Workers thwart police attempt to stop Labor Day protests

Xave Gregorio - Philstar.com

MANILA, Philippines — Workers successfully mounted on Labor Day one of the largest protests in Metro Manila since the start of the lockdown despite attempts by police to stop the demonstrations.

Different labor groups converged at Welcome Rotonda in Quezon City to call for a P100 daily wage subsidy and P10,000 cash aid for the poor and jobless.

“Ang presensya namin mismo dito sa Welcome Rotonda ay pagpapakita ng aming matibay na paninindigan sa kabila ng kanilang pagkakait sa aming lehitimong karapatan,” Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) chairman Elmer Labog told Philstar.com.

(Our presence here at Welcome Rotonda shows our strong resolve despite being denied our legitimate rights.)

The protest led by KMU was originally planned to take place at Liwasang Bonifacio in Manila, but police were deployed there as early as 7 a.m. and told organizers that protesting is banned.

Police also blocked labor coalition Pagkakaisa ng Uring Manggagawa from staging a mass action in Mendiola in Manila.

In Cebu, KMU reported that dozens who were heading to a protest there were arrested for supposedly violating quarantine protocols.

“Istilong martial law ang pamamalakad at ginagawang excuse ang pandemic upang ipagkait ang batayang karapatan ng manggagawa’t mamamayan,” Labog said.

(Their governance is much like martial law and they are using the pandemic as an excuse to deny the basic rights of workers and the people.)

The 1987 Constitution guarantees the freedom of assembly, but the government has banned mass gatherings as part of measures to arrest a surge in COVID-19 cases.

Protesters essentially defied this rule in pushing through with their demonstration, but organizers repeatedly reminded participants to keep a safe distance from others, wear face masks and face shields, and to frequently sanitize their hands.

Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Gen. Debold Sinas said they support all “lawful and peaceful activities” on Labor Day, but discouraged militant groups from staging in-person protests and urged them to hold online protests instead.

In a news brief, the PNP claimed that the protesters they blocked in Manila “voluntarily dispersed and terminated their activities.”

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