Marking the sixth month of Rep. Crispin Beltran’s illegal detention, the Free Ka Bel Movement (FKBM) together with Anakpawis Party List led a two-day vigil and protest rally of labor unions, progressive organizations and Beltran’s supporters demanding the legislator’s immediate release.
BY MAUREEN HERMITANIO
Hundreds of supporters of Anakpawis (Toiling Masses) Rep. Crispin Beltran held a vigil Aug. 24 outside the Philippine Heart Center (PHC) in Quezon City to demand the immediate release of the detained legislator. The Free Ka Bel Movement, an alliance of organizations demanding Beltran’s freedom led the two-day protest.
Workers from Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU or May 1st Movement), Anakpawis Party-List, Migrante, Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay or Alliance of Urban Poor Organizations), Pinag-isang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Opereytor Nationwide (Piston or United Association of Drivers and Operators Nationwide) and other groups from the health sector, government employees, transport, urban poor, church and youth and students gathered outside the hospital for a solidarity night and protest program.
Beltran’s illegal detention began last Feb. 25 after the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo government arrested him on trumped-up charges of inciting to rebellion. He was detained at Camp Crame and was transferred to the PHC last May due to his lingering health problems.
Songs and poems
The vigil was highlighted with cultural performances, songs and poems from Beltran’s supporters and allied cultural groups. “We only have praises for Ka Bel, he is an inspiration to all of us,” said KMU chairman Elmer Labog. “His imprisonment all the more strengthens our resolve to continue resisting the government’s repressive policies. At 73, Ka Bel contributed more than five decades of his life in the service of workers and ordinary people.”
Members of cultural organization Concerned Artists of the Philippines (CAP) performed “Sa Liyab ng Libong Sulo” (The Flame of a Thousand Torches) and “Kung Tuyo na ang Luha Mo, Aking Bayan” (When Your Tears Have Dried, My Country) by Amado V. Hernandez, one of Ka Bel’s favorite poets. Artists from Tag-ani, Kilometer 64, Tambisan sa Sining, People’s Chorale and cultural groups from urban poor communities performed as well.
Anakbayan Chairperson Eleanor de Guzman said that today’s youth can draw fruitful lessons from Ka Bel’s life and struggles as a labor leader, a parliamentarian and a genuine servant of the people.
A vote for Arroyo’s impeachment
Free Ka Bel Movement spokesperson Dennis Maga said that “if Ka Bel was at the House of Representatives during the deliberation and voting for the impeachment complaint filed against Arroyo, the progressive solon could have added his vote to the 32 votes cast in favor of the impeachment and represented the will of Anakpawis’ constituents.”
“With the way our legislators voted, it is clear that money prevailed over rational thinking and dictates of conscience,” Maga told the crowd during the rally. “Those legislators who voted ‘yes’ and affirmed that the impeachment complaints have insufficient substance failed their constituents in favor of their own selfish interests. History will remember them as traitors to the cause of the Filipino people.”
“The 173–32 vote in favor of the administration might have sealed the fate of the impeachment process and bought more time for Arroyo. But it will not restrict the general public’s growing demand for her removal as President. We will take the fight against Arroyo to the streets where we are assured of victory,” the labor leader said.
Yearning for freedom
The groups marched the next day along Quezon Memorial Circle Elliptical Road and went back to the PHC. As they passed the PHC parking lot, Beltran stood at the 4th floor hallway and waved to the protesters. Beltran was wearing a red shirt and cap, his usual attire when attending rallies and demonstrations.
During the program, Ka Bel called and expressed his gratitude to his supporters. He said that while he yearns for freedom, he relies on the people’s movement to work for his release from imprisonment.
An Anakpawis statement read: “Even in incarceration, Ka Bel is in high spirits. He is overwhelmed with the outpour of support for his cause. He is with us all along in our struggles against the continuing political repression and Arroyo’s martial rule.”
“For the past six months, the Department of Justice and Malacañang made their way through the Makati (Regional) Trial Court and imposed their will upon the course of the case of Ka Bel and the Batasan 5 solons. There is no basis for Ka Bel’s illegal arrest and continued detention but the Court continues to issue alibis to delay the legal process and prolong Ka Bel’s imprisonment.”
Anakpawis secretary-general Cherry Clemente said that the protest is also an expression of their strong resistance and opposition to the unabated political killings, various forms of human rights violations and state-sponsored terrorism done against the Filipino people.
“Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is a killer on the loose,” Clemente said. “Her repressive, dictatorial leadership is indeed revolting and a legitimate cause for major social unrest. She will pay dearly for all the crimes that her government committed against the people. The time for settling of scores will come soon.”
International support and solidarity
The group said international support demanding for Beltran’s release constantly gains massive response from many unions, organizations and international parliamentarians.
Ka Bel, according to groups, is a prominent figure in the worldwide anti-imperialist movement. He was the founding chairperson of the International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS). Activities like indignation protests, petition campaign and massive information drive for Ka Bel’s release continue in more than 30 countries worldwide. (Bulatlat.com)