ulo, paso ng sigarilyo sa ibat’t-ibang bahagi ng katawan. Nagawang tiisin ang bawat sakit.

Pero ang ang hirap akong tiisin noon, ang pagkawalay ko sa pamilya.

Pinamunuan  ko ang mga political prisoners,at madalas pag dumating ang kanilang mga pamilya na may mga problema, dumudulog sila sa ‘kin. Naubos ang oras ko sa kanila habang ang sarili kong mga anak ang naiwang naghihintay, ‘di ko naasikaso.

Nagtatampo sila noon.

Umiiyak ako pag wala sila.

Pati mga anak ko, nag-rally para sa aking paglaya.

Pero matigas ang ulo ni Marcos kaya sa aking ika-siyam na taon ng pagkakakulong ko, pinalaya ko ang aking sarili — tumakas ako.

Nung sumunod na national convention ng National Press Club kung kailan may eleksyon ng opisyales, binigyan ako ng pass, sinamantala ko na. Pagkaboto ko, ginamit ko ang service stairs mula 4th floor dun ako lumusot…

Bumalik ako underground.

Una akong lumitaw nung 1986 peace talks. Bumagsak ito dahil pinaslang ng gobyerno ang 18 magsasaka sa tinaguriang Mendiola Massacre ng Pebrero 22, 1996.

Bumalik ako sa underground.

Makalipas ang tatlong taon, muli akong inaresto, kasama ng aking kabiyak.

Taong 1992 na nang mapawalang-sala kami sa mga kasong murder, kidnapping at illegal possession of firearms.

Taong 1999, itinayo namin ang Bayan Muna. Taong 2001, umupo ako bilang kinatawan nito at hanggang sa kasalukuyan, ay naglilingkod sa sambayanan bilang isang progresibong konggresista.

Kakaibang labanan ang ang meron dito. Madumi at kumplikado. Kailangang matibay ang paghawak sa prinsipyo at dapat laging tangan ang tindig ng masang anakpawis sa mga isyung panlipunan.

Nanindigan ako sa pulitika ng pagbabago, ang pulitikang tunay na naglilingkod sa bayan.

Kahit kailan hindi ako kinain ng sistema.

Hindi ako nasusuhulan, hindi mabibili ang aking paninindigan.

‘Di pa rin ako mayaman.

Simple lang ang bahay ko at isa lang ang kotse ko, luma pa.

Ako ang naghahanda ng sarili kong almusal at almusal ng aking pamilya, pagkatapos ay naghuhugas at nagliligpit ng pinagkanan.

Kapag hindi ako nagtatrabaho sa kongreso, gawaing-bahay ang hinaharap ko. Naglilinis, naglalaba, nag-aayos ng gamit.

Kasabay ng pagiging aktibista, ako’y isang  isang mapagmahal na asawa at ama;  isang magiliw na lolo.

Sa Kongreso ang mga dating kalaban, minsan ay nagiging kakampi. Sa isang takdang panahon, ang mga nang-aapi, nagsasamantala at umaabuso sa  kapangyarihan, sila ang unahing labanan  patalsikin.

Pero hindi natin kinakalimutan ang ‘di pa nareresolbang usapin ng human rights violations sa panahon ni Marcos. Di rin natin kinakalimutan ang mga naging aral sa pagpapatalsik kay Estrada. Natututo tayo sa laging bigong proseso ng impeachment kay Arroyo.

Marami pa rin akong kabiguan dahil sa dami kong panukalang isinampa, kakaunti lang ang naipasa. Ngunit hindi ako pinanghinaan ng loob at tuloy-tuloy ang pagsumite ng mga panukalang batas at resolusyon para sa kagalingan ng masa. Marami pa ring maliliit na tagumpay na pinagwagian.

Pero di rin kalian man iniiwan o kinakalimutan ang parlyamento ng lansangan. Dahil ang masa, ang mamamayan pa rin ang mapagpasya. Nasa kanila ang lakas, nasa kanila ang pag-asa.

At sila din ang ating pinaglilingkuran sa tuwina.

Sa Kongreso, nasimulan nang marinig ang boses ng masa. Kailangang ganito rin ang mangyari sa senado.

Mahaba pa ang pakikibaka, at habang buhay ako, tuloy ang aking paglaban sa kahit anong mapang-aping gobyerno. Tuloy ang laban para sa mga inaapi at pinagsasamantalahan.


Satur Ocampo. May puso, prinsipyo at panindigan.

November 3, 2009

Satur Ocampo, the early years

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ina Alleco @ 6:29 am

SaturSatur Ocampo has got to be one of  the most curious personalities in the mainstream Left movement; quite possibly, even in the realm of Philippine politics.

People closest to him such as his congressional staff and his security would say that it takes him ages to lose his temper, and even when he finally does, it will only be over some serious social injustice and never from a personal slight. In either case, however, he can still be relied on to remain rational and logical. Think back and remember the second time he was arrested in 2007: recall the footage of him being manhandled by members of the Philippine National Police (PNP). Through all the abuse and the violations against his human and civil rights, he can be seen striving to keep calm; but when he finally speaks, his anger sears like white fire, the greatest heat there is.

The man is by nature a silent type: he will not speak first, but instead he will listen, and here is why he is also curious: because behind the quiet and gentle facade of the man, is an individual who has a personal history influenced by a strong will and a deep seated compassion, a political life which has already made its mark on the Philippines.

I am writing a series of  blog entries on Ka Satur, former journalist, forever activist, my first choice for senator in 2010.


Satur is the son of poor peasants in Pampanga. It would have been natural for anyone to expect that he grow up with dreams of becoming rich, or at least dreams of a better life for himself and his family; Satur’s dreams, however, embraced others: what he wanted was for poverty to end for the people of Pampanga, and by extension, the Filipino people.

A studious and intelligent boy who grew up under the auspices of religion, he was sensitive to social realities around him. Even at a very young age, he was aware that there were differences in economic status between people and that more often than not, they were caused not by bad luck or lack of effort and industry but by more concrete factors that had to do with how a society was run.

He read books on the lives of saints and national heroes, and he understood that what shaped these great men and women were not only their own inherent abilities or gifts, but the circumstances that surrounded them and how they chose to respond to them.

Again, more often than not, these circumstances were of strife and struggle. True enough, he thought, adversity does shape character; and with that, he sought to consciously shape his own. He wanted to be a person who did good things for other people; to be of help, to be of use, to be of service. To him, the things he read and studied about the lives and deeds of heroes were not dead words, but lessons to be lived and practiced.

These heroes, he thought to himself,  were not statues. They were once flesh and blood individuals who had lived and breathed, and they gave the best of themselves to efforts that constituted compassion and greatness.

So the young boy Satur began to consciously pattern his own life after theirs.

Satur was a good student. He was particularly good in science and history, and when he was not helping with chores at home, he was often in the library reading. One could say that he was a typical grind, but unlike the usual nerds and geeks who loved learning often for its own sake, he loved learning because he saw it a means to one day achieve his dream: at first it was to become a priest;  then, when he thought that it would be better to first heal bodies before aiding souls, he wanted to be a doctor.

At the time when he was growing up, there were only two doctors in his town; and families like his, peasants whose lives were deeply connected to the soil and whose wealth were mainly the love and respect of each son and daughter for their parents, seldom if ever sought medical services. No, it wasn’t because they were of stronger, healthier stock; it was because doctor’s fees were beyond their reach. Keeping health was a necessity for more pragmatic reasons.

In high school, Satur became class president, and he was also editor of the school newspaper. Extracurricular activities also became venues for learning, and to add to his first-hand knowledge of the difficulties faced by the peasant class to which his family belonged, he began to hone his understanding of social issues that affected students. He became a member of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP), and he wrote about issues that impacted on the student body like fraternity violence.

When the time came for him to attend university, it became difficult for Satur to stick to one course of study. It wasn’t because he was feckless and he couldn’t focus; in fact, it was the exact opposite. He wanted to study courses that were in line with his interests in society, history and politics, but there were other subjects that had to be taken that he found somewhat superfluous.

In the meantime, he was supposed to attend the University of the Philippines and study medicine, but neither he nor his family had the means to send him there. He had to temporarily forego what he wanted to learn skills that enabled him to make him a living and help his family. He studied basic accounting, he learned steno-typing.

Then he enrolled in the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP), the former  Philippine College of Commerce where the tuition was low.  He worked during the day and studied at night. He worked and studied and helped his family and in the meantime, the Philippines was slowly changing and he was not indifferent to what was happening.

As a student, he was already an activist. By 1964, when the revolutionary organization of  Filipino youth and students, the Kabataan Makabayan (KM) was established, he became a founding member.

By then he was working as a business reporter, then eventually sub-editor, of the Manila Times.

From wanting to become a priest and a doctor, Satur came to terms with himself. If he was unable to a medical doctor, he would a social doctor: one who helped cure society and its myriad of ills. He would be a journalist and write about these problems and, perhaps, help offer solutions.

Satur was a daring journalist. Back in his time, it was simply not done to politicize business and economic issues: politics were on the front page; stories about business had a section all its own in the latter pages. He didn’t agree with it. His understanding of social realities compelled him to enact changes in the Manila Times.

As sub-editor, it was his task to lay-out the business pages during the weekend. The rest of the week he went out and gathered stories and wrote them. In the weekend, he was in charge of putting the paper to bed. It was then that he inserted commentaries — analyses on how businesses were influencing government; how government often also became a business for those who ran it;and how through it all it was the Filipino people who suffered when government was run as a business and people were at the bottom of priorities, far below amassing profit.

He also attended rallies. Unlike other colleagues in the profession who went to the rallies to cover them, he attended the rallies launched by radical students and members of the oppressed sectors against the burgeoning US-Marcos dictatorship as a Filipino who cared about his country.

In the beginning, he was reprimanded and his attendance in the rallies was reported to the Manila Times front office. He was a reporter, they told him. He was not supposed to be directly much less personally involved in the issues was covering.

Satur was ready with his retort: “I am a citizen, and I am free to exercise my rights. I do my job as a reporter when I submit the stories; but I also have a job and responsibilities as a Filipino.” He was prepared to argue and defend his point, but by then he had gained the support of  Manila Times editor, Alejandro ‘Chino’ Roces.

Satur then went on to implement more changes in his section: he believed that economic issues, precisely because of their nature, also belonged in the front page especially when they affected the lives and livelihood of millions of Filipinos.

Eventually, Satur became president of the Business and Economics Reporters Association. His reputation as a no-nonsense business writer also grew as he wrote investigative pieces on the illegal and secret marriages between private firms and government agencies, or how government-ran corporations were leaking money because of mismanagement and corruption. He wrote about how, in the end, because of anomalies in government and its business dealings, it was the Filipino people who lost.

He was offered bribes like cars and houses, he was politely but firmly asked to stop his exposes. He, in turn, was also polite and firm as he declined and gave his standard answer: “Talk to my editor.”

Satur also became the host of a political talk-show. Three times the show was aired from Malacanang, and it went on for a year until Marcos declared martial law.

To be continued.