Militants use Velosos in labor protest rallies
About 2,000 workers, students and activists marched on Friday from the University of Santo Tomas (UST) to Liwasang Bonifacio in Manila to press for higher wages and jobs at home to prevent Filipinos from heading into outright danger overseas.
The Labor Day protests coalesced around the theme of job opportunities in the country because of the case of Mary Jane Veloso, the 30-year-old Filipina who narrowly escaped execution in Indonesia this week for drug crimes.
The ralliers, carrying “Oust Aquino” and “Save Mary Jane” banners, placards and tarpaulins, spent more than an hour calling for the resignation of the absent President Benigno Aquino III, who was observing Labor Day in Cebu this year, and justice for Veloso.
There was to be no surprise package of benefits for the Filipino workers from the President this year. Instead, Mr. Aquino shared his elation at seeing the results of his government’s “straight path” policy, especially in job generation, during his two-day swing through Negros Occidental and Cebu provinces.
Mr. Aquino said his trip to the Visayas was worthwhile “because we saw the fruits of our efforts to uplift the lives of our Bosses. I am happy to see the results of the straight path, especially today, Labor Day.”
He said economic growth in the past few years had increased investors’ confidence in the country.
“The emergence of new businesses would create more jobs and give a better opportunity for more Filipinos to improve their lot. The effect is this: Government will be able to collect more taxes which would be the funds for more infrastructure and development for social services. This is what we call the ‘virtuous cycle,’” he said.
Renato Reyes, the secretary general of the militant Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, said the case of Veloso highlighted a “very severe jobs crisis” that forces poor Filipinos to go abroad.
“Filipinos are forced to work abroad because of the lack of opportunities in the country and the high prices of commodities brought about by privatization and deregulation policies,” said Roger Soluta, secretary general of Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU).
“People want Aquino out of power because of the dangers he has caused,” he said. Yesterday’s protests were led by militant groups KMU, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas and All Workers Unity (AWU).
Veloso and other migrant Filipino workers are considered “Bagong Bayani” (new heroes) but the government is not doing its part in helping them with the cases, he said.
“She was not given due process. It was only after her case was heard that she was provided with a lawyer,” Soluta said.
Overseas Filipino workers give life to the economy, they’re the reason why our economy is improving yet they are not given enough benefits and support, he added.
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