The death of the Filipino workers’ leader Crispin “Ka Bel” Beltran is a sad occasion for the many New Zealanders he inspired. Ka Bel visited New Zealand on several occasions and maintained links with activists here.In his teens Ka Bel joined the guerrilla movement against the Japanese occupation. After the war he became a militant unionist and helped establish the KMU union federation in 1980.
He was arrested and imprisoned in 1982 during the Marcos dictatorship but managed to escape in 1984. In 1987, after the dictatorship was ousted, Ka Bel became leader of the KMU and remained in that position until 2003.
In 2001 he was elected to Congress and served three terms representing the most exploited Filipinos. He made good use of the parliamentary platform, filing 130 bills and resolutions - a record number for the House of Representatives.
He was also chairman of the International League of Peoples Struggles - which was comprised of over 200 anti-imperialist organisations.
Ka Bel was arrested in February 2006 and illegally detained for 18 months by the Arroyo regime. His release followed an international campaign to free him, including high profile protests in New Zealand last year during Arroyo’s visit to this country.
The Workers Party of New Zealand extends condolences to Ka Bel’s comrades and family on the loss of this tenacious leader. We are comforted knowing that his fighting spirit lives on in the mass movement in the Philippines today.