By Max Lane
MANILA — FILEMON, the Free Lagman Movement, was official launched on June 2 at the University of the Philippines. Filemon Lagman, also known as Carlos Forte or Ka [Comrade] "Popoy", was captured by agents of Naval Intelligence in Manila on May 26.
Lagman is the secretary of the Manila Rizal Committee (Autonomous) of the Communist Party of the Philippines, familiarly called MR, which leads worker, urban poor, women's and student organisations with a mass activist base of close to 100,000.
MR supporters and activists have held a series of pickets and demonstrations calling for his immediate and unconditional release. At the June 2 launch of FILEMON, more than 50 representatives of mass organisations and groups, as well as several prominent individuals, family and friends, attended to give testimonials to Lagman and to add their support to the calls for his release.
Among the signatories to a manifesto of unity for the release of Lagman are congressman Edcel Lagman, Filemon's brother, Renato Constantino Jr, the chair of the Manila East Timor conference, Senator Ernesto Herrera, Francisco Nemenzo, Ronald Llamas from BISIG, Arsenio Sy from PANDAYAN, Tony Cabardo from SANLAKAS, Sonny Melencio from MAKABAYAN, Arturo Tabara, a central leader from the progressive left in the Visayas region, Arno Sandidad and other progressive lawyers, and several trade union leaders. Renato Constantino Jr has accepted the position of convener of FILEMON.
The Manila Rizal Regional Committee also issued a statement calling for the release of Lagman. "We dare the Ramos government to show its sincerity in the peace process by releasing Filemon Lagman and opening up exploratory talks with the autonomous Manila-Rizal Party organisation. If Fidel Ramos is really for peace, then he should immediately release Lagman. Lagman's continued incarceration derails the peace process and slams the door to the negotiated political settlement as a way to resolve the long-time conflicts between the government and the urban-based revolutionary forces."
The statement condemned the government for arresting and jailing CPP leaders instead of initiating dialogue with them and for not coming forward with any policies that can address the root cause of the insurgency in the country. The statement declared: "Our openness to enter into peace dialogue is not in exchange of Lagman's release. First, it is our way of recognising that revolution does not automatically mean war and a negotiated peace settlement could also be effective in realising a substantial part of our revolutionary program. Second, it is also our way of recognising the people's clamour to pursue far less bloody and violent means to attain their demands."
The MRRC concluded that if the government continued its policy of arrest and jailing, then "they are giving us no option at this stage but to meet force with force."
More actions are planned by FILEMON, including daily pickets, banner drops, a letter barrage, petition and a major rally later in the month. Already more than 100 congressmen have signed a petition demanding Lagman's release.