“Are you willing to go to prison again for your beliefs?”
Thus asked writer Lourd de Veyra, in an article for Flip Magazine edited by Jessica Zafra in April 2003. He was asking Ka Satur Ocampo, then in his first term as representative to Congress of Bayan Muna partylist.
“Yes…(Hesitant pause)…but I would rather not.” Lourd quoted Ka Satur’s response. “And after over an hour of talking,” wrote Lourd, “it is the first time that he smiles.”
I remembered this magazine article yesterday, as I was covering Ka Satur’s arrest and booking at the Manila Police District. He had just been served with an arrest warrant from a Leyte regional trial court who claimed “he is probably guilty” (this is what finding “probable cause” means, explained lawyer Romeo Capulong) of personally ordering the murder of 15 individuals in Leyte in 1984, or a year before he escaped the clutches of Martial Law as a prisoner.
Four years after the article came out, Ka Satur proved he is a man of his word, not only because he did submit to authorities as promised a week ago, but also because he is indeed willing to go to prison for his beliefs. And as Lourd indicated, he took the idea of going again to prison after more than 12 years in the stockade with a smile. In fact, he was all smiles as photographers scampered to photograph him being “pianoed” (“piano” being the slang for fingerprinting) and filling up the rap sheet.
He took it with a smile, while the rest of us, his supporters outside included, were dead nervous. After all, this was Ka Satur being booked, who Inquirer called the “face of the militant legal opposition”, the softest speaking, most magnanimous mass leader I have ever encountered. He of the legendary pre-Martial Law National Press Club and subsequent underground journalism. He of the famous, and heroic, escape from military handlers in the midst of an NPC elections. He of the also famous and also heroic march to Mendiola that culminated Edsa Dos uprising. He of Bayan Muna, the third most popular political party in the country today, ahead of trapo parties like Kampi, LDP, etc., according to Social Weather Stations.
Bobbie Malay, in our interview with her a few days before Ka Satur’s arrest, said we should not be comparing Marcos’ Martial Law with Gloria Arroyo’s regime. She had a point, I think. While Marcos was said to be a calculating genius, carefully plotting his moves against his detractors with utmost accuracy, Gloria is downright clumsy. The case against Ka Satur is so full of loopholes its plain hilarious. And yet, she makes fool of us. “Bahala na magmukhang tanga, nakulong ka naman namin,” Bobbie Malay mock-quoted Norberto Gonzales.
Of course, all these only exposes Gloria as a president utterly desperate in clinging to power she is willing to do everything, even willing to look like a moron. To my mind, the government’s persecution of the likes Ka Satur and Ka Bel (Crispin Beltran) who had cast their lot with the parliamentary struggle only validates the idea that the repressive and exploitative state can only accomodate so much of the left within its so-called “democratic space”. Time comes when it will be compelled to use the most dastardly means to stifle an increasingly effective and popular resistance to its rule.
By the way, the Flip Magazine’s cover story for that issue with Ka Satur also featured Teddy Boy Locsin and Imelda Marcos, and had the title “Why can’t we all just get along?” I scan today’s newspapers and I realize the answer to that question.