BORACAY’s “landowners,” its ruling class as it were, have been aware of the two decisions of the Supreme Court, in 2008 and 2016, that declared unequivocally that the island is almost entirely—except for a few titles issued to private individuals in 1933—state-owned.* Even former Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban, who has been close to big business after his retirement, recently wrote April 15 a very enlightening column explaining these decisions. Government therefore can do anything with its property, like sequestering it from tourists.
This is the reason not a single Boracay land-claimant—the term the high court used to refer to people in the island who claim to own lands there—has filed a case to stop the island’s closure, as ordered by President Duterte in a remarkable demonstration of political will to enforce our rule of law.
Thus, I was surprised to read that a case was filed at the Supreme Court the other day asking it to stop government from closing the island from tourism for six months.
It turns out after I read the reports and did some quick research, that it is actually the Communist Party of the Philippines that is behind that move. It is intended to rouse the militancy of the islands’ working classes and even its upper and middle classes against President Duterte’s order to close it, by giving them a false hope that the high court will rule against it.
It seems to be another communist tactic—as they have done in so many cases, for example of squatters being ejected—to exploit any issue to fire up the masses and in this case even the “bourgeoisie“ in Boracay against government. Indeed, if the Supreme Court has declared that the island is owned by the state, then Boracay has been the country’s biggest colony of squatters, and they have even turned the island into, using Duterte’s term, a “cesspool.”
The big difference is that these squatters are very rich: Boracay’s “land-claimants” and resort owners who constitute the ruling elite of sorts in the island. By filing the case in the Supreme Court, the communists are in effect defending its ruling class against the state that is enforcing its laws.
The media reports on the Supreme Court case make it appear that Boracay’s “workers,” angry over the Duterte order, had filed it. The reality is that only three people were on record as the petitioners whom one paper identified as “Mark Anthony Zabal, who builds sand castles; Thiting Jacosalem, who drives tourists and workers; and Odon Bandiola, a non-resident who frequents Boracay for business and pleasure.”
Who are they kidding? The “builders of sand castles” in Boracay are mostly the “istambay” who mold castles and other figures out of the white sand at the beachfront resorts, in the hope that tourists would give them some change in admiration of their creation. Jacosalem is most likely a tricycle driver. Bandiola isn’t even a resident. Is he the handler of the two?
Those behind this clumsily fashioned narrative expect us to believe that these people, because they would be losing their low-paying employment, thought of filing a case at the Supreme Court, got on a plane to Manila that cost them P15,000 each, stayed in a hotel here, and contracted lawyers to do the legal documentation?
However, the people behind the petition— lawyers from the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL)—couldn’t resist being in the limelight, although they claimed they are just helping the poor workers fight the state.
Whether its members realize it or not, the NUPL is under the firm control of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) as much it controls the National Democratic Front, the New Peoples’ Army, and the underground Kabataang Makabayan. Check out its website http://nupl.net, and you will read about their activities, which are the usual agit-prop projects of Red organizations.
Its chairman Neri Colmenares was from 2009 to 2016 the representative of the principal parliamentary-struggle organization of the CPP, Bayan Muna. The adviser to its board is the current Bayan Muna party-list representative Carlos Zarate.
And its president? Lawyer Edre Olalia, said to be a cousin of the legendary Red labor leader Rolando Olalia, who was assassinated in 1986 allegedly by the military mutineers RAM, as a message to the Communist Party to back off from taking advantage of the volatility of that period immediately after EDSA 1. Olalia is on record as the lawyer of the NDF and unofficially of CPP founder Jose Ma. C. Sison.
In trying to block Duterte’s efforts to reclaim Boracay for the state, the communists in effect have become mercenaries for the island’s big capitalists, among them business tycoon Andrew Tan, who owns the Boracay Newcoast that accounts for 15 percent of the island’s total area, Fred Elizalde who owns the shopping malls there, and even foreign capitalists such as the Singaporean owners of Shangri-la Boracay.
As I’ve written in several columns, the communists here have long ceased to be Marxists or Leninist-Maoists dedicated to create a just society. They have debased the party to became a power-hungry organization, unfortunately for the country with a huge armed force, quick to seize every opportunity to fool the masses and to create the political volatility which they hope would allow them to slip into power.
*My columns on these: “Supreme Court 2008 decision: Boracay is state property,” Feb. 21, 2018, “Boracay: A watershed test case for the Republic’s rule of law,” April 6; and “Duterte: Boracay is government property,” April 11.