Labor Group Leads Protest on 100th Year of Trade Unionism

1 May 2003

Even as President Gloria Arroyo leaves the declaration of labor holiday to employers, the Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL) poured in tens of thousands in the streets of Metro Manila, Cebu, Davao and Cagayan de Oro today, May 1.Echoing the cries of their forerunner, the Union Obrero Democratica (UOD), the APL bannered the theme of this year’s celebration “Isandaang Taon ng Tagumpay at Pakikibaka: Wala Pa ring Soberenya, Sistema pa rin ang Problema.”

Josua Mata, secretary-general of APL, underscored the problem of US occupation, especially of Mindanao. “After asserting its superpower status in the Middle East by invading Iraq, now the US is set to keep the Asian peoples reminded of its dominance, by bringing in troops to the Philippines via the Balikatan 03-1. Of course, our own President Arroyo is shameless in inviting the US to our shores in exchange for the dollars that would never come,” said Mata.

“The US poses itself as the angel of death in allegedly fighting global terrorism, by prescribing laws in countries like the Philippines similar to the US Patriot Act, but that would in fact kill organized labor,” decried Congressman Mario Aguja of the Akbayan Political Party. “The anti-terrorism bills should instead be the ones killed in the legislature,” he stressed.

Such “mass killing of human rights and organized labor” is dramatized in a mass die-in by some 10,000 participants to the rally, which started at Welcome Rotonda. Various groups such as AMEND, Amnesty International, CATW, Bisig, Pandayan, Padayon, and Kaalagad, took part in the die-in. “We are lying down in the searing grounds leading to Malacanang, to protest the blatant disregard by this government of the fundamental rights of workers. DTI Secretary Mar Roxas even had to consider the proposal of the Filipino Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industries (FCCCI) and the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industries, for a ten-year moratorium on labor strikes and extension of the contractual period to two years,” according to Mata.

The multi-sectoral Task Force May 1 also criticized the “no permit, no rally” policy for May 1, saying that “this government has been consistent in trampling upon fundamental rights to organize and assemble, more especially since Bush, through its messenger Powell, invited us to be part of its unilateral campaign against terrorism.” Further, “The labor leaders Ka Isabelo de los Reyes and Ka Andres Bonifacio might turn in their graves as their very ideal of freedom — or Kalayaan — is being disparaged by this government.”

Task Force May 1 co-convenor Jessica Soto of Amnesty International stated that,“our freedom and our rights are under attack.” Referring to the Anti-Terrorism Bill, Soto said, “these ‘terror bills’ undermine the Filipino peoples’ legitimate struggle for reform and social equity.”

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