December 9, 2008
The Lakbayan ng Manggagawa begins today with the call “Baguhin ang sistema hindi ang konstitusyon!”(Social change not charter change!).” Around a thousand factory workers and urban poor will march through different parts of Metro Manila, make an overnight vigil and then merge with the farmers’ mobilization that will troop to the Batasang Pambansa tomorrow.
“The reduction in self-rated poverty revealed in the SWS survey does not mean the government is doing its job well. In fact it is doing its job badly and so the people are just reducing their standard of living as a coping mechanism. Rather than focusing on chacha in order to remove the protectionist provisions of the constitution, the government must instead prioritize protection for the workers and the poor so they could cope with the global crisis,” argued Judy Ann Miranda, secretary-general of Partido ng Manggagawa (PM).
The Lakbayan ng Manggagawa starts with the Calabarzon contingent meeting at 8 a.m. in Zapote at the boundary of Bacoor and Las Pinas. They then marched the several kilometers to the Redemptorist Church in Baclaran where groups from depressed communities of Tondo and Camanava, and relocation areas in Caloocan, Bulacan and Rizal met them around noon. At 4 p.m. they held a program at the DOLE main office in Intramuros. By 6 p.m. the marchers stopped for a while at Welcome Rotonda for a noise barrage. The Lakbayan ng Manggagawa participants came from PM, Alyansa ng Maralitang Pilipino, Zone One Tondo Organization, Samahang Nagkakaisa ng Cavite, United Cavite Workers Association and unions of Valenzuela City.
Miranda explained that “The Lakbayan is the workers response to the call of the Catholic bishops for people to work for social change. The merging of forces of the workers and the peasants is not just a symbolic gesture and not simply an expression of their common struggle. No movement for social change can succeed without the basic alliance between the workers and farmers.”
PM supports the peasants’ campaign for a continuation of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) and slams the inaction of Congress on the proposed bill for extension. The group is also demanding that Congress and Malacanang enact a bailout at stimulus package for workers and poor.
Miranda identified the package as “The SSS, GSIS and OWWA must subsidize all private sector workers, government employees and OFW’s who will be laid off due to the crisis that should last until they find a new job up to a maximum of 6 months. Government must also declare a tax rebate for all workers equivalent to 2 months wage. And a public employment program must be established for the four million unemployed Filipinos.”
A noise barrage at several points in Metro Manila yesterday served as prelude and build up to the two-day Lakbayan. A few hundred participants to the noise barrage banged pots and pans to dramatize the opposition to chacha.