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Manila's financial district plunges into politics with anti-Marcos rally

By Emilia TagazaSpecial to The Christian Science Monitor / September 19, 1983



Manila

The Philippines' financial center held a political rally Sept. 16, calling for the resignation of President Ferdinand Marcos and protesting the assassination of the charismatic opposition leader Benigno Aquino.

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This was the first time that Manila's stolid banking and business district has come alive with political activity.

For over an hour, sheets of paper, confetti, and streamers dropped from skycrapers along Ayala Avenue, the Philippine Wall Street, bringing business to a standstill. About 10,000 employees and executives joined the noise barrage and march. Many carried placards saying ''Marcos resign.''

Mr. Marcos has been partly blamed for the killing of Aquino while he was in the custody of government security men Aug. 21.

The businessmen's march heightened anxiety among foreign companies and international banks, many of which have been worried about the country's political stability since Aquino's death. In recent weeks, some foreign banks and companies have temporarily stopped fresh loans and investments from coming into the country.

A noted businessman who joined the rally said that, for many years, the business community had no outlet for dissent. ''This is the first time that we were given the chance to show our feelings, especially our protest to the government's miserable handling of the Aquino (investigation),'' he said.

The noise barrage and rally was organized by legal opposition groups, led by the recently formed Justice for Aquino, Justice for All (JAJA) group. JAJA includes the United Nationalist and Democratic Organization (UNIDO), the nation's principal opposition organization.

At the financial district rally, Salvador Laurel, the UNIDO president who resigned from parliament Sept. 15, reiterated the opposition's call for Marcos to step down. Laurel's speech was constantly interrupted by chants of ''Marcos resign'' from a crowd at about 5,000.

There were other demonstrations in the city Sept. 15, including a rally in downtown Manila attended by 5,000 students and a march in the newspaper district calling for a boycott of government-influenced newspapers.

The rallies and marches of the last several days are expected to build up to a major demonstration on Sept. 21, the 11th anniversary of martial law in the Philippines.