• A dinner with a winner – 2

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    “Masarap ang pancit dito,” Jojo said to me and to the rest at the table.

    “Yes,” I agreed as I took a spoonful of the noodle after daubing it with calamansi juice mixed with soy sauce.

    There was no pre-planned Q&A for the occasion. Questions and answers came about as a natural flow of the conversation while dining.

    “If Marcos protests, I will have to join him in that protest. I mean, I will have to make my own protest alongside his,” said Jojo. He explained that a great bulk of protested votes by Bongbong will necessarily involve votes for him (Jojo) as well.

    “But whatever protest there will be will have to wait until after the oath-taking of Leni,” Jojo clarified.

    “That’s an idea I’m not sold on,” I said. “If there has to be any alteration of declared electoral results, it has to come before the oath-taking.”

    “As of now, we don’t have cause of action,” Jojo said.

    “I’m not talking about legal protest,” I said.

    Jojo was sort of taken aback. He kept still, staring at me inquisitively.

    “I mean, street parliamentary. Like what we’re used to do,” I said, no longer finding it necessary to explain I meant the First Quarter Storm.

    A subtle shake of his head, and Jojo resumed eating.

    “There is no way to change the results at this time,” Jojo said. “It already sank in the mind of the people. We go the legal way.”

    “That precisely is what I want to protest. The manner by which those results had been made to sink in the minds of the people. I don’t discount here the involvement of the CIA and that’s detestable,” I said, conscious that I meant to create an impression.

    “Look, up until February you were No.1 in surveys. Come April, you were suddenly at No. 4. What’s happened here? And the fishy thing about it is that the results of the vote count were a perfect match of the results of the survey. Thirty-five percent of the votes cast for Duterte at No.1 and 35 percent for Duterte at No. 1 in the surveys. Eleven percent for you of the votes cast at No. 4 and 11 percent for you in the surveys at No. 4. Such perfect matching just defies probability.”

    Jojo suddenly showed amusement.

    “Napako na tayo sa 5 million.”

    Jojo eyed me with a betrayal of his inner thoughts, an amalgam of agreeing but no longer wanting to do anything about it that is against the law. In his stare, I remembered.

    That night in April 1971 at one of the rooms adjoining the quadrangle of the Philippine College of Commerce (PCC), now Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP). The newly-formed Katipunan ng mga Makabayang Obrero (KAMAO), a labor union of workers and employees of the Makabayan Publishing Corp., owned by J. Amado Araneta, grandfather of presidential candidate Manuel Roxas II. I was president of the Union and had gathered the union members in a meeting to decide on what to do in the face of the union-busting response of the company to our demand for recognition: I had been given my termination papers. The union members were unanimous in calling for a strike. It was in the height of the agitation for a strike when the union counsel walked in. The occasion is recalled in The Shoes of The Traveler, an ongoing novel of mine on my blog The Traveler, thus:

    PCC, as the Philippine College of Commerce was popularly known, looked less a school than activists’ camp that night as chants of “Welga! Welga! Welga!” (“Strike! Strike! Strike!) reverberated from one of the classrooms adjoining the corridor that rounded the quadrangle. To one side of the quadrangle, artist activists have partitioned among themselves portions to work on for a large mural depicting workers led by one flailing a sledgehammer; farmers with the leader thrusting a sickle; peasant women armed with bolos along with two guerrilla-attired young men, one pumping an M-16 to the sky, another waving a red flag with the acronym “NPA” done in yellow; a group of physicians and nurses led by someone holding high a book with the acronym “PSR” on the cover, with the spelled out title hardly readable: “Philippine Society and Revolution” together with the byline: “Amado Guerrero.” All these depicted movements are directed at caricatures of a fallen Uncle Sam being helped up by a landlord and a bureaucrat capitalist. Splashed across this composition was the large caption: “ISULONG ANG DIGMAANG BAYAN.” On the quadrangle stage, a drama group, identified by a streamer in its background as “GINTONG SILAHIS,” was rehearsing a skit with one group doing an adagio depicting the poem “Lumuha Ka Aking Bayan (Cry My Dear Country)” being recited in unison by another group. To the opposite end of the guadrangle, activists garbed as government soldiers on one side and NPA guerrillas on the other perform a choreography of battle to the tune of “Makibaka, Huwag Matakot,” a Tagalog adaptation of a Chinese revolutionary song. Here and there on the corridors are DGs (discussion groups) and in rooms or spacious nooks, teach-ins.

    Across the quadrangle, a guy, short by normal reckoning but dapper in a polo barong, briskly walked, lugging his briefcase. He headed for the room from where came the continuing call for strike.

    “Welga! Welga! Welga!” went on the chant by members of KAMAO huddled in the room.

    “Kasama… Mga kasama…”

    Ka Mao, standing in front of the group, was urging them to quiet down.

    “Welga! Welga! Welga!” continued the crowd.

    Ed, standing on the sideline, appeared satisfied. Danny, seated among the crowd, was anticipating eagerly what Ka Mao would say.

    “Won’t we quiet down?” Danny told the crowd.

    Now entered the short fellow in polo barong with the briefcase. His entrance prompted the crowd to quiet down as Ed approached him and shook his hand.

    “O, Jo,” greeted Ed.

    The guy acknowledged the greeting then faced Ka Mao as he neared.

    “Ka Mao, this is attorney,” Ed said, introducing the two. “Attorney, si Ka Mao.”

    “O, Ka Mao,” said the guy as he took Ka Mao’s handshake.

    “Good thing you’re here. We need you to explain this whole thing.”

    Ed beat Ka Mao to introducing the guest.

    “Kasama, this is Attorney Jejomar Binay, from the Lupon ng mga Manananggol ng Bansa or LUMABAN. He is the lawyer given to us by Dr. Prudente to handle our case.”

    The crowd applauded spontaneously, prompting Ka Mao to join them.

    “Just call me Jojo,” said the guy.

    The crowd loved the words and clapped their hands once more.

    “Well… What have we got?” asked Jojo.

    Ka Mao and Ed moved at the same time to make the reply so that neither of them could speak first. Danny rather annoyingly made the response.

    “President Ka Mao presented our union demands yesterday. And this morning the management gave him his termination papers.”

    “Outright, unfair labor practice.”

    “Precisely, Jo. Enough reason to strike,” said Ed.

    “It depends,” said Jojo. “Do the members want to strike?”

    “Welga! Welga! Welga!” went the calls one after another across the gathering.

    “Attorney…” said Ka Mao.

    “Jojo,” said Jojo.

    “Yes, Jojo.”

    “So?”

    “I’m just one man slapped with that offense of unfair labor practice. Nothing done to the rest of the union members.”

    “Those are always their tactics. They fire one. They fire two. They fire three…”

    “ Frankly, Attorney… Jojo… I don’t want the union to go striking all because of me.”

    “That’s not quite right. The union, if ever, will not be going on strike because of you. It is because of the whole of you. All of you comprising the union. And it is wrong to think that it is only you whose employment management is terminating. It is their standard tactics. They fire one. Two. Three. Before you know it, they’ve fired everybody.”

    “That’s why we need to strike. Now,” cut in Ed.

    “Ed, we’re discussing,” snapped Ka Mao.

    “Tell us what to do, Attorney.” Danny said, butting in.

    “My name is Jojo.”

    “Sorry… Jojo,” said Danny. “What do we do?”

    “Well… First off, I was sent here by Dr. Prudente to help you with your legal needs. These needs will most likely come up as a consequence of the strike you are discussing now. The police beat you up, I’m there to help you file charges against your assailants. Or you assail the security guards, I’m there to defend you against any action they make against you. It is not important whether you are the aggressor or the aggrieved. For either way, I’m there to help you assert your rights under the law. But as to whether you will go on strike or not, I’m not here to tell you what to do. The strike is your judgment call.”

    All of a sudden the crowd burst in a powerful call: “Welga! Welga! Welga!”

    It enthused Jojo exceedingly inside. He conveys the feeling to Ka Mao as he gestured him to the chanting crowd.

    “Their call,” said Jojo.

    “Our call,” said Ka Mao.

    * * *

    Part 3 to follow in next column.

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