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Volume III,  Number 45              December 14 - 20, 2003            Quezon City, Philippines


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FPJ Now Wants To Be Called “Ka Ronnie”
Peasant leader says Da King wants farm sector protected from WTO

Always shy of media interviews, movie king and presidential candidate Fernando Poe, Jr. (FPJ) surprised an assembly of peasant and fisherfolk leaders when he showed up their forum of WTO globalization Saturday morning in Quezon City. He held a one-on-one chat with peasant leader and political party Anakpawis president Rafael Mariano where they talked about peasant issues and left when reporters rushed in.

By Gerry Albert Corpuz 

Action superstar turned presidential candidate Fernando Poe, Jr. known to his legions of fans as FPJ and " Da King" now wants to be called "Ka Ronnie" (Comrade Ronnie), says opposition Senator and Poe's campaign spokesman Vicente " Tito" Sotto III.

The opposition senator made the statement during the People's Electoral Forum on WTO and Globalization held at the University of the Philippines (UP) Hotel in Diliman, Quezon City last Friday.

It was FPJ's first public appearance since he announced his candidacy last month. A coalition of opposition parties nominated him as the united opposition's standard-bearer last week. He did not appear in his own proclamation, however.

The UP forum was organized to seek the opinion and standpoints of politicians running for higher elective posts in the May 2004 elections. Aside from FPJ, invited were Aksyon Demokratiko standard-bearer Raul Roco, vice-presidential hopeful Senator Loren Legarda, Vice-President Teofisto Guingona and former Sen. Wigberto Tañada.

Roco and Guingona earlier declined because of previous commitments while Senator Legarda sent a solidarity message in support of the electoral forum. However, organizers said, they would sponsor another electoral forum
to give way to other candidates except President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

"Ipinagbilin ni Ka Ronnie na pakinggan ko ang hinaing ng mga magsasaka at maralita at ipaabot ito sa kanya" (Ka Ronnie asked me to listen to the demands of farmers and urban poor and to transmit these to him), Sotto told a crowd of 200 leaders representing various farmer organizations, fisherfolk alliances, church groups, student and youth associations and professional groups.

FPJ came at around 8:45 a.m. or more than an hour ahead of the scheduled electoral forum and left UP at exactly 9:30 a.m. to attend another meeting. But he asked Sotto to represent him in the electoral forum organized by the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP-Peasant Movement of the Philippines) and the fisherfolk federation Pamalakaya.

KMP national chair and Anakpawis national political party president Rafael Mariano had a 45-minute one-on-one discussion with FPJ. The peasant activist leader described his less than an hour talk with FPJ as cordial and accommodating.

"He (FPJ) is receptive to the anti-WTO and anti-globalization cause of farmers and other rural-based organizations. All he needs to do is to take it by heart and keep it in mind," Mariano added.

The peasant leader said his discussion with FPJ revealed a number of things: The action star-turned presidential candidate agrees that WTO and trade liberalization destroyed the livelihood of millions of small farmers and
petty producers in agriculture; that agriculture is the basic foundation of the economy and the country should stop importing agricultural products produced by local farmers like rice and other staple products and protect the sector from the onslaught of free trade regime.

GMA not invited

"Ms Macapagal-Arroyo is not invited because we already knew and seriously suffered from her anti-peasant policies of agricultural trade liberalization and importation in accordance with the WTO. Anyway, as surveys and people's disgust shows, she is a nuisance candidate," Mariano told Bulatlat.com

Calling GMA a rabid puppet of imperialist globalization, Mariano urged Poe and other presidential candidates not to toe the Macapagal-Arroyo line on WTO and globalization.

Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap echoed the same point. "President Macapagal-Arroyo is an all-out supporter of WTO and imperialist globalization and besides, GMA is already out of the race," Hicap said.

The militant leader said FPJ and Roco currently are leading the race for presidency but their position on WTO and free trade regime will change or affect their chances, adding that millions of Filipino people are against" this inimical and unfair trade set up."

Roco, as a senator, supported the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT) in 1994 when it was presented for Senate ratification by then senator Macapagal-Arroyo.

How about Danding?

Sotto said FPJ would not allow himself to be used or influenced by big business interests including kingmaker and business tycoon Eduardo “Danding" Cojuangco. He also said Danding will not play a major political role in FPJ's presidential bid in May 2004 elections.

"Trabaho lang yung pag-e-endorse niya ng produkto ni Danding," (Endorsing Danding’s products was just a job), Sotto said referring to a string of commercials done by FPJ several years ago for Cojuangco's San Miguel Beer.

"If Danding supports FPJ just like other people in the business, that's fine. But if Danding asks for something big in return, then Ka Ronnie will not approve it," he added.

Sotto admitted that while Cojuangco is a good friend of FPJ, the issue of coconut levy will be subjected to a thorough review with the full participation of coconut farmers and their designated representatives to resolve the long-running dispute on the coconut levy fund now pegged at P 130 billion.

Consultative leadership

Sotto said FPJ will embark on a consultative leadership that would table problems and other issues of great importance to every ordinary folk. These issues include globalization, insurgency, militarization, peace talks and human rights, he said.

He also said FPJ’s no. 1 priority for the people is food security.

"Kailangan konsultahin ang mamamayan. Hindi sugod ng sugod" (The people should be heard first and not make hasty decisions), FPJ's campaign spokesman said on the type and system of governance the actor would employ once elected as president in May 2004.

Sotto said an FPJ administration will value human rights and will oppose any policy that would violate basic human rights and civil liberties like the ongoing checkpoints, which he said, were a source of corruption and abuse, the all-out war and the national ID system.

Protest on Dec. 15

Meanwhile, militants led by KMP, Pamalakaya and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan-New Patriotic Alliance) will stage a rally on Dec. 15 to protest the re-grouping of big capitalist countries on the same day in Geneva, Switzerland, three months after the collapse of the 5th WTO Ministerial Meeting in Cancun, Mexico last Sept. 10-14.

Some 1,000 anti-WTO and anti-imperialist forces will attend the mass action against the WTO General Council Meeting. Rally organizers said the Geneva meeting will tackle issues which were not resolved in the recent Cancun conference.

KMP secretary general Danilo Ramos said the WTO meeting in Geneva will also set the agenda for the 6th Ministerial Meeting of the WTO in 2005 in Hong Kong.

"The electoral forum is also a build up for the December 15 rally," he said. If possible, he said, all candidates now numbering 450,000 running for 12,500 contested posts in the government should be asked about their position on WTO, globalization and other issues of national and sectoral importance.

"An anti-WTO and anti-trade liberalization position will give advantage to any political wannabe in May 2004 elections. It is one major rallying point to get the electorate's trust and votes," he said. Bulatlat.com

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