APL condemns overkill response, warns government against using situation to crackdown on legitimate dissent

A protester hides his identity as he displays a placard calling for the release of Francisco Nemenzo, who was arrested at Thursday's siege on the Peninsula hotel, during a rally Friday, Nov. 30, 2007, in front of the Philippine National Police headquarters in Quezon City north of Manila. Fifty military officers and their supporters, including a former vice president, were under arrest and others were being sought Friday following a failed attempt to trigger a 'people power' revolt against the Philippines' president. The bottom text on the placard refers to Nemenzo's nickname Dodong. (AP Photo/Pat Roque)

The Alliance of Progressive Labor believes that the Manila Peninsula stand-off reflects the extremes to which elements of society, in this case the military, are pushed to express their grievances and legitimate protests against the excesses of an insensitive government.

While the APL is relieved that there was a peaceful and non-violent resolution to this day’s event, it will be misleading to think that this stand-off was isolated as that the issues that brought it about has also been solved. In fact, this incident only reminds us that there is a political crisis in the country and there are still questions of legitimacy and transparency that has remain unresolved to this day.

While APL does not support a military solution, but likewise any authoritarian response with the incident must be met with the strongest condemnation and resistance. Already the fallout shows indications of strong-arm tactics on the part of government including the arrest of civil society figures, church leaders in the area and media workers merely covering the event. This response is indicative of paranoia and insecurity, and it must stop.

Instead, APL dares the GMA administration to squarely face the issues that have continued to hound it to this day. Electoral fraud, the Garci wiretaps, the ZTE deal, extrajudicial killings are just among an entire list of controversies that have plagued this country. These issues must be resolved once and for all democratically and peacefully.

What this administration refuses to see is that the legitimate grievances of the people need resolution, and in its inability to take the moral high ground, it is using nefarious schemes to crawl its way through the end of its term. It is this ruthless determination to use force to silence dissent and opposition that gravely concerns APL on its commemoration of Bonifacio Day.

Workers, disadvantaged and oppressed under the weight of a non-responsive government more concerned with survival, have very little hope of attaining improved working and living conditions. The onslaught of increased contractualization has displaced millions of regular workers, deprive job security for even more millions and eroded our purchasing power with lower wages being rammed down our throats under the threat of retrenchment or dismissal. Workers will only continue to find it harder and harder to find decent work that affords us a living wage, a just share in the fruits of our labor and a respectable standard of life for our families.

Police block protesters marking Bonifacio Day, which commemorates a Filipino revolutionary hero, in Manila November 30, 2007. A few thousand anti-government protesters took part in a rally in Manila on Friday, a public holiday, but the numbers were a fraction of the tens of thousands that protested in the past. REUTERS/Darren Whiteside (PHILIPPINES)

During a political crisis, workers’ rights are the first to be sacrificed. Organizing and bargaining capacities are weakened, if not denied. Violence is directed at the trade union movement with leaders being harassed, intimidated, abducted, tortured or forcibly disappeared or even killed for speaking out and acting against the illnesses that a bankrupt government has imposed on us.

On the anniversary of Bonifacio Day, we warn against any violent means to curtail our right to express this outrage and take to the streets once again. Our mass actions aim to publicly proclaim our desire to acquire justice and affirm our continued struggle for the realization of our rights. The Manila Pen stand-off must not be exploited by a paranoid government to silence the issues that we seek to bring to the fore: decent work, living wages, organizing and bargaining rights.

Workers suffer the brunt of the lingering political crisis, with decent jobs becoming more scarce with an economy suffering from government malfeasance and malevolence. To erode the significance of November 30 with an authoritarian response would only be a sign of further desperation and refusal to accept criticism on the part of government. Workers troop to the streets on this day with the courage of an unwavering conviction to win for our selves basic rights as human beings. The government must respond, not with police brutality and dismissal, but tangible and concrete proof that it is in its final stages addressing the issues leveled against it.

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