Workers, trade union leaders and labor activists from the Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL) and LEARN trade union affiliates were violently dispersed in a labor mobilization to demand the immediate pull-out of Filipino troops in Iraq to save Angelo dela Cruz, an overseas Filipino worker taken hostage by Iraqi Islamic rebels. A phalanx of baton-wielding anti-riot policemen, police cars and vans blocked the demonstrators along Recto when a scuffle ensued and the police started dispersing the demonstrators.
The contingent of more than 500 workers marched the stretch of Espana Ave. towards Mendiola yesterday (12 July) at 5pm to voice their concern over the possible beheading of hostage Angelo dela Cruz unless the Arroyo government withdraw its troops in Iraq. The Filipino hostage was given another 48 hours to live unless the Philippines agree to pull-out its troops in US-occupied Iraq by July 20, a month before the scheduled withdrawal of the Philippine military contingent. The rally intended otherwise to be peaceful turned violent when the anti-riot police decided to push back the labor demonstrators from Recto until they reached the gates of FEU along Morayta avenue. The trade unionists and labor activists however, vowed to return to Mendiola on Wednesday for a bigger demonstration to protest the plight of Filipino worker, Angelo dela Cruz, taken hostage in Iraq and facing certain death unless the Iraqi rebels’ demands are not met.
The Filipino overseas worker is one of the recent three prisoners scheduled to be beheaded unless the US occupation troops and the military forces from other countries pulls-out from Iraq. There were already three prisoners, an American, a Korean and a Jordanian, beheaded by Iraqi militants in recent months to protest the war on terror launched by the United States last year.
After an exhausting, difficult and sometimes perilous campaign, the Akbayan Citizen’s Action Party overcame the odds against them and won a fresh mandate in the recently concluded Philippine national elections last 10 May 2004. The Akbayan Party-list secured 852,473 votes or a convincing 6.7% of all votes cast entitling them three seats in the House of Representatives for the next three years.
Akbayan party-list representatives to the 13th Congress, Rep. Etta Rosales, Rep. Mayong Aguja and Rep. Riza Hontiveros-Baraquel, were sworn in by Supreme Court Chief Justice Hilario Davide last 28 June 2004. The three representatives are bringing the party’s priority legislations in the parliamentary including progressive bills on anti-discrimination issues for gays and lesbians, criminalizing human rights violations on torture and enforced disappearances, issues on reproductive health, Labor Code amendments, peace and security in Mindanao and electoral reforms. Akbayan also vowed to continue with its legislative work on the just compensation of Martial Law victims.
Recognizing this new mandate, Akbayan stated to remain steadfast on its commitment to promote “principled and platform-driven politics, social justice, economic equity, genuine participation and responsive leadership.” In the next three years, the Akbayan party-list representatives shall prioritize legislative reforms on “basic services (health, education, housing, utilities); economic policy (poverty alleviation, agriculture, labor and taxation); peace and human rights (migrant workers’ rights and peace in Mindanao) and electoral reform.”
Akbayan won two seats in the 12th Congress which ended in mid-June 2004. In the Philippine party-list system, one seat is equivalent to 2 percent of the total votes cast in the party-list contest. The 13th Congress will open its first session on July 2004 after the new Philippine president delivers her State of the Nation Address (SONA).