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About Rep. Etta

AKBAYAN Rep. Etta Rosales during a Quezon City presscon

What’s Eating Etta?

from PDI Sunday Inquirer Magazine

First posted 09:56am (Mla time) Jan 23, 2005
By Pennie Azarcon-dela Cruz
Inquirer News Service
Editor’s Note: Published on page Q1 of the January 23, 2005 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
IT takes a lot to intimidate Akbayan party list representative Etta Rosales.

She recalls how, at the onset of martial law, she was detained for a month with the likes of former opposition Senator Jose Diokno, human rights laywer Haydee Yorac and columnist Amando Doronila. Since her husband Tony was similarly arrested-“for harboring a lawless element, namely me”-she was released “for humanitarian reasons” to take care of their two young daughters.

Confronting her military captors, Rosales demanded to be brought home. “You picked me up, you bring me back!” she barked. Muttered the two soldiers as they drove her from Camp Crame to her Cubao house, “Ma’am, this is the first time we ever brought a detainee home.”

So when the feisty former Social Science mentor sounded the alarm about being on the communist hit list, her claim got front page treatment in several newspapers.

In an open letter to Communist Party of the Philippines self-exiled founder Jose Ma. Sison, Rosales alleged that she and Akbayan chair emeritus Prof. Walden Bello were identified as counter revolutionaries in a diagram published in the Dec. 7 issue of the CPP organ, Ang Bayan.

Pointing to the “militarist nature of the Party,” the Akbayan official said she and Bello might be eliminated after being described as “enemies of the people.” Both Sison and Bayan Muna party list representative Satur Ocampo, who had worked closely with the CPP head as former peace negotiator, denied Rosales’s claims.

The open letter, timed to coincide with the 36th anniversary of the Party on Dec. 26, is the latest salvo in the long-simmering antagonism between Left-leaning parties Akbayan and Bayan Muna.

Ocampo says the general animosity “stems basically from ideological and political differences between the leading personalities in both parties, which can be traced to their previous associations prior to the parties’ formation.”

Student activism

It’s been a long association that goes back to the late ’60s, when student activism stirred up the political landscape. As a history and political science instructor at the Jose Rizal College, Loretta Ann Rosales found herself drawn to the Left after watching socially-conscious plays by the Kamanyang, Babaylan and PETA theater groups.

Too old to join the Kabataang Makabayan, she was instead recruited to the Humanist League, an organization for young professionals of the National Democratic Movement. “I was turned off by the teach-ins on Philippine Society and Revolution because of all the jargon,” she recounts.
“But I felt enlightened by the new ideas on nationalism and history.”

The shift to the Left was surprising for this daughter of Navy man Rafael Pargas, who later became an attache‚ to the US. “I wanted to become a WAC (Women’s Auxiliary Corps). I think I learned to march before I could even walk,” says Rosales, adding that at St. Paul’s College, a weapons carrier doubled as their school bus. She was smart but impressionable, admits this elementary school valedictorian. “The nuns at SPC so impressed me I wanted to be one.” Alarmed at that prospect, her father transferred her to the University of the Philippines where, as Rosales describes it, “para akong nakawala sa kural” (It was like I had been relsesed from a corral).

After graduating with a Foreign Service degree, she was soon writing copy for an appliances account. Marriage did not stop her from taking her MA in Asian Studies and later, Spanish, which she taught at JRC. Fired for leading a teachers’ strike, Rosales then became a regular at street rallies and demonstrations and a natural target for arrest when martial law was declared in 1972.

Released after a month, Rosales went underground “on and off” from 1972 to 1976, brushing off her husband’s vehement objections. “I told him, let’s talk about your problems later. Your job is to take care of the children while I do my political tasks.” They have since separated.

But she made one mistake, she confesses. “I went home because I missed my kids and the military picked up my trail.” This time, she and five others were tortured in a Pasig safehouse. “My students at JRC turned out to be agents,” she says ruefully. “While I was being tortured, they mocked me: ‘Buti nga sa ‘yo. Nilagpak mo kasi ako!’ (Serves you right for failing me!)” She underwent electric shock, sexual abuse short of rape, the Russian roulette routine and the water cure. Hot candle wax was also poured on her skin. “It’s funny sometimes what you remember during moments like that,” she recounts, shaking her head. “I was being tortured and I was screaming, ‘Ouch!’ and my torturer said, ‘Akala ko ba makabayan ka? Dapat ‘aray!’ ang isigaw mo. (And I thought you were a nationalist.)”

When she was released a month later, Rosales decided to work above ground, refusing the Left’s offer to assign her to the Visayas. “I wanted to take care of my little girls Rina and Richie.”

She went on to become founding chair of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) that led the protest against the Education Act of 1980. ACT, she says, contributed a lot to the passage of the Salary Standardization Law and spearheaded the first nationwide teachers’ strike in 1984.

Years before that, in the underground, she had met Joma (Sison). “Para siyang Diyos (he was like a god),” Rosales says of her first impression of him. When Sison set up the Partido ng Bayan during the first elections under the Aquino administration, Rosales was offered a senatorial slot. She turned it down. “My political instincts told me I was not ready for it,” she says. “If I run, it would be to win, not for mere propaganda purposes.”
(screenshot of original article appearing in inq7.net after publication in PDI)

Otherwise, Rosales adds, it was a cordial relationship. “I would go to Utrecht a lot as Bayan president (in the late ’80s) and Joe liked me because I was very militant.” The crack in her relationship with the underground Left started during the ’90s, she says, when the Left started its executions of suspected deep penetration agents. “They even wanted me to be part of the inner sanctum that would decide who’d be executed next, but I refused. Ayoko!”

It was when Sison launched his rectification campaign and zeroed in on several personalities as having fomented the discord that led to the Left split between the RJ (Reject) and the RA (Re-affirm) factions. “There were a lot of political differences but these were never discussed nor assessed. We got out but Satur and the others stuck it out,” she adds.

In 1998, she helped set up Akbayan, a multisectoral party of workers, farmers, professionals and women,that ran under the party list system and won a seat in the 1998 elections. As sectoral rep, she had to work with people she used to denounce. It was the biggest adjustment she had to make on the job.

The hardest lesson she had to learn, she adds, was that the Old Boys’ Network survives and thrives. “When I exposed the payola distributed to House representatives for them to push for the privatization of the National Power Corporation, they ganged up on me. Both the minority and majority came together and left me out to secretly pass the bill on electrification. They punished me for the payola leak by not passing any of my bills.”

Now on her third and final term, Rosales says she has realized the limitations of the country’s legislative institution. “It’s very weak and flawed,” she says of the House of Representatives. “You can only do so much so you must be anchored to the ground. You must maintain your links with the people’s organizations.”

And that’s another beef she has with the CPP, she adds. “The Party must allow the people’s movement here to have their own dynamics with the masa instead of imposing their own theories and ideology that may not reflect the conditions on the ground.”

Ocampo takes exception to that. “If that were so, there would have been mass resistance and failure. Precisely, it is the vigor and tenacity with which the people’s movement and its mass base put into practice the Party’s revolutionary theory and ideology that accouts for the survival, resiliency and advances of the movement over the decades.”

Rosales’ legislative battles pale in comparison to her intermittent and very public war with her former comrades from the Left. During the 2004 elections, she publicly condemned as extortion the “Permit to Campaign” (PTC) fees being collected from candidates by the New People’s Army, the CPP’s military arm. Though House Bill 6581 criminalizing the PTC didn’t make it through the Senate, she says she will re-file the bill “to safeguard and improve the electoral process.”

She has also been roundly scored by Bayan Muna leaders for allegedly taking the same line as the Armed Forces and National Security adviser Norberto Gonzales, who has described as communist fronts several party list groups, including Bayan Muna, Gabriela, Anakpawis, Anak ng Bayan,
Migrante and Suara Bangsamoro for their refusal to denounce the armed struggle.

Rosales for her part has accused the NPA of committing electoral fraud: harassing Akbayan’s supporters while pressuring local officials to vote for Bayan Muna. They also killed Akbayan barangay captain Boy Ocmen in Agusan for refusing to pay PTC fees, claims Rosales. “They’re killing us at the level where we can’t fight back because we have no guns,” she adds. “We are the enemy because we occupy space that they think belongs to them alone.”

He got no confirmation of Etta’s claim, says Ocampo. “The allegation that the NPA committed electoral fraud is absurd because the NPA did not participate in the elections,” he adds. “If the insinuation is that the three Bayan Muna representatives are NPA candidates, then that is taking the vicious Norberto Gonzales-AFP line.”

Another thorny issue that has the leaders of Bayan Muna and Akbayan butting heads is the compensation for victims of human rights violations during the Marcos years. Rosales has batted for the compensation of victims under other administrations, a move that “would absolve the Marcos dictatorship of its direct hand in the massive spate of human rights violations during martial law,” charges Bayan Muna Rep. Crispin Beltran.

Compensation bill

House Bill 3315 is seeking $200 million compensation for 9539 victims of martial law abuses, with the money coming out of the $683 million Marcos ill-gotten wealth already recovered by the government and held in escrow at the Philippine National Bank.

Gabriela and Bayan Muna representatives have threatened to block the bill because of what they describe as the exclusion of representatives for the victims in the compensation board that would screen the claimants. The groups want members of SELDA, an organization of Marcos detainees and their families, to be included in the board, which, says Rosales, “would constitute a conflict of interest.” The expansion of the bill’s coverage, she adds, is consistent with the 1987 Constitution that says the government must provide for all victims of human rights violations. “I’m not saying that the compensation for the other victims must come from the Marcos money; the government must look elsewhere for funds, but it must compensate all victims,” she stresses.

The infighting among party list groups-natural allies in the world of traditional politics-has definitely weakened their potential as a power bloc, observers say. Why can’t Rosales and Ocampo-both reasonable personalities-meet and resolve the issue once and for all?

Says Ocampo: “Both Etta and myself have talked about the differences, but we both know it is beyond the two of us to resolve them altogether.” For her part, Rosales says she has come out strongly against the armed Left to maintain the integrity of her work. “As chair of the human rights committee, I must denounce atrocities wherever they’re coming from, or I would be less true to myself.”

There is no truth, she adds, to talk among some quarters in the Left that she is attacking her former comrades to cover up for her husband’s alleged bout with corruption as a Customs official. “It was the Left that had him appointed during Aquino’s administration,” she says. “The issue was between them, I had nothing to do with it. But I recall my husband once telling me, ‘This Party is treating the government like a milking cow.’ I guess conflict erupted between them. My only issue with my husband is concubinage. Never in my life did I attack the Left because of my husband. I keep things apart. ”

She is as casual about warnings that the military might use her exposé of death threats as a convenient way to kill her and pin the blame on the Left. “Anybody who hates me enough can kill me and doesn’t have to use this as an excuse,” she says. To be sure, she has hired a security guard in her house shortly after she found computer-printed posters tacked outside her home accusing Akbayan of having enriched itself. “But I don’t want to attract attention,” she says of moving around without a phalanx of security detail. “If they kill me, they kill me.”

The fireworks are bound to continue even when Rosales leaves politics after her term ends in 2007. She hopes to return to NGO work, she says, “to pursue human rights work in any way I can.” Already, she adds, she has left a legacy of human rights bills, including those on reproductive health, the anti-discrimination of lesbians, an anti-death penalty bill, another criminalizing torture, and so on. But retirement from electoral politics should leave her time to relax and watch all those movies she missed. “The last movie I watched was ‘Spiderman 2.’ I’d like to see ‘Panaghoy sa Suba’ and ‘Mano Po.’ I love historical films and drama.”

Then there are her children and grandchildren. “My biggest regret was not spending more time with my children when they were growing up,” says Rosales. “I don’t regret being so committed; I just wish I had enjoyed my children more,” she adds, revealing a softer side that her fighter’s stance has often obscured.


AS AN ADVOCATE for the marginal and under-represented sectors of society, Party List Representative Loretta Ann P. Rosales describes her work experience as follows:

On the right of workers to higher wages and to self-organization.

1972. As a graduate student in U.P., I joined demonstrations that openly called for higher wages and security of tenure for the workers. These demonstrations were violently dispersed by Marcos troops. When martial law was declared, I was arrested and detained.

1976. Under martial law, it was considered subversive to organize. The only way to help the workers, many of whom were being arrested, tortured or killed for claiming their right to decent wages and security of tenure was to organize clandestinely. And so I joined the underground to help workers organize and issue out manifestoes for higher wages and security of tenure. I was arrested, tortured and detained by the military agents of the late President Marcos. Beyond the fight for the workers was the underground movement that sought a return to democracy by getting rid of dictatorial rule under the late Mr. Marcos.

On the right of the underpaid and overworked public and private school teachers to better wages and the promotion of quality education for both students and teachers.

1982. As President of the JRC Faculty Union, I led a six-month teachers’ strike that sought higher wages and security of tenure for teachers and non-teaching personnel who had been serving the college for ten, fifteen years and were still considered casuals without the benefits of tenured teachers. The JRC teachers’ Union Strike also included a demand for improving the quality of education for the students, especially in consideration of the night students who were working students from low-income families who could not afford higher education in state and private universities.

June 1982. I was elected founding chair of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers-Philippines (ACT-Philippines) which put together teacher organizations from state colleges and universities, teachers from private schools and teachers from public schools covering all levels of education. ACT-Philippines led in most of the teachers’ strikes under the Marcos regime and was the only teacher federation that coordinated nation-wide concerted actions among public and private school teachers nationwide. The improved allowances and increased wages leading to the standardization of teachers’ pay were results of collective pressure from Teacher with ACT-Philippines playing a crucial role during the time of Marcos and subsequent administrations.

On the right of the peasants for genuine agrarian reform.

1987. I served as Director of the Popular Struggles Commission (PSC) under the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan. Our BAYAN Chair then was the late former Senator Lorenzo Tañada and the President was former Senator Ambrosio Padilla. My task as PSC Director was to coordinate the multi-sectoral program of BAYAN for the marginal and under-represented sectors who were members of our organization — the peasants, the workers, the urban poor, the indigenous communities, the fisherfolk, the students and teachers.

We then joined the historical peasant march to Malacañang on January 22, 1987 to seek from the Palace the passage of a genuine agrarian reform program for the peasants. We were met by a rain of bullets from the Marines and policemen that saw thirteen peasants killed and scores of the them wounded. I was at the frontline of the march but fell down in the skirmish and was buried under the shields of the policemen. I was picked up in time as the rain of bullets met the marchers and we were forced to run for safety. Our march came to be known as the Mendiola Massacre.

On the right of the marginal and under-represented sectors to legitimate representation in Congress.

1994. I was elected as Executive Director for the Institute for Political and Electoral Reform (IPER). These were the following tasks undertaken by the institute with me as Executive Director.

1. Together with the Institute for Politics and Governance (IPG) and the Institute for Popular Democracy (IPD), we lobbied hard to the Enactment of the party -list law as provided for in the 1987 Constitution. In 1995, Congress passed RA 7941, the Party-List Act, into law.
2. IPER conducted a psychographic study that showed how 7 of 10 voters who were bribed with money accepted the money. Of this seven, four earned P5,000.00 and below. When asked why they accepted the money, more than half said it was because they were poor, two thirds admitted they did not understand why fraud was committed and a third said they were powerless against the commission of fraud. A summary of the IPER study was distributed in the 11th Congress.

On Working for the 9,539 victims of human rights violations under the Marcos regime.

1996. We organized the CLAIMANTS 1081, an organization of victims of human rights violations under the Marcos regime under the categories of 1) victims of involuntary disappearances; 2) victims of summary execution; 3) victims of arrest, detention and torture. I was elected as Founding President of CLAIMANT 1081. The organization was set up to provide services to 9,539 victims of Marcos’ abuses. In 1995, the victims won a historical and breakthrough decision in the U.S. Hawaii district court with a judgment citing late Mr. Marcos guilty of human rights violations and therefore liable for $1.9 billion exemplary and compensatory damages to the victims. With interest, the award is now worth $3 billion and is still being fought for by the claimants.

As advocate and House Representative in working for political and electoral reforms for the benefit of the marginal and underrepresented in society both at local and international levels.

1992. I was elected President of the Partido ng Bayan, the political party closely associated with BAYAN chaired by the former Ka Tani Tañada. As President, I focused our grass-roots oriented political party’s program on electoral reforms by pushing for the exclusion of CAFGUs as deputized personnel of the Commission on Elections. We succeeded in building a United Front Against the CAFGUs which included all the major political parties then: the LDP, the PDP-LABAN, the LP, and even political figures like then Senator Enrile. Before the 11th hour, I was able to meet with the COMELEC Chair, Christian Monsod, who promised me that the Comelec would deputize the CAFGUs and make sure they would remain in their barracks. We won our campaign because all sectors did not want the CAFGUs in place – not the political parties, not the COMELEC and not the marginal and under-represented sectors.

1998-present. I was elected as House Representative. Among the bills I filed for the marginal and under-represented sectors are the following:

1. Bill to amend the flawed party-list law.
2. Magna Carta for Public and Private School Teachers and Non Teaching Personnel
3. Absentee Voting bill for overseas Filipinos which has been passed into law.
4. Workers’ Bill to abolish regional tri-partite boards and transform these into a national structure for across the board wage legislation.
5. Land and Water Use Code that provides for the appropriate classification and use of land and water for the numerous sectors of society, ensuring that land for agrarian reform is non-negotiable and land for urban housing and reform is guaranteed and protected.
6. Human Rights bill to help measure violations of economic, social and cultural rights in protection of the marginalized.
7. Human Rights Bill to help set up International Criminal Court to give access for international redress of grievances for citizen victims in tyrannical states.


Office of Rep. Loretta Ann Pargas-Rosales

AKBAYAN (Citizens’ Action Party)

Room 511, South Wing, House of Representatives

Batasan Pambansa, Batasan Hills, Quezon City 1126

(63-2) 9316288

(63-2) 9315001 loc. 7289

for feedback and media inquiries:

rep_lapr [at] yahoo [dot] com

jvcruz_akbayan [at] yahoo [dot] com



1. Rodolfo Jardiolin, private citizen - February 8, 2007

Pure Liberal Democrats are good people. They are progressive. Malaking pakinabang din ng Bayan.

2. RJ - March 28, 2007

sa kasama ko sa Akbayan,

isa po akong taga-Partido ng Manggagawa, sana kung hindi man uusigin kami ng administrasyon ay tayo pa rin ang magka-sama sa loob ng kongreso..at sana sa panahon na yan ay ating ibubulgar ang mga pekeng partylist ng nag-dulot ng peste sa pagka-intindi ng masang pilipino tungkol sa mga partylist..mabuhay kayong lahat!!!!

3. Leo Abad - August 21, 2007

I’m an OFW and supports your non-violent and progressive struggle.

Mabuhay ang AKBAYAN. Keep up the good work.

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