Family, friends and neighbors, colleagues, the media, and kasamas (comrades) are heaping praises on Crispin “Ka Bel” Beltran; and rightfully so, for who can question the integrity and commitment to serve of a man who was true to being from the working class till the time of his death.
BY BENJIE OLIVEROS
Vol. VIII, No. 16, May 25-31, 2008
Family, friends and neighbors, colleagues, the media, and kasamas (comrades) are heaping praises on Crispin “Ka Bel” Beltran; and rightfully so, for who can question the integrity and commitment to serve of a man who was true to being from the working class till the time of his death. He died undramatically – falling from the roof of his house – but not without symbolism. For Ka Bel, in spite being a labor leader for decades and a member of Congress for three terms, died repairing the house that he bought with a loan.
The same cannot be said for many labor leaders who have enriched themselves at the expense of the class they have sworn to serve: becoming willing tools of capitalists and even senators; and the comparison between Ka Bel and other members of Congress, except his colleagues from progressive party-list groups, is too obvious to explain.
His family said that he was a responsible partner to Ka Osang and a good father. What can you say to a man who fought the Marcos dictatorship and all forms of injustices afterwards, stirred the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU or May 1st Movement), and was still able to do his share in taking care of their children?
His friends said that he always smiled and was warm to them. Well, Ka Bel never forgot a person he had met even briefly and always took the effort to offer a firm and warm handshake to everybody – much unlike the hypocritical, vote-motivated handshake of many traditional politicians.
Ka Bel’s neighbors said that by living with them in an urban poor community, he showed that he is not corrupt. His colleagues in Congress said that he was always sincere and represented the interest of the common man. And the media praised him for his integrity with the Philippine Daily Inquirer saying that, “it showed an astonished nation that it is possible to remain poor while serving in Congress, despite the trappings, the generous staffing budgets, the access to pork barrel funds.” The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) commended him for supporting the rights and welfare of journalists.
Amid the generous praises, what was missed out, except by Ka Bel’s kasamas, is that Ka Bel was the way he was not only because he was a good man – which undoubtedly he is – but because he lived his principles. In Ka Bel, the man and his principles are inseparable.
The Anakpawis party-list came up with the following list of Ka Bel’s activities from his younger years to his time as legislator.
Ka Bel was not yet in his teens when he volunteered to be a courier for Filipino guerillas fighting the Japanese occupation. At 20 he joined a strike by his fellow taxi drivers. He organized and became president of the Amalgamated Taxi Drivers Association from 1955-63. Together with Felixberto “Ka Bert” Olalia, the “Grand Old Man of the Philippine Labor Movement,” and Feliciano Reyes, they formed the Confederation of Labor of the Philippines and became its vice president from 1962 -72. He likewise helped form two other labor organizations, KASAMA and PACMAP. Even under the Marcos fascist dictatorship, Ka Bel helped form the Federation of Unions in Rizal and the Philippine Nationalist Labor Organization (PANALO) until KMU was founded in 1980 with Ka Bert as its first chairperson.