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Photos | On Labor day, workers demand adequate financial help as crisis intensifies

May 1, 2021

Scenes from a workers’ broad protest against a repressive regime in a time of pandemic.

Workers and labor advocates under Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU, or May First Movement) were set to hold a program at their traditional #LaborDay venue in Liwasang Bonifacio in the City of Manila when news came that the place had been packed with policemen intent on dispersing protesters. Quickly, organizers shifted gears, and led thousands of protesters to Welcome Rotonda, at the border of Quezon City and Manila, where other labor groups like Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP) were holding their own program.

Maintaining as much social distance as possible given the limited space was a challenge for the protesters, who originally planned to march to Mendiola Bridge to call on President Duterte to resign — but put off the long march in order to minimize close physical contact between protesters. The capital, after all, is still in the middle of a surge in coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) infections, and although one cannot deny the importance of protest actions — the World Health Organization (WHO) itself emphasized the importance of this collective action even during the pandemic — the organizers thought it prudent to focus on the Liwasang Bonifacio (which became Welcome Rotonda) protest.

Organizers estimated at least 4,000 workers and members of other poor sectors attended the action. Collectively, the protesters called for P10,000 cash aid for the jobless and the poor, P100 daily wage subsidy for workers and P15,000 production subsidy for farmers. They also called on the Duterte administration to once and for all mount an appropriate medical and social response to the pandemic, instead of imposing militarist lockdowns.

But with these calls falling on deaf ears, the workers put forward what they deemed would be the best response: for President Duterte to resign.

Photos by Joby Adan, Bryan Dela Vega, Meggie Nolasco and Cindy Aquino

Protester-workers gather around Welcome Rotonda this May 1, Labor Day.

“Makibaka!” (“Struggle!”)

On one side gathered workers and supporters of KMU, on the other, BMP.

A play on the now-famous slogan from the community pantry phenomenon, labor leaders carry streamers calling for substantial financial support or ayuda from the government.

Various groups gather around Welcome Rotonda.

Protesters carry placards calling for President Duterte’s resignation.

More streamers calling for ayuda.

“Duterte wakwak! Duterte palpak!”

Workers demand P10,000 ayuda per month for two months.

“Fight for adequate wages, work and rights!”

Labor Day protests are usually full of pro-worker artworks.

Cultural performance.

Youth protester.

Health workers join the protest.

Tatay Elmer, the jeepney driver who was among those Piston members arrested last year for calling for financial support.

The groups also protest the political repression targeting labor leaders and organizers.

More artworks expressing workers’ issues.

A protester carries the image of slain peasant leader Randy Echanis.

Elmer “Ka Bong” Labog, chair of KMU, speaks before the crowd.

Teachers join the protest.

Unionists and supporters carry a streamer calling for the freedom of detained labor organizer Dennise Velasco, as well as other detained unionists and activists.


Bayan Muna Rep. Ferdinand Gaite join the protesters.

They demand P100 wage relief for employed workers also affected by the pandemic.

KMU secretary-general Jerome Adonis.

Transport workers join the Labor Day protest.

A worker carries a placard demanding P10,000 financial relief.

“Working class, army for freedom!”