Ocampo: A Tribute and a Promise
By ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
PUBLISHED ON May 30, 2009 AT 11:23 AM
MANILA — It was a rare occasion that brought together some of the
Philippines’s well-heeled and multitudes of the unshod, activists young
and old, ex-activists and non-activists. For those who had not had the
good fortune of hearing about the man even in this age of information
technology, the event served as more than a basic introduction to veteran
activist Satur Ocampo, who currently represents Bayan Muna (People First)
at the House of Representatives together with Teddy Casiño and Neri Javier
Directed by Joel Lamangan, the event — dubbed Satur: A Tribute and held
last May 28 at the University of the Philippines (UP) Bahay ng Alumni –
was a celebration of Ocampo’s 45 years of service to the Filipino people,
as well as a belated celebration of his 70th birthday.
Ocampo was born on April 7, 1939, in Sta. Rita, Pampanga, the fifth of 12
children of a landless peasant couple. A consistent honor student in his
elementary and high school days, he had wanted to be either a priest or a
doctor, but things happened differently for him. He took courses at the
Philippine College of Commerce (now the Polytechnic University of the
Philippines), the Lyceum of the Philippines, and the Manuel L. Quezon
University before landing a job as a business reporter for The Manila
Times, where he would eventually become the assistant business editor.
At the same time that he was working as a journalist, Ocampo was early on
involved in progressive politics. In 1964, he was among the founding
members of the Kabataanmg Makabayan (KM or Patriotic Youth). A few years
later, he became part of the National Council of the Movement for the
Advancement of Nationalism (MAN). From 1970 to 1972 he served as vice
president of the National Press Club, and was part of a group that aligned
the NPC with the protest movement.
He disappeared into the revolutionary underground movement following then
president Ferdinand Marcos’s declaration of martial law in September 1972.
He became part of the preparatory committee of the National Democratic
Front of the Philippines (NDFP), which sought to unite various
anti-dictatorship forces. He was one of the drafters of the NDFP’s
original 10-point program, together with Antonio Zumel, Enrique Voltaire
Garcia II, Angel Baking, Simeon “Sammy” Rodriguez, Dante Simbulan, and
Jose Maria Sison.
In 1976, he was arrested in Olongapo City, Zambales, and was heavily
tortured for several weeks. He was charged with rebellion and tried by a
military court, but was never convicted of any offense.
In 1985, he acquired a pass to vote at the NPC elections. On this same
occasion, he escaped his military guards and disappeared back into the
After the fall of the Marcos dictatorship in 1986, the Aquino government
called for peace negotiations and Ocampo surfaced as spokesman of the NDFP
peace panel. The peace talks collapsed following what is now known as the
Mendiola Massacre of Jan. 22, 1987, and Ocampo returned to the
He was arrested in 1989 together with his wife Carolina Malay, but was
released in 1992, a year after Malay was freed.
After that Ocampo worked with various people’s organizations and
human-rights groups, while at same time writing columns, analyses and
commentaries for the Philippine News and features (PNF) and several other
news outfits and publications.
In 2001, Bayan Muna topped the race for party-list seats, with Ocampo as
its first nominee. He served another term as Bayan Muna representative
from 2004 to 2007, and is now on his third and last consecutive term as a
member of the House of Representatives.
During its launch last April, the coalition party Makabayan announced
Ocampo as one of its four initial senatorial candidates for the 2010
During the tribute for Ocampo, journalist and former activist Joanne
Maglipon described Ocampo as one of those rare individuals “destined to be
Fr. Herminio Ricafort SVD, a childhood friend of Ocampo, and women’s
rights advocate and former political detainee Nelia Sancho praised him for
his consistency in his pursuit of the people’s struggle. Edita Burgos,
widow of activist-journalist Jose Burgos Jr. and mother of missing
activist Jonas Burgos, extolled Ocampo’s courage even in the face of
adversity as well as his compassion for the victims of human-rights
Luis Jalandoni and Coni Ledesma of the NDFP peace panel hailed Ocampo for
consistently carrying the people’s interests in his life and work.
The same event was also an occasion for explaining why Ocampo should run
for the Senate.
“The Senate needs some kind of dissenting voice,” said Philippine Daily
Inquirer columnist Amando Doronila, who was Ocampo’s colleague at the NPC,
in a video message.
“We have not had a nationalist senator for a long time,” said Quezon Rep.
Erin Tañada. “It is high time that there be another nationalist in the
“He is a man who has kept a good record and deserves to be promoted to the
Senate,” said former Vice President Teofisto Guingona Jr.
His son, Antonio, confessed about their family’s desire that Ocampo be
able to retire already. “(But if) Tatay chooses to serve the people more,
we are ready to accept – if not embrace – this challenge,” the younger
In his response to the testimonies and sharing, the elder Ocampo said he
cannot “refuse” those who are clamoring for him to seek higher office. He
railed against the ruling elite and foreign interests. “Habang di natin
natitinag ang paghaharing iyan, asahan niyo kasama niyo ako sa harapan
man, sa gitna o likuran,” Ocampo firmly said, eliciting a deafening cheer
from the crowd. (Bulatlat.com)
View slideshow of tribute to Ka Satur
Listen to relatives and friends paying tribute to Ka Satur
Listen to Ka Satur’s response to testimonials by friends and relatives