MANILA, Philippines -- Militant groups and fellow legislators are mourning the passing of the ?grand old man of Philippine labor.?
Anakpawis Representative Crispin Beltran, 75, died 11:48 a.m. Tuesday at the Far Eastern University-NRMF Hospital after falling from the rooftop of his Bulacan home. He left behind a wife and 11 children, plus thousands of supporters from farmer, labor, and other militant groups.
?The fight of the Filipino worker goes on. The struggle continues,? Beltran?s widow, Rosario, said when she faced media around 1:30 p.m.
?Si Ka [Kasama, comrade] Bel, mabuting asawa, anak, lolo at mabuting lider sa mga manggagawa [Ka Bel was a good husband, son, grandfather and a good leader of the workers],? she added.
?Wala na yung grand old man ng Philippine labor at grand emeritus ng KMU [The grand old man of Philippine labor and grand emeritus of KMU is gone],? said Presto Suyat, spokesman for Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU, May 1st Movement). ?Lahat kami nalulungkot at nakikiramay sa pamilya ni Ka Bel at sana bigyan ng lahat ng wastong respeto at pagpupugay sa burol ni Ka Bel [All of us regret the passing of Ka Bel and condole with his family. We hope that everyone will pay their proper respects at his wake].?
?We will miss Ka Bel, a true leader of the masses. He led a very simple and exemplary life, even the cause of his death was his simplicity and frugality. We will dearly miss him but we will never waver in the struggle,? said Rafael Mariano, Chairman of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP, Peasant Movement of the Philippines).
Bayan Muna (People First) Representative Satur Ocampo, one of Beltran?s associates in the House of Representatives? militant bloc, said the late labor leader would have wanted to ?die in action.?
He recalled a conversation with Beltran during a tribute to Carmencita ?Ka Mameng? Deonida, chair of the urban poor group Kadamay or Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Mutual Help Association of the Poor), when she turned 80.
?Ang declaration kasi ni Ka Mameng, ?Ayokong mamatay sa sakit. Kung mamatay ako, sa baril,
sa bala. Sabi ni Ka Bel, ?Matibay pa si Ka Mameng, e ako sakitin na, baka mauna pa ako [Ka Mameng?s declaration was, ?I don?t want to do by illness. If I die [I want to die by] the gun, the bullet.? Ka Bel said, ?Ka Mameng is still strong but I am already sickly and may go first.?],? Ocampo told reporters.
?Pero sinabi rin nya at kwento rin nya, ?Kung mamatay ako kelangan nasa action ako, na rally o kung anuman.? Yun ang kanyang sinabi [But he also said, ?If I die it must be in action, at a rally or whatever.? That is what he said],? said Ocampo, who had known the labor leader for about 30 years.
He said Beltran was always a good father to his children and a steadfast member of the working class.
?Meron syang ginawa, ginagawa bilang isang tatay. Ang kanyang pagmamahal sa kanyang pamilya, yung katapatan nya bilang isang mangagawa, pag me lakas sya, gagawin nya [He had done, was doing much as a father. His love for his family, his steadfastness as a worker, as long as he had strength, he fulfilled his duties],? the Bayan Muna solon said.
Beltran authored a number of House bills, including House Bill 3059 or the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB) that would supposedly replace the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) and House Bill 1722, which would add P125 to the salary of workers across the board.
In fact, had he not died, Beltran was supposed to stand up in plenary at the House to interpellate a measure extending the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) for another five years, Ocampo said.
Beltran had also been pushing for the passage of a P125 across-the-board wage hike for minimum wage earners.
?We are asking the pro-CARP congressmen to at least defer the voting for CARP extension as a courtesy to Ka Bel who did his best to present an alternative to CARP,? Mariano said.
Fellow lawmakers also extended condolences to Beltran?s family.
?Ka Bel's departure from the scene is a big loss to the House Minority, to the whole House and Congress and to the entire national policy-making process. His courageous views on many national issues, particularly on labor and the underprivileged, have been very useful and dominant inputs in the national debate,? said Parañaque Congressman Roilo Golez.
Senate President Manuel Villar mourned the death of Beltran who, he said, fought for workers? rights in the halls of Congress and on factory floors.
?Ka Bel labored mightily to give the common man what is due him through legislations that he enriched with his views or in CBAs [collective bargaining associations] that he wangled in the picket line or in the negotiating table,? Villar said.
?We may not agree with Ka Bel?s ideology but he fought for [the] common man without counting the cost,? Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. said.
Opposition Senator Francis Escudero said he was saddened by the death of Beltran who he described as having a lot to offer in the fight for democracy. Escudero had offered financial assistance to the Beltran family during the labor leader?s hospital arrest.
Senator Ramon Revilla said Beltran?s death dealt a heavy blow to democracy while Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri urged Congress to pay tribute to the late labor leader by passing laws to eliminate all forms of abusive working conditions and increase dismal wages.
On February 15, 2006, after President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo declared a state of emergency against a supposed ?Left-Right? plot to oust her, Beltran was arrested in Bulacan by police on an old 1985 case for inciting to rebellion.
He was held in detention for more than a year, much of this under hospital arrest, until his release in June the next year, after the Supreme Court voided the charges against him and several others on the supposed 2006 plot.
His detention sparked cries from local and international human rights and militant groups.
?Ang pagkamatay ni Beltran ay kinalulungkot din ng international community dahil kilala si Ka Bel sa ibang bansa din [Beltran?s death will also be mourned by the international community because he is also a known figure in other countries],? KMU?s Suyat said.