Workers score gov’t for suppressing labor rights
MANILA, Philippines — In coordinated Labor Day rallies nationwide, various progressive groups slammed the Duterte administration for using the pandemic “as an excuse to intensify suppression of the labor movement, Red-tag trade unions and peasant organizations, and thwart agrarian reform.”
The Philippine National Police said in a statement that there was no untoward incident in any of the Labor Day activities across the country, which ended around noon.
The PNP monitored two large congregations of protesters: around 700 at Welcome Rotonda, and around 250 individuals from Metro Colon going to Plaza Independencia in Cebu City.
Workers, led by the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), converged at Liwasang Bonifacio in Manila on Saturday morning for a labor-led protest rally, but the police were already at the venue and prevented them from holding a program.
The KMU contingent and other labor groups moved to Welcome Rotonda in Quezon City where KMU chair Elmer Labog decried the police action as a “hijacking” of their Labor Day celebration.
“Labor Day should honor workers but the PNP is insulting us by depriving us of our right to air out legitimate grievances. Liwasang Bonifacio is a freedom park and the police should back off. The protests will push through despite this harassment,” he said.
During the rally, the Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) demanded that the government redirect state funds to social welfare, economic aid and wage relief.
“At least 326 peasants have lost their lives to state impunity since Duterte came to power, many of them agricultural workers,” said Antonio Flores, chair of UMA. “That’s 326 reasons for us to call on the President to step down.”
The group of agricultural workers noted how the state allotted P19 billion from the nation’s coffers for the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, which is responsible for the “fascist suppression of workers and peasants.”
“We stand with the labor sector in calling for the P750 national minimum wage increase, which is barely 40 percent of the family living wage of P1,900. Not even the minimum wage of P537 in the National Capital Region, the highest in the country, can feed a family. What more the minimum wages of P200-plus in Visayas, Mindanao and Ilocos?” said Zenaida Soriano, chair of National Federation of Peasant Women.
Fisherfolk group Pamalakaya demanded workers’ protection against the pandemic, including a P10,000 subsidy, health-care services and other social benefits.
Former Vice President Jejomar Binay lamented that the country marked this year’s Labor Day with millions of workers out of jobs and hungry.
“At a time when workers need it the most, government aid is practically nonexistent,” Binay said in a statement.
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