Meeting with the people

FROM A DISTANCE - Carmen N. Pedrosa - The Philippine Star

It was a pleasant surprise when I met with active women in the labor movement.  I had expected it would be just an ordinary meeting but I received vignettes of education instead.

In the meeting were Milagros C. Ogalinda, secretary-general of the National Alliance of Teachers and Office Workers, Susanita Tesiorna, president of the Alliance of Workers in the Informal Economy/Sector, and Florencia P. Cabatingan, chairperson of the Development Action for Women.

Susanita Tesiorna of the informal economy sector says they can count on millions of workers. World Bank reported that 79% of the work force of the Philippines are in the informal sector.  The current worldwide economic crisis is one reason why Filipino workers in the informal sector has grown tremendously.

The federation reaches out to some 17 million workers in this sector. That includes tricycle drivers and market vendors. She signed the partnership agreement with Bayanko and said she will bring in five more groups in a few days. “I’m glad Bayanko met with us. We are not cut and paste. We are real people,” Tesiorna said.

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When people talk about unions, the kneejerk reaction is they are about wage negotiations and strikes. Ms. Milagros Ogalinda of the Union of Teachers and Office Workers said they were just as involved in quality education. But how many know that the Philippine group works with the regional EI Unite for Quality Education (Unite) Campaign? They could do more but lack the funds for the work they do. She asked for a power point on Bayanko to show and teach the students about constitutional reform. The Union for Teachers and Office Employees has volunteered to do this and spread the word  to the students on how constitutional reform can bring about a better country.

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After Bayanko has completed its partnerships, the crowdsourcing movement will create an advisory board that will include leaders of the federations. It is also expected to reach out to  regional and provincial groups such as Pangasinan for Constitutional Reform, Pampanga for Constitutional Reform, Bicol for Constitutional Reform, and ARMM among others. By then we would have covered as much of the country as possible.

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There is still the countless fans of Nora Aunor who remain aggrieved with President Aquino’s rejection of her.  She should have been the National Artist this year but Aquino did not understand her mystique. I have talked to her fans and they also say the same thing. It is not just about her acting talent that fuels admiration for her but the fact she came from the masses – the poor. Those who know more about insider politics think President Aquino’s decision  was unfair to Nora.

The politics behind it is equally a Bayanko concern. Why should a president coming from an elite family, have the power to reject an actress recognized for her acting talents in other countries be judged by the whim of a president who has no idea of her accomplishments. It is precisely because she started from poverty. She was selling water to bus passengers in Bicol when she entered a singing contest.  She won the contest and never looked back. She was a symbol to our many poor if only they were given an opportunity. To me that is the most important quality of Nora — her determination. But she was snubbed by someone rich and powerful which brings us once again to the issue of the great divide between the rich and poor in our country.

We have political candidates mimicking the poor to get votes  from the masses like Mar, then presidential candidate carrying a sack of rice or driving a tricycle. That does not inspire the poor to do better if they were given the opportunity. It was Nora’s life that inspired them. That is the reason for their anger. Why can’t the rich and powerful in this country recognize that the poor with talent can be rewarded in this country. Could it be that if Nora were given the national artist award she might dilute the impact of the political strategy adopted by the oligarch Roxas and for that matter Aquino?

We at Bayanko have resurrected this Aquino faux pas because it is about a major issue — empowering the people no matter how poor to develop their talents and capabilities. That to me is the what is behind Bayanko’s support for Nora Aunor. We must stop this bias against the poor because there was bias in the rejection of Nora.

And yet, if her millions of fans were to be united, they would have the power to reverse the Aquino decision. If the Nora for National Artist groups unite, she will get the National Artist award under a new system of meritocratic government that recognizes her talents and the plaudits she has won from other countries.

As Orly Agawin wrote “On a more focused note, it doesn’t matter to me what the reasons might be. A National Artist once said that, “an award is not an evidence of one’s vindication. It’s just a confirmation that you are part of a certain group, be it prestigious or otherwise.” There is no award that can encompass all the honor a person deserves. Bayanko will be behind Nora Aunor in her quest for justice.  “P-Noy has snubbed and judge Nora based on her past. But what he really did was he spat on the face of the masses!” adds Orly.



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