Labor leader and activist solon Crispin Beltran passes away

Trade unionists and activists are in mourning today following the death of Crispin Beltran. Fondly called “Ka Bel” by colleagues and the public, Beltran’s service to his people spanned several decades. He championed the Filipino worker in the streets, in Congress and the international scene.

Please read this official profile released by from the Kilusang Mayo Uno, which tells about and know his love story with wife Ka Osang. Written by Ina Silverio, his long-time media officer and chief of staff, the story came out in the Sunday Inquirer Magazine in 2002.

Ina also wrote another thoughtful piece about Ka Bel today.

For news, go here, here, here, and here.

Following is the story I filed at the Manila bureau of Asahi Shimbun:

May 20, 2008 / Tonyo Cruz

Crispin Beltran, popularly known as “Ka Bel”, a congressman, former political detainee, veteran street parliamentarian and long-time leader of the Kilusang Mayo Uno, is dead.

Beltran passed away at the age of 75 at around noon of Tuesday after he fell fell from the roof of his house in Bulacan which he was trying to repair.

He was immediately rushed to the hospital where doctors tried to revive him five times, but was later pronounced brain-dead and depended entirely on life-support, according to Maureen Hermitanio, his media officer in Congress.

Hermitanio said that Beltran was supposed to file today a bill removing the value added tax on petroleum and electricity rates.

Beltran was first elected as partylist representative of Bayan Muna in 2001, together with Satur Ocampo and Liza Maza. He resigned from the party in 2003 to form Anakpawis, a party of workers and peasants which he led to victory in the 2004 elections, obtaining two seats for himself and Rafael Mariano.

Beltran was a hard-working legislator and was the author of hundreds of bills and resolutions that mostly favor workers and farmers. He is the principal author of the bill granting a P125 across-the-board wage increase which passed the House last year but was brought back to the House labor committee on advice of the President.

Beltran was one of the most vocal critics of President Arroyo in the streets and in Congress, and endorsed all the previous impeachment complaints against the Chief Executive.

The authorities arrested and detained Beltran in 2006 for more than a year on a rebellion charge filed by the Arroyo administration but the Supreme Court found no basis for the charge and ordered his release.

Even while under detention, Beltran continued his duties as legislator, signing bills and resolutions for filing by his staff, and issuing statements lambasting President Arroyo’s proclamation of a state of emergency and the bans on protest actions.

Trade unionists and parliamentarians from across the world demanded his release, including a high-level delegation from the Inter-Parliamentary Union which visited the country in 2007.

Journalists covering Congress awarded him as “Newsmaker of the Year” and “Most Outstanding Congressman” several times since 2001.,

Beltran was the country’s most popular trade unionist and was among the founders of the KMU in 1980 and thus directly challeged the Marcos dictatorship. For his role in trade union organizing, he was imprisoned but was never found guilty of any crime.

He chaired the KMU for more than a decade, guiding it from infancy to its status today as the most militant trade union center in the country.

As KMU chair, Beltran represented Filipino workers in international conferences, including those organized by the International Labor Organization.

In 2000, he was elected chair of the International League of Peoples’ Struggle, a global alliance of people’s organizations and was later elevated to the post of honorary chair.

In his most recent and last overseas trip, Beltran spoke with the Filipino community and legislators in Canada. Upon his return, the government revived dormant murder charges against him and several other partylist representatives of Bayan Muna, Anakpawis and Gabriela.

Beltran was born on Jan. 7, 1933 in Bacacay, Albay. He left behind his wife Rosario , 11 children and a number of granchildren. ###