Given their dim view of the current Philippine government, the protesters called on the people to join in changing “this kind of government and this rotten system.”
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA — In what appears to be a portent of things to come especially because of the spikes in prices of basic commodities and services, unions and organizations allied with the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) and KPMM (Koalisyon ng Progresibo at Makabayang Mamamayan) staged the largest, broadest and longest protest dubbed as national “Day of Outrage” yesterday, May 1 Labor Day.
The labor center KMU reported that as much as 25,000 participated in Metro Manila’s labor day program alone, which began at various markets and streets at 10 a.m., converged for a program at the Liwasang Bonifacio at 1 p.m., and marched toward Mendiola bridge at 4p.m., where the program was concluded by 6p.m. Allied groups in regions outside of Metro Manila also held simultaneous May 1 rallies and programs.
Other labor groups such as the Partido ng Manggagawa and Alliance of Progressive Labor also held separate rallies with hundreds of participants mainly in the National Capital Region. Other than the government-backed Trade Union Congress of the Philippines, most labor groups raised the demand for a nationwide legislated P125 across-the-board wage hike and slammed the regional wage boards for failing to respond to the needs of workers. Leaders of moderate labor groups shared a meal in a meeting with President Benigno Aquino III at Malacañang.
This year’s May 1 was the 125th commemoration of International Working Peoples Day or Labor Day.
Various shades of disappointment, disgust
President Aquino’s Labor Day “good news”, which consisted mainly of the president’s statement urging the regional wage boards to decide on wage increases, advancing by a month the public sector’s scheduled wage hike under Salary Standardization-3, and promising some temporary jobs, fell flat in most labor rallies nationwide.
“It would have been good news if the president certified the P125 wage hike bill as urgent,” said KMU chairman Elmer “Bong” Labog, who, although disappointed, said the “non-good news is actually not unexpected.”
To George San Mateo, secretary-general of drivers’ group Piston, there would have been good news if the president announced that he would order a freeze in the prices of oil products, or if the president scrapped the EVAT on oil and certified as urgent the proposed bill scrapping the Oil Deregulation Law. San Mateo said the Filipinos have got it worse under Aquino because the price of diesel alone increased from P32 to P49 while he is president, and the increases seem headed to continue.
To the peasant contingent in the Labor Day program, good news would have been implementing a “genuine agrarian revolution”, which, when combined with increasing the workers’ wages, would mean real change for the lives of majority of Filipinos, said Danilo Ramos, secretary-general of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas.