Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Crispin 'Ka Bel' Beltran (1933-2008): Glorious Hero of the Filipino People

Filipinos around the world are mourning the death Crispin 'Ka Bel'”
Beltran. A veteran organizer and people's leader, Beltran died on
May 20 of head injuries sustained after falling from the roof of his
home in Bulacan. He was 75.

A long time trade union leader, Beltran was chairman of the Kilusang
Mayo Uno (“May First Movement”) until he was elected to the
Philippine Congress as a representative of Anakpawis Party-list. He
was a prominent leader in the opposition movement against the corrupt and
brutal rule of current president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

Beltran was a political prisoner during the Martial Law era of
fascist dictator Ferdinand Marcos. He was again detained by the
Arroyo regime under false criminal charges of rebellion and held
prisoner for more than a year in a hospital prison.

"“I am innocent of the rebellion charge against me",” he said upon
his release. “"It’s neither a sin nor against the law to speak against
graft and corruption and the killing of hundreds of innocent civilians."

Unions, progressive parties, and peoples organizations are paying
tribute to Crispin Beltran and his more than 50-year commitment as an

"While Ka Bel didn't get his wish that he die in the streets fighting
against tyranny and exploitation, he did not die in vain," said Elmer
Labog of Kilusang Mayo Uno. "His whole life offered in the service of
the Filipino people and other struggling people in the world makes
him a hero no less."

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) hailed his
contributions to journalistic freedom. "Mr. Beltran was a tireless
leader, advocate and ally of workers, including those in mass media.
He was a fighter for press freedom and the right to free expression"
the NUJP said in a statement.

Bayan Muna, a progressive party-list, called his death “an irreparable
loss not only to the working-class movement but to every Filipino
yearning for genuine social change. He was a tower of a man, a pillar
of strength for the progressive people's movement.”

Up until the end, Beltran remained a man of the people. In a
Congress dominated by millionaires, Beltran died still the poorest
member of the House of Representatives, with a net worth of only
50,000 pesos (CAN $1,149).