By Laban ng Masa, October 20, 2021
Laban ng Masa Chairperson Walden Bello officially filed his papers to run for Vice President through an authorized representative in Manila today. Bello, a former member of the House of Representatives, is an internationally renowned expert in development and economics and a legendary activist against the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos.
Running under Laban ng Masa and Partido Lakas ng Masa, he is substituting PLM Vice Presidential candidate Raquel Castillo. He is teaming up with presidential candidate Ka Leody de Guzman to forward a comprehensive agenda not just for regime change but also systemic change.
Bello’s tenure as the Chairperson of the Committee on Overseas Workers’ Affairs from 2010 to 2015 was marked by his aggressive promotion of the welfare of OFWs that included his rescuing them from the civil war in Syria.
Renamed South China Sea West Philippine Sea
Walden filed the original resolution which renamed the South China Sea “West Philippine Sea,” and succeeded where Rodrigo Duterte shamefully retreated—leading a congressional mission and flag ceremony in the Spratlys in defiance of China.
He is also a firm critic of the military alliance imposed by the US on the Philippines and helped to forge Laban ng Masa’s stance of opposing all imperial incursions in the region in favor of a global commons-based approach.
Walden was a principal author of three landmark laws: the Reproductive Health Act of 2013, the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension Act of 2009, and the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013, which provided for the compensation of thousands of victims of the Marcos regime from the Marcos family’s wealth seized from Swiss banks by the government of Switzerland.
Bello describes the Marcos family as “leeches that sucked the blood of the Filipino people for 20 years and parked their ill-gotten gains outside the country.” He asserted that Bong-Bong Marcos’ candidacy for president is being “financed by this wealth extracted violently from the people.”
Confronting the Axis of Evil
“I have no other choice but to enter this fight against the greatest peril the country faces today, the Marcos-Duterte Axis of Evil,” said Walden upon filing his candidacy. He vows to vigorously pursue accountability against the Marcoses and the Dutertes for their crimes against the people, as well as put into effect his plan to take the country out of the neoliberal economic crisis it’s been stuck in since the Marcos era owing to policies imposed by the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and World Trade Organization.
Walden has been characterized by the government’s Philippine News Agency as “one of the staunchest critics of the Duterte administration.”
A storied activist during the martial law regime of Ferdinand Marcos, he organized a series of break-ins into the World Bank headquarters in Washington, DC, to steal thousands of pages of classified documents. This led to the best-selling expose Development Debacle: The World Bank in the Philippines that played a key role in rallying popular support against the regime. Noam Chomsky, the world’s leading progressive thinker, described the book as providing “remarkable insights into the policies of the World Bank and…the social costs of their experiments with people’s lives.”
Arrested multiple times by US authorities for civil disobedience, Bello led the seizure of the Philippine Consulate General in San Francisco in 1978. This resulted in his conviction and imprisonment by the US government when he and his co-accused refused to recognize the authority of the court at their trial, cursed the judge, and defiantly walked out of the court room, an act for which they were immediately apprehended by US marshals. Prison officials, however, were forced to release Bello and his companions from the San Bruno County Jail after they went on a highly publicized hunger strike out of fear that their example could provoke the prison population to riot.
Bello also triggered a chaotic scene at Washington, DC’s Kennedy Center when he led a disruption of a concert by pianist Cecile Licad attended by Licad’s patroness, then First Lady Imelda Marcos, shouting “There’s a fascist in the house,” pointing to the startled Marcos who was then holding hands with American pianist Van Cliburn at the balcony. Walden often used comedy as a form of protest, as when he donned the costume of Sesame Street character Kermit the Frog and tried to enter the International Monetary Fund with the late Charito Planas, who was dressed up as Miss Piggy, the two telling a bewildered receptionist they were Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos and demanded to see the IMF Managing Director to ask for a billion dollar loan.
During the EDSA Revolution, on February 26, 1986, Walden led the takeover of the Philippine Embassy in Washington, DC, expelling Marcos’ diplomats then turning over the building to representatives of the new government of Corazon Aquino.
Walden made the only recorded resignation from Congress on a question of principle in March 2015 after serving in the House of Representatives for six years. Bello’s party Akbayan was then allied to the administration of then President Benigno Aquino III and he resigned because he could no longer support Aquino. The reasons for his resigning a year before the end of his third term was to protest Aquino’s double standards, where the president tolerated corruption among his allies but used it as a weapon against his enemies; his refusal to accept command responsibility for the Mamasapano tragedy which led to the death of 44 policemen; and his entering into the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement with the United States.
An academic with a global reputation, Bello obtained his doctorate in sociology from Princeton University in 1975 and his bachelor of arts from Ateneo de Manila University in 1966. He is the author or co-author of 25 books on topics ranging from the political economy of the Philippines to the rise of the Right globally to the brewing conflict between China and the United States. He received the Right Livelihood Award (aka the Alternative Nobel Prize) in 2003 for his work in exposing the negative side of corporate-driven globalization and was named Outstanding Public Scholar by the International Studies Association in 2008. He has been called “the world’s leading no-nonsense revolutionary” by renowned Canadian author Naomi Klein. He was also praised “as the world’s best guide to American exploitation of the globe’s poor and defenseless,” by the late Chalmers Johnson, the world’s leading authority on East Asia’s economic development.
Bello’s books include Counterrevolution: The Global Rise of the Far Right (Nova Scotia: Fernwood, 2019), Paper Dragons: China and the Next Crash (London: Bloomsbury/Zed, 2019), Capitalism’s Last Stand (London: Bloomsbury/Zed, 2013), Food Wars (London: Verso, 2009), and Dilemmas of Domination: The Unmaking of the American Empire (New York: Henry Holt, 2005). Over the last 50 years, he has authored hundreds of studies and articles that have come out in many publications, including The New York Times, Guardian, Bangkok Post, Le Monde, Le Monde Diplomatique, Foreign Policy, Dissent, International Sociology, Foreign Policy in Focus, and The Nation. He is a regular commentator for Rappler, the online publication founded by Nobel Peace Prize winner Maria Ressa.
A retired professor of the University of the Philippines, Walden Bello is the co-founder of Focus on the Global South, the leading progressive think tank in Southeast Asia based in Bangkok that is affiliated with Thailand’s Chulalongkorn University. He is currently the Adjunct Professor of Sociology at one of the leading progressive universities in the United States, the State University of New York at Binghamton. A widower, Walden lost his Thai wife, Suranuch Thongsila, to cancer in 2018.