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A deliberately forgotten battle: The Lapiang Manggagawa and the Manila Port Strike of 1963

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This article documents a significant and previously unknown episode in the history of Philippine labor, the explosive Manila Port Strike of the arrastre service workers—stevedores and longshoremen—in 1963. The strike was among the largest, costliest and most politically charged labor struggles in the nation's history and yet not only has no account of it been written, it has found no mention in over a half-century of historiography. Using confidential US State Department memoranda, contemporary newspaper accounts, Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas (PKP) publications, and material published by the Lapiang Manggagawa (LM), I reconstruct the history of the strike. This article examines how an event of this magnitude, while still part of living memory, could disappear from the historical record. The case of the 1963 Port Strike highlights the need to recover the histories of the oppressed by reading not only the official archives, but also the narratives of the workers’ own organisations, against the grain.
A deliberately forgotten battle: The Lapiang
Manggagawa and the Manila Port Strike of 1963
Joseph Scalice
This article documents a significant and previously unknown episode in the history of
Philippine labor, the explosive Manila Port Strike of the arrastre service workersste-
vedores and longshoremenin 1963. The strike was among the largest, costliest and
most politically charged labor struggles in the nations history and yet not only has
no account of it been written, it has found no mention in over a half-century of
historiography. Using confidential US State Department memoranda, contemporary
newspaper accounts, Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas (PKP) publications, and mater-
ial published by the Lapiang Manggagawa (LM), I reconstruct the history of the strike.
This article examines how an event of this magnitude, while still part of living
memory, could disappear from the historical record. The case of the 1963 Port
Strike highlights the need to recover the histories of the oppressed by reading not
only the official archives, but also the narratives of the workersown organisations,
against the grain.
The Manila Port Strike of 1963 was among the largest, costliest, and most politically
charged labor struggles in Philippine history and yet it and the new workersparty,
Lapiang Manggagawa (LM, WorkersParty), to which its political fate was tied, dis-
appeared from the historical record. Over a half century has passed and the LM
has accumulated but a confused footnote here or there, while the strike itself has
gone unmentioned.
It is a truism of history that it is written by the victors, but there is more at stake
in the disappearance of the port strike than this. The oppressed and the vanquished
possess their own mechanisms and organs of historical memory. In agrarian and pre-
modern societies, oral traditions through a complex set of mnemonic devices sufficed
to preserve this history. The complexities of modern political struggles, however, defy
preservation within such traditions. Even more fundamentally, the urban working
class is intensely mobile; when it has suffered a significant defeat it cannot return
to the fixity of the land, but scatters in search of new employment. There is no stable
community to sustain a complex oral tradition. The preservation of the history of the
working class rests with the organs which it creates to carry out its struggle, including
Joseph Scalice is a Visiting Fellow at the Saw Swee Hock Southeast Asia Centre, London School of
Economics and Political Science. Correspondence in connection with this article should be addressed
to: jscalice@berkeley.edu. The author wishes to thank Peter Zinoman, John Sidel, and Vicente Rafael
for their support.
Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, 53(1-2), pp 226251 MarchJune 2022.
226
© The National University of Singapore, 2022 doi:10.1017/S0022463422000376
https://doi.org/10.1017/S0022463422000376 Published online by Cambridge University Press
parties and unions. These organisations keep written records, publish their own
papers, and however rudimentary and piecemeal these records may be, they constitute
for the historian a tremendous historiographic advance beyond orality for preserving
the narratives of the oppressed.
When the leadership of one these organs, however, for any of a variety of reasons,
betrays the interests of its constituency, a motive emerges for the alteration, distortion,
or erasure of the historical record. Often this runs up against other sections of the
organisation which seek to preserve a rival narrative of events and out of the record
of this dispute, however thin, the thrust of events can be reconstructed by the scholar.
As this article will demonstrate, every section of the leadership of the organs of the
working class in Manila, in a complex and rival fashion, betrayed the striking workers
at the port. The event was buried and with it the party to which it was linked.
The labor unrest that gripped the Philippines in mid-1963, and found its sharpest
expression in the port strike, was immense. The flow of goods in and out of the coun-
try was largely shut down for an extended period, and for a brief window, inter-island
transit was shut down as well. Commerce ground to a standstill. The port strike
involved 3,000 workers and lasted for 169 days. It was a bloody struggle that saw
workers murdered on the picket line by both government troops and scabs, and yet
other strikers die of malnutrition because they received no strike pay. By
mid-August official estimates placed the business losses which had been incurred
from the port strike at over a billion pesos, making it already the most expensive strike
in the countrys history, with more than a month to go.
1
Vice President Emmanuel
Pelaez declared the strike a national crisis because raw materials were being prevented
from going to the nations industries.
2
On the basis of confidential US State Department memoranda, contemporary
newspaper accounts, Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas (PKP) publications, and material
published by the LM, I reconstruct in this article the betrayed and deliberately forgot-
ten port strike. The defeat of the strike and its erasure from the historical record was
made possible, above all, by the leadership of the PKP, Jose Maria (Joma) Sison and
Ignacio Lacsina, who facilitated the suppression of the striking workers by the state.
They provided the support of the LM to the government of Diosdado Macapagal
as it violently cracked down on the picket lines at the pier, and they subsequently
wrote the strike out of existence. At the head of the Communist Party of the
Philippines (CPP), Sison has exercised greater influence on the writing of the history
of the struggles of the oppressed masses in the Philippines than any other figure, but
he has maintained a studied silence about the events of 1963.
3
The speed with which the memory of the events which shook Manila in 1963 was
eradicated from social consciousness is indicated by a CPP document from the early
1Manila Chronicle (MC), 25 Aug. 1963.
2Manila Times (MT), 14 Aug. 1963, 2-A.
3 Sison was expelled from the PKP in 1967, an expression of the tensions manifested in the SinoSoviet
split. He founded a party tied to Beijings political line, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), in
1968. See further Joseph Scalice, Crisis of revolutionary leadership: Martial law and the communist
parties of the Philippines(PhD diss., UC Berkeley, 2017). By 1966, social tensions in Philippine society
had sharpened factional disputes within the party to breaking point. In 1963, however, the leadership of
the party acted with unanimity in their support for Macapagal.
A DELIBERATELY FORGOTTEN BATTLE 227
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1970s. The document asked the unions tied to the party to imagine the political impli-
cations of a strike which broke out at the port—‘the economy would certainly be
brought to its knees’—but it made no mention of the fact that precisely such a struggle
had erupted eight years earlier and that the founder of the party had supported its
suppression.
4
No one in the comparatively youthful organisation, it seems, knew
the truth. Not only the strike, but the Lapiang Manggagawa (LM) which stood at
the centre of events, and was perhaps the largest independent organisation of workers
in Philippine history, disappeared almost entirely from the historical record.
Ignacio Lacsina and union disunity
By the late 1950s, postwar political and economic life in the Philippines had
achieved a certain equilibrium. Rival families, controlling a vast range of powerful
economic interests, had established a mutually agreeable mode of political existence,
which was organised into two partiesthe Liberal Party (LP) and the Nacionalista
Party (NP). The spectacle of elections, the horse trading of the primaries, and the
party alliances constantly forming and breaking apartall these combined to provide
stability and continuity to the oligarchic politics of the country. The spume of alter-
nating dynastic alliances washed over the archipelago with the regularity of the tides.
The rottenness of trade union politics in the Philippines, manifested in the events
of the port strike, stemmed from its integral role in this process. Each union func-
tioned above all as a vehicle for the personal political ambitions of its leadership,
most often lawyers, who repeatedly engaged in the negotiation of alliances with repre-
sentatives of the LP or the NP. The chaos of trade union politics in the Philippines
was a direct expression of the fundamental instability of the dynastic alignments of
the traditional political elite. As the senators and congressmen, LP and NP alike,
altered their allegiances, jumped ship, changed parties, and played out the mutually
agreed upon game of betrayal and duplicity, the union leadership followed suit.
Just as the Liberal of today would be the Nacionalista of tomorrow and again the
Liberal of two years hence, so too the umbrella organisations of labor allied and
broke apart with the frequency of the national elections.
Workers in the Philippines had been hit hard by soaring inflation in the wake of
Macapagals decontrol of the peso in early 1962. The rising price of basic necessities,
combined with stagnant wages, compelled the working class toward open conflict and
the Lapiang Manggagawa was formed at a crucial juncture in the development of the
class struggle within the country. In 1960, out of an estimated total labor force of
9 million, 0.5 million were unemployed and 1.5 million were underemployed; 65
per cent of this labor force was employed in agricultural labor. By 1962, 800,000
were unemployed and 2 million underemployed.
5
There were a total of 56 strikes
4 Katipunan ng mga Samahan ng mga Manggagawa (KASAMA), Unang Pambansang Kongreso,
Feb. 1972, Philippine Radical Papers (henceforth PRP), University of the Philippines Diliman, Quezon
City, 09/10.02, p. 28.
5 Confidential US State Department Central Files, Philippine Republic, 195563, 896.00/5-1561, p. 16;
896.00/9-1362, p. 11 (hereafter CUSDPR). CUSDPR was microfilmed from National Archives, College
Park, Maryland, Record Group 59, decimal nos. 796, 896, and 996 (the Philippine Republic internal
affairs) and decimal nos. 696 and 611.96 (the Philippine Republic foreign affairs and US relations
with the Philippine Republic).
228 JOSEPH SCALICE
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in the first eight months of 1963, involving 32,011 workers. This was a growth in the
number of workers on strike of 32 per cent over the previous year.
6
The interests of this class and its emerging struggles could find no expression in
either of the two established parties. What was completely absent from the Philippine
political landscape was a Labor Party, an independent party of workers. This was to
have been the role of the Lapiang Manggagawa, but within months of its formal
founding it had been merged with the ruling Liberal Party and its independence
ended. As a direct result of this merger it fragmented in two years and effectively
ceased to exist; by the end of the decade it had disappeared almost entirely from
the historical record.
At the centre of these events was the reborn PKP. The states suppression of the
Huk rebellion in the early 1950s had sent the party into hiding, but under the impetus
of political developments in the early stages of the Macapagal administration and with
the organisational assistance of the Partai Komunis Indonesia (PKI, Indonesian
Communist Party), the party re-established itself as a political force in late 1962.
7
Within weeks it was playing the dominant role in Lapiang Manggagawa.
The party had been founded on, and remained committed to, the programme of
Stalinism, which expressed the interests of privileged layers of the bureaucracy in
Moscow with its core nationalist perspective of building socialism within the bound-
aries of a single country. Seeking to establish trade and diplomatic relations with vari-
ous capitalist powers, the Stalinist bureaucracies used the political influence of
communist parties in countries around the globe. They rehabilitated the old
Menshevik conception of a two-stage revolution, which argued that a socialist revo-
lution was not the political task of the day in countries of belated capitalist develop-
ment, such as the Philippines, where it was necessary first to carry out a
national-democratic revolution. Given that the tasks posed by this initial revolution
were capitalist and not socialist in character, there would be a section of the capitalist
class which would play a progressive role in itthe national bourgeoisie. A funda-
mental task for the working class and peasantry was thus to locate this progressive
section and to ally with it and support it in the achievement of national democracy.
While it held up the banner of Marxism and dressed itself in the garb of October
1917, this programme served the interests not of workers, but of a section of native
capitalists and of the bureaucracies in Moscow and Beijing.
8
The merger of the LM
with the ruling party of President Macapagal as he ordered the violent suppression
of the port strike was a direct expression of Stalinism.
Two individuals, Sison and Lacsina, effected the partys leadership of the LM,
carried out the merger, and promoted Macapagal for carrying out the unfinished
revolution. Sison, a graduate student at the University of the Philippines, returned
to the country in 1962 from a six-month stay in Indonesia, where he had worked
6MC, 14 Sept. 1963.
7 See Benedict Kerkvliet, The Huk Rebellion: A study of peasant revolt in the Philippines (Berkeley:
University of California Press, 1977).
8 I explore this argument in Joseph Scalice, The geopolitical alignments of diverging social interests:
The SinoSoviet split and the Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas, 196667,Critical Asian Studies 53, 1
(2021): 4570.
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closely and trained with the highest levels of the immensely influential PKI.
9
As the
eventual founder in 1969 of a rival Communist Party, the CPP, Sison would play a
critical role in the politics of the country for the next half century.
10
His role in the
LM and its support for Macapagal has never been previously documented, but his
subsequent political life has been written on extensively. An account of the political
origins and activity of Lacsina, on the other hand, has not yet been written.
Ignacio Lacsina was a lawyer who rapidly rose to prominence in trade union pol-
itics in the 1950s while in close communication with the US Embassy.
11
He was the
vice president of Johnny Tans Federation of Free Workers (FFW) from 1951 to 1954,
and in 1953 he received a grant from the International Cooperation Agency, forerun-
ner of the Agency for International Development, to travel to the United States and
spent nearly a year touring the country.
12
On his return, Lacsina led his union of bank
and insurance workers to break from the FFW, transforming the union into the inde-
pendent National Association of Trade Unions (NATU), which would serve as his
political base over the next two decades.
In 1956, Irving Brown, head of American Federation of Labor-Congress of
Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) international relations and a CIA agent respon-
sible for its international labor operations, nominated Lacsina to serve on the
International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) consultative committee
on forced labor practices in China.
13
The results of the committees investigation, con-
demning Beijing, were published widely in the Western media, and Lacsina issued a
public appeal to defend fundamental human rightsfrom totalitarian forces, singling
out the concentrationary regime existing in the Peoples Republic of China.
14
9 On Sisons political background and entry into party leadership, see Joseph Scalice, ‘“We are siding
with Filipino capitalists: Nationalism and the political maturation of Jose Ma. Sison, 195961,
Sojourn: Journal of Social Issues in Southeast Asia 36, 1 (2021): 139.
10 The CPP was founded in January 1969 but its official documents were backdated to December 1968
to coincide with Mao Zedongs birthday; Gregg Jones, Red revolution: Inside the Philippine guerrilla
movement (Boulder, CO: Westview, 1989), p. 17.
11 My account of Ignacio Lacsinas political career is based largely on material in the CUSDPR, and in
particular reports submitted by Lacsina to his embassy contacts. The documents in the CUSDPR from
1955 to 1963 are divided into two sets of microfilm. The first consists of 24 reels covering 195559, and
the second of 14 reels from 1960 to January 1963. The CUSDPR comprises the daily and weekly briefings
produced by the US intelligence, diplomatic and economic apparatus in the Philippines. Given US con-
cerns to protect its economic interests, prevent labor revolts, and monitor and control political activity in
the country, these documents are exceptionally detailed. They provide a unique historical window on
labor in the Philippines, no other contemporary account is so regular and so detailed. These accounts,
however, were produced in the interests of Washington, in many ways, an enemy of Philippine labor.
Thus, while the CUSDPR is a valuable source, it can only be used with caution and suspicion. It is orga-
nised by subject heading/date: entry 896.062/2-2756, e.g., corresponds to the subject heading 896.062,
dated 27 Feb. 1956.
12 The FFW was founded and funded by Jesuits, militantly anti-communist, and often used to provide
scab labor to break up strikes. See Despatch 360 in CUSDPR, 896.06/10-1656, p. 8; Benjamin Tolosa Jr.,
ed., Socdem: Filipino social democracy in a time of turmoil and transition, 19651995 (Manila:
Friedrich-Ebert Stiftung, 2011), p. 219.
13 Théo Bernard, Commission Internationale contre le Régime Concentrationnaire (CICRC) and the
ICFTU consolidate their joint activity,Saturn Monthly Review 2, 1 (1956): 92; Emma Kuby, In the sha-
dow of the concentration camp: David Rousset and the limits of apoliticism in postwar French thought,
Modern Intellectual History 11, 1: 14773.
14 Saturn Monthly Review 2, 1 (1956): 2, 2122, 67.
230 JOSEPH SCALICE
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It thus came as something of a surprise when less than three years later, Lacsina
announced that he was a socialistand that he intended to visit China and the Soviet
Union, making the somewhat preposterous claim that he intended to spend four
months driving across the countries in a Volkswagen Beetle.
15
He never carried out
this plan, but having publicly established his reputation as a socialist, he busied him-
self with the creation of the Katipunan ng Manggagawang Pilipino (KMP, Union of
Filipino Workers).
Jorma Kaukonen, labor attaché of the US Embassy in Manila, saw the formation
of the KMP as an attempt at making the Philippine trade union movement into a
labor party, into a political movement.
16
Lacsina was made secretary-general of the
new party, and Roberto Oca, the head of the port workersunion, the Philippine
Transportation and General Workers Organization (PTGWO), was made president.
US ambassador Chip Bohlen added to Kaukonens assessment in a confidential
memo to the US secretary of state, claimed that there was a left-wing segment of
the KMP, which the embassy began referring to as the Lacsina group, that was anx-
ious to turn the Philippine labor movement into a socialistparty, and to channel its
energies into nationalist and generally anti-American directions. Oca, an extremely
ambitious labor leader, needed the support of this left-wing and, although not a com-
munist or a socialist, made a number of adjustments in the direction of socialismin
order to get it.
17
Events were to bear out this assessment.
In a move calculated to undermine the KMP before it could gather strength, the
Philippine government abruptly convicted Felixberto Olalia and Pedro Castroboth
long tied to the PKPon a decade-old charge of rebellion in June 1959. The
Philippine Trade Union Council (PTUC) and a number of other unions seized
upon the conviction to demand that Oca and Lacsina expel Olalia and Castro from
the KMP leadership, and when they refused to do so, many of the member unions
pulled out of the new organisation.
18
By late July the KMPs strength had been
dramatically reduced.
Toward the Lapiang Manggagawa
The majority of labor leaders, among them Lacsina, had been deeply invested in
the 1961 Garcia campaign; the US Embassy in Manila wrote that with but one or two
exceptions, all national labor leaders supported former President Garcia.
19
Garcias
loss to his vice president, Diosdado Macapagal, stood as evidence to them of the
need for more effective control over their mass base; looking to wield greater political
clout, the heads of nearly all of the leading unions began to negotiate the building of a
15 Memo re: Lacsina plans visit to Communist China, in CUSDPR, 896.062/2-1759.
16 CUSDPR, 896.062/4-2059, p. 7.
17 CUSDPR, 896.062/5-159, p. 2.
18 CUSDPR, 896.062/7-1859; Jim Richardson, Komunista: The genesis of the Philippine Communist
Party 19021935 (Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press, 2011), pp. 210, 228; Ken Fuller, A
movement divided: Philippine communism, 19571986 (Quezon City: University of the Philippines
Press, 2011), p. 44.
19 CUSDPR, 896.00/2-962, p. 10. The only sizeable labor organisation in 1961 to back Macapagal was
Tans FFW. Macapagal dedicated a chapter of his memoirs to his administrations relations with labor;
Diosdado Macapagal, A stone for the edifice: Memoirs of a president (Quezon City: Mac Pub. House,
1968).
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Labor Party, to replace and move beyond the dead KMP, which would eventually take
the name Lapiang Manggagawa (LM). By mid-1963, the LM, under the leadership of
Lacsina and Sison, would become a decisive factor in national political life.
On 26 January 1962 at the Philippine Columbian Club [m]ore than 20 represen-
tatives of rival labor unions decided to bury the hatchet It was initiated by
Felixberto Olalia and the late Pedro Castro after the last November polls
which in their opinion clearly dramatized the workers political disunity.
20
While
the PKP had continued a shadowy, fragmentary existence up to this period, when
Olalia and Castro, both leading members, summoned the gathering of January
1962, it took its first cautious steps back into public life; by the end of the year the
party had reconstituted its leadership for active political work.
21
Several days later an organisational committee meeting was held, which was not
publicized in the press, in which it was decided that the workersparty would be led
by an executive committee consisting of the president, three vice presidents repre-
senting major regions of the Philippines, and a secretary-general in whose hands
the real party power rests. The party would be financed by levying P2.00 per
annum dues on 150,000 members of unions mainly in the KMP.
22
Lacsina
urged that the party should be named the Democratic Socialist Party, but Olalia
argued against the use of the word socialiststating that the political climate in
the Philippines at the present time was such that any organisation bearing the
name socialistwould be an immediate target for reactionary attack. By 23 March
1962 the organisation had formed under the name Lapiang Manggagawa, having
agreed with Olalias opposition to the inclusion of the word socialist. They
announced that they would hold a national convention on 1 May.
23
By the beginning
of April the LM leadership had drafted the new partys constitution, which was to be
submitted for formal acceptance at a meeting on 30 April. A mass rally was slated to
be held the next day at Bonifacio Monument and Lacsina was selected to present the
LM Manifesto to the public. May Day arrived, however, and the LM leadership
announcedwithout any explanationthat they were delaying their inaugural
event.
24
The Lopez family and their influential paper, the Chronicle, had backed Garcia to
the hiltin the 1961 election.
25
Having taken office, Macapagal found himself
20 MC, 28 Jan. 1962. The MC carried the exclusive story because of Lopezs close ties to a number of
labor leaders, including Cid and Oca. Pedro Castro died of a heart attack two weeks before the meeting.
21 Israel Bocobo and Vicente Rafael drew up the organisations constitution, Adrian Cristobal wrote its
manifesto, and Baltazar Cuyugan carried out organisational planning. Felixberto Olalia submitted a pro-
posed resolution on the need for unity in the trade union movement. Like Olalia and Castro, Cuyugan
was a PKP member (Teodosio Lansang, In summing up: A personal and political history [Quezon City:
New Day, 1999], p. 66). I have been unable to locate any original documents from this meeting. Lacsina
met in secret on several occasions with US labor attaché Jorma Kaukonen, to provide details on the meet-
ings. My account is based on Kaukonens memo of Lacsinas reports (CUSDPR, 796.00/2-1562).
22 CUSDPR, 796.00/2-1562, p. 3.
23 CUSDPR, 796.00(W)/3-2362, p. 2.
24 Lacsinas NATU joined a Labor Day rally with the FFW, an event at which Macapagal spoke. Lacsina
read a joint manifesto of NATU and the FFW, but skipped the first portion of the document which
denounced communismand favoured free enterprise over socialism. CUSDPR, 796.00(W)/5-462, p. 1.
25 Raul Rodrigo, The power and the glory: The story of the Manila Chronicle, 19451998 (Pasig: Eugenio
Lopez Foundation, 2007), p. 159.
232 JOSEPH SCALICE
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thwarted at every turn by the powerful sugar bloc. Macapagal was deeply concerned
that the emerging workersparty would ally with his rivals, and with Eugenio and
Fernando Lopez in particular, and thus at first he sought to thwart LMs formation.
Secretary of Labor Romualdez privately informed the new US labor attaché, Norman
F. Johnson, that he opposed the formation of a labor party as it made it more difficult
to negotiate with workers. Just as rebellion charges had been brought against Castro
and Olalia in June 1959, stunting the KMPs growth, the [e]fforts by Cid, Lacsina,
Lerum, Oca, and others to organize a labor party were abandoned in mid-June when
one of the organizers, Baltazar Cuyugan, was arrested as a leader of the Communist
Hukbalahap military organization.
26
It was at this point, in June 1962, that Joma Sison returned from Indonesia.
Lacsina provided Sison with a job and stipend at NATU, as officer-in-charge of
research and education. Over the next six months the PKP prepared to re-enter
political life. In December at the instigation of Bakri Ilyas, a PKI member in
the Philippines who had facilitated Sisons travel abroad, the PKP gathered forces.
Jesus Lava, party general secretary, long in hiding, authorised the formation of a five-
person executive committee.
27
The most active members of the executive, and the
core of the reborn party, were Sison and Lacsina. The executive committee, closely
tied to the PKI, set itself the task of pressuring Macapagal to support Sukarno in
his campaign against the formation of the Federation of Malaysia. They sought to
form an alliance with Macapagal around the creation of Maphilindo, which the
PKP saw as a vehicle to further the unity between Sukarno and Macapagal in oppos-
ition to Malaysia. Ties with Jakarta it was reasoned, would distance Manila from
Washington and would place it within the camp of Newly Emerging Forces, increas-
ing the possibility of friendly relations with the socialist bloc. Within six months, the
PKP leadership had merged the newly formed Lapiang Manggagawa with
Macapagals Liberal Party, as he successfully concluded the Manila summit with
Sukarno and Tunku Abdul Rahman, and announced the formation of Maphilindo.
Having prevented the LM from launching in mid-1962 on the grounds that it was
hostile to his interests, Macapagal began to woo its leadership, looking to see if the
heads of its member unions could be swayed from their allegiance to the sugar
bloc. On 16 August, Macapagal held a dinner and private discussion with 20 of the
principal union leaders, which was followed by a meeting of the LM leadership
with acting finance secretary Rodrigo Perez on 22 August. During this meeting
they agreed to establish a labor consultation committee for subsequent meetings
with the President.
28
On 11 September, Secretary of Labor Romualdez announced
that he supported the move to form a labor party. Undersecretary of Labor
Bernardino Abes, speaking to the press on 17 September, warned union leaders
against allowing the LM to be used for ulterior motives by vestedinterests,vested
interestsreferring to the sugar bloc, and the Lopez brothers in particular. Abes added,
26 CUSDPR, 796.00(W)/8-2062, p. 2.
27 Fuller, A movement divided, pp. 1213; Jose Ma. Sison and Rainer Werning, The Philippine
Revolution: The leaders view (New York: Taylor & Francis, 1989), p. 44; Jose Ma. Sison, Defeating
revisionism, reformism and opportunism: Selected writings, 1969 to 1974 (Quezon City: Aklat ng
Bayan, 2013), p. 173; Jesus Lava, Memoirs of a communist (Pasig: Anvil, 2002), p. 247.
28 CUSDPR, 896.00/8-2462, pp. 89.
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however, that the LM could enter into an alignment with another political party’—
clearly meaning the Liberal Partyto improve the workersconditions.
29
It was
this struggle over the future alignment of the LM, in which the PKP pushed the
organisation into a merger with the Liberal Party, that precipitated the most explosive
labor battle in Philippine history: the 1963 port strike under the leadership of Roberto
Oca.
Oca, head of the PTGWO, was a key ally of the Lopez brothers. For Macapagal, a
successful alliance between his administration and the LM required the removal of
Oca.
30
Oca was born on 2 June 1919, the son of a ship captain. In 1941 he completed a
bachelors degree in Commerce at Far Eastern University, and in 1946 he entered the
leadership of the Union de Obreros y Estivadores de Filipinas, the stevedore union at
Manilas South Harbor. In 1950, he shifted to the Associated Workers Union, which
organised the longshoremen, known as arrastre workers, and was elected president of
the union in 1951. He broke the unions ties to the FFW and established his own labor
federation, the Philippine Transportation Workers Organization (PTWO). Oca trans-
formed employment at the piers, eliminating the outmoded system of labor gangs, a
change which modernised work on the waterfront and turned Oca and the PTWO
into the ports exclusive labor broker.
Oca built a close relationship with the Manila Port Service (MPS), the
government-run corporation operating the South Harbor arrastre service, and the
PTWO began to receive annual dividends from the profits of the MPS.
31
In 1959,
Oca renamed the federation the PTGWO.
By the early 1960s, Ocas brother, Gregorio Oca, had been made an MPS man-
ager, consolidating Ocas relations with the port. Roberto Oca profited handsomely off
these ties and became quite wealthy. In 1954 he began taking annual trips to the
United States, occasionally visiting Europe as well. Oca used his profits to purchase
the Nautilus nightclub on the border of Manila and Pasay. Thus, by the beginning
of the 1960s, after a decade of serving as the broker of unionised labor to the port,
Oca was a rich and powerful man, operating both a nightclub and a casino and run-
ning a protection racket on the side.
32
His ambitions did not stop there, and in exchange for his support, Oca had been
promised the position of labor secretary under a re-elected Garcia administration.
33
US Labor Attaché Johnson wrote in November 1962 that President Macapagal
made clear from the beginning of his administration that he would seek to displace
29 CUSDPR, 896.00/9-2162, p. 6.
30 Arrastre workers, longshoremen who move goods around the port, are distinct from stevedores, who
load and off-load goods on board ship. Among those who noted Ocas intimate connections with the
Lopez family was leading Communist and political prisoner, Angel Baking. Jesse Galang and Angel
Baking, Dialogue with an ex-Collegian editor,Philippine Collegian, 11 Sept. 1963, p. 4.
31 The Manila Port Service funded the construction of the PTWO headquarters in 1958: P300,000, to
be repaid from subsequent yearsdividends.
32 CUSDPR, 796.00/10-3161, p. 2. Allegations of corruption against Oca, including evidence of his
ownership of a nightclub and sizeable personal wealth were the subject of a congressional investigation
in 196263, cropping up occasionally in the press, including during the 1963 strike. See MT,15May
1963; 16 May 1963.
33 CUSDPR, 796.00/10-3161, p. 2.
234 JOSEPH SCALICE
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Robert Oca as head of the dock workers in Manilas international shipping port,
South Harbor.Johnson cited Ocaspolitical opposition to Macapagals election
and administrationas having produced a presidential aversion to Ocas continued
labor leadership.
34
Long-time Manila Mayor Arsenio Lacson died unexpectedly on 15 April 1962,
and his death turned the 1963 midterm election into a deadly struggle for control
of the city. The Manila mayoralty was the most fiercely contested prize on the ballot.
In Manila, much more than in the countryside, the NP and LP needed to secure the
labor vote and the LM emerged as the political broker of this vote. In October 1962,
LM announced that Oca would be standing as the partys candidate for mayor of
Manila in the November 1963 elections.
35
For Macapagal, in order to enter into an
alliance with the LM, it was necessary that he break the power of Oca. To do this
he intended to privatise the arrastre service, first transferring control over the MPS
contract to the Bureau of Customs, and then selling the operation of the arrastre ser-
vice to the highest bidder, declaring that the buyer would not be obligated to honour
any existing labor contracts. The PTGWO was in the midst of negotiating a contract
with the MPS to last through 1966; Macapagal planned to use the privatisation of the
port to terminate this contract and thus Ocas political influence.
Opening salvo at South Harbor
Open hostilities commenced on 1 October 1962. The PTGWO staged a series of
brief strikes at South Harbor as part of its contract negotiations with the MPS. The
first strike successfully concluded within three days and the workers won a pay
increase ranging from one peso to P4.50 per day.
36
The PTGWO staged a second
strike on 9 November, this time to ensure that a cost of living adjustment (COLA)
was included in the contract. Labor Secretary Romualdez ordered Manila-bound
cargo ships diverted to other ports to avoid the striking workers, but in a show of soli-
darity, workers in Cebu refused to handle the diverted cargo. Romualdez threatened
to send troops to break up the strike at 7 pm on 10 November. Acting on Macapagals
orders, Romualdez was seeking to use the November strike as the pretext to break the
union and to displace Oca and the PTGWO from the port. Paulino Cases, head of
Manila Railroad Co., MPSparent organisation, granted the COLA at the last
moment, however. At 9 pm, as troops were being deployed to the harbour, the
PTGWO and the MPS reached a deal which granted a P30 monthly COLA to the
workers.
37
On 19 November, the PTGWO again went on strike to secure a guarantee
that their contract would be retained during privatisation. Oca filed an appeal before
the Court of Industrial Relations (CIR) demanding that the contract be honoured by
the new private operator of the arrastre service and the next day the CIR handed
down a ruling that the existing labor contract was a component of the port services
for which private corporations were bidding.
38
34 CUSDPR, 896.061/11-2162.
35 CUSDPR, 796.00(W)/10-2662.
36 CUSDPR, 896.00/10-1962, p. 8.
37 CUSDPR, 896.061/11-2162; Sunday Times Magazine, 11 Nov. 1962; Manila Bulletin, 10 Nov. 1962.
38 CUSDPR, 796.00(W)/11-2362, p. 5.
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This was a serious defeat for Macapagal, and in response he changed tactics,
announcing that the recently concluded contract was invalid and any strike staged
by the PTGWO was illegal, as the union, he claimed, did not have collective bargain-
ing rights at the arrastre service. Only some government employees were legally
entitled to collective bargaining rights. According to the Philippine Labor Code, if
the workers were employed in a department with a strictly governmental function
then they had the right to organise but not to collectively bargain, but if the
government enterprise in which they were employed was deemed proprietary, that
is, business operations for which fees were collected, such as sewage and water ser-
vices, then workers had the right to collectively bargain.
39
The Macapagal administra-
tion claimed that the arrastre service was strictly a governmental and not a proprietary
function, and thus the workerspicketing and collective bargaining was illegal.
The next several days saw a complex flurry of events. Labor Secretary Romualdez
refused to allow the PTGWO to return to work and announced that he was termin-
ating the MPS contract with the union. Responding to Romualdez, Oca threatened to
launch a general strike of all members of the recently organised LM on 29 November
if the contract were terminated, which would have been the first general strike in the
countrys history.
40
In the early morning of 28 November, Finance Secretary Perez
intervened, signing an agreement for Ocas men to return to work under the terms
of the recently agreed upon contract. Oca, however, disputed that the contract was
being honoured, and claimed that wages had secretly been cut.
41
Later that morning,
68 government agents, on orders from Macapagal, raided Ocas offices, seizing union
records and charging Oca with fraud and with violating labor laws. The next day,
Macapagal delivered a nationwide radio address denouncing Oca.
42
Oca again threa-
tened a nationwide strike, but his announced deadline had already passed and this
second threat came across as mere bluster. In an attempt to get workers back on
the job, Finance Secretary Perez and Congressman Vicente Ocampo negotiated a
new six-point agreement.
On 30 November, while Oca was meeting with Perez and Ocampo, Romualdez
ordered boats belonging to the Philippine Navy to bring in 500 scabs from Cavite
to operate the port, effectively circumventing the PTGWO picket line.
43
The scabs
who were to be employed by the government all belonged to the FFW. Johnny Tan
routinely employed his union as a scab labor contractor, and he arrived at the
South Harbor at their head. The deal with Oca, however, was concluded on the
same day, and the scabs never actually set to work. Romualdez offered to pay Tans
men for standing rather than for working, but Tan stated that they had been promised
long-term employmentreplacing the PTGWOand refused to accept the days pay.
He and his men, with pistols drawn, marched out through the picket lines. Violence
39 Manilas Port Strike,International Transport WorkersJournal 23, 11 (1963): 235.
40 CUSDPR, 896.062/11-2662.
41 Complicating matters further, Justice Secretary Juan Liwag issued an announcement that the
Perez-Oca agreement, concluded that morning, was not binding on the Bureau of Customs.
42 In the same address, Macapagal appointed Romualdez to head the Bureau of Customs. Romualdez
had been leading the drive against Oca and as head of Customs he would be in direct conflict with the
PTGWO at the port.
43 CUSDPR, 796.00(W)/12-762.
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was narrowly averted.
44
Tan threatened Customs that his 500 scabs would go on
strike and picket the harbour themselves, because they had not been employed as pro-
mised and the PTGWO had been restored to their jobs.
Oca filed two cases before the CIR. The first was an unfair labor practices case,
which called on the court to compel private bidders to honour the labor contract con-
cluded with the MPS and the second argued that the functions performed by the
arrastre service were proprietary and not governmental. The CIR refused to hear
the first case until the second case was resolved. If the court ruled that the arrastre
service was a governmental function and that the PTGWO therefore did not have col-
lective bargaining rights, the first case would be moot and the contract invalid.
Tensions on the harbour temporarily subsided while everyone waited for the courts
decision, but the likelihood of a violent confrontation on the waterfront was in the
background of the formal launching of the Lapiang Manggagawa.
The founding of the Lapiang Manggagawa
On 3 February 1963 the Lapiang Manggagawa was formally launched, assembling
a significant majority of the trade union federations in the country into an independ-
ent political party.
45
One thousand and sixty delegates attended the founding conven-
tion, and elected Cipriano Cid president of the LM and Lacsina general secretary, the
most powerful position within the party.
46
Roberto Oca and Jose Hernandez were
elected as vice-presidents; and Joma Sison was elected as vice president for propa-
ganda.
47
Sisons office meant that the LMs political issuances and statements came
from his pen, and he later described his function as organizing the research and
education department, conducting seminars and coming out with news and press
releases.
48
With Lacsina at the head of the LM and Sison responsible for its public
statements and printed material, the executive committee of the PKP exercised effect-
ive control over the new labor party.
The leadership of the Lapiang Manggagawa produced a five-page political pro-
gramme, the ideological foundation of this workersparty, opening with the declar-
ation that the alienation [of the Filipino worker] from the center of [political]
power lies at the root of their present predicamenta predicament which is, by
and large, still characterized by widespread want, squalor, disease, ignorance, and
exploitation.
49
They reassured their membership that the abolition of this sub-
human condition is the paramount concern of government, and in order to assist
the government in this matter, the party sought to provide an effective instrument
for reform political action for every Filipino worker who desires to participate in
the dialogue of power.
50
The LMs political weight would enable workers, the leader-
ship claimed, to press for reforms and to secure a remedy to squalor and exploitation.
44 CUSDPR, 896.062/12-462.
45 The most notable absence from its membership was Tans FFW.
46 MC, 3 Aug. 1963.
47 Fuller, A movement divided, p. 16; Alfredo N. Jr. Salanga, The politics of labor,Asia Philippines
Leader, 16 June 1972, p. 66.
48 Jose Ma. Sison, Ka Felixberto BertOlalia: Hero and martyr of the working class and the Filipino
people, Aug. 2003.
49 Lapiang Manggagawa, Lapiang Manggagawa Platform,Progressive Review 1, 58 (1963).
50 Ibid., p. 58.
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Yet even in this founding document, as the political leadership elbowed its way into
the dialogue of power, cleared its throat and spoke, it was not with the voice of the
workers. Their language was that of nationalism and their interests those of the
bosses:
We believe in the inviolability of the national will and in the primacy of the Filipino in
his own country We shall, therefore, work for the adoption and enforcement of pol-
icies and measures designed to decolonize the economy by shifting control and direction
of our economic life from alien to Filipino hands. Filipino businessmen and industrialists
shall be guaranteed protection against foreign domination.
51
The programme continued, Major emphasis shall be placed upon basic industrial-
ization. Industrialization is the key to the economy of plenty.This industrialisation in
the hands of Filipino capitalists should be funded by native resources, but [f]oreign
aid, in the form of long term loans on reasonable terms, and without strings attached
shall be sought for.
52
Protectionism, state support for native business interests, and the forcible transfer
of ownership from aliento Filipino capitaliststhese were the planks of the pro-
gramme of the WorkersParty. There was no mention of a minimum wage, of collect-
ive bargaining rights, of job safety, reduced hours, benefits, retirement, affordable
health care or housing; nothing in fact which touched upon the squalor and exploit-
ation of the working class. Only one item in the programme directly targeted workers
in any way and this was the chauvinist demand for the Filipinisation of labor, that is,
for jobs to be taken away from Chinese immigrants.
53
The programme blandly
claimed that these pro-business policies would make the benefits of nationalism per-
meate down to the masses, something which would be effected by combining a pre-
dominantly native private enterprise with the necessary measures to correct existing
economic disparities.
54
The leadership continued its dialogue, declaring that the gap between the few
who are rich and the many who are poorhad become perilous.
55
For the workers
organised in this new party, the gap between the rich and the poor could be accurately
termed exploitativeas well as indicative of the irrational character of capitalism, but
this was not how the LM leadership saw the state of affairs. The adjective exposed
their alignment. Stark social inequality raises the spectre of revolution; it is perilous
precisely from the vantage point of the ruling class, for it is their interests which
are imperiled.
Succinctly, the LM called for a programme of capitalist industrialisation under
private Filipino ownership, funded and protected by the state, with additional support
secured through foreign loans. This programme, they claimed, would secure the
51 Ibid., p. 60.
52 Ibid., p. 61.
53 The founding document attempted to make an additional appeal to the masses when it declared that
Land for the landless shall be transformed from a slogan to seduce votes into a concrete program of land
reform(ibid., p. 59), but not another word was written about this.
54 Ibid., p. 60.
55 Ibid, p. 61.
238 JOSEPH SCALICE
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fullest measure of social justice and nationalist protection to all Filipinos.
56
The LM
programme sought to bring the trade unions into mainstream politics. It was entirely
oriented to the interests of the capitalist class and it attempted to palm off this orien-
tation by assuring workers that the benefits of national capitalism would trickle down
to them.
The entire LM leadership was bent on using their newly established organisation
to curry favour with the ruling political parties. They had rival orientations, however,
as events would demonstrate. Oca was fiercely opposed by Macapagal because of his
intimate ties with the Lopez family, and he actively sought support from the
Nacionalista Party leadership for his mayoral bid, which had been confirmed by
LMs founding congress. Hernandez and Rafael would throw in their lot with the
highest bidder; they eventually went along with a merger with the Liberal Party
and received choice positions within Macapagals administration. Sison and Lacsina
had determined, prior to LMs formal launch, that they would use the new organisa-
tion to secure support for Indonesia from the Macapagal administration, and Cid
largely followed their lead. For every one of these leaders, the tens of thousands of
workers represented by the LM were just so much political capital.
Negotiations with Macapagal
The tensions at South Harbor were still simmering; Macapagal continued to
claim that the incoming private operator of the port would not be obligated to honour
the PTGWO contract and Ocas appeals before the CIR were still pending. Lacsina
called for a national strike of all LMs member unions to begin on 16 May 1963 in
support of the PTGWO, and then, along with Sison and Cid, carrying this threat
in his pocket, he formed a secret delegation to negotiate with Macapagal the details
of the political merger of the LM and LP, including the securing of appointments
within the Macapagal government.
57
The political stakes must be clear: an extended strike on Manilas South Harbor
would shut down imports and exports throughout much of the country too. Port
workers in the southern islands had demonstrated in 1962 that they were prepared
to strike in sympathy with their fellow workers from Manila. What is more, this
was a strike not against a private employer but against the government itself and a
port strike would thus bring workers into direct conflict with the state. A nationwide
strike in support of such a struggle under the influence of a Marxist leadership would
have immediately raised revolutionary political implications, but the PKP sought not
to further the strike, but rather to use it and suppress it.
Macapagal appointed Lacsina to be head of a conciliation committee which
included the Bureau of Customs commissionerthe man responsible for taking
away the port jobsand Justice Secretary Juan Liwag, who had drafted the argument
that the PTGWO did not have collective bargaining rights. The threat of a nationwide
strike of over 30,000 workers that would have shut down the ports, the banks, and a
broad range of industries, was not being mobilised to secure the interests of the port
workers or any section of the working class. Lacsina and Sison deployed this threat in
56 Ibid.
57 MC, 2 July 1963, 14; MT, 14 May 1963.
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order to end the political independence of the newly formed workersparty, to secure
salaried positions for the LM leadership, and to strengthen ties between Manila and
Jakarta.
When Oca got wind of the negotiations he was furious and publicly disauthorised
the LM negotiating team. Lacsina, Cid, Felixberto Olalia, Delia Medina, and several
other LM leaders signed a secret resolution with Macapagal committing to the
LM-LP merger.
58
Lacsina called off the nationwide strike just as the port workers
began picketing South Harbor on 7 May, for he and Sison had just struck a deal to
merge the workersparty with the government that the workers were striking
against.
59
They had deliberately isolated and betrayed the port workers.
By early July the secret deal was brought to public attention in the Chronicle,
which on 2 July reported that the recently achieved solidarity[of Ocas union
with the other members of the LM] appeared headed for total disintegration as the
reported secretcoalition being forged by some of the leaders of the Lapiang
Manggagawa(Workers Party) with the Liberal Party came to light.
60
Recently,
the article continued, a number of LM officials reportedly signed a resolution for-
mally coalescing the political organisation with the LP. According to reports, six
have already affixed their signatures to the document. Oca denounced the proposed
merger as a gross betrayal of the aims and objectives of the LM founding convention
on Feb. 3.
61
The eleven-member LM Directorate met at the D&E Restaurant on 23 July to
resolve the dispute with Oca, and Lacsina pushed for a vote to go ahead with the
merger. Oca responded that the coalition was too big a matter to be decided by
the directorate, the question should be put to a convention, but Lacsina responded
that there was no time to call a convention. When the directorate chose to go
ahead with the vote, Oca stormed out of the meeting and the remaining ten members
voted. Nine voted in favour; Hernandez abstained, with the understanding that he
would go with the majority.
62
In 2003, Sison dishonestly claimed that Oca was
expelled from the LM because of his arbitrary use of the name of the KMP for push-
ing his personal interest.
63
In truth, Oca was edged out of the LM in order to facilitate
the planned merger with the LP and leading PKP member Olalia was installed as vice
president to replace him.
Ocas aim throughout the strike was the furtherance of his own political interests
in his bid for mayor of Manila, and he used the strike to secure the nomination of the
Nacionalista Party as its candidate. As we will see, he used the strike as a thorn in the
side of the Macapagal administration to win the support of the NP, while repeatedly
lifting the picket lines to allow goods out of the port and ingratiating himself with the
business community. The Associated Port Checkers Union (APCU) of Hernandez
PTUC, a leading LM member, actively crossed the PTGWO picket line as well,
thus directly sabotaging the port strike too: Hernandez gave explicit instructions to
58 MC, 18 Sept. 1963.
59 MT, 8 May 1963; 14 May 1963; 17 May 1963, 11-A.
60 MC, 2 July 1963, p. 14.
61 Ibid.
62 Quijano de Manila, Labor enters politics,Philippines Free Press, 7 Sept. 1963, pp. 4041.
63 Sison, Ka Felixberto BertOlalia.
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the 325 arrastre checkers and 130 ship checkers in the APCU to cross the picket.
64
At
the same time Tans FFW scabs were being ferried into South Harbor on Navy barges,
and at the peak of tensions, Tan fielded 3,000 scabs on behalf of the Macapagal gov-
ernment. The scabs were not paid by management to work as most of Tans men were
not longshoremen at all. Rather they were paid to menace and attack the strikers. The
scabs approached the picket lines armed with pipes, clubs, and pistols. Because they
entered the port via military barge, they were not subject to search by the Manila
Police Department (MPD), which claimed that the Customs Police was responsible
for searching the scabs. The MPD meanwhile frisked striking workers and prevented
them from bringing any weapons to the picket line.
65
The striking workers were
repeatedly attacked. They fought courageously, but they were betrayed on every
sideby Oca, by Hernandez, and above all, by the Communist Party leadership of
Sison and Lacsina.
It is useful to consider the alternative course that the PKP could have taken.
Using the Lapiang Manggagawa as its political base, it could have worked to win
over the dock workers by supporting their strike, laboring at every turn to expose
Ocas duplicitous role. Every time Oca lifted the picket on behalf of sections of the
bourgeoisie, looking to further his own political ambitions, the dock workers, with
increasing anger, expressed their desire to continue picketing. The PKP could have
agitated among the workers against Oca, and having won over a base of support
through this campaign, it could have called for Ocas expulsion and the election of
a new leadership. The party could also have agitated among the other Manila unions,
particularly those related to the shipping industry, to support the striking dock work-
ers, and having won such support, it could have called for sympathy strikes.
Connections could have been cultivated not only to other sections of the Filipino
working class, but internationally. Workers on international shipping lines displayed
immense sympathy for the striking South Harbor workers, passing the hat repeatedly
to take up donations for them. These ties could have been deepened. José Hernandez
could at the very least have been censured by the LM leadership for instructing his
union members to cross the PTGWO picket lines.
Instead, Sison and Lacsina entered into a coalition with the ruling party, in the
thick of the strike, while the administration was actively suppressing the workers.
They sabotaged the strike to form an alliance with Macapagal. As Macapagal hired
armed scabs and sent troops to crack down on the workers, Sison and Lacsina main-
tained a stony silence. They did not issue even a tepid, pro forma criticism. They were
busy elsewhere, whipping up support for Macapagal and the Liberal Party. They
hailed his land reformdrafted by Washingtonas the emancipationof the
Filipino peasantry, and promoted Macapagal himself as a revolutionary.
66
Their
actions were an unmitigated betrayal.
64 MC, 31 July 1963.
65 MT, 9 May 1963; 4 June 1963, 10-A; MC, 13 Aug. 1963, p. 10.
66 This was clearly expressed, for example, in the introduction by Sison to Lapiang Manggagawa,
Handbook on the Land Reform Code (Manila: M. Colcol, 1963).
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The Strike
On 18 May, a CIR judge handed down a ruling that the arrastre service was pro-
prietary and the port workers thus had collective bargaining rights.
67
The Macapagal
administration refused to accept the ruling, appealed, and on 11 June a panel of judges
reversed the earlier decision and declared the arrastre service a governmental function
and any strike therefore illegal.
68
On 21 June, Oca appealed this decision to the
Supreme Court, and the workers continued their picket.
69
On 10 July, the strike turned bloody. According to the Chronicle, scabs threw gre-
nades or makeshift bombs at the picket lines. Three explosive devices were hurled at
the striking workers, injuring thirty-seven. Two workers were listed as seriously
wounded and the remaining thirty-five needed hospitalisation. The police arrested
a number of striking workers after the explosions, but none of the scabs.
70
By
12 July, there were almost a thousand soldiers, marines, customs guards, and
Manila policemen in battle formationon the pier.
71
Macapagals Finance Secretary
Perez held a press conference in which he stated that the bombings at the pier
were not that serious and just one of those things.
72
The next day, Oca met with Perez in the Labor Department office where he
agreed to a moratorium on the strike, and instructed the workers to unconditionally
lift the picket line for 15 days. Oca met with Larry Henares, head of the Philippine
Chamber of Industry (PCI), and Domingo Arcega of the Chamber of Commerce of
the Philippines, to assure them of his support for their business interests. Oca told
the press that he reached the agreement because he took cognizance of the adverse
effects of the current strike on the national economy, the consumers, the importers,
the manufacturers, distribution houses, workers and the cases of violence that have
given rise to death and injuries to the parties involved. He ascribed blame to no
one for the violence, stating that he had agreed to the strike moratorium to stave
off an impending economic crisis, and that he was subordinating the unions indi-
vidual and group interests to the general welfare. He had already contacted PCI
men to lend equipment like forklifts to the customs arrastre service to clear the
pier cargo jam. Oca then spoke to the striking workers, calling on them to sacrifice
a little more for the sake of public interest, and told the workers, there is no reason
for us not to lift the picket lines upon the request of a responsible segment of our
society.
73
The strength of the strike rested in its economic impact and with each lifting of
the pickets Oca crippled the workers power. On 27 July Oca convened the workers to
discuss the resumption of the strike. The 15-day moratorium he had called was about
to expire and the backed up goods had been cleared out by scab labor which had been
67 MT, 19 May 1963. My account of the strike is based on a reconstruction of events using daily reports
in the Manila Times,Manila Bulletin, and Manila Chronicle. The MC dedicated the most space to the
events, and my citations are primarily drawn from its pages. I bring in material from the Times and
the Bulletin where necessary to supplement the MCs account.
68 MT, 12 Jun 1963.
69 Manilas Port Strike, p. 237.
70 MC, 11 July 1963, pp. 1, 16.
71 MC, 13 July 1963, p. 4.
72 MC, 12 July 1963.
73 MC, 14 July 1963, p. 8.
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allowed to move them off the port by Oca. Oca presented the workers with a com-
promise settlement which had been offered by the Macapagal administration. Half
of the pier jobs would go to scabs and half of the striking workers would get their
jobs back. The workers were furious; they were quoted in the Chronicle as saying,
We will have the whole piers or none at all.
74
On 28 July, Oca announced to the
press that he was extending the cessation of picketing for another week, and after
holding the press conference he informed the workers of this. One week later, on 2
August, Oca announced that the PTGWO was resuming picketing. It was clear that
he could no longer restrain the striking workers. He told the press of the resumed
picketing in a joint announcement held with Finance Secretary Perez, in which
both Perez and Oca assured the press that the mediation panel was succeeding,
and had nearly reached a compromise agreement. At the same press conference,
Oca announced that he was still planning on running for mayor on the LM ticket.
He denounced the rest of the LM leadership as traitors for entering a deal with the
LP.
75
This was the context in which on 6 August the LM merged with the LP, and
Lacsina and Sison endorsed Macapagal as the champion of the peoplethe port
workers seethed with anger at this, fueling the explosive strike on the waterfront.
The end of the independent LM
Over the first week of August 1963, Macapagal hosted the Manila Summit in
which he and Sukarno established an alignment of political interests in opposition
to the formation of Malaysia. The growing ties between Jakarta and Manila were pre-
cisely what the PKP, and in the background the PKI, sought in the political negotia-
tions which they conducted through the LM with Macapagal.
76
On 6 August, after escorting Sukarno to his plane at the conclusion to the Manila
Summit, Macapagal rode in a limousine from the airport to the presidential yacht, The
Chief, where he oversaw the signing of the LM-LP merger.
77
It was his first official act
in the wake of the Summit.
The meeting lasted for three hours. At its conclusion, a brief document, which
had been drafted by Lacsina, entitled Agreement to coalesce the Liberal Party and
the Lapiang Manggagawa (Labor Party), was signed by Ferdinand Marcos, then presi-
dent of the Liberal Party, and Cipriano Cid, president of the Lapiang Manggagawa.
78
The merger agreement stated that:
Aware of the epochal social and national reforms now being energetically carried out
under the leadership of President Diosdado Macapagal;
Believing that nothing short of the unity of all forces for democratic change can assure
the success of these reforms
Realizing that the forces opposed to reform programmes have banded together under the
banner of the Nacionalista Party;
74 MC, 28 July 1963, p. 3.
75 MC, 3 Aug. 1963, pp. 7, 17.
76 Scalice, Crisis of revolutionary leadership, pp. 15876.
77 MC, 7 Aug. 1963, p. 4.
78 Liberal Party and Lapiang Manggagawa, Liberal PartyLabor Party Coalition Agreement, Appendix
N in Macapagal, A stone for the edifice, pp. 4667.
A DELIBERATELY FORGOTTEN BATTLE 243
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Determined that the Parties must give utmost support to the current Five-Year
Socio-Economic Program of President Macapagal to hasten a life of abundance for
our people in dignity and freedom;
AGREE TO COALESCE THE PARTIES effective immediately upon the following terms and con-
ditions
79
Several points stand out in this summation of reasons for the merger: Macapagal was
hailed as energeticallycarrying out epochalreforms, opposition to which had
banded togetherin the NP; and the LM announced that it was giving its utmost sup-
portto President Macapagal. The terms of this support were outlined in the merger
document and included a commitment from the LM to collaborate with the LP to
secure electoral and public support, and to actively campaign for LP official candi-
dates. The LP committed to consult with the LM about appointments to government
offices relevant to laborthis was a promise of kickbacks; and the opening of two
slots on the LP slate for the Manila municipal board. Macapagal had already made
the necessary arrangements. Four Manila city councilors were present during the
meeting and Macapagal sought commitments from the councilors in the second
and fourth districts that they would not run for re-election, making their slots
available for LM candidates. He secured these commitments by offering one of
them part-time governorship of the Development Bank of the Philippines and the
other managership of the Social Security System.
80
Less than six months after it was founded, the Lapiang Manggagawa was no
longer an independent party of the working class. The Stalinist leaders of the
Communist PartySison and Lacsinahad traded this independence for an alliance
with the capitalist class and merged the LM with the ruling party, a move politically
useful to the PKP and financially lucrative to their bureaucrat partners.
On the same day that Macapagal and Lacsina met on the presidential yacht, the
Supreme Court handed down a ruling that the function of the arrastre service was
proprietary and the strike was legal. The Court ordered the CIR to hear Ocas unfair
labor practices case.
81
Oca once again offered to order his workers to return to work,
to maintain industrial peace for the protection of all concerned until the CIR has fully
decided all aspects of the labor dispute on the merits.
82
Oca led the workers in a
thanksgiving mass held at the Manila Cathedral early the next morning.
83
Perez
announced that the government was proceeding with public bidding on the arrastre
service though the question of the labor contract was not yet settled.
84
On 9 August,
Oca again ordered the striking workers to lift the picket lines, in response to an appeal
by the Customs Brokers Association who requested to clear goods out of the port. By
this point, the workers were deeply angered by Ocas repeated sabotage of the strike.
Oca announced that picketing would resume on Monday 12 August and told the press
79 Ibid.
80 MC, 10 Aug. 1963, p. 14; 11 Aug. 1963, p. 4; 1 Oct. 1963, p. 20.
81 MC, 7 Aug. 1963.
82 Ibid., p. 8.
83 MC, 8 Aug. 1963.
84 MC, 10 Aug. 1963.
244 JOSEPH SCALICE
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that he could no longer hold his impatient men, and feared what they might do when
pickets were resumed on Monday.
85
With the LMs authority behind him, Macapagal moved to break up the pickets
with physical violence. On Monday afternoon, the first day of the resumed picket,
Captain Salvador Yenko, acting general manager of the customs arrastre service
responsible for supervising all scab labor at the port, together with an armed cohort
of Philippine Military Academy (PMA) drop-outs, opened fire on the strikers, killing
twoRodolfo Navarro and Ignacio Villanuevaand critically wounding four. Yenko
had driven a black Ford into the picket line, running over one striker, and when he
could not get through the picket, he and his companions threw tear gas grenades
among the striking workers and opened fire. A group of five hundred scabs armed
with clubs and pipes immediately assaulted the picket line.
86
Perez suspended
Yenko from his position and the next day murder charges were filed against Yenko
and his seven companions. One of the murdered strikers had a twenty-two year
old wife and ten-month-old child.
87
Ocas legal team also filed murder charges against
MPD Brigadier General Eduardo Quintos and two of his officers for assisting Yenko
and the scabs in their assault.
88
Macapagal threatened to declare a state of emergency
at South Harbor, and seized the opportunity presented by the broken picket line to
send 120 Army trucks to collect goods from the pier. Oca appealed to the striking
workers to exercise sobriety, telling them to let the wheels of justice take its [sic]
course.
89
The NP leadership saw in the outpouring of public sympathy for the murdered
and assaulted workers a golden opportunity. With the LM-LP merger concluded but a
week before, Liberal candidate for Mayor of Manila, Antonio Villegas, had significant
union support behind his candidacy. The NP needed comparable backing. During its
primaries, the Nacionalistas had already selected Joaquin Roces to stand as their may-
oral candidate, but on 13 August, the top leadership of the NP met and decided to
have Roces withdraw his candidacy and to appoint Oca as the NP candidate for
mayor in his stead.
90
Oca staged a wake for the two murdered workers at union headquarters, with
their bodies on display, and the NP concluded a deal with Oca allowing them to
use the wake and the funeral of the murdered workers to make political stump
speeches against Macapagal.
91
In return they made Oca the NP mayoral candidate,
hoping that he would win over a significant portion of the labor vote from
Villegas. As late as 10 August, four days after the formal LM-LP merger, Oca had
still been publicly claiming that he was the LM candidate for mayor.
92
He staged a
political rally on the weekend prior to the Monday shooting, telling his audience that
85 MC, 9 Aug. 1963, p. 18.
86 MC, 13 Aug. 1963, p. 10.
87 MC, 14 Aug. 1963, p. 2.
88 MC, 15 Aug. 1963, p. 15.
89 MC, 14 Aug. 1963.
90 MC, 15 Aug. 1963.
91 MC, 17 Aug. 1963.
92 MC, 11 Aug. 1963, p. 7.
A DELIBERATELY FORGOTTEN BATTLE 245
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The so-called coalition between the LP and the LM is a political stunt cooked up by some
Malacañang stooges and a few administration capturedlabor leaders in a desperate
effort to salvage the floundering LP image in the city of Manila.
The farcical coalition has no sanction of the 1060 delegates of the LM convention and
the thousands and thousands of the rank and file of the LM who nominated us to be LM
standard bearers for the Manila mayoralty race at a duly constituted convention.
93
Three days later, with the NP offer in hand, he dropped his claim to be the LM
candidate for mayor and the last independent faction of the LM died seven months
after the partys formation.
On 14 August, 48 hours after the murder of the two striking workers, a small
coterie of NP leaders met in Senator Arturo Tolentinos Bayview Apartment pent-
house to hammer out the final details, and at 11:30 pm, Roces officially withdrew
his candidacy and Oca took the oath of membership in the NP administered by
Tolentino. A Chronicle reporter was present to headline the news in the next morn-
ings paper. Tolentino stated that Ocas candidacy was a manifestation of our support
for the labor movement and protest against the heartless negligence and indifference
of President Macapagal towards the pier strike and the deaths and injuries that have
been occasioned on the pier zone.
94
NP vice mayoral candidate Alfredo Gomez
would serve as legal counsel to the families of the two murdered workers, but Oca
announced that he was dropping charges against Brig. Gen. Quintos and the two
other police officers, stating that he had become convinced of the impartiality of
the MPD officers lately.
95
The next day, Oca issued an appeal to all workers in
Manila to rally behind the NP candidates.
96
On 16 August, Navarro, one of the two killed workers, was buried. Oca turned
the event into a Nacionalista Party rally, an opportunity for photographs and choice
quotations for the press; the NP senators delivered their stump speeches over a work-
ers corpse. The keynote speaker at the funeral was Macapagals estranged vice presi-
dent, Pelaez, who was campaigning for the NP. Pelaez announced that the two bodies
that lie in the piers are not the bodies of Navarro and Villanueva but that of democracy
and freedom they died so that we would understand there is much to fight for If
we who are living will have the guts and courage to fight this administration, they
would not have died in vain. Senator Roseller Lim then spoke, calling on all labor
to unite behind Oca. He attacked the LM-LP merger, by taking potshots at some
labor leaders whom he charged with having abandoned their companions when
such would suit their personal needs”’. Oca meanwhile appealed to his workers to
respect the legal process, [i]f our administration does not know how to respect the
law let us show them that we, the small workers, know how. We could achieve our
ends and get justice by always going through the legal processes.
97
93 Ibid.
94 MC, 15 Aug. 1963, pp. 1, 15.
95 Ibid., p. 15.
96 MC, 16 Aug. 1963. Having lost the LP nomination to Villegas, Ramon Bagatsing began to campaign
for Oca; MC, 13 Oct. 1963.
97 MC, 17 Aug. 1963, p. 9.
246 JOSEPH SCALICE
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Lacsina and the LM moved to shore up the President in the face of these criti-
cisms. Cesar de Leon, NATUs executive vice president, issued a public letter stating
that the labor organisations composing Lapiang Manggagawa are unreservedly lend-
ing their support to the Macapagal Administration in the forthcoming elections.
98
The LM leadership busily set about putting this into practice. On 22 August,
Macapagal met for an extended lunch with LMs leadership to discuss election
work prior to his campaign foray into the Visayas.
99
The day after the funeral stump speeches, Oca issued another statement, With
the president washing his hands of our struggle for justice, we have to rely on the
slow judicial process but as long as you are behind me, we will win this fight.
You are only on vacation with pay.
100
The callousness of this statement is staggering.
Oca was referring to a pending PTGWO legal petition for the workers to receive back
wages during the strike. The workers were not receiving strike pay nor were they on
vacation. They were courageously manning a picket line at which they were routinely
assaulted, and some were in fact starving.
In mid-August, the body of a striker was found floating in a kangkong (water
spinach) pond not far from his home in Bacoor. He had collapsed while gathering
edible leaves to feed his starving family.
101
Interviews with striking workers in the
1 September issue of the Chronicle revealed that many strikerschildren were no
longer able to attend school because of poverty; many families were relying on sup-
port from friends and extended family, and many, the Chronicle wrote, are on the
verge of starvation. Eleuterio Vergara stated that his one-month-old son died of hun-
ger during the strike. Martin Mondejar reported that two of his children had dropped
out of school and he was eight months behind on rent, saying Halos makakain dili
kami(We are almost not eating). This was not because the union did not have funds.
The Araneta family gave Oca over P10,000, ostensibly for the strike. Workers on vis-
iting ships took up collections for their brothers on strike. On 12 July, the crew mem-
bers of the SS President Cleveland passed the hat around and gave US$600 to Oca for
the strike. The International Transportation Workers Federation contributed over US
$2,000 to the strike.
102
On 16 September Oca was accused in a number of press
accounts of spending some of the money donated on the construction of a private
swimming pool.
103
A large portion of the funds likely went to Ocas election cam-
paign. What is certain is this: none of the funds made it into the hands of the striking
workers.
In early September, in the midst of the port strike, another explosive strike broke
out. Three thousand Philippine Airlines (PAL) workers in the Philippine Airlines
Employees Association (PALEA) union went on strike on 2 September. The US
Embassy had previously noted that a PAL strike would have a drastic effect since
the airline is absolutely essential for quick communication between the scattered
98 V. Cesar de Leon, Why Philippine labor is supporting the Liberal administration[1963], in Charles
TR Bohannan Papers, 29/18, Hoover Institution Archives, Stanford, CA.
99 MC, 23 Aug. 1963.
100 MC, 18 Aug. 1963.
101 MC, 1 Sept. 1963, p. 17.
102 MC, 18 Sept. 1963, p. 7.
103 MC, 16 Sept. 1963.
A DELIBERATELY FORGOTTEN BATTLE 247
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islands of the archipelago.
104
By 6 September, Pan Am, Northwest and two other
major international carriers were boycotting Manila because of the disruption to ser-
vices caused by the PAL picketing. Macapagal issued a compulsory back-to-work
order to the airline employees, threatening to use force if they disobeyed, but the
workers defied Macapagal, remaining on the picket line which blocked the roads to
the airport.
105
On 7 September, Macapagal ordered the Philippine Constabulary
(PC) to break up the strike. Armed with automatic rifles with bayonets affixed, and
accompanied by doberman pinscher attack dogs, the PC forcibly dispersed the work-
ers, many of whom were injured and hospitalised, and at least one of whom had been
stabbed by a bayonet.
106
Defense Secretary Macario Peralta met with union leaders
and they called off the strike. Regular service resumed at the airport on 10
September.
107
Throughout this pitched struggle waged by the working classas international
trade and internal communications were shut down throughout the countrythe
Lapiang Manggagawa gave its enthusiastic support to Diosdado Macapagal and the
ruling Liberal Party. Sison was instrumental in this. He used Macapagals land reform
programme, which converted sharecroppers into cash-rent tenants and which had
been secretly drawn up by the Ford Foundation, to promote the claim that
Macapagal was bringing about revolutionary change. Sison wrote the official govern-
ment handbook on the Land Reform Code, which was printed by the Macapagal
administration and which carried the name Lapiang Manggagawa on its cover. The
volume carried the dedication, To President Macapagal, For his relentless struggle
to emancipate the Filipino peasant.
108
Sisons introduction traced the struggle for
revolution in the Philippines in an unbroken continuity from the Katipunan of
Bonifacio, through the founding of the Communist Party, which encouraged
Commonwealth President Manuel Quezon to pursue a program of social justice,
to Macapagal, whose land reform programme was the resumption of the unfinished
revolution.
109
Portions of Sisons handbook were published in the major dailies in
September as part of a birthday tribute to the President.
110
As government forces opened fire on workers, bayoneted workers and brutally
suppressed the explosive class conflict of 1963, Joma Sison and Ignacio Lacsina played
a crucial role in stabilising bourgeois rule. They defused a nationwide strike, worked
mightily to foster illusions in the ruling class, and at every turn fought to prevent any
possible emergence of political independence in the working class.
The end of the strike
On 23 August the CIR ruled that bidders for the arrastre service were legally
obligated to honour the existing labor contract.
111
In response, Oca ordered the picket
104 CUSDPR, 896.00/8-2561, p. 5.
105 MC, 5 Sept. 1963.
106 MC, 8 Sept. 1963.
107 MC, 9 Sept. 1963.
108 Lapiang Manggagawa, Handbook on the Land Reform Code.
109 Ibid., pp. viii, x.
110 Inter alia, MC, 27 Sept. 1963, 3-A.
111 MC, 24 Aug. 1963.
248 JOSEPH SCALICE
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lifted even though Macapagal was still not allowing the workers to return to work.
Macapagal filed a request for clarification with the court, disingenuously inquiring
if the decision referred to the existing labor contractwith the PTGWO or with
the scabs.
112
By 29 August the striking workers were demanding to go back on picket,
but Oca appealed to the workers to give the government ample time to reconsider its
position Lets give the government a chance.
113
Picketing resumed and continued
throughout September, intermittently lifted by Oca in response to requests from the
business community. The strike ended abruptly on 26 September.
114
The Philippines and Indonesia concluded a US$200 million trade pact on
25 September, known as the Manila Memorandum.
115
The communiqué regarding
the deal stated, In view of the recent political events that have led to the severance
of economic relations between Indonesia on one hand, and Malaya and Singapore,
on the other, the Indonesian government has expressed its willingness to shift its trad-
itional trade from these territories to the Philippines.
116
The deal envisioned Manila
replacing Singapore as an entrepôt for Indonesian exports, but the ongoing strike
made the deal impossible. Macapagal replaced his customs secretary, and the new sec-
retary signed a deal with Oca within 24 hours.
117
The deal returned 75 per cent of the striking workers to their jobs, on three of the
four wharves of South Harbor, and gave the jobs on the remaining wharf to Tans
FFW scabs. Outraged that his men were not given the entire port, Tan and the
scab union went on strike the same day, shutting down the port again.
118
The govern-
ments treatment of the scab strike was far kinder than its treatment of the PTGWO.
No police were deployed, and no one was violently dispersed. The FFW strike grad-
ually broke up as the numbers on picket dwindled daily. Scabs apparently do not
picket well. By the second week of October the numbers had dwindled to less than
a hundred. On 12 October, the strike died and the PTGWO workers returned to
the harbour. Oca addressed the workers before they resumed their jobs, I want
you to work double time for the sake of national interests let us exert all efforts
to increase government income in the Bureau of Customs.
119
A quarter of the PTGWO arrastre workers lost their jobs at the end of strike.
Those who managed to return to work found their conditions and pay no better
than before they first mounted the picket lines. One in four of the longshoremen
with whom they now hauled cargo across the piers was a mortal enemy, a strike-
breaker, hired muscle who had sought to break them in the fiercest battle of their
lives. For the working class, the 1963 port strike ended in defeat.
The November 1963 election brought no clear victories: four Liberal senators
were elected alongside four Nacionalistas; Oca lost the mayoral race; and the LM can-
didates were all defeated.
120
After the election, Macapagal doled out the spoils to his
112 MC, 25 Aug. 1963.
113 MC, 30 Aug. 1963.
114 MC, 26 Sept. 1963.
115 Ibid.
116 Philippines Free Press, 5 Oct. 1963, p. 12.
117 MC, 26 Sept. 1963.
118 MC, 28 Sept. 1963.
119 MC, 13 Oct. 1963.
120 MC, 12 Nov. 1963.
A DELIBERATELY FORGOTTEN BATTLE 249
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dutiful support base in the LM leadership. He awarded Cid a seat on the influential
National Economic Council. Two of the five seats on the Social Security System board
of directors were given to Eulogio Lerum and Carlos Santiago. Vicente Rafael was
made a member of the CIR. Cipriano Malonzo was given a seat on the board of direc-
tors of the National Marketing Corporation.
121
Sison and the leadership of the Communist Party spent the first part of 1964
actively peddling their ally, Macapagal, to the masses. They used this as an opportun-
ity to build, with government funding and support, a new organisation among the
Central Luzon peasantry, Malayang Samahan ng mga Magsasaka (MASAKA, Free
Federation of Peasants). By the latter part of the year, as Macapagal sought to
renew happier ties with Washington, the PKPs alliance with the LP soured. Sison
and the PKP began shopping for a better deal, signalling to the Nacionalista Party
and its presidential candidate Marcos their availability as a political partner.
122
In the wake of the LP and NP conventions, the Lapiang Manggagawa fragmented.
While Sison and Lacsina were eager to strike a deal with Marcos and the NP, much of
the trade union apparatus, now comfortably ensconced in the LP administration, was
loath to break ties with Macapagal. Twenty-one labor organisations, with over 1,200
local chapters in more than 45 provinces, broke away from the LM to establish a sep-
arate political party, calling itself the Consolidated Labor Party of the Philippines
(CLPP).
123
The CLPP split from the LM because Lacsina and Sison were moving
to break the LM from its 1963 coalition with the LP in order to back Marcos. Cid,
ever the shrewd political operative, carefully played both sides as long as possible
before finally backing Marcos. As late as the middle of 1965, Cid was still occasionally
attending LP rallies.
124
Among those who backed Macapagal was Oca, for after Oca
lost in his bid as NP candidate for mayor, Macapagal quietly made peace with his for-
mer nemesis.
125
The impetus for the LMs break with Macapagal and alliance with the
NP came entirely from Lacsina and Sison. As they had orchestrated the merger with
the LP two years prior, so now they threw themselves into the campaign to strike a
deal with Marcos and provide the support of the working class to his party.
Sison delivered a speech justifying the support of the Kabataang Makabayan
(Nationalist Youth)the new youth wing of the PKPfor Marcos. He told his audi-
ence, While the Liberal Party and the Party for Philippine Progress are clearly reac-
tionary in their platforms the Nacionalista Party has manifested the most
protestation for nationalism. It is because within its ranks there are those who
121 Macapagal, A stone for the edifice, p. 220; Republic of the Philippines Official Directory 1965 (Manila:
Public Information [Press] Office, Office of the President of the Philippines, 1965), pp. 39, 49, 178.
122 Scalice, Crisis of revolutionary leadership, pp. 22639.
123 The CLPP formed under the leadership of Vicente Rafael, national president of the Philippine
Labor Unity Movement (PLUM), and Antonio Policarpio, national vice president of the National
Labor Union (NLU). The CLPP was officially founded on 17 Jan. 1965. Manila Bulletin, 18 Jan. 1965.
124 Macapagal, A stone for the edifice, p. 222.
125 Macapagal later wrote, In retrospect the struggle with Oca was an unfortunate phase of our
Administration. Coming to know Oca more later, whatever may be the truth about the imputations
against him, I found him to be a personable and intelligent labor leader. It was gratifying that he too,
must have seen at least the good intentions of the Administration for he backed my bid for reelection
(ibid., p. 218).
250 JOSEPH SCALICE
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would rather defend the interests of national entrepreneurs.
126
He delivered a similar
speech to MASAKA, while Ignacio Lacsina arranged LMs realignment.
127
Marcos
had the backing of the national bourgeoisie, the working class and peasantry needed
to lend them support.
As rival leaders tied one fragment of the LM to Macapagal and dragged another
behind Marcos, the organisation effectively dissipated. Remnants of its apparatus
remained in the hands of Lacsina, who attempted to resurrect the LM in 1967 by for-
mally changing its name to the Socialist Party of the Philippines, but nothing came of
it.
128
The Lapiang Manggagawa died in 1963.
I uncovered the existence of the port strike quite accidentally, while working care-
fully through newspapers on Konfrontasi, the tensions between Manila, Jakarta and
Kuala Lumpur and the creation of Maphilindo. That a protracted public event of
this magnitude could disappear is indicative of what can be lost even within the recent
historical record.
The rediscovery of the port strike demonstrates that for scholarship to uncover
the struggles of the working class in all their political complexity, in countries like
the Philippines where they remain largely undocumented, it is not sufficient to
read the archives of the state against the grain. It is necessary to approach those
of working class organisations with a similar hermeneutic of suspicion, to extract
the voices of the oppressed from behind the machinations of their leaders. This is
particularly true because of the domination which Stalinist parties, dressed in the
language of Marxism and the heritage of the Russian Revolution, managed to exercise
in the twentieth century. With every reorientation of their political line, often bound
up with the establishment of ties with a new section of the ruling elite, the leadership
found it necessary to rewrite its past. Leon Trotsky aptly characterised this process,
With every major historical zig-zag, they are compelled to revamp history all over
again.
129
When Sison and Lacsina allied the LM to Macapagal they betrayed the
port strike; when they shifted allegiance to Marcos two years later, they buried the evi-
dence. The courageous, life-and-death struggle of 3,000 workers who shut down the
port of Manila for four months in 1963 disappeared from history.
126 Jose Ma. Sison and Kabataang Makabayan, Stand of the Filipino youth, Aug. 1965, PRP 08/13.31,
p. 2.
127 Jose Ma. Sison, Nationalism and land reform,inStruggle for national democracy (Quezon City:
Progressive Publishers, 1967), pp. 67105; Labor Party breaks with LP,Philippines Free Press,
18 Sept. 1966, p. 97.
128 Scalice, Crisis of revolutionary leadership, pp. 31419.
129 Leon Trotsky, The Stalin school of falsification (New York: Pioneer, 1937), p. xxxix.
A DELIBERATELY FORGOTTEN BATTLE 251
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ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
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