Protest erupts in Philippine middle class
Manila — The Philippines' equivalent of a Wall Street district broke out in spontaneous protest against the government yesterday, a sign of growing middle-class disenchantment with the Marcos regime.
What started out as an organized pro-Marcos march in the high-rise Manila district of Makati ended as a spontaneous anti-Marcos rally involving about 5, 000 employees and executives, chanting ''Marcos resign.''
There was little violence, and virtually no police or military were present.
The pro-Marcos marchers of about 7,000 was organized by Makati Mayor Nemesio Yabut in answer to the Sept. 16 ''businessman's march.''
A local manager for a foreign company with offices in Makati said that at yesterday's march, all business establishments in Makati were requested to join by Mayor Yabut, who personally telephoned some of the companies. He said that he rejected the ''request'' to let his employees go out of the office.
''Anyone who wishes to join could do so but I cannot order my employees' political preference,'' he said.
At yesterday's rally, the pro-Marcos marchers were only able to go halfway down Ayala Avenue. They were pelted with tomatoes and water bags thrown from skyscrapers. They were then booed, jeered, and barricaded from continuing their march.
At one point, the opposing groups threw stones and sticks at each other. Mr. Yabut, who was almost hit by a water bag, left the crowd and his marchers shortly dispersed.
The scene was then spontaneously taken over by employees and executives from the street's businesses who relentlessly shouted anti-Marcos slogans until they peacefully dispersed after about an hour.
The unexpected anti-government rally was the second in less than a week in Manila's banking and business district. A Sept. 16 rally, attended by more than 10,000 businessmen and employees, also called for Marcos's resignation and protested the assassination of Begnino Aquino Jr., the country's most popular opposition leader. It was the first major political rally in the business district's history.
The recent political stirrings among the otherwise apolitical and disinterested Makati middle-class community could not have been more underestimated by Mr. Marcos. The business community, here as elsewhere, has traditionally been a bastion of political conservatism. The remarkable outpouring of anti-government sentiments could well be considered a virtual ''revolt.'
The anti-government rallies at the country's economic center could have economic repercussions.
A foreign company manager said that since last Friday's march, his bosses in the US have gotten more worried than during the few days after Aquino's assassination.
''They have now reserved a portion of their investment in the Philippines as being 'written off' because of political uncertainty,'' he said. He also said that his parent company seems to be considering putting the Philippines among the ranks of some Latin American countries.
The ''Battle of Ayala,'' plus all the other anti-government rallies in other parts of Manila during the last week, could not escape the attention of the United States. President Reagan is due to visit Manila in November as part of an Asian tour and he is under pressure from Congress to cancel the Manila stop in view of strong suspicions of official complicity in Aquino's slaying.
Although it appears unlikely that Reagan will cancel the visit, the growing anti-Marcos stirrings could lead the US to increase pressure on Marcos to speed up the investigation of the slaying.
To date, there are no indications that the five-man commission created by Marcos to investigate the crime will move forward with its work. At the moment, the commission is locked in a legal tangle with three lawyers' groups that have filed charges with the supreme court. The lawyer's groups have questioned the propriety of the commission's chairmanship by Enrique Fernando, the chief justice of the supreme court.
The extent of Filipino political dissent could emerge today, the 11th anniversary of the declaration of martial law. Although Marcos lifted martial law in 1981, he continues to rule by decree. Large rallies are scheduled to be held in Metro Manila and other major cities, to be led by Aquino's family and leaders of the legal opposition.
Similarly, there will be rallies held in support of Marcos.