Bernardo M. Villegas
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Advocating A Philippine Labor Party (Part 2)

             Joe Malvar Villegas was so committed to his advocacies, especially in favor of the prevalence of the Labor Party in Philippine politics, that even in his last dying days at the Seventh Adventist Hospital in Pasay when he could hardly breathe because of a serious case of pneumonia, he was dictating to his secretary last instructions about plans for the LPP and the Citizens Crime Watch (CCW) for the months preceding the coming elections in May 2022.  In my visits to the hospital, he would ask me for updates on the various presidentiables and their respective platforms.   Unfortunately, he passed away last October 30, 2021, one of the numerous victims of COVID-19.  I would like to share with my readers what I said about our Kuya Joe (he was the eldest of seven siblings born to Dr. Jose A. Villegas and Dr. Isabel Malvar—mother was the youngest daughter of General Miguel Malvar, the last general to surrender to the American forces during the Philippine-US war).

            Kuya Joe, from his student days at the Ateneo de Manila, already demonstrated that he had the blood of a revolutionary.  He was always looking for causes for the common good to advocate.  At the age of 26, he started his political career when he became the Secretary General of the Lapiang Manggagawa, the only existing labor party then.  In 1964, he was appointed political assistant by President Diosdado Macapagal.  He ran as Councilor in Quezon City and won.  Just before martial law was declared in 1972, Joe appeared in the national papers when he was the initiator of the Eduardo Quintero’s expose of bribery of Constitutional Convention delegates in 1971.  Because of Joe’s role in exposing this scandal, then President Ferdinand Marcos issued a warrant of arrest for him.  Undaunted, he continued to expose major scandals during the martial law regime.  Thanks to his talent as a political broker, he was responsible  in facilitating the Macapagal-Laurel alliance that gave birth to the united opposition or UNIDO.

            Under the leadership of Joe, Lapiang Manggagawa (LM) continued to fight for the interest of the working class in spite of martial law, providing legal assistance to those who were arbitrarily arrested (including my late leftist brother, Eddie, who was jailed and tortured in Camp Crame for two years).  LM members participated in political actions to topple the dictatorship, gathering evidences against military abuses and finally participating in the EDSA People’s Revolt of 1986.  LM was formally revived in the COMELEC in 1983 after the assassination of Senator Ninoy Aquino to fight for the return of democracy in the country.

            Joe was very much part of the political history of the Philippines during the last fifty years.  In fact, in a reflection on the start of his political career, he recounted who were his contemporaries during these critical and formative years of Philippine democracy:  “When I became a lawyer at the age of 22 many years ago, among the batch of those who passed the bar that year were former Senate President Aquilino Pimentel Jr., former Supreme Court Justice Hilario Davide Jr., Senator Rene Cayetano, Senator Wigberto Tanada, Senator Alberto Romulo, Camarines Sur Governor Luis Villafuerte, Catanduanes Governor Leandro Verceles, Jr., Northern Samar Governor Edilberto del Valle.  Many others became justices of the Court of Appeals, judges of the Regional Trial Courts and prominent Prosecutors.”

            Indulging in some wishful thinking, he then referred to a Chinese fortune teller who, during  their oath taking at the Supreme Court before then Chief Justice Ricardo Paras, predicted that from among the new lawyers will come the future heads of the three branches of government, namely Congress, Supreme Court and the Executive Department.  These predictions came true in the person of Senate President Aquilino Pimentel and Chief Justice Hilario Davide.  What about the Executive?   Exhibiting his characteristic self-confidence, he nonchalantly predicted that in 2022, the Labor Party “headed by me” will become the party in power.  That’s my brother all right:  overly confident in himself!

            Whether or not Joe’s prediction about the results of the May 2022 elections will come true, I would like to share with my readers the vision of the LPP to transform the nation.  Faithful to the advocacies of Joe, the present leaders of the LPP have come out with the following in their political platform:

-The Labor Government that the LPP plans to install after the 2022 elections will espouse Social and Welfare Legislations, covering labor, social security, agrarian reform, unemployment insurance, universal health insurance, free education and food subsidy.

-It also advocates the abolition of the Party List system and the promotion of the two-party system, under autonomous regional government, with  the Senate being elected by regions.

-The decentralization of the Department of Tourism into a Board of Tourism and the establishment of Regional Board of Tourism, to hasten the development of the tourism industry.

-It will also propose that the Solicitor General and Chief Prosecutors of provinces and cities should be elected during the same election period to coincide with other elected  officials, while at the same time adopting the jury system.

-The  President and Vice President should be elected in tandem.

-There should be  efforts to dismantle the political dynasties that have already reached the barangay level to the detriment of the common good.

-The Party will pursue an independent foreign policy and assert our rights in the West Philippine Sea.

       As a final word about my Kuya Joe, let me declare that it is not important that I agree with all the above recommendations of the Labor Party of the Philippines.  During the martial law period, the Philippine press came out with frequent references to the “three Malvar-Villegas brothers,” i.e. Joe, myself and Eddie who was one of the founders of Kabataan Makabayan with Jose Mari Sison.  A good number of articles and even TV shows highlighted the big differences in ideologies among the three of us.  Eddie was the leftist; I was called the rightist (although inaccurately since I never believed in the trickle down theory of free markets); and Joe was the centrist.  I must admit that we had very animated conversations about our political beliefs.  We, however, knew how to disagree with one another without ever being disagreeable.  I ask the reader to join me in praying for the repose of the souls of my two brothers, Joe and Eddie.  For comments, my email address is bernardo.villegas@uap.asia