2005 People of the Year

We in Bulatlat have chosen to welcome the New Year by looking back at those personalities who may be described, as far as we are concerned, as 2005 People of the Year. They are those who provided shining examples of courage or brilliance – or both – at a time that desperately calls for these.


We would perhaps all agree that 2005 has been – to say the least – a most interesting year for the Philippines. It was certainly a very turbulent year, and many in our midst are awaiting 2006 with a certain sense of wariness, as though anticipating more mayhem.

We in Bulatlat have chosen to welcome the New Year by looking back at those personalities who may be described, as far as we are concerned, as 2005 People of the Year. They are those who provided shining examples of courage or brilliance – or both – at a time that desperately calls for these.

Here they are, in no particular order:

*Teofisto Guingona, Jr. – The former vice president, now in his 70s and obviously weakened by illness, still finds it fitting to support what he considers worthy causes as he did during the martial law period. He was in the news all over the world last October as he braved water cannons wielded by policemen enforcing the Macapagal-Arroyo government’s calibrated pre-emptive response policy (CPR). Not only that: he presided over the CCTA, which emerged as an alternative venue for ferreting out the facts behind the various charges of human rights violations, electoral fraud, and corruption against President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo following the killing of the impeachment complaints at the House of Representatives.

*Neri Javier Colmenares – The year 2005 was a year of challenges to the Macapagal-Arroyo administration, as questions about its legitimacy were once again brought to the fore. When we talk about the legal challenges to Macapagal-Arroyo’s regime, the first person who would come to mind is lawyer Neri Javier Colmenares. Known to friends as “Atty. Neri,” the eloquent speaker who has done graduate work in law at the University of Melbourne, was instrumental in the formation of the Committee for the Defense of Lawyers (CODAL) – a breakthrough in alliance work among lawyers, paralegals and law students – amid a series of killing of, and assassination attempts against, members of the legal profession. CODAL would eventually become the Counsels for the Defense of Liberties as the Macapagal-Arroyo regime became more and more brazen in its suppression of civil liberties and other basic human rights. Colmenares consistently provided the public with sharp and insightful legal commentaries on issues, such as the CPR, killing of the impeachment complaint, Visiting Forces Agreement, Anti-Terrorism Bill and the controversial Executive Order 464.

*Abp. Oscar Cruz – The archbishop of the Lingayen-Dagupan archdiocese in Pangasinan hogged the headlines almost everyday early this year for his exposés on jueteng, an illegal numbers game. He knew the anti-jueteng campaign is like banging one’s head against the wall, as his exposés implicated no less than President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. True enough, he was subjected to all sorts of smear drives, i.e. called a sexual molester and a kidnapper. While many of his witnesses have either been bought or terrorized into silence, on he goes with the fight.

*Rene Galang and Ricardo Ramos – They are the outspoken and fiercely dedicated tandem that led the strike of Hacienda Luisita workers for land rights, higher wages and more benefits. The two firebrands led the fight and stuck it out to the end, in defiance of unending harassment and even a string of killings of their constituents and supporters – inspiring the highest respect even from those who do not see eye to eye with them politically. Ramos himself would end up losing his life, but this did not deter Galang from pursuing the struggle. The strike has ended and favorably so for the Hacienda Luisita workers.

*Susan Roces-Poe – A former actress, the widow of the late presidential candidate Fernando Poe, Jr. won the admiration of multitudes for continuing her husband’s quest for the true results of the 2004 election, which is widely believed to have been marred by massive cheating. She was much quoted in the news for her fiery statements, among them one calling President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo a “liar,” which she followed with “Ang sinungaling ay kapatid ng magnanakaw!” (A liar is a sister to a thief). In a rally in front of the House of Representatives following the killing of the impeachment complaints, Mrs. Poe showed just how far she would go in this quest by fighting it out with cops who tried to stop the protesters.

*The “young Turks” of Congress – The fact that young men like Alan Peter Cayetano, Francis Escudero, Teddy Casiño and Gilbert Remulla were the ones who most actively pursued the impeachment complaints against President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo did much to arouse and maintain high popular interest in the process. They captured the imagination of a nation largely used to seeing its youngsters subservient to elders and authority even when they are in the right.

*Hadji Abdullah Dalidig – The Customs employee and provincial chairman of the National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL) in Lanao del Sur gave one of the most shocking exposes on fraud in the 2004 election. He had the numbers to show the extent of the cheating in Lanao del Sur. He had been trying to bring this issue up even in 2004, but election officials refused to pay him any heed. In the congressional hearings and Citizens’ Congress for Truth and Accountability (CCTA) sessions where he appeared, he was very much composed though he had to put up with threats and bribery attempts even at the very moments of his testimonies.

*Donato Continente – Donat, as he has come to be known, was one of the longest-held and celebrated political prisoners in Philippine history. In 1989 he was implicated in the killing of Col. James Rowe, an adviser to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) under the Joint U.S. Military Advisory Group (JUSMAG). In jail, he endured some of the worst forms of torture but that was never enough to break his convictions. His plight and struggles inspired countless human rights defenders, and upon his release in June this year after 16 years of incarceration, he immediately made his hands full of work for the release of others like him who were put behind bars for their political beliefs.

*Haydee Yorac – The feisty and brainy lawyer who once headed the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) and the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) left this year, never to return. But it’s likely no one is going to forget the 2004 Ramon Magsaysay Awardee for Government Service. For who could forget how Yorac, severely weakened by chemotherapy, with supreme effort had herself propped out of the sickbed and onto a wheelchair to make a media statement condemning the Macapagal-Arroyo government’s moves toward compromise in the case against tycoon Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco on the misuse of the coconut levy funds?

*Capt. Nicanor Faeldon – The young Marine officer, who was one of the leaders of the “Oakwood mutiny” by junior officers and enlisted men exposing corruption in the AFP, has just recently escaped from prison and called for civil disobedience against the Macapagal-Arroyo government. Faeldon was a low-profile figure compared to other leaders of the Magdalo group, but by his action and statement, he showed he is made of different stuff.

*Danilo Ramos – The peasant leader, himself a farmer from Bulacan, gave detailed exposés in congressional investigations and at the CCTA on the use of the government’s so-called Fertilizer Funds for Macapagal-Arroyo’s electoral bid in 2004. With his ability to remember even the minutest details and his witty way with words, he was able to hold his own before bar topnotchers – thus driving a big thorn into the side of the Macapagal-Arroyo regime.

*Rene Dilan and Julius Babao – Both are journalists accused by the government of flirting with “terrorism” while on the job. The authorities subjected them to harassment in forms that have been known to intimidate even some of the oldies in the profession. Their experiences showed what chilling implications the proposed Anti-Terrorism Bill has for the media and the people.

*Manny Pacquiao and the SEA Games athletes – For a long time the Philippines was known as an underachiever in the field of sports. Pacquiao and the athletes who competed in the Southeast Asian Games all worked mightily to restore the Philippines’ lost sports glory. And they did just that–winning gold medals left and right in spite of utter neglect by a government that cares for the nation’s athletes only when it can use them as decorations for its photo-op gimmicks.

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