Unveiling of the Edgar Jopson Marker at Bustillos Plaza

in commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the First Quarter Storm

 

Manila

 

January 26, 2010

 

■   More FQS photos and memorabilia

 

 

   

 

When I look back to the FQS of 1970, what stands out in my mind are the positive contributions that that period and its political activities contributed to the national democratic revolution as a whole. Among the things that I remember most was the spirit of learning that pervaded the mass activists, and their sense of courage.

 

- Antonio T. Zumel

 

In the nine years that I have explored the possibilities of pushing for political and social reforms in the parliamentary arena, I have come across many FQS activists, graying like me and still trying to do their part in the protracted, arduous and complicated struggle for fundamental change. Differences in approach remain, but each one of us is wont to say, "Serve the people, kasama!” with a hug and a smile. •

 

-- Satur Ocampo

 

/p

/p
   

Photos are from the following links:

■  Bal Pinguel Facebook

■  First Quarter Storm Facebook

■  The First Quarter Storm Library

■  Photos of marker unveiling courtesy of FQS Movement

   
           


REMEMBRANCES OF THE FIRST QUARTER STORM OF 1970
By Antonio Zumel
 

(The following article was first published in the January-February 1996 issue of Liberation International. We are publishing it once again to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the First Quarter Storm.)

We observe this year the 100th anniversary of the 1986 Philippine Revolution against Spanish colonization, and the 26th anniversary of the First Quarter Storm of 1970. The two are interrelated, and are historic events to the Filipino people since both had to do – and still have to do – with our people’s continuing struggle for national independence and democracy.

We honor the 1986 Revolution as the collective, united effort of our patriotic and democratic forebears in the Katipunan to rise up in arms to finally liberate our country from more than 300 years of Spanish colonial rule. With heads high, we do honor this historic event – even if it was frustrated especially by the errors of the ilustrado leadership and by the deception, the aggression and the ferocity of US imperialismwhich grabbed colonial control over our country and people.

While we pay tribute to the bravery and dedication of the worker Andres Bonifacio, founder of the Katipunan, and of his comrades-in-arms, we, as today’s revolutionaries, study their experience and learn from the positive and negative lessons, even as we also learn from the more recent experiences of revolutionaries in other part of the world.

The Katipunan Revolution of 1896 whose centenary we celebrate this year and the national democratic revolutionary struggle we are waging today have the same general objective: to achieve, safeguard and advance the national and democratic interests of the Filipino people.

Having pointed that out, we must also underscore the fact that the 1896 Revolution had a bourgeois-democratic theoretical grounding. Our revolution of today is under the superior working class revolutionary theory which, in 1896, was still undergoing refinement especially in Russia. Even so, our revolutionary struggles today are a continuation of the unfinished revolution of 1896, with a clear socialist goal.

The First Quarter Storm of 1970, which belongs closer to my generation, is more directly connected with today’s new-democratic revolution being waged by the allied mass organizations in the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) which continue to fight for the national and social emancipation of the Filipino people.

Looking back through the last 26 years to the FQS of 1970, one harkens to a time of cerebral and physical ferment, a time of trepidation and courage, a time of study and education, a time for the heightening of political consciousness, a time to make crucial decisions affecting one’s life, going full-time into revolutionary work.

I was a journalist at that time, having been trained to be an “objective” observer of the day-to-day life of our society. I should have appraised the events of the FQS with some degree of “objectivity” and “impartiality”, as my elders in newspapering would like to say. But like many of the students, workers and peasants at that time, and like some journalists and other professionals as well, I, too, went through a process of political awakening. In my ensuing political conduct, I was not to be “impartial”. I was to be partial to the cause of the broad masses of our people.

For me, it is difficult to think back, exclusively to the political events in the first three months of 1970 – the FQS. Like others, I also tend to look back to political events, of say, the previous year, 1969, which after all, helped prepare for, and culminate in, the FQS (actually, according to Comrade Jose Maria Sison, I took a whole decade to prepare for the FQS); I also tend to look beyond the FQS – to the political events of the rest of 1970, 1971 and up to 1972 (declaration of fascist martial law) which came as further development of the FQS.

The scene is January 1970. The political circus that was the presidential election of November 1969 had just been held, and the reelectionist Marcos soundly beat his opponent, Sergio Osmena, Jr., a puppet of US imperialism as Marcos himself was. Did Marcos enjoy great popularity among the people? The answer is no.

In fact, with the coming of 1970, Marcos and his US imperialist masters decreed a devaluation of the peso (from P3.90=US$1, to P6=$1) to increase the value of imperialist investments and property in the Philippines, and aggravate the livelihood of the people whose income was not being increased. The drastic devaluation thus farther aggravated the economic and political crisis of the ruling system in the Philippines.

That is why on Jan. 26, 1970, a large mass action of the youth and students in front of the Philippine Congress had a ready-made issue: they were there to confront Marcos on his state-of-the-nation address to Congress, and to expose him for his continuing subservience to US interests.

The area in front of Congress was swollen by the student youth and worker youth of Kabataang Makabayan (Patriotic Youth-KM) when Marcos, after his message to Congress exited nearby. Suddenly, some people flung a big papier-machefigure of a crocodile symbolizing the corrupt big bureaucrats, and a papier-mache representation of a coffin symbolizing the death of national freedom, if my memory serves me right. Then all hell broke loose. With truncheons, policemen and military troops flailed every which way, hitting out at the radikal kabataan (radical youth) of KM. Many were hurt and many were arrested.

Thus, a few days later, on Jan. 30, the youth and students of the KM and other national democratic organizations went out on the streets again, this time to demonstrate in front of Malacanang Palace to protest the brutal dispersal of the Jan. 26 rally. This was a more indignant rally than the first one, with the youth and students standing their ground against the state’s armed goons’ truncheons, teargas, water cannons and gunfire. The rally lasted until the early-morning hours of Jan. 31, when the state goons had killed six of the demonstrators and injured several hundreds of others.

To the marching youth, and to the people at large, this signalled the growing desperation of the ruling system against the rising masses. But undaunted by the mass killing of their six comrades, this gave the awakened youth the impetus to expand to the provinces and to stage more demonstrations on an expanding scale. This process went on until the end of March – the Sigwa ng Unang Kwarto ng 1970, the FQS – and beyond.

The upsurge in the national democratic movement’s mass actions served to expose and oppose a rotting system where US imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism held sway. The movement also served to propagate the program of the national democratic movement which was meant to replace the old and decaying one.

The mass movement was also a school to help prepare the cadres and mass activists in confronting the enemy. In that sense, each mass action was a learning process for the participants. In between those marches, there were as well informal studies on revolutionary theory. This was undertaken individually or by discussion groups (the “DGs”). Education was further undertaken by integrating with the worker and peasant masses.

If memory serves me right, the reading materials, or “RMs”, at that time, included fresh documents of the CPP’s reestablishment which repudiated Lavaite revisionism; the CPP’s Ang Bayan, Jose Maria Sison’s Struggle for National Democracy, and Chairman Mao Zedong’s selected writings and the Red Book. Five Golden Rays, which inspired many people, came from Mao’s writings. Amado Guerrero’s Philippine Society and Revolution was being prepared for printing.

The demonstrations had to increasingly confront the state’s forces of coercion, especially those assembled in the PC Metropolitan Command (Metrocom), who used the gun almost as frequently as truncheons, teargas and water cannons. Thus, one could all the more easily comprehend Lenin’s State and Revolution, and accept armed revolution as the answer. And in integrating with, say, the worker masses, living with them and struggling with them at the picket line, one could more easily see their sense of exploitation and oppression, and their receptivity to scientific socialism.

The FQS was a time for courage. Increasingly confronting the enemy’s guns (as in the case of Jan. 30-31), one drew strength and guts from the synergy of the tens of thousands who were one’s comrades, and those cheering you on. One dared to do anything! “Makibaka! Huwag matakot!” (Fight on! Have no fear!) resounded over and over again on the streets. And to help educate the masses, and to put fear into the hearts of the enemy, “Ano ang sagot sa martial law?” (What is our response to martial law?), “Digmaan, digmaan, digmaang Bayan!” (War, war, people’s war!).

In the expansion nationwide, there was now a proliferation of new mass organizations (MOs): Katipunan ng mga Samahang Manggagawa (Kasama) and Pambansang Kilusan ng mga Manggagawa (Pakmap), among the workers; theMalayang Kilusang ng Bagong Kababaihan (Makibaka), among the women; the Samahan ng Demokratikong Kabataan(SDK) and the Katipunan ng Kabataang Demokratiko (KKD), among the youth; the Kapisanan ng mga Gurong Makabayan(Kaguma), among the teachers; the Christians for National Liberation (CNL), among the clergy and church people;Panulat para sa Kaunlaran ng Sambayanan (PAKSA), among literary people; the Nagkakaisang Progresibong Artista-Arkitekto (NPAA), among artists and architects; the Samahan ng mga Progresibong Propagandista (SPP), the League of Editors for a Democratic Society (LEADS) and the revived College Editors’ Guild of the Philippines (CEGP), among campus editors, and many others.

Expansion teams from these MOs were spreading out among the various colleges and universities of Metro Manilaand to the provinces. To coordinate and direct this growing number of allied organizations, there came the Movement for a Democratic Philippines (MDP). Elsewhere in Metro Manila, activists displayed resourcefulness by boarding buses and distributing manifestoes and statements to the passengers. Or, welcoming the invitation of enlightened teachers, they went from schoolroom to schoolroom to rally the students to the Red flag of struggle.

Since it was the orientation of the youth and student movement to deploy prospective cadres and activists to integrate with the peasant masses, the youth who were now politically conscious – and those who ere getting “hot” (umiinit) in the urban areas – were being deployed to the countryside.

They went there to become political officers (Pos) of the newly formed squads and platoons of the New People’s Army, and to organize the peasants. In Manila at that time, it became common dialogue for a comrade to ask another about a “missing” comrade. The reply was that he was already in “I”. This meant he had gone to the hills in the new expansion areas of Isabela (“I”), in Northeastern Luzon. Or later, to the other expansion areas in Southern Tagalog or Bicol, or farther south to the Visayas and Mindanao.

As a result of the FQS, the National Press Club (NPC) of the Philippines, of which I was president, passed a resolution at its 1970 National Convention aligning the NPC in the movement for national independence and democracy. This was after my first term as president, where we took the progressive course of supporting the brothers Rizal and Quintin Yuyitung of the Chinese Commercial News who were persecuted and deported to Taiwan by the Marcos regime and itsKuomintang cohorts, and supporting the young staffers of the Dumaguete Times in the Visayas who were being held incommunicado by the regime. We also opened the door of the NPC to mass leaders and activists of the national democratic movement to acquaint them with the reporters covering the surging mass movement, and to extend to them whatever physical protection the press club had at that time.

When I look back to the FQS of 1970, what stands out in my mind are the positive contributions that that period and its political activities contributed to the national democratic revolution as a whole. Among the things that I remember most was the spirit of learning that pervaded the mass activists, and their sense of courage.

If we remember, the FQS was launched in the wake of the First Great Rectification Campaign, to repudiate the revisionism of the Lavaite renegades and to propagate the national-democratic line. Today, we are going through the Second Great Rectification Campaign, to repudiate revisionism, splittism, capitulationism and reformism of present-day revisionists.

In the FQS, the call was for the political and theoretical education of the young and their deployment to the countryside. Today, with the Second Great Rectification Campaign, there is a call for education on the rectification documents and on the varied levels of theoretical education, especially on Mao Zedong and our own rich experiences.

I’m happy to learn that it was in the ranks of the youth and students and workers – as in the case of the FQS – that the rectification campaign took root, and that it was the youth and the workers who took up the cudgels for the movement and its program, as against the deviations of the revisionists and splittists.

I understand, too, that as in the FQS, it is again among the youth and students and the workers that the call is being heeded for the educated and politically conscious youth to integrate with the peasant masses in the countryside, instead of being kept in the urban areas for possible insurrectionist activities.

As this trend continues, and as we carry on the rest of our tasks at the present time, we keep faith with our forebears who launched the Katipunan Revolution of 1896, and we keep faith with present-day Filipinos, especially the thousands of comrades who – before, during and after the FQS – willingly sacrificed their lives against the US-Marcos fascist dictatorship, the US-Aquino fascist regime and now the fascist regime of the US-Ramos clique, so that our children and our children’s children will live in national freedom, democracy, peace, justice and prosperity.

 

     
     
     
     
Unveiling of the marker by Mayor Lim and Ms.Jopson, sister of Edjop
     
     
     
           

Streetwise
By Carol Pagaduan-Araullo

Political awakening and the First Quarter Storm of 1970

Looking back through the last 26 years to the FQS of 1970, one harkens to a time of cerebral and physical ferment, a time of trepidation and courage, a time of study and education, a time for the heightening of political consciousness, a time to make crucial decisions affecting one’s life, going full-time into revolutionary work. – Antonio Zumel, Remembrances of the FQS of 1970, 1996

I wasn’t a direct participant in the historic First Quarter Storm (FQS) of 1970 – a series of protest mass actions, which began on January 25, 1970 and continued up to March of 1970. I wasn’t even attuned to its revolutionary slogans and its heart-racing, militant fervor. While already railing against social injustice and police brutality, I was not yet an “ND” or national democratic activist.

This January, commemorative activities on the 40th year of the FQS have begun. They are spearheaded by the FQS Movement, an organization of activists in the 70s dedicated to keeping alive the memory, significance and continuing relevance of that defining point in our nation’s history.

One could sense then that Philippine society was at the brink of social upheaval. Prices of basic commodities were rapidly rising in the wake of frequent oil price hikes. Graft and corruption in government was rampant, there were warlords and rival political clans in every province. Abroad, youth revolts and anti-war protests were rife. The Vietnam War was raging and the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in China had just passed.

The Marcos regime increasingly used the armed forces and the police to suppress protest and opposition as the streets resounded with the cries of tens of thousands of demonstrators denouncing the three social evils – US imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism/fascism – and calling for a new national democratic revolution that would sweep away the decrepit ruling system and usher in an independent, egalitarian, just, peaceful and prosperous Philippine society.

The FQS ferment and upsurge in the democratic mass movement nationwide led to the heightened political education of hundreds of thousands of Filipinos especially the youth and the unpararelled expansion and consolidation of activist mass organizations. It was on this high tide of the national democratic movement that I found myself buoyed up leading to my own political awakening.

From a conscience-stricken, reform-minded but naïve student leader I became a true-blue ND activist, studying Marxist and other progressive writings, imbibing the mantra of “serve the people” and immersing myself in the lives and struggles of the oppressed and exploited, fellow Filipinos who, given my privileged socio-economic upbringing, I would likely have blithely overlooked or disregarded as I pursued my middle class dreams of success.

My first encounter with state fascism was at the barricades set up by students and striking jeepney drivers to protest oil price hikes and the related killing of a young activist. Marcos ordered the dreaded Metropolitan Command of the Philippine Constabulary to launch attacks on the University of the Philippines campus where the protesters had established a symbolic “Diliman Commune”.

I quickly learned how an unjust system is propped up by those who benefit the most from it utilizing the coercive powers of the state. Not only is it exceedingly just but necessary to defend oneself and assert one’s rights, with whatever means possible, against such state-sponsored violence.

Little by little, I learned more about Philippine society not only from discussion groups or “DGs” and rallies but also by undertaking practical investigation of prevailing social conditions and class divisions during community organizing work in sprawling slum settlements all over Metro Manila.

Martial law brought about a brief stint in the urban underground before I was arrested and detained for several months. Upon release from prison I entered medical school and in between arduous studies and 48- to72-hour hospital duty, I continued my activist involvement with the health sector, keenly aware that the ills of our indigent patients were the result not just of the ravages of disease but deeply-rooted social problems.

When the Marcos dictatorship fell during the EDSA 1 “people power” uprising and Corazon “Cory” Aquino assumed power, there was initial confusion in some sections of the movement regarding the character of her regime. In due time, it became starkly clear that only the formal trappings of democracy had been restored, Philippine society was basically unchanged, and in fact the socio-economic and cultural crisis was continuing and even worsening.

The Mendiola massacre of peasants plus the exemption of Hacienda Luisita from land reform, the grievous human rights violations when Mrs. Aquino “unsheathed the sword of war” against the CPP-NPA-NDF, and her about-face from her promise to remove US bases from Philippine soil – all these provided the rude awakening for those who had harbored illusions of more thoroughgoing and fundamental reforms under the US backed-Cory regime.

Going on from health sector activism to multisectoral issues and campaigns, I coordinated the Network Opposed to the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (No to BNPP!). The BNPP scam was a clear example of the connivance between US monopoly capital and local bureaucrat capitalists to amass profits at the people's expense and detriment. Along with the failure of the Presidential Commission on Good Governance to prosecute Marcos’ cronies, it also betrayed the Aquino regime's inability to rectify the martial law regime's anti-people practices, if not its continuing complicity with or acquiescence to graft and corruption in government.

These experiences deepened my understanding of the truth about an ailing society in deep crisis and no less than a revolutionary overhaul of that social system would suffice.

Clearly, the Philippine crisis continued under the Ramos and Estrada administrations reaching unprecedented proportions under the Arroyo regime. Its wanton plunder of the nation's coffers, unabashed kowtowing to US and other foreign interests, feudal patronage of political clans and warlordism all the more underscore the urgency of the calls that reverberated during the FQS: Down with Imperialism, Feudalism and Bureaucrat Capitalism!

The 40th anniversary of the FQS is best commemorated by renewing the resolve to carry forward the struggle for nationalism and democracy to a higher stage as local and global conditions become even more favorable than 40 years ago. Filipino activists must seize the day, the hour to realize the calls that resounded far and wide during the First Quarter Storm. #

Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim
Bonifacio Ilagan, FQS Movement Chair
Ms. Inday Jopson, sister of Edgar      

 

THE FQS OF 1970 AND THE CONTINUING PAST

by JOEL GARDUCE
(Published in his column, "Keep the Fire", in Cebu The Voice, January 29, 2010, page 6)

If democracy is truly holding sway in the Philippines today, a full-blown official commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the First Quarter Storm (FQS) of 1970 should have kicked off early this week.

The top public officials would have laid wreaths last Tuesday, January 26—the date forty years ago when a mammoth youth demonstration protesting the dictator Marcos' State of the Nation Address touched off an unprecedented hightide of the democratic mass movement—at the graves (relocated to the Libingan ng mga Bayani) of the four FQS martyrs (Fernando Catabay, Ricardo Alcantara, Felicisimo Roldan and Juan Tausa) who perished at the Battle of Mendiola of January 30-31, 1970. The biggest media would have run specials in print, TV and radio noting how this episode in Philippine history was a breakthrough in raising revolutionary consciousness, in building resistance to the-then emerging dictatorship, and in inspiring generations of outstanding sons and daughters of the Filipino people. The Cultural Center of the Philippines would have mounted celebrations marked by music, poetry, performances and other art forms generated and inspired by the FQS, acknowledging how it sparked a renaissance in Philippine culture, arts and letters and profoundly influenced the best of our country's artists.

But democracy remains unrealized in our country today. And those who rule now would rather suppress the finest of FQS' legacies. The current hated regime in fact fears that the key lessons imparted by FQS might be gleaned by the masses. The ruling few dread that the people would translate into direct collective action their full appreciation of the continuing deep significance of the FQS in their ongoing struggle. With the help of witting and unwitting anticommunist apologists with easy access to big media and the academe, the establishment thus peddles postmodern rigmarole to marginalize the FQS' import into a mere relic relegated to the museum. After all, they will prate, hasn't the collapse of “communism” in Russia and Eastern Europe, the horrors of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, the transformation of China into a capitalist power, and the bloody purges in the more recent history of the Communist Party of the Philippines itself fully discredit and debunk the slogans and ideology espoused during the FQS of 1970?

Well, indulging into a superficial appreciation of the FQS will surely lead to a misleading and pathetic caricaturization of it. On the other hand, an honest understanding of the lessons of FQS will show that, in fact, the tenets underpinning the FQS spirit entailed opposing the “revisionism” that characterized the disdainful and fake socialist Soviet-bloc-era and Khmer Rouge regimes. These FQS tenets also encompassed the rectification of errors committed by previous self-deluded “revolutionaries”, errors quite similar to the hysterical madness that had beset the ranks of Filipino revolutionaries and communists in the 1980s and early 1990s.

Further, the utter failure of modern capitalism to bring forth a superior social order that benefits humankind even after vanquishing its Cold War adversaries; the plunging of the entire globe in fact into the current Great Global Depression so soon after the Cold War, and all the attendant misery and deprivation this brings; and the recurrence in the Philippines of despicable regimes worse than the full-blown dictatorship portended by the FQS events—all these point to the shining relevance of the FQS forty years hence.

We all would do well to study it and heed its prime lessons. As sure as intolerable exploitation and oppression is resisted by the people, so is an imminent hightide of democratic resistance that could surpass the scope of the First Quarter Storm of 1970, a mighty political storm that will finally cast off the continuing dark past plaguing Philippine society. ##

Joel Garduce is head of the international affairs committee of the Concerned Artists of the Philippines (CAP).

     
     
           
           
     
     
     

 

SATUR OCAMPO: STILL RIDING THE (FIRST QUARTER) STORM

By Satur Ocampo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 15:07:00 01/23/2010

Filed Under: history, Conflicts (general), Protest

FOUR full decades after the First Quarter Storm (FQS), I recall many incidents as easily as though they happened just a year or even a week ago.

I was a spectator-participant in the “Battle of Mendiola,” the protest march to Malacañang on Jan. 30-31, 1970 that turned into a bloody see-saw engagement between demonstrators and government security forces. Through the next two months, mass protest actions broke out one after another in Manila, then in provincial towns and cities, as youth activists emerged like mushrooms after a night of summer rain.

Before then, in 1967, I had already experienced being detained by the police, along with many others, for joining a picket against the US war in Vietnam.

These events had a profound influence on the direction of my life, both political and personal.

Let me cite the ways:

1. The FQS gave shape to my youthful idealism. As a teenager, I had wanted to do something about overcoming poverty in the country, with its accompanying burden of injustices – a not uncommon yearning among the young, but without much form or substance.

Involvement in the FQS broadened and deepened my perspective on these problems and clarified in definitive terms the ways of resolving them. It reconnected me with my family’s peasant heritage of exploitation and oppression.

2. My personal life took a new turn with the FQS. It brought me together with a new life partner, Bobbie Malay, a fellow journalist with whom rallies, marches and meetings got spiced up with romantic interludes and restaurant dates. After work, we would meet at the Malay home in Quezon City for political studies and discussions with a small group that included Tony Zumel, Rolly Fadul, and Henry Romero (all three now gone).

After the Plaza Miranda bombing, after Marcos suspended the writ of habeas corpus and broadcaster Orly Mercado evaded arrest at the ABS-CBN studio, I decided to make myself scarce. Bobbie joined me and we began to live as a couple relatively incognito, starting a family in the underground. Despite years of forced separation as well as differences of opinion and choices, our union has remained strong, thanks to the spirit of the Storm.

3. As a journalist, my involvement in the FQS pulled me towards the coverage of events and newsmakers from the viewpoint of economic nationalism. Some of my editors insisted that the function of the newspaper’s business section is to promote business. I argued that we had to enable our readers to understand the workings of the economy and how it affects their lives and that of the nation.

4. Then Manila Times publisher, the late Joaquin “Chino” P. Roces secretly supported the Kabataang Makabayan with a monthly financial contribution arranged by me. Of course his elder sister Isabel Roces, the company treasurer, didn’t know about it. When I wrote a series on KM, published on the Times’ front page, she called me to her office to give me a scolding.

The Times editorial board, upon the suggestion of Crispulo Icban Jr., who was then news editor, gave full coverage to the massive protest actions against the Marcos government during the FQS and afterward. Chino Roces supported his staff. No wonder that Marcos shut down the Manila Times upon the declaration of martial law, with Chino among the many journalists rounded up and brought to the Camp Crame stockade.

After his release from detention, Chino received me at his home alone; it was dangerous for both of us, as I was being actively hunted by the military. But he encouraged me to carry on.

5. It seems to me that with the passage of time, the spirit of the First Quarter Storm tends to outweigh the ideological and political differences that have naturally arisen among us. Ironically, it is at the wake of FQS participants who have died, by natural causes or in martyrdom for the cause, that this spirit is most evident. I myself am happy to enjoy the warm friendship of FQS veterans on both sides of the bitter debates, although it has been clear to all where I stand.

In the nine years that I have explored the possibilities of pushing for political and social reforms in the parliamentary arena, I have come across many FQS activists, graying like me and still trying to do their part in the protracted, arduous and complicated struggle for fundamental change. Differences in approach remain, but each one of us is wont to say, "Serve the people, kasama!” with a hug and a smile. •

     
     
     
           
     
     
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BIG DEAL
By Dan Mariano
January 25, 2010
Manila Times.net
http://www.manilatimes.net/index.php/opinion/10264-tribute-to-a-grocers-son

TRIBUTE TO A GROCER'S SON

The commemoration of the First Quarter Storm of 1970 is set to begin on Tuesday with a 9 a.m. gathering at Plaza Bustillos in Sampaloc, Manila. The site was chosen because a grocery store, owned by the family of Edgar Jopson, used to stand nearby.


Exactly 40 years ago, Jopson was the chairman of the National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP), which spearheaded a demonstration that demanded a convention of elected delegates that would rewrite the 1935 Constitution.

The “Con-Con,” moderates like Jopson hoped, would introduce much-needed reforms to cure the ills of Philippine society. In contrast, student radicals—led by the communist front Kabataang Makabayan (KM)—dismissed the NUSP’s “reformist delusions.”

The January 26 demonstration in front of the Congress building along P. Burgos Drive—now the National Museum—was timed for the State of the Nation Address of President Ferdinand E. Marcos, who had won unprecedented reelection the year before.

The protest action was organized by the NUSP and similar organizations to press lawmakers into passing a Constitutional Convention law. Most of the protesters came from various Catholic colleges and universities; many of them, in fact, were in their school uniform.

By late afternoon, however, the KM and other radical groups came marching in with their red banners and placards exhorting Filipinos to wage revolution. Quickly, they seized control of the rally.

As Marcos was stepping onto the driveway after delivering his speech, a papier-maché effigy of a crocodile—the popular image of government crooks—was hurled his way. Never before had a Philippine head of state been so mocked.

The presidential entourage sped away, and the order was given for the Manila police to break up the ranks of protesters—radical and moderate alike—with baton charges. The violent dispersal, which was covered live on radio and TV, instantly elicited public sympathy for the activists and indignation at the government.

Four days later, the protesters were back on the street marching all the way to Malacañang. On the road to the President’s official residence, some of them seized a fire truck, which they promptly used to ram one of the Palace gates.

During the so-called Battle of Mendiola, panicky police and Philippine Constabulary troops opened fire on the protesters, killing several of them—and, in the process, gifting the student movement with its first crop of martyrs.

In the coming weeks and months, there was no stopping the rising tide of militancy, not just in campuses, but also among trade unionists, transport workers and slum dwellers. Some of the activists would later feel compelled to personally embrace “armed struggle” in their bid to help achieve social change.

One of those youths who eventually went underground was Jopson, better known as Edjop, the nickname given him by his classmates at the Ateneo de Manila. But that was some years after FQS.

Throughout much of the two years and nine months before Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law, Edjop was vilified, not just by Malacañang, but also by the radical wing of the student movement.

During an audience of student leaders with Marcos at the Palace—in an attempt to quell the fires of FQS—the NUSP leader demanded that the government put a stop to police brutality and immediately adopt other reforms.

The President would have none of such youthful effrontery. He derisively brushed off Edjop as “a mere grocer’s son.”

Meanwhile, the KM—along with such groups as the Samahan ng Demokratikong Kabataan (SDK)—branded Edjop as a “clerico-fascist,” charging that he took his directions from his Jesuit mentors. The Maoists were relentless in their criticism of the Atenean for his reformist agenda.

Among those who heaped scorn on Edjop was Nilo Tayag, KM chairman, and Gary Olivar, the University of the Philippines firebrand who headed the SDK.

In the increasingly heated debate between radicals and moderates, Edjop remained steadfast in his belief that nonviolence was the proper route toward social change. He might have remained a reformist had not mounting state repression driven him into the arms of his erstwhile ideological adversaries.

From an earnest idealist who believed the “system” still had the means to rectify its mistakes, Edjop began to see the world through the lenses of, first, liberation theology and, finally, Mao Tse-tung Thought.

In 1971, Marcos suspended the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus and began rounding up leading student radicals—including Tayag and Olivar. A year later, he placed the entire country under martial law, imprisoning as many as 70,000 people, according to some accounts.

Like other activists, Edjop concluded that the street demonstrations, labor and community organizing as well as other forms of “passive resistance” would not be enough to initiate social change. Philippine society had become impervious to reform, he concluded, and the only means available to turn it around was revolution.

Nothing was heard from Edjop after Marcos promulgated his infamous Proclamation 1081 in 1972. Years later, the government-controlled media reported that Jopson had joined the New People’s Army—and had been killed in an “encounter” with government security forces in Mindanao.

Meanwhile, both Tayag and Olivar were subsequently released from prison even while martial law was still in force.

The former KM chief thereafter distanced himself from his Maoist comrades, and even formed a mass organization that was seen to be cooperating with certain factions in the Marcos regime. He also became a clergyman, and was last reported to have become a bishop of the Philippine Independent Church.

Upon his release, Olivar too seemed to have lost his appetite for leftwing politics. He helped set up a showbiz-oriented magazine, and other businesses. He later went overseas where he put his training as an economist to good use. Now, Olivar is one of the spokesmen of President Gloria M. Arroyo.

Many other radical leaders that gained prominence during the FQS were found to have little stamina for the revolution that they used to preach passionately.

All of them, at one time or another, had heaped scorn on the “reformist” and “clerico-fascist” Edjop. But it was the grocer’s son from the Ateneo who showed everyone how to walk the talk.

On the 40th anniversary of the FQS, the commemoration of those tumultuous—but brave and hopeful—times is set to commence with a tribute to Edjop.

The campus leader-turned-communist insurgent, many of his contemporaries believe, embodied the best of their generation.

dansoy26@yahoo.com

 

     
     
     
     
     
     
     
 
     
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