Thursday, September 21, 2006

Satur Ocampo goes online chatting

Earlier today, I was in a very interesting and lively online press conference remembering the 34th anniversary of Martial Law in the Philippines. It was my first time to be in an online press conference – and I’m glad that it happened today, when we are commemorating the infamous Proclamation 1081 issued by the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos on this date 34 years ago.

On September 21, 1972, former president Ferdinand Marcos placed the country under martial law. Even though he officially lifted January 17, 1981, the former dictator continued to rule the country until People Power 1 toppled him from power in 1986.

House Deputy Minority Leader and Bayan Muna (People First) party-list Rep. Satur Ocampo was the guest in the conference, a good choice for the occasion. “Ka Satur” (as he is more popularly known) was a political activist and communist rebel during the Marcos dictatorship. According to his profile in Bayan Muna’s website, he was among the revolutionaries who founded the National Democratic Front in 1973, which “sought to unite various anti-dictatorship forces.” This former journalist was later arrested by the dictatorship, tortured and detained for the next nine years. He was able to escape in 1985 and rejoined the underground revolutionary movement.

Ka Satur was also the spokesperson of the National Democratic Front during the 1986 peace talks between the government and the group. Today’s event was his first online press conference.

Ka Satur is glad that technology has now allowed him and others to express their feelings, something which was not available during Martial Law. “The feeling is great that we have a medium through which we can communicate freely and fast,” he said. Since the mainstream press during the dictatorship was curtailed and regulated, he and his other fellow activists “took recourse to an alternative underground press to assert our freedom of expression.”

“I welcome this new medium,” Ka Satur added, “since it affords me a chance to reach others I may not normally be able to reach.” Technology, according to him, has made it easier and faster for him to communicate with constituents, allies, and friends here and abroad.

Although he acknowledged the role new technologies play in helping him and others to communicate faster and easier to the public, Ka Satur also said that the mainstream media has become more accessible to the Left. “The tit-for-tat with our political adversaries,” Ka Satur explained, “is livelier with the wider media coverage.”

He also talked other issues as well, among them, the possibility of having a military takeover in the Philippines after what happened to Thailand. According to Ka Satur, the Philippines has a different political dynamics and historical experience from Thailand. “But what must be noted that the problems that plagued Thaksin were the same as those that beleaguered Gloria M. Arroyo – issue of legitimacy, corruption, political repression.” He added however that a military resolution of these issues is not the way, adding that the military played a big role in Arroyo’s sins against the people.

He also reacted to the non-appearance of Ret. Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan before the Melo Commission. Dubbed by the leftists as “Berdugo ng Mindoro,” Palparan was accused of being behind the killings of numerous political activists in the country.

“Palaparan’s non-appearance before the Melo commission may reflect a hesitation on his part about his status,” Ka Satur said. “Is he now a private citizen called to account for misdeeds as military offficer, or is he waiting for that promised new position in the government which he can continue to use as cover for his irresponsible statements that both the AFP and the President encouraged him to make against his perceived ‘enemies of the state’?”

When I asked him if People Power can really still be considered an option given the fact that most Filipinos seemed to have become weary of it, he said: “People power remains a possibility, given the unresolved political, economic and social crisis. I do not share the view that the people have grown weary of protest actions.”

Added Ka Satur: “We just have to work harder in mobilizing the people against the continuing acts of repression, including political killings, attributable to those in power.”

He was also asked if he’s running for senator in next year’s elections. “The encouragement for me to run for senator has persisted since my first term in the House” including offers of campaign funds, he said. “However, I am personally inclined not to run, especially because of the high cost of campaigning that my party and I cannot afford.”

Ka Satur also said that Bayan Muna is against the charter change plan led by Arroyo and House Speaker Jose de Venecia. “As per the plan the shift to a unicameral parliament will not solve the bane of traditional politics – the dominance of political dynasties and political parties that are mere cliques of trapos,” he said.

The last question came from respected Filipina writer Ninotchka Rosca, who is based in the United States. She asked what Filipinos who are abroad can do regarding the alleged political repression in the country. According to Ka Satur, the condemnation and pressure from abroad has prodded Arroyo to act on the killings. That shows that the Filipinos’ presence and vigilance abroad has spurred the pressure on the Philippine government to “take a decisive step to stop the killings.”

Joey Alarilla, a contributing editor for, was among the journalists who had attended the conference. Like what he had written in his blog, I also think that the conference showed that technology can help political leaders reach out to their constituents. “What makes this online press conference particularly significant is that it’s another example of how technology can be used to encourage political discourse and safeguard freedom of expression,” Alarilla wrote. “It’s particularly apt considering that Martial Law” sought to curtail these freedoms.”

I couldn’t agree more. In fact, in an article I wrote for the May 2006 issue of the PJR Reports about a recent Manila conference on free expression in cyberspace, I noted the attempts to stifle free expression in Asian cyberspace, even here in the Philippines.

“There is a new arena in the fight for freedom of expression,” I wrote. “This is cyberspace, a new zone where a conflict rages between those who promote free expression and those who seek to restrict it.” For my article “Governments seek to control ‘citizen media’: Cyberspace: The new combat zone,” click here.

Ka Satur’s press conference was said to be the first in a series of online press conferences by, a Philippine portal. Thanks to Bayan Muna media officer Tonyo for inviting me to the press conference. Many thanks to colleagues Venus and Don for “helping” me in the chat.

Ka Satur's photo from The screenshot of the chat earlier came from Alarilla's blog.


little light said...

online press conference? may ganon na pala ngayon?

bryant said...

@ little light

oo nga. hehe.

cyberbaguioboy said...

hi sir, it was such an experience to be able to chat with Ka Satur online. Definitely a first in Philippine Internet history.

here's a story I wrote for

I also mentioned you in my own personal blog. cheers. Mabuhay and Freedom of the Press!

bryant said...

Hi Erwin, nice to see you earlier in the chatroom. The event was really remarkable and very interesting.

Thanks for mentioning my blog in yours. Mabuhay!


Anonymous said...

hi im one of ur fan bcoz ur so very good in public speaking

bryant said...

thanks. too bad you signed in anonymously. i could have said my thanks personally. :)

Anonymous said...

congrats for having this info tech propaganda....para sa pagpapalawak pa ng ating para magsilbing inspirasyon sa mga makikihanay pa!

Union Of Peoples' Lawyers in Mindanao

Isabel Albano said...

congrats for having this info tech propaganda......para sa pagpapalawak ng ating para magsilbing inspirasyon para sa mga makikihanay pa.

Rizalist said...

Must be thrilling for you to talk to an accused murderer on the run from the law. Par for the Internet full of porn and scorn...did you really swallow it all hook, line and stinker?

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