By LUIS G. JALANDONI
Member, NDFP National Executive Committee
The National Democratic Front of the Philippines condoles with the family of Fr. Jose P. Dizon, his relatives, comrades and colleagues, and numerous friends. His passing away two days ago deeply saddens us even as we draw strength and inspiration from his shining example of constant and fruitful service to the workers and all the oppressed struggling for freedom and justice.
Forty years as a priest of the people, always standing on the side of the oppressed in their fight against their oppressors and exploiters, Fr. Joe D never wavered in his commitment. It only grew stronger through the years. He became ever more creative and resourceful in building and fostering the various organizations and alliances for advancing the people’s struggle for national and social liberation.
Already in the 1970s, he headed the vibrant church movement. Basic Christian Communities – Community Organization, which spread throughout the country, developing communities which challenged the Marcos dictatorship. He became a leader in the Justice for Aquino, Justice for All (JAJA), and in the Nationalist Alliance for Justice, Freedom and Democracy.
A major achievement of his was the founding of the Workers’ Assistance Center (WAC) in 1995 which organized workers in the Cavite Economic Zone into unions and labor associations, despite the repressive actions of the reactionary government and the managements of corporations. Tens of thousands of workers benefited from the WAC programs. Complementing its main aim of organizing, were the Legal and Paralegal Assistance Program (LPAP), Labor and Gender Education Program (LGEP), Research, Documentation, Information and Publication (RDIP) and the International Relations Program (IRP).
Fr. Joe D organized the Clergy Discernment Program aimed at involving priests and nuns in the social agenda of the Church. In 1998 he was the convenor of Solidarity Philippines and the Kairos religious movement.
In 2001 when Oriental Mindoro was subjected to intense militarization under the fascist military of Jovito Palparan, ten battalions were deployed to the province and more than 30 activists had been murdered. Fr. Joe D acted creatively to help save 60 families targeted by the military. He offered the huge statue of Inay Maria for a series of processions which the military did not dare attack. During the processions the 60 families were brought to safety.
In November 2005, a year after the Hacienda Luisita massacre, Fr. Joe D led other priests in confronting the Presidential Security Group under General Delfin Bangit. The soldiers barred them from entering the parish church at the National Shrine of St. Michael the Archangel near Malacañang. Fr. Joe D demanded that the parish priest, Msgr. Ernesto Cruz, and his group enter the church and concelebrate the mass. Fr. Joe D prevailed over the objections of the soldiers.
Fr. Joe D was a prominent figure in numerous mass actions and became known as the official chaplain of the Parliament of the Streets. Among his latest involvements have been as convenor and spokesperson of the poll watchdog, Kontra Daya, and spokesperson of the People’s Movement for Change, PAGBABAGO.
On 13 September 2013, despite his failing health, he led the demonstration of the Abolish Pork Movement, warning President Aquino that the people could start a civil disobedience campaign. He declared, “The issue strikes at the heart of the corrupt system itself!”
On his 40th anniversary as a priest, on 15 October 2013, he concelebrated mass with Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle and Imus Bishop Reynaldo Evangelista. Shortly after, he collapsed and was brought to the hospital. A week later, he reiterated in an interview that all those years as a priest he was committed to the Church of the Poor. Indeed, he was always with the workers and other oppressed. He joined their just struggles against oppression and exploitation.
Through his unwavering, courageous, resourceful and fruitful service to the people over so many years, Fr. Joe D has left an inspiring legacy of service to the people. His noble memory, warmheartedness and revolutionary spirit will inspire the people in the unceasing struggle for social justice and freedom, for national and social liberation.