When asked if the plight of the Batasan 5 is comparable to the 1946 experience of the Democratic Alliance (DA), a broad formation of leftist elements and progressive liberals united on the program of assertion of sovereignty and advancement of nationalist industrialization, Ocampo said yes.
That year the U.S. supported moves to unseat from Congress six elected members of the DA.
Staunch opponents of the Bell Trade Act which granted U.S. corporations equal “rights” with Filipino businessmen in exploiting the country’s economic resources, the DA’s representatives constituted a block to a two-thirds vote on the said bill. With aid from the U.S., President Manuel Roxas and his political allies filed ouster cases against the DA representatives on spurious grounds of electoral “terrorism.” They succeeded in unseating the DA representatives and the Bell Trade Act was able to pass in Congress.
“Our plight and the DA experience are similar in the sense that like what the Roxas regime did to the DA representatives, the Arroyo administration is using legal maneuvers and filing trumped-up charges against us in a bid to prevent us from performing our duties as elected representatives,” he said.
Before the rebellion charges were lodged against them, Ocampo said, Bayan Muna and the other progressive party-list groups had experienced other forms of political persecution.
In particular, Bayan Muna – which went into the electoral arena three years ahead of Anakpawis and GWP – experienced Red-smearing as early as 2001, Casiño told Bulatlat in an earlier interview.
In 2004, National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales came out with what he called an expose branding six progressive party-list groups – Bayan Muna, Anakpawis, GWP, Anak ng Bayan (Sons and Daughters of the People) Youth Party, Migrante Sectoral Party (MSP), and Suara Bangsamoro (Voice of the Moro People) – as “front organizations” of the clandestine CPP and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA). A year later, the six party-list groups would appear among other groups as “enemies of the state” in a powerpoint presentation of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP), titled Knowing the Enemy.
The so-called “enemies of the state” included such groups as the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP), the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI or the Philippine Independent Church), the Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines (AMRSP), the Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA), IBON Foundation, the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ), and the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP).
And now, they have the DOJ lodging rebellion charges against them – two cases in a span of less than three months.
Aside from the political persecution, members and supporters of the three progressive party-list groups are being killed with impunity.
Based on the latest data from the human rights group Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights), there has been a total of 601 political killings since 2001, the year President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was catapulted to power through a popular uprising. Of the 601, Karapatan data further show, 257 were confirmed to be affiliated with cause-oriented groups.
Ninety-three of the victims were Bayan Muna members while 20 were from Anakpawis.
The highest number of political killings under the Arroyo administration occurred in 2005 with 172 victims. Since 2005, there is at least one political killing every two days.
“With that there is always the danger that even we who represent these groups in Congress be physically eliminated,” Ocampo said. “The only thing that could be preventing them from annihilating us is the historical reality that when they hit national figures, the public response is intense, as shown by the cases of Ninoy Aquino, Ka Lando Olalia and Lean Alejandro.”
Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. was a prominent opposition politician who was assassinated on August 21, 1983 upon his return to the Philippines. He was viewed as the chief political rival of the late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos.
Rolando “Ka Lando” Olalia was the chairperson of Partido ng Bayan (People’s Party), a left-leaning political party that participated in the 1987 congressional elections, and chairperson of the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU or May 1st Movement). Ka Lando, together with his driver Ka Leonor Alay-ay, was assassinated on November 13, 1986. Lean Alejandro was the secretary-general of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan or New Patriotic Alliance) at the time he was assassinated on September 19, 1987.
“They are really bent on getting us out of Congress,” he added.
Even then, he said, it is worth it to continue participating in the parliamentary arena, Ocampo said. “In this arena we are able to amplify the concerns of the mass movement and intensify pressure on the government to hear these,” he pointed out.
Likewise, Ocampo also said, there have been a number of laws authored by progressive legislators that were intended to benefit the common people. He also said there have been several instances where the progressive legislators were able to block anti-people provisions in the administration’s legislative agenda, or at least lessen the impact of these on the people.
“If we leave the parliamentary arena, the anti-people leaders in government will easily have their way,” he said. (Bulatlat.com)