On the eve of the 20th anniversary of the ‘People Power’ mass movement of 1986, which brought down the hated Marcos dictatorship, Philippines president, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, declared a State of Emergency. This was ostensibly to head off an attempted coup from within the army.
Sonny Melencio of the ‘Laban ng Masa’ (Fight of the Masses) spoke to us from the streets of Manila on the evening of Friday, 24 February.
“There are 30,000 of us here at present. On 22 February there were 20,000 at the EDSA roadway (the area occupied for days by millions of people at the time of the revolt against Marcos in 1986. CD.). We were dispersed by police earlier today when we were trying to get to the revolution monument. Now we are in the wealthy business district – Makati. We have heard that a state of emergency has been declared which prohibits rallies but we are here in force!
“We know there have been some arrests of certain leaders in the army but we have heard from the group called ‘Young Soldiers’ who were due to join us. They seem to be carrying out some actions inside. Seventy five of our comrades were arrested earlier on the demonstration and they are being held, probably under the emergency law.
“The police have been beating us as usual and water cannon have been brought in. But we are used to this kind of thing; we retreat a little, regroup and fight back. There is action in other cities like Cebu but the main action is here. We do want to organise People’s Assemblies but the situation is not clear at the moment.
“The main demand we have is to oust Gloria, the president, and to change this elitist system. We are part of a Coalition which stands for the unity of all forces and demands economic reforms. We call for a ‘Transitional Revolutionary Government’ which may just put people in power who don’t want to go any further, but that is the next step. Then comes the next stage.”
Sonny then calmly explained the police had started a new attack and he would have to get moving!
The CWI will be keeping in touch with events on the ground in Manila and giving details of where to send protest and solidarity messages.
As we have always made clear, the CWI argues against government coalitions with the political representatives of the capitalist and land-owning classes. We fully support the Philippine workers and poor people in their fight for an ousting of the Arroyo regime and her crony capitalist clique. We argue for a workers’ and peasants’ government that would implement a socialist programme to end the mass poverty and misery that afflicts the majority of the population in the Philippines. We hope to have more material in the near future dealing with this struggle and its significance.