Philippines: from GLW archives. 2

Alan Bradley alanb at
Sat Jan 20 02:38:43 MST 2001

>From issue 414 of Green Left Weekly (

PHILIPPINES: Protest rallies violently dispersed

MANILA -- Protest rallies in Metro Manila were violently dispersed by
police and marines on July 24. The rallies were called by progressive
groups to denounce the state of the nation address (sona) by President
Joseph Estrada at the Philippine Congress.

As early as July 23, 15,000 police and marines were deployed at different
places near the Batasan (Congress building). The police swooped on two
groups that were holding a vigil and arrested their leaders. Police
officers went on television to threaten with arrest anybody who
participated in the next day's march on the Batasan.

The 6000-strong July 24 protest at Philcoa, the day's biggest, was attacked
with truncheons and shields. The rally was called by a united coalition of
different political blocs which dubbed itself the “People's Sona”.

The military used water cannons to disperse the crowd. When that failed, a
three-deep police phalanx lunged forward while another phalanx positioned
itself at the side of the street aiming rifles at the protesters.

Around 80 people were injured, including two who had to be rushed to the
hospital with head injuries. More than 20 were arrested and taken to a
police camp. The police also captured the truck that was used as a
makeshift stage, breaking its windows and destroying the sound system.

Television coverage of the rallies showed the consistently violent approach
taken by the police. Some media workers also suffered truncheon blows.

The People's Sona at Philcoa involved almost all of the political blocs in
the country, including the Socialist Party of Labour (SPP), Solidarity of
Filipino Workers (BMP), Movement for National Democracy (KPD) and others.
It was the largest show of unity on the Philippine left so far (previously,
the BMP would have held its own rally).

Bayan, an organisation associated with the Communist Party of the
Philippines, held its own rally, which was also dispersed by police.

Weeks before the rally, left groups held meetings to hammer out a “unity
statement” which was published by a mainstream newspaper on July 24. The
statement called for unity and struggle against the pro-multinational,
anti-people, militarist and anti-democratic Estrada regime.

One of the issues raised against the regime was the emergency powers bill
pending in Congress. The bill aims to impose a strike ban and a freeze on
land reform in Mindanao under the pretext of encouraging “economic

On July 17, Congress called a special session to fast track the passage of
the bill. Several left groups picketed the gates of the complex. Five SPP
activists managed to get into the session hall and disrupted the

The People's Sona also included relatives of hundreds of people buried at a
“garbage-slide” in Payatas. After slight rains, a 15-story garbage dump
collapsed and inundated an entire community of scavengers in the area. The
retrieval of dead bodies -- the toll is more than 200 -- continues.

In the aftermath of the July 24 attack, organisers of the People's Sona
called a media conference to condemn the police brutality. An “indignation
rally” was also announced.

The SPP issued a statement calling on all progressive groups to unite and
revive the “parliament of the streets” as the street demonstrations against
the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos were known. The SPP also called for a
broad progressive united front that would work for the ousting of Estrada.


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