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Philippine police block thousands of May Day protesters

Philippine police block thousands of May Day protesters

Riot police blocked thousands of protesters who tried to march Tuesday toward President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's palace to demand higher wages and her removal from office for unresolved accusations of vote-rigging and corruption, police said.
Government troops and police, who were placed on the highest state of alert, had banned protests near the Malacanang presidential palace for security reasons, including coup rumors that have sporadically swirled in past years.
Riot police were deployed around the presidential palace and in a pro-democracy Roman Catholic shrine along the EDSA highway, where nonviolent revolts erupted to oust dictator Ferdinand Marcos in 1986 and disgraced leader Joseph Estrada in 2001.
More than 1,500 protesters led by the left-wing group Akbayan were blocked by policemen about two blocks from the presidential palace, police said. After a brief program in front of the police blockade, the protesters dispersed without any incident or arrest.
The protesters urged voters to be vigilant against possible cheating in the May 14 congressional and local elections, reminding them of accusations that Arroyo conspired with a top elections commissioner to rig the 2004 presidential polls, which she won.
Arroyo has steadfastly denied committing any wrongdoing during the election but has refused to answer the accusations in detail.
The protesters blasted Arroyo for trumpeting economic gains and claiming to have generated millions of jobs since she came to power in 2001, when large numbers of Filipinos remained jobless and those with work grapple with low wages and hard labor conditions.
Another group of protesters, numbering about 5,000, massed in a downtown Manila square.
The rally was briefly disrupted when an unidentified man, suspected to be a police intelligence agent, was mauled by several protesters.
About 3,000 of the protesters marched to the presidential palace late Tuesday but were also blocked by policemen. Led by the left-wing May First Movement, the protesters accused Arroyo of granting incentives to businessmen but neglecting lowly paid workers.
"The workers get nothing from Arroyo but crumbs," protest leader Renato Reyes said.
"They get starvation wages and are driven deep in debt to survive," he said.
At a gathering of moderate labor groups in Manila, Arroyo unveiled a package of benefits for government and private-sector workers, including salary loans, low-cost housing, scholarships and a newly built Manila budget hotel that charges 25 pesos (US$.50 cents, euro.37) for an overnight stay for poor transient workers.
Two jeeploads of poor suburban Manila protesters managed to reach at dawn the historic Mendiola bridge, a symbol of anti-government resistance about a block from the presidential palace. They laid a wreath at a monument to remember the victims of a 2001 anti-Arroyo uprising.
On May 1, 2001, thousands of supporters of Estrada, who had been arrested on plunder charges shortly after being ousted four months earlier, tried to storm the palace but were violently dispersed by soldiers. Six people were killed in the riots, which Arroyo called a failed power grab.


Updated : 2021-07-25 19:45 GMT+08:00