KA RODA: Journey to Activism
Tuesday, 27 November 2007
Activists, critics and traffic
enforcers know him as Ka Roda, a fiery speaker, a man who never minced
words in defence of transport workers and a man that used to drive an
extremely old and slow car that no driver would like to get close to. Once
an admirer of Marcos Martial Law for its formidable law enforcement, Ka
Roda became one of its strongest critics that took him to the streets to
topple the dictator. He is one of the few leaders who know the provisions
of 1987 Constitution by heart that armed him well in many battles and
strikes against oil price hikes, excessive fines and ridiculous
regulations on the road.
This is his story… a modest tribute to his great contributions to the
militant labour movement and to the many hearts that leapt in joy whenever
he sings in huge organizational and political gatherings.
Farmhand by age 12
Born on October 27, 1934, Libmanan, Camarines Sur, Medardo Roda or
popularly known as Ka Roda was always called Ding by his parents, Evaristo
Rabago Roda and Paz de Lara Rubio. Being 7th of 10 children of a farming
family, he grew up a farmer and learned how to plough the field at the age
of 12. In between schools, he helped in harvesting and became a farmhand
to his father.
He went to Bicol Central Academy where he was a consistent student leader.
He finished high school in 1954 and started his journey to the urban
jungle, hoping he could make his way to get a bachelor’s degree.
First taste of urban hard life
Like many others, he left his town without his parents’ consent “in search
for greener pastures”. He went to Cavite and stayed with his brother who
was a body guard-driver to the then Senator Justiniano Montano of Cavite
in 1957. The Montanos welcomed him, gave him employment and sent him to an
He eventually finished and secured a license but instead of working as
automotive mechanic, he was asked to assist in managing the car rental
business of Ciriaco Montano, the eldest son of the senator. He was able to
support his daily needs. “The daily minimum wage then was only P4.00, a
whole pork leg (pata) cost only P0.70cents, and car rental was only
P20-P25 and P100 deposit”, Ka Roda recalled.
Ka Roda recalls “I used to refuel cars at the rental shop at a D.Tuazon
gasoline station when I met a lady who looked like Gloria Romero. She was
the cashier who gave me rebates each time I refuel. I asked her out to
watch movie, lunch or dine together. Later on, we eloped, I was then 27
years old.” He was dreaming to get a college degree but when their first
child was conceived he knew that it was no longer possible.
Later at work, he was accused of using one of the cars during car barn
hours. He cleared it up by telling the truth that it was not him but the
manager, a brother-in-law of the car rental owner. Despite regaining his
credibility, he left his job after one year of service.
Driving a Taxi Cab
“I will not forget the very first day I started driving a taxi cab, it was
on the 8th of July, 1960…” he fondly recalled. “You know, in my 18 years
of driving a cab from 1960 to 1978, I was held up only four times, huh…”
smiled Ka Roda.
“I remember in the later years of being a taxi driver, that every
afternoon at the House of Representatives in front of the Manila City
Hall, youngsters hold demonstrations. I could not help but wonder why the
teenagers were very determined to hold their protests even if they were
continually mauled by the Metrocom. Pag tigil ng mga pulis, tigil din
sila. Pag atras ng mga pulis, sunod din sila. Ang kalaban nila may mga
baril, sila wala bakit babalik pa. Napaisip ako, bakit kaya ang tatapang
ng mga batang ito .…”(If the police stopped, they stopped. If the police
stepped back, they followed. Their opponents have guns, they don’t have
any and they keep advancing. It made me think, why are those youngsters so
brave?) Ka Roda reflected.
“Before my association in transport workers meetings, seminars and
discussions, I did not see problems in Marcos Martial Law. In fact, I was
a Marcos admirer and happy with the seemingly peaceful environment at the
time. As a taxi cab driver, there were no robberies at that time, back
then I believe in the effectiveness of the Martial Law. Even if no one was
allowed to talk collectively and that the curfew was strictly implemented,
I could not disagree with it. There were no robbers at large and
criminality in the Metro Manila had dropped. I was even ready to defend
Marcos in case an assassination plot against the dictator comes to my
attention. I guess, it’s my admiration for effective law enforcement or my
experience with the robbers that drew me closer to liking the Martial
“But I could not forget the last robbery. I was on my way home when I
accommodated two passengers at Barangay Pinyahan in the middle of the
night. When we reached Don Antonio Heights, they took all my earnings the
entire day. I was so furious so I went back after few minutes. I was so
determined to hit the robbers if I saw them along my way back. But then, I
realized that I had cut on my face and ice cold blood was streaming down
my face. Actually, I did not notice it until I felt and touched my cheeks.
I looked at my hands and it was wet with my blood”, narrated Ka Roda.
The robbery incident made him think of the risks of his job. He thought
that it was better to lose all his earnings that night than lose his life
and let his family suffer. From that instant he knew he will leave MY
Ka Roda as a Transport Leader
Leaving the taxi, Ka Roda transferred to jeepney driving –Cubao-V.Luna
route in 1978 at the same time the transport organization of the route was
being first organized. Here, he began his exposures to meetings and
dynamics of transport organization. In meetings, he actively participated
in discussions and in decision making processes concerning jeepney
operations in the area. Vocal as he always is, he was later elected as the
president of the drivers’ and operators’ association despite being a
neophyte. Subsequently, he was invited to attend several education
seminars that not only honed his knowledge in organization but opened the
road to his deeper involvement in social activism.
Times had changed. In July 1981, a general assembly of transport leaders
was held and Ka Roda was represented his local transport association. He
was elected as the Third Vice President of Pinag-isang Tsuper at Operaytor
Nationwide (PISTON). “My years of service to PISTON is equivalent to its
years of existence, I was one of its pioneers.” he quipped.
Ka Roda could not forget how mad the former Quezon City Mayor Mathay when
strikers had the strike on weekdays. “We were demanding the repeal of PD
1605 which penalizes drivers violating any of the traffic laws and cancels
the driver’s license on the third offense. Excessive fine shall not be
imposed or cruel and unusual punishment,” Ka Roda quoted the
constitutional provision. “Paralyzed namin yan, talagang walang
pumapasada” (Transportation system was paralyzed, no one was plying their
Organized Ants and Stories behind Bars
Ka Roda’s active involvements in issues of transport sector brought him to
a different kind of popularity. His previous admiration for Marcos did not
save him from a dangerous branding as the most rebellious driver in the
Philippines by Marcos himself. On September 5,1983, he was arrested and
charged with rebellion under the Arrest, Seize and Seizure Order (ASSO).
He was detained for one year and three months.
“Dun ko napagmasdan ang mga langgam. Napaka-interesting,” (It was where I
observed the ants. They are very interesting), Ka Roda said when asked
what kept him busy inside the jail. He continuously observed the ants
collectively working to transport their food. Ants walk in an organized
way along one line for several days getting food. Probably, ants have
stocked their food for the rainy days. What a good value, isn’t it?
“Ka Bel (Anakpawis Representative Crispin Beltran) was also detained then.
We are friends since our days as taxi drivers.”
Even in detention, Ka Roda and his friends did not miss an opportunity to
make their miserable conditions quite entertaining. There was a time when
the jail wardens did not allow their families to visit them. All the
activists held a noise barrage, hitting the iron bars in protest. Nothing
could silence them. And when the jail guards began hosing them with water,
they took their soaps and started bathing.
A little more than a year, Ka Roda and some of his colleagues were
released. His feet were heavy, not because he did want to be free, but
because he left the others behind including a very good friend, Ka Bel.
His detention fired his desire more to struggle for justice. From the
local transport association he began his journey to activism.
Ka Roda is a proud father of seven (7) children, to a loving wife,
Teresita Yunzon Velasquez. They have five daughters and two sons. Tough as
it is, Ka Roda managed to send all his kids to school and all of them
finished secondary school. Despite financial constraints, his two sons,
Bobby and Gerry reached tertiary education but only Gerry got a diploma.
“Gerry was lucky because he was the youngest. He was able to get through
Ka Roda was protective of his children he did not encourage nor discourage
them to get involved as he is. But his commitment was well accepted and
understood by his family. He takes pride in the knowledge that his
relatives from Libmanan are proud of him, his being “Oragon” critical of
the anti-people policies. He considers his popularity a big encouragement
for him to continue to fight for social justice. He felt honored in the
public recognition of him as Ka Roda.
On February 2, 2002, he survived a stroke. The left side of his body was
partially paralyzed. “It was because of stress, I think because heart
ailments do not run in my family.” he claims. His reparation took almost a
year, but his mobility took only a month to revive. He never considered it
an obstacle though.
Ka Roda spent and continues to spend his life in expanding the chapters of
PISTON. He succeeded in bringing together other transport groups,
moderates included in several battles against oil price hikes and
unreasonable toll fees. In fact, he was again arrested during mass
mobilizations in October 1988 and October 1990. He was never discouraged.
The media respects him and sought his opinion on issues that may affect
the transport sector, even up to present. He even gets invited to
consultations about the transport sector by the LTFRB and DOTC.
Now despite his physical limitations, Ka Roda refuses to retire. There are
still many things to be done. The struggle to make the public office a
public trust is an uphill battle. To several questions that CTUHR asked,
his answers are crisp and clear:
CTUHR: what would you tell GMA if given a chance to talk to her?
I would like all the public officials to bear in their hearts and in their
minds the constitutional provision about public officials. “Dapat nilang
tandaan ang (They should remember) Article 11 Section 1 of the Philippine
Constitution… Public Office is Public Trust. Public officers and employees
must at all times be accountable to the people, serve them with utmost
responsibility, integrity, loyalty, and efficiency, act with patriotism
and justice, and lead modest lives.”
I would like to add “Article 9 of the Civil Service Commission Section 4
which states that: All public officers and employees shall take an oath or
affirmation to uphold and defend this Constitution. Di ka nangangako,
sumusumpa ka…”(You don’t just promise, you take an oath)
CTUHR: What outrages you at present?
I am angry against the several attempts to revise the 1987 constitution by
recollecting a provision in the constitution. “Kung tutuparin nila ang
probisyon ng Saligang Batas, Article I, Section 9, ay napakaganda sana.
(If only they will abide by the provisions of the Article I, Section 9 of
the Constitution, it will be an excellent set-up). ” The State shall
promote a just and dynamic social order that will ensure the prosperity
and independence of the nation and free the people from poverty through
policies that will provide adequate social services, promote full
employment, a rising standard of living and an improved quality of life
Ano yan? E kung pumunta ka sa tapat ng SSS, ang daming di kumakain diyan.
Tapos eto ka papalitan mo ang Konstitusyon.”. (What is that? If you go to
SSS, there are many who do not have something to eat. Then, they are
changing the Constitution.)
Specifically, in the transport services, I do not agree with the
implementation of the Ordinance Traffic Receipt. “Ang mga driver ngayon,
P200-P300 lang ang kinikita sa maghapon tapos sisingilin ka ng P500 pag
nagkamali ka. Yun ang pinakamaliit na penalty sa ngayon, compounded pa.
Tumataas pa habang tumatagal. Tapos pipila ka pa sa LTO…”(Drivers today
are only earning P200-300 a day, when they misbehave, authorities will ask
them to pay P500. This is the smallest amount of penalty and it continues
to increase. Then, you still have to queue at the LTO.)
CTUHR: What is your message to the youth?
The youth should continue to fight for justice and be one with the people.
“Dapat sundan nila ang tama…”(They should follow what is right).#
Ruta ni Ka Roda
KILALA sa tawag na “Ka Roda,” pinarangalan kamakailan si Medardo Roda ng
mga kapamilya, kaibigan at mga kasama sa organisasyon ng mga manggagawa sa
trasportasyon. Kasalukuyan siyang tumatayo bilang chairperson emeritus ng
Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (Piston).
Anang marami, ang bansag sa kanya ng dating pangulo na si Ferdinand Marcos
ay ang “most rebellious driver the Philippines ever had.” Paano nga ba’y
mula pa noong dekada ’80, aktibo na siyang kasapi ng Piston at
nakikipaglaban para sa interes ng kinabibilangang sektor. Bahagi siya ng
pagpaparami ng kasapian ng Piston na sa kasalukuyan ay tinuturing na
pinakamalaking organisasyon ng mga manggagawa sa transportasyon sa bansa.
Ilang beses din siyang nakulong sa pagitan ng 1983 at 1990 dahil sa
Sa kabila ng kasalukuyang karamdaman, tuloy pa rin si Ka Roda sa
pagsisilbi sa kanyang sektor at sa buong sambayanan.
Ipinanganak noong Oktubre 27, 1934 at tubong Libmanan, Camarines Sur si Ka
Roda. Sampu silang magkakapatid sa isang pamilya na pagsasaka ang
ikinabubuhay. Madalas niyang ikuwento na sa maagang edad ay natutunan na
niya ang pag-aararo.
Sa kabila ng pangangailangang tumulong sa pagsasaka habang nag-aaral,
aktibo pa rin bilang estudyante si Ka Roda sa Bicol Central Academy.
Nang makapagtapos sa mataas na paaralan, napadpad siya sa Maynila dahil sa
Una siyang nagtrabaho sa Cavite kung saan nakasama niya ang kanyang
kapatid na lalaki. Pinag-aral siya ng kanyang amo sa isang automotive
school, nakapagtapos at hanggang naging tsuper sa kalaunan.
Tandang tanda pa ni Ka Roda kung kailan siya unang pumasada sa kanyang
taksi: Hulyo 8, 1960.
Sa loob ng 18 taon bilang tsuper ng taksi, dalawang bagay ang
nagtutunggali sa kanyang isip. Una, dama niya ang “mabuting bunga” ng
pagpapatupad ng batas militar dahil sa pagbaba umano ng datos ng krimen sa
Kamaynilaan. Inisip niyang nagdulot ng kaayusan ang “epektibong
pagpapatupad ng batas” ng diktadura.
Ngunit sa kabila nito, kapag nagagawi ang kanyang taksi sa harap ng
Kongreso na dati ay nasa Maynila, laging tumatambad sa kanyang paningin
ang mga kabataan at estudyante na nagpoprotesta sa harap nito. Aniya, may
armas man ang mga kapulisang pumipigil sa kanila, matapang pa rin silang
humaharap sa mga ito.
Kaya naisip niyang mayroong malalim na dahilan kung bakit nila ito
Pagkamulat at pakikisangkot
Matapos iwanan ang pagiging tsuper ng taksi, namasada siya ng dyip na
biyaheng Cubao-V. Luna noong 1978. Sa organisasyon na itinatayo ng mga
tsuper sa rutang ito niya naunawaan ng kalagayan ng kanyang sektor at
namulat sa iba pang panlipunang reyalidad.
Bagamat bago pa lamang na tsuper ng dyip, naging tagapangulo kaagad siya
ng samahan ng mga ito sa kanyang ruta dahil na rin sa kanyang aktibong
partisipasyon sa mga diskusyon at iba pang mga aktibidad. Noong 1981,
nahalal si Ka Roda bilang ikatlong tagapangulo ng Piston. Matapos ito,
sunud-sunod na tigil-pasada na ang matagumpay na naipanawagan ng grupo
kasama si Ka Roda.
Dahil sa pakikisangkot si Ka Roda, binilanggo siya pamahalaang Marcos
noong Setyembre 5, 1983 sa salang rebelyon sa ilalim ng Arrest, Seize at
Seizure Order. Sa loob ng bilangguan, kasama si Ka Roda sa mga
kilos-protesta kapag may paglabag sa karapatan ng mga nakalulong.
Matapos ang isang taon at tatlong buwan, nakalaya siya kasama ang ilan pa.
Aniya, malungkot siyang lumabas ng piitan dahil alam niyang marami pang
iba na naiwan sa loob.
Tuloy pa rin
Noong 2002, dumanas ng stroke si Ka Roda na pumaralisa sa kalahati ng
kanyang katawan. Aniya, “stress” ang naging dahilan nito. Sa kabila ng
pangyayari, mabilis nakarekober ang lider-tsuper at nagtuloy sa pagsisilbi
sa sektor ng mga manggagawa sa transportasyon.
Aniya, kailangang mabigyan ng solusyon ang mga problemang kinakaharap ng
kanilang sektor. Panguhahin dito, ayon sa Piston, ay ang “walang habas na
pagtaas ng presyo ng langis.” Gayundin, dahil sa kakarampot na kita, lubha
umanong apektado ang mga tsuper sa pagtaas ng mga pangunahing bilihin
dahil sa mga polisiya gaya ng Expanded Value-Added Tax. Problema rin ang
magmamantina ng mga sasakyan.
Sa kabila ng kasalukuyang sakit, tuloy pa rin si Ka Roda sa pagtulong sa
Piston at sa mga manggagawa sa transportasyon upang masolusyunan ng mga
ito ang kanilang mga problema bilang sektor. Wala pa rin siyang sawa sa
pagpapaalala sa mga nanunungkulan sa pamahalaan hinggil sa mga nilalaman
ng Saligang Batas na kanilang nilalabag.
Sa isa namang panayam sa Center for Trade Union and Human Rights,
pinaalalahanan ni Ka Roda ang mga opisyal ng pamahalaan hinggil sa
Artikulo 11, Seksiyon 1 ng Saligang Batas na nagsasabing “ang mga
pampublikong opisyal at mga empleyado ay kailangan, sa lahat na panahon,
maging matapat sa mga mamamayan.” Pinaalala rin niya na ang panunungkulan
bilang opisyal ay hindi simpleng pangangako, ngunit pagsumpa na gagawin
ang mga tungkuling nakaatang sa kanila.
Para naman sa kanyang kinabibilangang organisasyon, tinagubilinan niya ang
kanyang mga kasamahan na “ipagpatuloy laban para sa ikabubuti ng sektor at
ng buong sambayanan.”
*Pamagat ng bidyo-dokumentaryo hinggil sa buhay ni Ka Roda na ginawa ng
Kodao Productions, sa panulat at direksiyon ni Teresa Lorena Jopson.
February 13, 2009, Austria
Ka Roda, isang kang kaibigan ng Bayan!
Ika'y aking nakilala sa loob ng kilusan,
Magaling makisama, mahusay na kaibigan,
Mabait, masaya at madaling lapitan,
Kapakanan ng mga tsuper laging mong pinahahalagan!
Mga tsuper ay great lover ang kanilang sabi,
Ngunit ikaw ay iba at ito ay katangi-tangi,
Sapagkat ito'y para sa Bayan at di pansarili
Kaya't ito'y dapat saluduhan ng isang pagbati!
Ang di ko malimutan sa iyong palabirong katangian,
Di ka pikon at pantay lang sa mga biruan,
Kaya't ika'y nasumpungan na biruin ng isang batang musmus lang,
Nang hilahin nitong bata ang iyong upuan,
At ikaw ay napaupo sa palapag ng bulwagan!
Umalingaw-gaw ang tawanan ng mga kasama sa pulong,
Nguni't ito'y di nagbigay upang ikaw ay mapikon,
Sa halip, ngumiti ka't may kasama pang bow,
Kaibigan, itong iyong katangian ay dapat lang isulong!
Mabuhay ka! Ka Roda, tunay kang kaibigan,
Mga kasama sa kilusan, di mo pababayaan,
Tsuper kang talaga nitong ating Bayan,
Direksyon ng takbo mo'y palayain ang Bayan!
Ka Manny Sarmiento,
dating kasama ni Ka Roda sa Konseho
dating Secretary General ng KMU at dating Pangulo ng
Nestle Union at dating Pangulo ng Drug Food and Allied
Industries Federation ng KMU.