Posts Tagged ‘Akbayan’

Herbert needs your help!

Three years ago, we began a campaign to save the life of Herbert Demos, now the SOCSKSAGEN coordinator of the Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL) and the Chairman of the AKBAYAN Division in General Santos City. His Medical Doctor forewarned him, then, of the impending collapse of his Kidney. His strong faith in God, and regular medical interventions made him survive without necessitating a kidney transplant. It is not anymore true today. He needs now to undergo a kidney transplant operation.

Herbert Demos, since December 13, 2010, is now confined in the General Santos City Doctor’s Hospital, one of the private hospitals in General Santos City, when sleep failed him for more than five days. After undergoing a comprehensive medical examination, his doctor said that a certain kind of virus has been invading his brain, resulting from his kidney disease, and that the only remedy to save his sanity, and, later on, his life, is for him to undergo hemodialysis to cleanse his blood and prevent it from further contamination.

Herbert, with much reluctance, submitted himself to a lifetime and expensive procedure and only a successful kidney transplant, a delicate and expensive medical procedure, could restore him to normal life, which, on his own, he cannot simply afford. Thus, in this crucial period of his life, he badly needs the help of his comrades in the struggle and his fellow believers in the just cause of the nation, both here and abroad.

Herbert is a man of extraordinary feat and determination. Within this last three years when he is terribly bothered by his worsening kidney disease, he still succeeds to catapult AKBAYAN and APL into a high degree of social significance in General Santos City and the entire SOCSKSARGEN economic corridor, with him in the forefront of the struggle to ensure the balance of local social forces and public issues. Herbert is presently playing a paramount role in the continuing economic and political discourses in this part of the country.

Today, AKBAYAN and APL compose a dominant activist block in this locality, in terms of number, participation in political and economic debate and in terms of public acceptance. While public support for other activist forces are speedily cascading down into the gutter, public support for AKBAYAN and APL is steadily and speedily pedaling towards the apex. In the last partylist election, the number of votes for AKBAYAN radically increased from more than 7,000 votes in 2007 elections to 19,000 plus votes in 2010. In sharp contrast, Bayan Muna failed to display its generational superiority when it miserably settled in the second slot, with its number of votes diving from 6,000 votes in the 2007 election to a little more than 4,000 votes in 2010.

Yesterday, Joshua Mata, of the Central Headquarters of APL, sent Herbert P50, 000 and, at the same time, sent a text message to him, stating and we quote: “We cannot afford to lose you, Comrade!” Arlene Santos, former Secretary-General of AKBAYAN also called to inform Herbert that she is facilitating help for him. So does Mayong Aguja, former representative of AKBAYAN in the House of Representatives.  The Office of City Mayor Darlene Magnolia R. Antonino –Custodio has also signified its desire to help.

Cash donation may be sent to:




Metro Bank, Matina Branch

Davao City





Account Number: 067-58-006328

One Network Bank

Lagao Branch, General Santos City

Below, we reproduce the article, which we wrote three years ago, on Herbert, detailing his life story and his exploits. We believe that it is worth our revisit so we may be able to appreciate the meaning of this man to his family, comrades and society.

Posted by:

Ben Sumog-oy

Columnist, Sunstar Davao/

Editor-in-Chief, The Advocati

Official Campus Paper of the MSU College of Law, General Santos City Campus



To all our Comrades, Friends, and Other Charitable Spirits:

Despite the crass materialism of the present, many still prefer a short but meaningful life than a long but meaningless one. However, the life of Herbert Demos is so wondrously meaningful – for the social movements where he belongs; for Akbayan with which he is a vital part; for our development institution here in General Santos City; and for his family (to his wife and one-month old daughter, more especially) – that we should help him in his yet sternest battle against a very powerful force for which alone he has no match. This powerful force is the fang of death that is now starting to devour his fragile body.

As early as 2003, Herbert Demos was recommended for a kidney transplant by his General Santos City-based doctor, Dr. Arnelia Bersales-Masendo. A frantic call for help ensued, after that shocking news. A campaign for help through the internet was initiated by his various comrades here in General Santos City.

Fortunately, our friends both here and abroad readily responded and sent cash donations to Herbert, with a promise to contribute more during the actual conduct of a kidney transplant. Herbert’s friends from SEACA, IPG, IPD, BISIG and from Akbayan all contributed. For its part, KAISAHAN, together with its network, sponsored a fund-raising concert which was dubbed as “Buhay at Musika” (Life and Music) also for Herbert. Resulting from this campaign, the contributions, coming from far and near, amounted to, more or less, One Hundred Thousand Pesos (P100, 000.00).

Herbert used this amount for his series of pre-kidney transplant examination, to include organ matching at the National Kidney Institute (NKI), with his sister who agreed to donate one of her kidneys. However, the planned kidney transplant was not pushed through after the NKI found it more beneficial for Herbert to delay the operation until Herbert’s kidney is already on the verge of collapse or before he is subjected to dialysis treatment.  Meantime, he was advised to submit himself to monthly medical monitoring and was made to regularly take prescribed medicines for the purpose of slowing down the plummeting of his kidney condition, which was at its irreversible state at that time.

When he was recently confined at the NKI (January, 2007), Herbert was told by his doctors that he would be fortunate if his kidney could sustain beyond a six-month period. So, he was advised by his doctors to make preparations necessary for the kidney transplant. The sixth month happens to be June, 2007 but Herbert, as we observe it, is not preparing at all and we know the reason for this: he ceases to think what he is not capable of thinking and of doing what he is not capable of doing. He just leaves everything to fate.

The needed medical interventions for him would cost over a million and we know that he cannot afford to have such a big amount of money … not even in his imagination.

Today, despite his physical conditions, Herbert is busy coordinating the Akbayan electoral campaign in the SOCSARGEN area with his motorcycle as his constant companion. He travels, sometimes snaking through communities over hundred kilometers away, for the purpose of consolidating Akbayan forces and allied organizations in preparation for the May 14 elections.

He is trying to show us that he is still well but we know, and we can see this in his eyes that the thing he fears of is just around the corner, ready for the kill anytime, anywhere from now. He is trying to show us that he can still do so many things for the party but we can already see the weakening of his body and how he struggles to continue with his self appointed tasks by merely taking refuge on the strength of his will and the formidability of his spirit.

Herbert’s physical being is steadily shrinking, melting like a candle and becoming bluish, at times. He is now suffering from unending severe coughing and sporadic fever attacks.

Lately, he suffered from an unexplained diarrhea. He is also constantly losing his voice.

We are not medical doctors and so we do not exactly know whether or not the present occurrences involving Herbert’s body are symptomatic of his kidney disease. However, there is one thing that we are quite sure of: Herbert is now becoming a fleshly caricature of one whom – if a timely medical intervention is not instituted and if God will not intervene – is about to bid us farewell.

But who is this man, called Herbert, who seems to pursue a collective mission unperturbed, until his disease would make him blue and his spirit would depart from his body for reason of his poverty? Herbert is a man of steel, hardened by life’s hardships and of his long-winding struggle for survival.

His life is, in itself, a very interesting story of how an indomitable spirit can survive the harshest trials, which characterized the vicissitudes of his childhood and his youth. Herbert is just 33 years of age and with an interesting story like his own, his life is one that should not be allowed to cease this early.

Herbert is the son of a married businessman in General Santos City to his house-help who, after becoming pregnant, settled to a mountain village in Malungon, Sarangani, to free herself from her parents’ fury. It was in that village where Herbert was born. In that mountain village too, Herbert’s mother married a very poor peasant and had so many offsprings with him.

Until, today Herbert refuses to see or deal with his father

When he was 5 years old, Herbert settled in one of his uncles in General Santos City to escape from poverty and from the drabness of rural life. It is in this place where he started his own personal struggle and his own story.

He was then a grade 2 pupil when he went away from his uncle’s home and lived by himself. He tried a life of a scavenger, of a shoe-shine boy, of a grass-cutter and of an unsalaried houseboy.  Few months later, however, Herbert returned to his uncle’s house to resume his elementary education.

Upon his return, his uncle noticed Herbert’s radical transformation. He was too dedicated to his studies. He can be entrusted of all household responsibilities. In fact, he later became a regular cook in his uncle’s house at a very young age.

After he finished his elementary education, Herbert worked as a stay-in cook in the house of Atty. Juanito Asencio and pursued his high school education, this time, as a working student. Later, he was designated as the household manager of the Asencio family where he took charge of mobilizing other house-helpers in the maintenance of cleanliness and orderliness in the house. He was also given full authority to manage the household budget. As such, Herbert did not fail to liquidate the household expenses to the last centavo, earning for him the full trust and confidence of the Asencio family.

This is a virtue that Herbert still practices at present as a civil society worker, as a social movement operative and as one of the members of the Akbayan congressional staff.

His great feat as a leader was brought to the fore after he enrolled as a college student at the Holy Trinity College (HTC), where he took up Bachelor of Science in Community Development. He was awarded as one of the most outstanding student leaders in the college and this ushered his eventual election to the presidency of the Student Council.

As the president of the Student Council, Herbert became one of the prime movers in the Student Council Alliance of the Philippines (SCAP) and in the Movement for the Advancement of Students Power (MASP). These students’ organizations were allied to the Bukluran sa Ikauunlad ng Sosyalistang Isip at Gawa (BISIG). They were to later on comprise the youth movement within Akbayan – the Akbayan youth. Eventually, Herbert was inducted as a full-pledged member of BISIG.

His membership to these progressive organizations ushered Herbert’s transformation from a conservative student leader to a radical one, developing activist positioning on various social issues and nurturing a transformative agenda. From then on, he was seen leading student rallies and demonstrations to address not only various school campus issues but also issues that relate to our country’s prevailing unjust social structures. He went as far as Cebu City to attend student rallies, where he also became a good media copy.

Today, Herbert is one among the few individuals in the SOCSARGEN area who has a full appreciation of global and national issues through Akbayan’s different lens of analysis and within the perspective of the party’s consensus, arising from its continuing narrative building work.

Herbert’s activism did not come without paying a high price, however. The proprietors of the HTC, headed by a retired officer of the defunct Philippine Constabulary (PC), began to implement an iron-hand policy against him for fear that; with Herbert around, the school campus could become a breeding ground for student activists whom they consider as anathema to the tranquility of the school campus. Herbert fought back by staging massive campus pickets, paralyzing classes for few days. He also availed of media interviews, exposing some of the unjust policies of the school management.

As a result, he was expelled from the school less than a semester before his graduation and he was later arrested, after having been sued for libel by the president of the school. He languished in jail for few days or until he was able to put up a 20,000-peso bail for his temporary liberty. The libel case is still pending for decision up to this day. However, acting on a separate case, the local court here has already issued an order directing the school to allow Herbert to finish his course, this time, for free.

However, since the order for re-admission came two years after he finished a four-year accountancy course from another school within the city, Herbert’s lawyer is presently working for the issuance of another court order directing the school to allow him to enroll, still for free, in any of its post-graduate courses, instead.

After his expulsion from the college, Herbert worked as a volunteer of a, then, newly-formed SOCSARGEN-based development and governance NGO, the Building Alternative Rural Resource Institutions and Organizing Services (BARRIOS). It was in this institution where he had proven his concern for the common good. For more than a year, without receiving any salary, he bested even the salaried employees in terms of outputs and the number of hours spent for his mandated tasks. He worked night and day consolidating communities and sectors and designing and coordinating rallies and demonstrations. He also had savvy for media work for all the activities, big or small; he was undertaking were given prominence in the local media.

When he was finally taken in by BARRIOS as its community organizer, Herbert became one among the few who were responsible in facilitating the participatory barangay development planning process, a project under the Barangay-Bayan Consortium, in 58 barangays within the SOCSARGEN area. He was the main person responsible for the formation of 33 POs in this same area and for the formulation of their respective organizational development plans (ODPs). He also made a prominent mark in the development and governance arena as a popular educator, para-legal practitioner, community consensus builder and as a social advocate.

For his feat, Herbert was invited to different regional, national and international conferences either as a facilitator or a participant with which he learned from the experiences of others and shares his own experiences with them. During the national conference of the different farmers’ organizations in 2003 at UP Alumni wherein he attended as one of the representatives of the Pambansang Katipunan ng mga Samahan sa Kanayunan (PKSK), Herbert participated in a farmers’ rally and landed in the headlines of one of the country’s leading national newspapers. His published picture taken during the rally (where he stood bare with slogans printed on his breast) was laminated and displayed in the offices of various civil society organizations working for the emancipation of peasants from the bondage of the soil.

Probably as recognition of his works, Herbert was made to attend some of the SEACA and SEAPCP-hosted activities – thrice in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; twice in Bali, Indonesia; once in Maluko, Indonesia and once in Hong kong Kong, which was undertaken in time for the WTO Fifth Ministerial Round. In Hong Kong, he was among those who coordinated a series of anti-WTO pickets and for which he, again, become good copy in the local Hong Kong press.

Today, as the May 14, 2007 elections draw near, Herbert is again spending time consolidating the various Akbayan forces in SOCSARGEN, unmindful of his steadily deteriorating physical condition. He is trying his best to perform but we know that he is now being slowed down by his physical limitation. We know that what is left with him now is only his indomitable spirit which is still powerfully propelling him to continue with what he does, despite the odds.

His wife, Inday, who presently works as a bookkeeper in our office, has told us once that it was Herbert’s strong injunction to sustain the food needs of their newly-born baby, Hazel Daphne, through breast-feeding. “I do not want her to become sickly like me”, she remembers Herbert saying.

When we lately paid him a visit at his residence, Herbert proudly showed us his baby daughter, saying “Guapa siya.” (She is beautiful.). Then, he said, with a smile: “Himuon ko ni siya nga aktibista susama sa iyang tatay.” (I will make her an activist, like her father).

We responded with an agreeing smile, while holding our tears for we are not so sure if Herbert could really be around to see her daughter, Hazel Daphne, grow and guide her in order that she can, in the future, become an activist like him. We are not so sure if Herbert has still the time left to pursue his inter-generational responsibility – the nurturing of his successor-generation.

His wife also informed us (and we witnessed this too) that, whenever he is at home, Herbert permanently seals his baby daughter in his loving arms and this he does as if there is no tomorrow. He envelops his baby daughter with his sweet embrace, as if optimizing the things he can still do to his baby daughter now which he might not be able to do anymore, anytime soon.

Herbert is a young man filled with dreams for his family and community. We believe that we can still snatch him away from the fangs of death. With 10,000 people contributing P1, 500.00 each, we can still save Herbert’s life; with 2,000 people contributing P750.00 each, we can still see Herbert pursuing his advocacies against society’s ills; with 3,000 people contributing P500.00 each, we can still see Herbert fulfilling his dreams for his family; and with 4,000 people contributing P375.00 each, we can still see Herbert rearing of his daughter to become a social activist like himself.

We appeal to all of you to help Herbert while there is still time.




In my previous article, I vowed to present detailed arguments to prove my thesis that the assassination of Vice Mayor Alexander Tomawis, who previously served as Mayor of the Municipality of Barira for three terms, was also the end of the processes of democratization in the troubled province of Maguindanao.

But as I subject the life of Alex Tomawis to deeper retrospection, it dawned on me that to measure his social significance using as a benchmark the stalled “processes of democratization” in the Municipality of Barira could logically result to the trivialization of his achievement and his dream for the Iranuns, and rest of Mindanao.

The cause that Alex Tomawis gallantly fought for his constituencies, during his life time, pierces deep into the core of the problem that besets the Bangsamoro Homeland for so many decades.

His was a battle to end the isolationist character of local governance in Maguindanao and the rest of the Island, with the Municipality of Barira and the two other municipalities comprising the Iranun Development Council (IDC) as venues of apprenticeship for democratic Moro governance.

Alex Tomawis believed then that, unless a type of governance that totally deprives the Moro masses any access to the processes of decision-making and secludes them wholly from any mechanism that provides opportunities for the people’s meaningful exercise of economic power, lasting peace in Maguindanao and the rest of the Island can never be attained.

His was a new type of a social revolution that intends to transfer political and economic power into the base of society by empowering the masses to optimize the untapped power of their rationality to take hold of their resources, decide for the processes of their becoming, and to freely chart their own destiny.

This is not as simple as we think it is, in the first blush. I know that Alex had realized this as he harped for his last breath after his fragile body was riddled with bullets. For the well-entrenched political warlords in Maguindanao, his is a revolutionary proposition for it intends to totally dismantle a social system and traditional practices that afford them unbridled political and economic power and benefits.

Thus, for the Moro Elite of Maguindanao, a person who works to transform this status quo is flirting with death. Alex Tomawis did, and so, as destined for one who bravely treads into this dangerous ground, is now “resting” in his grave, with his unfulfilled dream and unfinished revolution.

Tom Villarin, an Akbayan nominee who authored many occasional papers for Mindanao and who had long been in the forefront of the struggle for peace and development in this troubled Island, is mourning the untimely death of Vice Mayor Tomawis the way Mark Anthony did to Caesar. This is for a reason.

Above all else, Tom knows every facet of Alex Tomawis’ political exploits and perfectly appreciates every bit of his dream for his people. Tom knows how the fire burns in the heart of Alex Tomawis every time the fires of unrest visit the homeland of the Iranuns. His dream for his people is too noble to be forgotten.

I accompany Tom in his drive to immortalize the dreams of Alex Tomawis, so his people may be able to pick up the torch where he left it and to continue with his difficult journey … and so that he may not die in vain.

Like Tom, I was also privileged to be with this man, Alex, as he reels towards a dream of attaining development and meaningful peace in the municipality of Barira and its the adjoining localities, which constantly serve as a theater of war in the mainland of Mindanao. It was by working with Alex that I came to fully know the character of a man who would soon become a hero for the Iranuns.

I did not have the opportunity to see him beginning in the middle part of 2004 when I was forced by circumstances to voluntarily leave Akbayan and its development networks to undergo the painful processes of self-rectification and reinvention.

Although, I confess that there were times when I was tempted to text him for help when I was soaked in crippling poverty, the kind that almost shattered my family and snatched away my sanity. But, after I weighed things judiciously, I held myself against the temptation to preserve whatever “good impression” he had then on me.

Now that I begin to celebrate my success, and my feat, in preserving the unity of my family amid the cascading misfortunes, Alex Tomawis ended his story. It is also a pity that, at the very same time when I am about to rise from the rubbles and restore my social significance and my dream, he perished.

I happened to head a team of development planners which supervised a six-day practicum for the trainees in participatory development planning in the Municipality of Barira sometime in 2003. One night, while we were in a deep sleep, a loud explosion thundered. Still in half-sleep and trembling furiously, I quickly moved to bury my head on the cemented corner of the municipality (I am a born coward). A few seconds after that, Alex came to me laughing. Then, in a very assuring voice, he told me: “Ben, this is my place. We are safe here.” Embarrassed, I slept my whole night out, with his words serving as my comforting mantle.

Alex was right in embracing a thought that he was safe in the place of his birth and in the bosom of his people. However, he failed to perceive that he could be unsafe in a “safer” place, but away from the people for whose welfare and interest he eventually offered his life.

Previously, I made a solemn vow not to stop writing about Alex Tomawis until justice is served to him, to his family and to his people. But today I pledge to continue writing about this great man for a greater purpose, that is, to immortalize his deeds and his dreams for the glory of successor-generations.