Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts
Volume IV, Number 7 March 14 - 20, 2004 Quezon City, Philippines
with Satur Ocampo, Bayan Muna’s First Nominee:
the person who is now Bayan Muna’s first congressional nominee, the
participation of the Left in the electoral struggle had its harsh and pleasant
history starting with the participation of the Democratic Alliance in 1947. The
breakthrough took place in 2001 when Bayan Muna (BM or people first) topped that
year’s party-list elections despite its lack of experience and limited
dreamed of being a doctor but financial difficulties forced him to shift to
journalism. “If I could not be a
doctor of medicine, I could be a doctor of the nation’s ills,” he now says
recalling the time he had to make crucial decisions.
before he would become one of the most influential journalists since the 1960s,
Satur was already writing about nationalism, anti-U.S. bases and global economy
as editor-in-chief of his high school paper.
While taking up journalism in Lyceum, he was elected by the College
Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) as vice president for Greater Manila in
1958. He became its national
president in 1962. He also became a member of the editorial board of Progressive
Review. In 1963, he began working as proofreader for The Manila Times where,
before radical politics cut him off completely from journalism, he became its
journalist, youth leader
a student journalist and youth leader, Satur was sought by Jose Maria Sison,
then president of the Student Cultural Association of UP (SCAUP) to help form a
counterpart in the university belt. The two, with a few other student leaders,
instead founded the Kabataang Makabayan (KM) on Nov. 30, 1964.
one of the leaders of KM, Satur became one of the movers of parliamentary
struggle until the First Quarter Storm in 1970.
martial law was declared in 1972, Satur went underground.
He organized the peasantry in Central Luzon where he stayed for two
years. Arrested by Marcos agents on Jan. 14, 1976, he was transferred from one
detention to another: in Camp Olivas in San Fernando, Pampanga; Camp Capinpin,
Laguna; Fort Bonifacio to Camp Crame in Quezon City; and finally at the Bicutan
Rehabilitation Center (BRC) where he spent nine years and three months. The
military accused him of being a leader of the Communist Party of the Philippines
hurdled three months of interrogation. I
was not allowed to have even a piece of paper or a pen,” he says.
a year of solitary confinement, he was elected president of the political
prisoners’ organization at the BRC.
they would visit, friends would bring some pieces of paper and pens, he fondly
recalls. Even in prison, he was
invited as a columnist for the progressive journal We Forum published by
the late Joe Burgos. He was also
always invited to talk at the conventions of the National Press Club (NPC) in
Intramuros, Manila. “But I was
always accompanied by jail guards,” he said.
one of his trips to the NPC then under the presidency of Antonio Nieva, Satur
broke loose from his jail guards and escaped.
The escape – which embarrassed the Marcos government – brought him
back to the countryside where he was reunited with the masses, his comrades and
his wife, Bobbie Malay. (For the
rest of Satur’s life in jail, his wife never had a chance to visit him as she
was still in the underground movement. The
couple only survived their marriage by writing letters to each other. )
1987, Satur resurfaced as the chief negotiator for the underground National
Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) in its first peace negotiations with
the Aquino government. He gave NDF
a face, he said.
name Mr. NDF has stuck with me that even today that I am already the president
of Bayan Muna, the military still see me as such,” he said.
friends attest that his distinction of being Mr. NDF is generally positive and
consider him as a reasonable spokesman who is also willing to listen. “I would say I have a soft image, I am acceptable to the
middle forces, even with religious groups,” he said.
He adds he had a good relationship with the people of the church
especially with the late Sister Christine Tan, RGS.
again, arrested again
the peace talks collapsed in February 1987 following the Mendiola Massacre,
Satur found himself going back to the underground as the Aquino government
started to unsheathe the “sword of war.” The first of Aquino’s “total
war” targets would have been the NDFP panel themselves, Satur along with wife
Bobbie and Antonio Zumel would find out later. The death threats forced Zumel to
go on exile in The Netherlands.
two years Satur was rearrested and was detained for another three years. This time, however, he was detained with his wife.
“Well, at least we had the chance to make up for lost time,” he
behalf of the NDF, he continued to release statements from jail.
Later, a telephone was placed beside their cell which allowed him to have
phone-patched interviews with some media friends.
their release in 1993, Bobbie decided to just look after their children. Aside from being a full-time mother and wife, she became a
journalism professor at the University of the Philippines (UP) where she chaired
the College of Mass Communication’s journalism department.
on the other hand, pursued with the people’s struggle as a street
Left’s electoral struggle
formation of the political party Bayan Muna is the third attempt of the Left to
form a political party and participate in electoral politics.
The first experiences, however, were more than frustrating, Satur says.
1947, the old Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas (PKP) and the guerrilla army
Hukbong Mapagpalaya ng Bayan (HMB) gave up its armed struggle to participate in
the elections. Under the Democratic
Alliance, six candidates were elected in Congress.
a debate over the changing of the Constitution to allow parity rights to the
Americans, the six legislators stood their ground against its implementation.
They made it difficult for the lower House to approve the resolution and
as a consequence, they were charged with “electoral terrorism.”
Roxas government charged the six NP legislators with “using force in winning
in Southern Tagalog and Central Luzon” which were strongholds of the HMB. As harassment continued, the six were forced to return to
was another bitter experience in 1987 when, after 40 years, the Left again tried
to participate in electoral politics and formed the Partido ng Bayan (PnB or
president, labor leader Rolando Olalia was murdered that year. During the
election period alone, 35 of its members were killed.
Jose Maria Sison, the party’s founding chair, was forced to go on exile
in The Netherlands after his passport was canceled by the Aquino government.
in 1999, Bayan Muna (People First) became a prominent political party by leading
the campaign to oust President Joseph Estrada, charging the impeached and ousted
president with plunder, among others.
much to its role in the ouster of Estrada, BM became widely accepted by various
sectors in society. It topped the
party-list elections in the May 2001 elections.
“This is the third time that the Left has participated and
won in Congress. We hope this time around it won’t happen again,” Satur says
referring to the bitter experience of the Left in electoral politics.
should persevere, we should persist in bringing the people’s agenda in
Congress. We should not concede
that electoral politics only belongs to traditional politicians and
reactionaries,” he says.
adds that Bayan Muna continues to organize people from the grassroots and
strengthen its alliance with the middle forces.
“If we do not persist, we will be encouraging the monopoly of
traditional politicians in legislation,” he said.
Muna welcomes the entry of other progressive political parties who are entering
the realm of electoral politics and will be participating in the elections this
May. “It’s experimental,” he
says, adding that it would gauge the acceptability of the progressive political
parties which are sectoral in character.
and honest political party
the Pulse Asia survey conducted Feb. 16 – 20 this year, Bayan Muna topped 44
other party-list groups garnering an average vote of 10.2 percent which is 6.4
percent higher than the second in the list.
is proof that the people have accepted Bayan Muna as a dignified political party
which advocates clean and honest public service,” Satur says.
political party has been outstanding in its defense of the interest of workers
and peasants, the urban poor and the consumers by pushing for the increase of
the minimum wage and campaigning against the Purchase Power Adjustment (PPA). It
has also continuously defended the country’s sovereignty by opposing the
Balikatan exercises and the return of U.S. troops in the country.
It actually led some members of the House to form the Legislators Against
War (LAW), Satur says.
Muna has also led a congressional investigation on the effect of globalization
in agricultural and local industry productions.
BM, over 600 projects amounting to about P230 million were implemented in small
towns and provinces. Projects were
mainly for building roads, school buildings, water systems and medical
assistance. “Our funds are
translated to projects for the people,” Satur says.
“Even if some detractors say we are giving government funds to the New
People’s Army, they have no evidence.”
however clarified that Bayan Muna has no illusions that its advocacies can be
easily processed and passed through Congress.
“We cannot achieve fundamental change unless there are basic reforms in
the party system, in government and economic policies,” he said.
The principal form of parliamentary struggle is still the parliamentary of the streets, he said. Bulatlat.com