Marcos Loyalists Stage Biggest Street Clash of Aquino Rule
MANILA, Philippines (AP) _ Police battled thousands of supporters of deposed President Ferdinand E. Marcos after a May Day rally Thursday in the most widespread street violence of President Corazon Aquino’s 2-month-old government.
Police used tear gas, fire hoses, clubs and warning shots to break up the demonstrators, and arrested 54 of them. Hospitals reported 34 people injured, including two from gunshot wounds.
Businesses and cars were damaged by protesters throwing rocks and bottles and swinging pipes and sticks.
Earlier Thursday, supporters of Marcos and of Mrs. Aquino threw bottles and rocks at each other. Police arrested six additional people in these clashes and fired in the air to disperse the crowds.
Most of the Aquino supporters had gone home when police tried to scatter Marcos loyalists who blocked a boulevard near the U.S. Embassy, triggering the larger clashes.
Marcos spoke during the clashes over a local radio station from his exile in Hawaii, advising police to ignore any ″illegal orders″ and telling his supporters to withdraw.
″It is a sad, happy day, but in sadness my heart is light because I realize there still are Filipinos fighting for their beliefs and principles,″ Marcos said on DZME radio.
At a rally in a Manila park, Mrs. Aquino told 40,000 cheering workers she was repealing Marcos-imposed laws allowing employers to fire striking workers and restricting labor organizing. She also vowed to appoint labor leaders to all government policy-making bodies.
Mrs. Aquino relaxed laws restricting workers’ pay bonuses and lowered the percentage of employees needed to call a strike at a workplace, from two- thirds to a simple majority.
She ordered police to stay away from strikers’ picket lines unless violence occurs.
The president apparently was unaware of clashes a block away between her supporters and those of Marcos.
Also on Thursday, the military claimed it killed 30 communist rebels in a helicopter attack in the northern province of Cagayan, where guerrillas recently ambushed three army convoys.
The military said that in another incident, rebel ground fire forced down one army helicopter in the same area. Armed Forces chief Gen. Fidel V. Ramos said he ordered small bomber planes to the region to back up 2,000 ground troops.
Finance Minister Jaime Ongpin told a meeting Thursday of the Asian Development Bank that his government was devising ways to encourage Filipinos to bring back into the country up to $30 million invested overseas because of economic uncertainty.
″If we are unwilling to put our money where our mouths are, we have no right to ask ... foreign investors to risk their money in developing our economy,″ Ongpin said.
The street fighting began when a supporter of Mrs. Aquino who was trying to escape from Marcos loyalists dived into Manila Bay behind the U.S. Embassy, where loyalists have maintained a three-week vigil to demand Marcos’ return to power.
Marcos fled the country Feb. 26 in the face of a military and civilian rebellion supporting Mrs. Aquino.
The loyalists caught up with the man in a boat and forcibly returned him to shore. Marcos and Aquino supporters began tossing bottles and rocks at one another, and Marcos loyalists also were seen lobbing homemade explosives.
Police fired into the air to break up the clashes, and most Aquino supporters went home toward evening.
The Marcos loyalists continued to block the street near the U.S. mission. About 300 police tried twice to disperse them with water cannon and tear gas, but fumes blew back at the police and overcame many of them.
″See what they’re doing to our country?″ screamed a water-soaked woman as she and scores of other Marcos supporters ran from charging police.
At about midnight, police fired guns in the air and chased the remaining loyalists up side streets.