By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – In 2002, the Supreme Court found power company Meralco guilty of overcharging electricity rates. It was ordered to refund around P30 billion to its consumers.
Unknown to many, Engr. Ramon Ramirez or MonRam played a big role in achieving that victory.
In a tribute Sept. 5 at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani, AGHAM Chairperson Giovanni Tapang recalled that MonRam showed them spreadsheets proving the excessive charges imposed by Meralco. Tapang said that they used this as basis for the campaign launched by consumer group People Opposed to Warrantless Electricity Rates (POWER) and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) against high electricity rates.
Throughout the hearings on the petition against Meralco, MonRam would face Meralco’s former president Jesus Francisco, his college classmate. Monram was never antagonistic toward his opponents, according to Bayan Secretary General Renato Reyes Jr. “He was very principled, and he could see the political aspect in many issues,” Reyes said.
Years later, when Francisco was invited as guest speaker for a college’s graduation ceremonies in UP Diliman, the former Meralco president acknowledged the presence of MonRam, who was then standing in the aisle taking pictures.
Rhod Gonzales, a UP professor, vividly remembered that moment. “I saw clearly Mon’s wide grin and the surprise on his face. For me, that was a recognition of the nobleness of the path chosen by Mon,” Gonzales said in Filipino.
As topnotcher of the 1967 board exams for electric engineering, MonRam could have enriched himself by making a career in the corporate world. He chose a life serving the poor instead.
‘Red and expert’
He said that MonRam was AGHAM’s public utilities person who studied not only Meralco’s excesses but also the Electricity Power Industry Act (EPIRA), LRT-MRT contracts, automated elections system, among others. AGHAM took on MonRam’s initial studies and exposed how the consumers were being duped by big corporations in collusion with the government.
Relatives and colleagues pay tribute to Ramon “Monram” Ramirez, people’s engineer, scientist & archivist here at Bantayog ng mga Bayani. pic.twitter.com/bGb2otBA8o
— Bulatlat (@bulatlat) September 5, 2021
In a video message, Jose Maria Sison, founding chair of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), said that MonRam performed anonymous and vital important tasks in the revolutionary movement, as well as in the legal mass movement related to science and technology.
Sison and Juliet de Lima had known MonRam as a student activist. He joined the Samahan ng Makabayang Siyentipiko during the First Quarter Storm of 1970 and then became a “CPP cadre tasked with military research and the application of the science and technology in the people’s democratic revolution with a socialist perspective.”
Rey Claro Casambre and Patricia Corazon Casambre, in a message read by their daughter Xandra Casambre Bisenio, said that MonRam contributed so much to the people’s movement in the last 50 years.The Casambre couple said that MonRam used his knowledge in radio communication and radio broadcasting to set up Radyo Sierra Madre, the defunct mobile radio program of the late CPP Spokesperson “Ka Roger” Roger Rosal. MonRam also taught their comrades to use personal computers, helped develop portable acupuncture stimulators, and studied cryptography for secure communications.
“In all of these, Ka Mon demonstrated extraordinary intelligence, diligence, dedication, determination and optimism, no matter how complicated and difficult the tasks assigned to him,” the Casambres said in Filipino.
For his involvement in the people’s movement, MonRam was imprisoned twice. The first was during the Marcos dictatorship, and the second during the administration of Fidel V. Ramos.
Danilo dela Fuente, spokesperson of SELDA, a group of former political prisoners, said that MonRam never wavered in his commitment even after the two incidents of detention.
Archivist, documentary photographer
In 1997, MonRam put up the website Arkibong Bayan, a repository of pictures of protest actions. Long before Facebook, MonRam uploaded albums of photos, often with statements released by people’s organizations about various issues.
Engr. Efren Ricalde labeled MonRam as a documentary photographer who chronicled the people’s movement for many years. Arkibong Bayan became the go-to site of progressive Filipinos in other countries to keep themselves abreast of events here in the Philippines.
He was among the founding members of Altermidya, the national network of alternative media outfits, as representative of Arkibong Bayan.
His son Karl described his father as “forward-looking.” He always made it a point to learn the new technology and use this to serve the people.
Karl said his father was looking forward to the day when the pandemic would be over. Last July 26, MonRam went to UP Diliman. He did not get out of the vehicle and only wanted to take a glimpse of the people’s march.
“Gustong-gusto niyang makapiling ang kilusang lumalaban,” (He always wanted to be with the people’s movement) Karl said.