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Letters to Jose Maria Sison





By Prof. Jose Maria Sison
Chairperson, International Coordinating Committee
International League of Peoples' Struggle
May 21, 2008

On behalf of the International Coordinating Committee (ICC) and all participating organizations of the International League of Peoples' Struggle (ILPS)), I wish to convey most heartfelt condolences to the family and all comrades of our beloved Crispin "Ka Bel" Beltran, the first ICC chairperson and honorary chairperson of the ILPS.

We are deeply saddened by the passing away of Ka Bel. We share the grief of the working class and oppressed peoples of the Philippines and the world. But we are consoled and inspired by his great achievements as a labor leader, as a patriot in the service of the Filipino people and as an internationalist fighting for the accomplishment of the historic mission of the working class and the national and social liberation of all oppressed peoples.

Ka Bel brought into the ILPS and the anti-imperialist and democratic movement of the people of the world the great benefits and high prestige of his statesmanship, his accomplishments as leader of the working class and the people, his fearless dedication to their revolutionary cause and incessant struggle against monopoly capitalism and all reaction.

Ka Bel was an outstanding fighter for national liberation and democracy for over fifty years, up to the time that he held his last positions as chairman of the Anakpawis (Toiling Masses) party list and as member of the Philippine House of Congress. He excelled in defending the national and democratic rights and interests of the workers, peasants, urban poor and other exploited people and in fighting the US-imposed policy of neoliberal globalization and the US-instigated global war of terror.

At a very early age, Ka Bel volunteered as a courier for the guerillas against the Japanese occupation during World War II. Subsequently, he became a farm worker and took odd jobs to support his studies. He became a gasoline boy, messenger, bus driver and taxi driver. At the age of 20, he and his fellow drivers conducted a strike against unfair labor practices. The police brutally attacked their picket line, injuring many and killing three protesting workers. Thereafter, Ka Bel dedicated his life to the working class movement.

Ka Bel became president of the Yellow Taxi Drivers' Union. He further organized the Amalgamated Taxi Drivers Association and became its President from 1955 to 1963. Together with Felixberto 'Ka Bert' Olalia, Feliciano Reyes and Cesar Lacarra, veterans in the militant tradition of the Philippine labor movement, he organized the Confederation of Labor Unions of the Philippines (CLP) and became its Vice-President from 1963 to 1972. He also participated in the formation of the Philippine Workers Congress and such other labor organizations as KASAMA and PACMAP, which defied Marcos' preparations for and unleashing of martial law.

During the Marcos fascist dictatorship, Ka Bel had a major role in establishing the Federation of Unions in Rizal and the Philippine Nationalist Labor Organization (PANALO), which became the Alliance of Nationalist Genuine Labor Organizations (ANGLO). These helped prepare the ground for the founding of Kilusang Mayo Uno in 1980. From an initial 100,000, the KMU increased its membership to half a million in the 1980s. The KMU united and strengthened the working class and the entire people in the fight against the Marcos fascist dictatorship.

When Marcos tried to suppress the KMU and the resurgent trade union movement in August 1982, Ka Bel was one of the leaders who were arrested and detained. In November 1984, he escaped from prison, went to the countryside and organized workers and peasants from the underground. He was a brilliant heroic model of defiance and resistance to the Marcos fascist dictatorship.

After the fall of Marcos in 1986, he surfaced from the underground and became active once more in the KMU. Together with other mass leaders, we formed the Partido ng Bayan. After Rolando "Ka Lando" Olalia was brutally murdered in 1987, Ka Bel assumed the presidency of KMU. He ran for senator under the banner of Partido ng Bayan. But his candidacy was frustrated by a campaign of electoral fraud and terrorism unleashed by the reactionaries to disable and destroy the Partido ng Bayan.

Ka Bel stayed on as president of the KMU until March 2003. He also served as a member of the National Council of the multi-sectoral alliance Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) in 1985 and became its national chairperson from 1993 to 1999. From 2001 to 2003, he was Vice President of the Bayan Muna (People First) Party List and served the first of his three terms as member of the Philippine House of Representatives. In 2004 and 2007, he was elected as the representative under the Anakpawis Partylist.

In Congress, Ka Bel excelled in sponsoring bills characterized by a high sense of patriotism and advocacy of the rights and welfare of the oppressed and exploited people. He was commended by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism for filing the most number of bills and resolutions and for a nearly perfect attendance until his arrest in February 2006.

His three terms in the House of Representatives resulted in his recognition as Filipino of the Year and Most Outstanding Congressman for four consecutive years from 2002 to 2005. In 2006, was honored as part of the Congressional Hall of Fame.

For being a steadfast fighter in the interest of the toiling masses and for being an incorruptible public official, Ka Bel together with other progressive members of Congress earned the ire of the Arroyo regime and became the target of persecution through false charges. He was illegally arrested and detained for one year and a half. I had the honor of being a co-accused of Ka Bel in a false charge of rebellion, which was ultimately nullified by the Philippine Supreme Court.

Until his death, the Arroyo regime persisted in persecuting him with the false charge of inciting to sedition case. Under the baton of the regime, the Metropolitan Court of Quezon City refused to dismiss the charge despite its flagrant falsity and illegality. He continued to be the target of relentless efforts of the regime to imprison him, destroy the progressive partylists and remove their representatives in Congress. Persecution through the trumping up of false charges has become a major form of human rights violation in the Philippines and has extended even to The Netherlands in the persecution of Filipinos opposing the Arroyo regime.

Ka Bel has won a place of glory in the history of the working class and people for upholding, defending and advancing their rights, interests and aspirations for a new and better world of greater freedom, democracy, social justice, development and peace against imperialism and all reaction. Ka Bel will always live in our hearts and minds. His legacy of fighting for national and social liberation will always inspire the people in the current and further generations.

Ka Bel was slated to speak on neoliberal globalization and labor before the plenary session of the Third International Assembly of the ILPS in Hong Kong on June 18, 2008. We shall miss him and hear others on the topic. But his spirit shall be present and shall move all of us. The ILPS vows to perpetuate and avail of his legacy of revolutionary resoluteness and valiant struggle in the worldwide anti-imperialist and democratic movement of the people.###

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