Makabayan backs Bayan Muna's Colmenares, KMU's Labog for Senate

Makabayan backs Bayan Muna's Colmenares, KMU's Labog for Senate
This photo taken July 6, 2020 shows the members of the Makabayan bloc at the Supreme Court, where they filed a legal challenge against the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.
Makabayan bloc / Released

MANILA, Philippines — The Makabayan bloc of progressive party-lists is endorsing two candidates for senator so far: Bayan Muna chair Neri Colmenares and Kilusang Mayo Uno chair Bong Labog.

Colmenares, a rights lawyer and former Bayan Muna representative at the House, said last week that he would run for a Senate seat "if only to deliver the sharpest message of critique to the candidate of President [Rodrigo] Duterte."

Colmenares is also chair of the National Union of Peoples' Lawyers and argued against the Anti-Terror Act at the Supreme Court earlier this year.

He ran for the Senate in 2019 and got 4.6 million votes.

In an interview on ANC's "Rundown" last Thursday, he said he will try to win the president's supporters over during the campaign.

"We have to deliver that message to explain to people that Duterte was the not messiah he pretended to be," he said, adding that the president made campaign promises "but refuses to deliver them."

Vilification, harassment of labor leaders

Labog, who was nominated for senator by Anakpawis party-list, was first elected chair of labor group KMU in 2004 and had been in various leadership positions within the union before that.

He was among the labor leaders who urged the National Bureau of Investigation in July to investigate the online red-tagging of labor organizers.

KMU officers told the NBI then that social media posts labeling them as terrorists "undermine our organization's integrity and grossly violate our rights to organize workers, form unions, and the people's freedom of association guaranteed by the Philippine Constitution and provided in international conventions."

Earlier, Facebook found links between the Philippine military and police and a network of accounts that it took down for violating the platform's rules on coordinated inauthentic behavior on behalf of a foreign or government entity. The social networking site said the network it took down regularly posted content in Filipino about criticism of communism and youth activists and opposition, among other things. 

In March, Labog asked the Commission on Human Rights to extend protection to labor unionists, saying they are vulnerable to vilification and red-tagging, which can be followed by surveillance, and arrests or killings.

The following month, as groups prepared to hold Labor Day rallies despite the long-standing COVID-19 lockdown, Labog said that they could not forgo pressing the government for better services and support to the marginalized.

"Esensyal ang makibaka," Labog said then. "Kung gaano kahalaga ang pagkain, ang serbisyong medikal at iba pa, ganoon rin ang pangangailangang lumaban para sa nararapat."

(To fight is essential … The need to fight for what is right is just as important as food, medical services, and more.)

Labor groups fielded five candidates under the Labor Win alliance in the 2019 polls. The alliance was billed then as a "third pole to the tyrannical Duterte regime and the ‘yellow’ elite opposition." 

RELATED: Who is the Labor Win Alliance

Makabayan party-lists pick nominees

Bayan Muna, which has three seats at the House of Representatives, has also named its nominees for the upcoming polls.

Teddy Casiño, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan spokesperson and a past Bayan Muna representative, is the party-list's first nominee while incumbent Rep. Ferdinand Gaite is second nominee.

Amirah Lidasan, former president of the National Union of Students of the Philippines and now secretary-general of the Moro Christian Peoples Alliance, is the third nominee.

Party-lists can get a maximum of three seats at the House.

ACT-Teachers, which has one seat at the House, named Rep. France Castro, former Rep. Antonio Tinio, and professor and activist Dr. David Michael San Juan as its top 3 nominees.

Anakpawis party-list's first nominee is Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano, who is Anakpawis national chair.

Gabriela Women's Party Secretary General Lana Linaban and labor organizer and leader Francisco Mariazeta III are second and third nominees, according to Makabayan's announcement on social media.

The top three nominees of Gabriela, which has just one seat at the House, are Rep. Arlene Brosas, environmentalist and health advocate Dr. Jean Lindo, and consumer rights advocate Lucy Francisco.

Kabataan party-list, which has one seat at the House, has named Raoul Manuel — its president and former president of the National Union of Students of the Philippines — its first nominee. The party-list's second and third nominees are Angelica Galimba of Youth Act Now Against Tyranny and Jandeil Roperos of NUSP.

The Makabayan party-lists have long been accused by government and military officials of being "fronts" for communist rebels, an allegation that the groups have repeatedly rejected. 

Membership or support for an activist group is not the same as being a member of the Communist Party of the Philippines or of the New People's Army. Holding left-leaning views is also not a crime under Philippine laws.

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