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On Bonifacio Day, protesters slam ‘gov’t inaction’ amid disasters, pandemic

Various sectoral groups across the Philippines took to the streets on Monday, November 30, to hold the Duterte administration accountable for its poor response towards the COVID-19 pandemic and recent disasters such as Super Typhoon Rolly and Typhoon Ulysses.

From youth groups to labor groups, protesters in University of the Philippines Diliman, Mendiola, Cebu and other parts of the country commemorated the 157th birthday of Andres Bonifacio, known as the Father of the Philippine Revolution, by voicing out against issues pervading the Philippines.

These often touched on the government’s pandemic and disaster response, as protesters tackled the plight of those left jobless due to the ongoing pandemic and the government’s efforts to quell dissent through its red-tagging campaign and the anti-terror law.

Socialista President Eding Villasin especially criticized “government inaction” amid the “overlapping crises brought by the pandemic, recession, and successive typhoons.”

Similar to recent mobilizations, protesters observed health protocols such as wearing of face masks and physical distancing to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. 

Quezon City

After staging their own protests early in the morning, a myriad of protesters from various sectors converged along University Avenue at the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman to lend their voices to the massive mobilization.

Bonifacio Day Protest

Groups led by labor organizations march at the University Avenue in UP Diliman, Quezon City on November 30, 2020, to demand aid and support from the government amidst the pandemic.

Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

Marching in solidarity, the protest at University Avenue reflected the different grievances that cut across those affected by the pandemic. Among those that joined the protest are progressive youth organizations such as Anakbayan, Agham Youth, and League of Filipino Students.

After students across the country clamored for a nationwide strike to hold the government accountable, youth groups took their protest to University Avenue to condemn the Duterte administration’s “criminal negligence” in handling the pandemic and recent disasters.

Bonifacio Day Protest

Groups at across University Avenue at UP Diliman, Quezon City on Bonifacio Day, November 30, 2020, to demand aid and support from the government amidst the pandemic.

Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

Different labor organizations such as Kilusang Mayo Uno, Partido Manggagawa, and Tambisan Sining also took up a bulk of the protest, as they called on the government to let trade unions be and to junk the anti-terror law.

Urban poor organizations were not left behind in the protest, as Kadamay showcased protest art depicting the state of urban poor communities. They also decried the government’s demolition of the houses of the urban poor.

Just recently, houses in Sitio Back-Matimco in Mandaue City, Cebu were nearly demolished after Mandaue City Legal Officer Nenita Layese declared their makeshift homes were in violation of the implemented rules and regulations of Batas Pambansa Blg. 220, an act that defines the regulations and standards in the construction of economic and socialized housing projects.

After clashes between the police and residents, the demolition has since been put on hold. Only the dumping of soil was completed.

Mendiola, Manila

With the labor sector at the forefront, different progressive groups called for the halt of trade union repression and red-tagging under the current administration through a mobilization along the Mendiola Peace Arch. 

They urged the government to come up with comprehensive solutions to address the working class’ grievances, which were exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Employers have been taking advantage of the current crises by terminating their regular workers and unionists and replacing them with contractual workers,” Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP) President Atty Luke Espiritu said in a joint statement with labor groups.

BMP urged the Department of Labor and Employment to issue an immediate moratorium on mass-layoffs and impose stricter regulations and verification processes to ensure that companies are not “exploiting the economic crisis to undermine security of tenure and unionism.”

Other demands include allowing the return to operations of provincial buses and jeepneys, price control for basic necessities, and decent safe housing, among others. 

Police were present as over 1,000 protesters were said to be in the mobilization, according to BMP. 

Cebu

Various sectoral groups such as the College Editors Guild of the Philippines - Cebu and Panaghugpong-Kadamay Cebu slammed the government’s lack of response and aid for workers and the urban poor through a protest at the Cebu International Convention Center in Mandaue City, Cebu.

They later moved their mobilization to the Department of Agriculture regional office where they were greeted by 6 police vehicles and around 10 non-uniformed police officers threatening arrest unless they disperse immediately.

Despite this, the protesters refused to disperse, asserting they were following physical distancing guidelines.

Los Baños, Laguna

Taking their strike to the streets, students from UP Los Baños (UPLB) advanced their calls to end the semester during a protest on campus at C-Park. UPLB student council and Anakbayan Los Baños led the demonstration.

They echoed calls from the UP community to end the semester, voicing out their difficulties given the online set-up, while denouncing the Duterte administration.

Aasahan ng UP administration na hindi matitigil ang mga kabataan hanggat hindi nakakamit ang mga demands natin. Nagawa na ito nila Bonifacio, kaya magagawa natin ito ulit,” said the UP Los Baños University Student Council.

(The UP administration should expect that the youth will not waver until our demands are fulfilled. It has been done by Bonifacio, therefore, we will do it once more.)

In solidarity with various sectors and organizations in the region, they later joined the protest in Crossing, Calamba, where they rallied against red-tagging, distance learning, and contractualization among others.

Cavite

Youth group such as Anakbayan - Cavite State University and farmers from Barangay Langkaan I, or more commonly known as Lupang Ramos in Pala-pala Crossing, Dasmariñas, Cavite protested against the forced eviction and demolition in the area for the construction of the Tuy-Dasmarinas 500kV Transmission Line Project. 

The project will involve the construction of 108 steel towers to be connected to a new substation in Tuy, Batangas. It aims to improve the transmission network in Southern Luzon enabling more efficient and reliable flow of power in the region. 

The protesters also called out on the lack of benefits and assistance to help the livelihood of farmers as their welfare is worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Batangas

Hoping to forward the issues felt by different sectors in the province, sectoral leaders led a forum near the Port of Batangas to discuss issues such as illegal land-grabbing and distance learning. It was organized by youth groups such as Gabriela Youth Batangas, Anakbayan Batangas, and Panday Sining Batangas in a bid to open discourse on the situation of concerned sectors in the province.

Participants later held a protest outside to demand for proper land distribution to farmers and more accessible education following pleas from the youth and peasant sectors. 

Angeles City

While observing physical distancing, several progressive groups such as Anakbayan Holy Angel University marched along the streets of Angeles City to denounce the government’s flawed response to the pandemic.

Baguio City

In Baguio City, meanwhile, several sectoral organizations such as Anakbayan Metro Baguio, Innabuyog-Gabriela Youth UP Baguio, and Kilusang Mayo Uno called on the local government to save the Baguio Market and “pursue development for the people” during a protest a Malcolm Square.

The Baguio government had earlier chosen SM Prime Holdings’ proposal for the city’s market development program.

SM Prime's P5.4-billion proposal includes a 7-story building and a parking component that would accommodate 1,900 vehicles.

Opposition groups earlier feared the approved iteration of the project was not environmentally-friendly and said it would favor the interests of corporations rather than the city’s citizens. – with reports from Bea Sancio and Russell Ku/Rappler.com