By FRANCIS ELDON G. MABUTIN
MANILA — Since its inception in 1999, Bayan Muna has been pushing for meaningful change both in the House of Representatives and in the streets. But the road paved with proverbial good intentions has been met with challenges and attacks.
Starting strong and topping the 2001 elections, Bayan Muna has pursued its progressive legislative agenda – authoring and co-authoring over 600 measures, house resolutions, and bills that looked into government anomalies, human rights violations, and consumer issues, to name a few.
It has also filed several petitions before the Supreme Court on various government policies such as the Philippines Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001, Anti-Terror Law, the Visiting Forces Agreement, Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, among others, challenging the constitutionality of the said measures and agreements.
Today, Bayan Muna is set to file its candidacy papers before the Commission on Elections as it seeks for re-election in the 2022 polls. This despite the red-tagging and other attacks it was subjected to under President Rodrigo Duterte, including a state-sponsored “zero vote” campaign against Bayan Muna during the 2019 midterm elections where they still emerged victorious.
Read: The Bayan Muna experience: How the Left Fared in Congress
Read: Bayan Muna rising to the challenge of looming fascist rule
Due to their progressive agenda, they have been routinely subjected to harassment and intimidation tactics, red-tagging, and their members and community organizers on the ground killed. Among those who sacrificed their lives were local public servants, village leaders, church people, lawyers, farmers, and fisherfolk. Most of them were red-tagged prior to their killing.
Its legislators, too, were not spared from attacks. In 2006, the three Bayan Muna lawmakers were among the so-called “Batasan 6,” who were charged with rebellion. The charges were eventually dismissed by the Supreme Court for lack of merit. Then Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo, too, was implicated in the infamous Hilongos mass grave, often described as “a case of traveling bones.”
With COVID-19, Bayan Muna co-authored measures that would allow pandemic work leaves, financial aid for affected families, and improve the public education and health system. It has also sponsored a bill seeking to tax Filipino billionaires to fund the pandemic response. Recently, Bayan Muna voted against the passing of the 2022 budget, which they described as a fund that would be utilized by Duterte and his allies for elections.
It is worrying, the partylist group said, that despite the increased 2022 budget, the allocations for institutions involved in the pandemic response remain a pittance.
“We stress that for this representation, this budget does not aim to respond and end in the soonest possible time the crises brought by the pandemic. Instead, this is a budget for fascism, politicking, pork barrel, and the upcoming elections,” said Bayan Muna Rep. Eufemia Cullamat in their explanation of no-vote.
Read: Why groups are opposing the ‘ayuda-less’ 2022 national budget
In its 2022 bid, Bayan Muna hopes to continue the fight. Along with other members of the Makabayan bloc, they have pledged to enact measures such as P10,000 cash aid per family, anti-dynasty law, ending contractualization, junking the National Task Force to End Local Armed Communist Conflict, and resuming peace talks, among others.
Get to know the first three nominees of Bayan Muna through previously published Bulatlat features:
Teddy Casiño, para sa karaniwang tao
Ferdinand Gaite, from union to lawmaking
Bravery beyond the veil: A Moro woman activist on why she continues to fight