Tuesday, May 18, 2010

EDSA: A Labor leader’s story by Efren P. Aranzamendez (Confederation of Filipino Workers)


During the darkest days of the Marcos dictatorship when it was not "fashionable" to go against the dictator as this could lead to fatal consequence.  The author in his own small way was helping out in efforts to return democracy.

The author has been a labor leader for more than 30 years and holds currently the following positions:


1986 NAMFREL, Executive Council Member
Executive Vice President Federation of Free Workers 
Founder, Auxiliary Leaders Action Brigade (FFW-ALAB)
Member, Bishop Businessman's Conference

NAMFREL leadership circa 1986, author is a member of the NAMFREL's executive council

The article starts during the eve of the Edsa revolution:

A call to civil disobedience was made by Cory Aquino was the subject of a meeting by progressive labor leaders on February 22, 1986, Saturday at Aristocrat Restaurant Malate attended by labor leaders Bonifacio and Vladimir Tupas (Tupas), Cipriano Malonzo (NFL), Rolando Olalia (KMU), Ronaldo Llamas (current Akbayan president), Rey Capa, Vic Bate (NATU), the author - Efren Aranzamendez (FFW-ALAB) and other labor leaders.

The meeting was abruptly adjourned after a labor leader received a call from Boo Chanco that Enrile will be arrested and is holed up at Camp Aguinaldo together with his RAM followers.  This was confirmed by the presentation of arrested RAM officers in national television around noontime.  This was shortly followed by a call over Radio Veritas by Cardinal Sin and Cory Aquino to go to Edsa.  Hurriedly, we responded by requesting over Radio Veritas for all FFW-ALAB members to proceed to Camp Aguinaldo where we immediately proceeded the same day at around 2 PM.  Later on we pitched camp in front of the gate of Camp Aguinaldo along Edsa. 

Thousands from FFW-ALAB union affiliates responded to our call over Radio Veritas such as:  Aris Philippines (6,000 union members), Valle Verde country club, Mariwasa, International Pipe Inc., Siwani Textiles, Stanford Philippines (1,000 union members), Unimart, Makati Supermart, Foremost Farms, Jardine Nell, Lee Philippines, Rizal Cement, some members from Bataan led by Peps Manacmol (Dunlop, Essilor, Supreme Packaging, ASI, etc.), Laguna (Canlubang Golf, Purefoods hatchery and poultry, Monde Nissin, etc), etc.

These formed the backbone of FFW-ALAB’s  presence at Edsa.  Some Edsa participants  remember an effigy of a hanging Marcos perched on top of our tent with a banner   “Ayaw naming ng gulo, gusto namin kapayapaan, Mabuhay si Presidente Cory Aquino and Bise Doy Laurel!”. 

The active participation of ALAB at EDSA was not an accident or an instant reaction.  The group had been very active in demonstrations in Ayala prior to the Edsa revolt and the author was a founding member of NAMFREL (representing Labor) together with Joe Concepcion, Chris Monsod, Edong Angara, Ting Paterno, Raul Roco, Ricardo Romulo, Atty. Syquia, Joaquin Bernas, Theresa Nieva all of whom were mostly identified with the Bishop Businessman’s Conference which we were also an active member.

During the February snap election, ALAB-FFW served as the NAMFREL strike force designated by Christian Monsod as this is the only organized labor group in NAMFREL.  We went from one hotspot to another on jeeps together with foreign correspondents when we learned of threats from Marcos’ goons and guns at the precints.  We continued the fight on the streets after Marcos stole the election.  Threats and intimidation no longer will work.  I remember Marcos’ Executive Order declaring a dusk to dawn curfew, I in my car together with my group went around Makati calling out over a bullhorn for people to ignore the order.  We felt that EDSA was the culmination of all our efforts.  It was where we will make our stand against the Marcos dictatorship.

Our group continuously marched around Edsa, like during the snap election, we went from one hotspot to the other.  At Santolan, we came across some students practicing how to do a “kapit bisig” in case they were face to face with tanks.  From our experience at the picket lines we knew tanks will just roll on them given their relatively few numbers at that time, we organized the group to form barricades made of anything we can get our hands on - jeepneys, buses, cars, wooden barricades, tires, etc.  Part of our group were also tear gassed in Libis, we decided to march towards that hotspot as well.  Thankfully, nothing untoward happened. At around 10 to 11 PM when people were thinning out noticeably during the first two days of EDSA, I recall my conversation with Ting Paterno when we met; “Efren kumokonti tao, magdala ka pa ng marami dito”.  I also recall Noel Trinidad and his wife sitting at the sidewalks at midnight near our camp watching the presentations on stage. We continuously were making rounds and inspecting the barricades with a bullhorn.  Never as leaders of trade unionists did we go up the stage at Edsa since our concern at the time was to defend democracy by defending Enrile and company.  We, like the majority of Filipinos in Edsa were not concerned with making our presence known, we were there to make a stand for democracy.

We were the first to encamp and last to camp out around 4 AM and clean up Edsa on the 25th.  We can proudly claim that labor was at EDSA with millions of Filipinos.

Given the current state of affairs in the country, it seems that all we fought for at EDSA went to waste.  A lot of the excesses of the Marcos administration are still present, people on Marcos’ side back then are back at the helm, shamefully hijacking what we won at EDSA.  If asked if we would do the same thing over again, YES most of us with gray hairs will do the same thing as this was the REAL EDSA we have known and will continue to fight for.

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