MANILA — More than 10,000 angry Filipino workers poured into a downtown park Friday and used the nation's Labor Day celebration to condemn President Corazon Aquino's administration as "a rich man's government" that has "betrayed the rights and welfare of the working man."
The largely leftist crowd booed Aquino's labor secretary, Franklin Drilon, as he mounted the stage to participate in the annual May Day celebration, which Aquino did not attend personally this year.
"We simply cannot please everybody," Drilon said of his hostile reception. "And we are sincere in what we feel we must do."
Labor's anger was triggered by Aquino's annual Labor Day speech Wednesday morning, in which she ordered nominal increases in social security and workmen's compensation benefits but stopped short of raising the minimum wage, which is just above the poverty line.
"I must never promise more than I can give," Aquino declared, adding that honesty has been "the cornerstone" of her government.
Too Poor for Raises
Despite her recent pronouncements at political campaign rallies nationwide that the Philippine economy is improving, she told the country Friday that business conditions are still too poor to justify increasing wages.
Even the nation's most conservative labor union, the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines, was upset after the speech to a group of labor leaders in the presidential palace.
"We are not happy," said union spokesman Bonifacio Tupas.
The biggest outrage was expressed by Crispin Beltran, leader of the leftist May 1st Movement, the nation's largest labor union, with more than 700,000 members.
"This only proves what we've been saying all along, that the Aquino government is essentially a rich man's government--anti-worker and anti-poor," said Beltran, whose predecessor, Rolando Olalia, was tortured and murdered last November.
Throughout the afternoon, scores of police and military riot squads were deployed in front of the U.S. Embassy, a half block from the labor rally site, where about 1,000 right-wing protesters still loyal to deposed President Ferdinand E. Marcos were holding a demonstration of their own.
Carrying signs declaring, "Down With Cory and Communists" and "Bring Back Kidnaped President Marcos," the loyalists chanted, "We love Marcos! We love Marcos!" to passing motorists.
Annie Ferrer, a movie actress and a leader of the Marcos loyalist protest, said the group would camp out all night in front of the embassy in a vigil "to force President Reagan to give us Marcos back."
But the day passed peacefully, unlike last year's May Day celebration, when loyalists clashed with leftist labor unions in several hours of rioting that destroyed more than $1 million worth of property in Manila's tourist district.
"We don't care about those Marcos loyalists anymore," said one labor leader at Friday's rally who asked not to be named. "We're mad at Cory (Aquino) now."
Several demonstrators in the crowd were distributing an even harsher statement from the leftist National Democratic Front, an umbrella organization of 15 groups that include the Communist Party of the Philippines and its 23,300-member armed insurgent wing, the New People's Army.
"There is more suffering today," the front declared, "than there was during the fascist dictatorship (of Marcos).