Date: Thu, 25 Sep 97 09:55:53 CDT
From: Arm The Spirit <>
Subject: News On The National Day Of Protest In The Philippines
Article: 18653

News On The September 21st Rally

National Democratic Front of the Philippines, July 1997

Broadest Unity And Protest Hits Ramos' Charter Change

Marking the 25th anniversary of martial law, September 21, a multitude of Filipinos trooped to the streets—in protest over Ramos' proposed charter change (dubbed as Cha-Cha) and outraged by the grave exploitation and oppression under the ruling system.

The number of protesters easily reached over a million nationwide. It was the broadest demonstration of unity and protest since the EDSA people power revolt and military coup which toppled the Marcos dictatorship in 1986.

KMU and other national democratic mass organizations under the BAYAN (Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, or New Patriotic Alliance) held coordinated rallies across the country in unity with other political forces in saying No to Charter Change!

In Manila, BAYAN rallyists converged at the Liwasang Bonifacio where KMU Chair Crispin Beltran, together with other BAYAN leaders, burned an effigy of Gen. Ramos and Gen. de Villa before joining the protest rally called by Cardinal Sin and former President Cory Aquino at the Luneta (Rizal Park).

Marchers laughed off a bomb scare when the police found a petrol bomb along the BAYAN route. AFP chief of staff Gen. Arnulfo Acedera earlier warned that the reds would infiltrate and bomb the Luneta rally. The general was later condemned by an irate public. The protesters went on with their march and rallies.

A sea of colors, ranging from yellow to red, filled the park with well over half a million protesters. Estimates range from 600,000 to 750,000 at the rally's peak.

The rallyists came despite reactionary appeals to stay home and amidst a climate of fear and military threats of violence. A bombing wave around Metro Manila killed at least six people days before the rally and rumors of martial law quickly spread. Ramos himself threateningly said that he is keeping his options open.

The U.S., through special emissary Stanley Roth and Ambassador Thomas Hubbard, discreetly tried to moderate the political conflict. It compelled Ramos to repeat statements not to seek reelection and not to declare martial law. Ramos, however, failed to quell the people's rage. The nationwide protest commemorates the terror, detention, rape, torture, and poverty that has worsened even after the martial law of 1972 and the coup of 1986.

The Ramos militarist clique is isolated.

Nationwide Mass Actions

Nationwide protest mass actions were staged in major urban and town centers simultaneously with the Manila rally.

In Mindanao, about 100,000 rallied in Davao City, another 100,000 filled the Oval plaza in General Santos. Transport was paralyzed in Cagayan de Oro as 20,000 rallied in the city plaza. Another 20,000 demonstrated in Bukidnon and 10,000 more in Iligan. A rally was also held in Puerto Princesa, Palawan.

Throughout the Visayas, about 300,000 staged marches and demonstrations in Cebu, Iloilo, Bacolod, Tagbilaran, Dumaguete, Calbayog, Roxas, and Kalibo. Close to 150,000 filled the city streets in Cebu. Over 100,000 marched in Bacolod City, Negros. Other rallies were held in Kabankalan, San Carlos, Cadiz, and town centers. Protest actions continued the following day in Bacolod with a transport strike.

In Legaspi, about 10,000 joined the protest. Representative Wigberto Tacada joined the Lucena City rally. Up north, about 10,000 joined demonstrations in Ilocos Sur and about 5,000 in Laoag. In Baguio and in Tuguegarao, Cagayan, 10,000-strong rallies were staged. In Central Luzon, thousands also joined a rally in Angeles, Pampanga.

Unity And Struggle

Cardinal Sin said mass at the Luneta where a Commitment to Democracy was also signed to defend and pray for the Constitution. Cory Aquino commended Ramos for his good work but warned that, should he do his worst, we will do our best to stop it.

Former defense secretary Gen. Renato de Villa would have launched his presidential bid at the Luneta but opted at the last minute to be at Ramos' side. Opportunist politicians grandstanding at the rally were booed by militant protesters.

The protesters were particularly careful not to allow the Luneta rally to be used by Ramos to launch his clone, General de Villa.

Not in the rally were the unions of the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP), whose leadership is closely identified with the regime. The BMP of Popoy Lagman, in a paid advertisement, called for a general strike and wished for a general uprising but merely watched and did not mobilize. The social-democratic unions were present but joined their traditionally yellow crowd.

The predominantly middle-class yellow protesters dispersed after Aquino's appeal. The 50,000-strong BAYAN contingent, on the other hand, composed mainly of organized workers, peasants, women, youth, and students, marched on to Mendiola fronting Malacayang Palace. A thousand torches were lit during the march towards the evening to cap a historic people's victory.

There is broad unity. But there is also independence and deep militancy from the national democratic forces.

People's Victory

It is a resounding victory in the continuing struggle of our people, BAYAN secretary-general Nathanael Santiago summed up the nationwide protest actions.

Popular singer and actress, Nora Aunor, joined the Mendiola rally and delivered two songs to the delight of tired but jubilant marchers. We should continue the fight, she said amidst loud cheers from the rallyists. More songs and poems were delivered by various artists and cultural workers.

Peasant leader Rafael Mariano dedicated the victory to all revolutionary martyrs and said in the end that the Filipino people's struggle will certainly grow stronger.

Earlier, Jose Maria Sison, Communist Party of the Philippines Founding Chairman and chief political consultant of the National Democratic Front, sent his solidarity to the September 21 protest.

Charter change now or later will not bring any good to the people so long as those who make the charter change represent the exploiting classes, are beholden to the imperialists, trample upon civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights of the people and incorporate in the charter of the counter-revolutionary state provisions that further sell out national sovereignty and national patrimony, Sison said.

He also noted that the objective conditions for the revolutionary forces to grow in strength and advance are excellent. All that the leading proletarian party of the revolution need to do is to pursue and realize the correct ideological, political, and organizational line. The broad masses of the people are fed up with the ruling system, are desirous of revolutionary change and are willing to be organized and mobilized.