Upon reaching the casket and seeing his old friend, Ka Roda wept. The strong bond between the two former taxi drivers who became leaders of their respective organizations was palpable. Ka Roda even tried to deliver a speech, albeit after profusely apologizing for the slur in his speech — an effect of a stroke that hit him hard. Never mind his slurring speech, the people listened and gave Ka Roda a warm applause.
Elsewhere, unionists who knew Ka Bel continue to pay tribute to the “Grand Old Man of Philippine Labor”. Below is a story I wrote on how Ka Bel’s death hit Japanese unionists and activists:
May 27, 2008 / Tonyo Cruz
Several Japanese labor and anti-war groups joined the worldwide outpouring of grief over the death of Filipino labor leader and parliamentarian Crispin Beltran.
Beltran, 75, died May 20 due to massive head injuries after a fall from the roof he was trying to fix. Burial is set Wednesday Wednesday in Bulacan province after a memorial mass and necrological rites at the House of Representatives.
In a message, the Japan Trade Union Council (Zenrokyo, Zenkoku Rodokumiai Renraku Kyogikai) chair Fujisaki Ryozo and secretary-general Nakaoka Motoaki expressed “shock and sadness” over Beltran’s death.
The Zenrokyo leaders praised Beltran as “a great labor leader” who “spearheaded the movement for genuine democracy, and led various struggles for workers and peasants who were deprived of decent living and human rights”.
They added that “Beltran visited Japan many times and made great contribution to promote solidarity between workers of Japan and the Philippines, and strengthen Japanese labor movement.” .
Allied Labor Unions of Independence (ALUI) chair Keishi Tanaka called Beltran “a strong engine in promotion of international solidarity among workers, a comrade in anti-imperialism struggle, an elder brother we can frankly discuss anything with”.
Tanaka fondly remembered that “for more than 20 years, we discussed with Ka Bel a lot, shared rallies and marches a lot, and enjoyed San Miguel beer a lot.”
“We cannot express how much we were encouraged and hinted by his practices, experiences, opinions, suggestions, as well as his open-mindedness, loud voice, and smile that always cleared up every suffering,” the ALUI leader added.
Tanaka said he first met Beltran when he became KMU chair in 1987 after the slay of then-chair Rolando Olalia.
That meeting, Tanaka said, “was the start[ing] line for ALUI to practice international solidarity with Filipino workers”.
The Asia-Wide Campaign against U.S.-Japanese Aggression and Domination of Asia (AWC) described Beltran as “an outstanding leader”.
AWC co-representative Shuichi Koshiro said that Beltran “often visited Japan to encourage lots of workers and unions who were faced with capitalists’ all-out offensive, and convinced them to firmly unite and fight for the victory”.
Koshiro also lauded Beltran for opposing “the increasing economic hegemony and military presence of U.S. and Japan in Asia-Pacific region”.
Beltran was co-representative from the Philippines when AWC was formed.
“It is our grave regret that we lost the great leader like him in the midst of sweeping new-liberalism globalization and global ‘war on terror.’ However, we salute and follow his activities rooted in anti-imperialism and internationalism spirit,” Koshiro added.
The messages of sympathy from trade union and activist groups from across the globe continue to pour in, with public memorials held in major cities worldwide.
Trade union group Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU, May First Movement) and partylist group Anakpawis (Toiling Masses) which Beltran served as chair vowed to give him a hero’s burial tomorrow, with work stoppages and a mammoth march. ###