Douglas Dumanon: A Brave, Committed Activist and Labor Leader

Although Douglas Dumanon hailed from a middle-class family, he joined and served without hesitation the struggle of the toiling masses, especially that of the workers and the urban poor.


MANILA — First Quarter Storm youth activist turned labor leader Douglas Vizmanos Dumanon passed away late last monthfrom cancer, which he learned he had about two years ago. He was only 56. For much of his life Ka Douglas, as he was fondly called in the labor movement, had actually battled with cancer, the kind that his mourners say malignantly afflicts the Philippine society.

Although Ka Douglas hailed from a middle-class family, he joined and served without hesitation the struggle of the toiling masses, especially that of the workers and the urban poor, the partylist group AnakPawis said in a statement. Anakpawis honored Ka Douglas for having been an exemplary labor leader, organizer and educator.

Ka Douglas first joined the national democratic movement as a student activist and youth organizer. Shortly before the declaration of martial law in 1972, Ka Douglas, then 17 and a sophomore college student at the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila, joined the progressive youth mass organization Kabataang Makabayan (KM or Patriotic Youth).

He was among those arrested and detained when Ferdinand Marcos imposed martial rule. When Ka Douglas came out of prison in 1973, he did not go back to school and decided to become a full-time organizer for KM in various schools and communities. He served as KM’s national education officer.

About four years later, Ka Douglas “graduated” from the student-youth sector to participate more fully in the workers’ struggles. He was elected union president of port company Luzon Stevedoring Corporation (Luzteveco) based in Sta. Mesa, Manila in 1977.

Despite the repressive policies imposed by martial law he helped to organize and strengthen progressive unions and national labor federations and alliances. His contributions were crucial in the establishment of the Kilusang Mayo Uno in 1980, where he was elected as founding national treasurer.

While performing tasks for the KMU’s national office, he continued to serve as Luzteveco’s union president. When KMU called for a general strike in 1982 against the US-backed Marcos dictatorship and the resulting worsening living conditions of Filipinos, Ka Douglas led the workers’ strike in Luzteveco.

Ka Douglas (second from left) with comrades in the progressive movement. Click here to view tribute page. (Photo from

Ka Douglas took on more crucial tasks in the KMU national leadership after its senior leaders were arrested and jailed en masse on Friday the 13th of August 1982, in the infamous “post-martial law” crackdown on the Philippine progressive labor movement.

From then on, Ka Douglas matured as a national and multisectoral leader. Being constantly “mild-mannered” and seemingly “incapable of losing his temper” — as many friends and colleagues attested to in the programs held for his honor during his wake — he contributed much in KMU’s “alliance work.” He not only helped to bring the KMU close to other independent federations and labor groups as they formed alliances to fight for specific issues confronting the workers, he was also said to have gained the respect and even affection of other labor leaders outside of the KMU.

Yet, “he was also crucial in confronting wrong ideologies and practices that proliferated within the KMU in the late 1980s to early 1990s. He recognized the errors and joined others in correcting the direction, as well as their ways, toward struggling for national democracy and genuine societal change,” said Elmer Labog, chairman of KMU.

As a proletarian internationalist, the KMU also credited Ka Douglas for having reached out to the workers’ movement in more than 20 countries to develop international cooperation between them and the progressive Filipino labor organizations.

Ka Douglas was elected KMU vice president for federation affairs in 2003, a position he maintained until his health took a turn for the worse in 2008.

Ka Douglas devoted much of his last years in KMU’s mass organization for the urban poor, the Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay). “He contributed much to Kadamay’s expansion in various communities, in the organization of its national leadership, and in our national campaigns for livelihood and housing,” Labog said.

Ka Douglas left behind his wife and six children, family, friends and members and supporters of the progressive labor movement and urban poor associations who consider him a “pillar of the working class and the progressive movement,” and “an inspiration to pursue more the struggle for genuine democracy and social change.” This, KMU said, is the greatest tribute we can give to Ka Douglas. (

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