MANILA — It has been 40 years since an unverified number of workers perished during the construction of the Manila Film Center but injustices against laborers haunt the country to this day, labor leaders said Wednesday.
“Patunay ang trahedyang ito sa sukdulang pang-aabusong pinagdadaanan ng mga manggagawa sa kawalang-pakialam ng mga elitistang employer, isang kulturang hanggang ngayon ay hindi pa rin binubuwag dahil parehong mga elitista din ang namumuno sa bansa,” said Walden Bello in a statement, which was read by Laban ng Masa spokesperson Leomar Doctolero.
(This tragedy is proof of the extreme abuse that workers go through due to the indifference of elitist employers, a culture that until now has not been dismantled because elites continue to rule the country.)
Labor groups lit candles in memory of the workers trapped and killed after the scaffolding of the building collapsed during the construction.
The $21-million Manila Film Center was a project of former First Lady Imelda Marcos in her bid to make Manila the "Cannes of the East." For 6 months, 8,000 workers toiled 24 hours a day, up until the opening day in January 1982.
Due to media censorship during martial law, the exact number of those who died in the accident is a mystery, while rumors swirled that bodies remain trapped in the building to this day.
In an Associated Press report in 1996, Marcos acknowledged the incident but claimed only 7 people were killed and that there were no bodies left in the structure.
Bello, who seeks to become vice president in next year's elections, said the Marcoses continue to haunt the country, especially with their attempt to return to Malacañang through presidential aspirant Bongbong Marcos.
“Huwag nating hayaang manaig ang rebisyonistang hangarin ng pamilyang Marcos at ibaon na lamang sa mga kwento ng pagmumulto ang trahedyang ito," said Bello.
(We should not let Marcos family's attempts to revise history bury these tragedies.)
"Ang tunay na multo ng Martial Law ay unti-unti na namang gumagapang papalapit sa Malacañang. Patuloy tayong maniningil ng hustisya at pagbabago sa bulok na sistemang itinatapon ang buhay ng mga manggagawa para sa katuparan ng mga huwad na pantasya ng mga elitista. Hindi tayo nakakalimot," added Bello.
(The true ghosts of Martial Law is creeping upon the country's seat of power. Let us continue seeking justice and finding ways to end this rotten system against our laborers, in the hands of the elite.)
The Manila Film Center tragedy is a manifestation of the Marcos family’s neglect of workers, presidential aspirant Leody De Guzman meanwhile said.
“Magmamarka ‘yung kawalang pagkilala ng mga Marcoses sa buhay ng mga manggagawa... Hindi man lamang nabigyan ng panahon na magdalamhati ang mga pamilya,” the labor leader said during a protest at the steps of the Film Center of the Philippines at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) compound in Pasay City.
(This marks the inhumane treatment of laborers under Marcos' watch. The kin of the workers were not even given proper time to mourn.)
De Guzman also lamented that the lavish complex was constructed while millions of Filipinos were dying of hunger.
“Ginastusan sa panahon na naghihirap, nagdarahop ang ating mga mamamayan nung panahong 1981 kung saan nasa gitna ng krisis ang sambayanang Pilipino. Makikita ‘yung kawalang malasakit, walang pagkilala, walang pagkakaiba ng interes ng mga mayayaman, ng mga elitista kaysa sa mga manggagawa,” he added.
(They spent a lot of money during a time of crisis, when our countrymen were merely surviving. You will see how they neglected the needs of the poor, just like how elitists of this nation lacked empathy.)
The Manila Film Center was condemned in 1991 due to its dismal structural integrity.
De Guzman added that it is high time to elect leaders who offer "new politics" that would advocate for the needs of the majority.
“Kapag nagpatuloy pa ang elitistang paghahari sa ating bansa, magiging disyerto ng kahirapan ang buong bansa. Magiging sementeryo ng kalupitan ang ating bayan,” he said.
(If elitist rule continues in our country, the whole country will be a desert of poverty. Our nation will be a cemetery of cruelty.)
“Napapanahon ang pagkakaroon ng bagong politika dito sa ating bayan, hindi na pupwede ang politika ng mga bilyunaryo, hindi na pupwede ang politika ng mga elitista.”
(It is time to have a new politics here in our country, the politics of billionaires can no longer be allowed, the politics of elitists can no longer be allowed.)
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