An antigovernment demonstration endorsed by the Philippines' Roman Catholic Cardinal Jaime Sin and prominent businessmen went ahead peacefully today after President Ferdinand Marcos relented on a warning against it and told his security forces not to interfere.
About 10,000 people participated in the march and rally following a mass celebrated by Sin, the archbishop of Manila, who last week had urged politically moderate businessmen, industrialists and professionals to join students and workers in peaceful street demonstrations to protest "the violence and the authoritarianism of the dictatorship."
A number of business community leaders and moderate politicians heeded the cardinal's appeal, but the vast majority of the participants were more militant, and there was no sign of any real joining of forces between the two. For the most part, they even marched on separate sides of the streets.
In fact, speakers representing the more leftist elements criticized the moderates for having appealed to Marcos yesterday for permission to hold the demonstration. Marcos granted the request after it became clear that the march and rally would go ahead anyway and might result in a confrontation with security forces.
On Friday, Marcos sharply criticized Sin's appeal to Filipinos to join the "parliament of the streets." He also warned that antigovernment demonstrations undermined efforts to achieve economic recovery and threatened to arrest participants and leaders of unauthorized rallies.
Today's demonstration ended peacefully although the dispersal came well after dark, about two hours after the agreed time of 5 p.m. Security forces stayed far away from the gathering point at the Welcome Rotunda of metropolitan Manila's Quezon City municipality, the scene of clashes Sept. 27, when riot police forcibly broke up an antigovernment rally. Several persons suffered gunshot wounds then, and one later died.
Before today's march and rally, about 5,000 people packed Quezon City's Santo Domingo Church to hear Sin say mass and call for "peace, forgiveness and reconciliation."
"The cardinal wants to bring the moderates into this and not leave the field open to radicals," said the Rev. Antonio Olaguer, an activist Catholic priest. "The moderates turned out because, figuratively, they see red."
As he spoke, red flags and banners held aloft by militant student and labor groups mingled with yellow ones waved by supporters of assassinated opposition leader Benigno Aquino.
"I now realize we need a moderate force separate from these radicals," said a leading businessman who was participating in a street demonstration for the first time. "We are not controlling the show here," he added. "The majority of these people want a confrontation to show that Marcos is no longer in control."
Another businessman, Jose Concepcion, who heads the National Citizens Movement for Free Elections, said, "We're not for the direct overthrow of President Marcos, but we want to be in solidarity with them the leftists to show common cause against the use of military force to suppress peaceful gatherings."
One of the speakers at the rally, mining company president Jaime Ongpin, said he attended "because there is fear in my heart" following the violent dispersal of two recent demonstrations.
"I finally convinced myself that nothing is more important for me to do than come here today and be counted," he said.
Other speakers included former senators Lorenzo Tanada, Jose Diokno and Ambrosio Padilla, opposition member of parliament Aquilino Pimentel and antigovernment activist Agapito Aquino, the brother of the slain opposition leader.
Along with several moderate businessmen and more radical opposition leaders, they signed a joint manifesto read at the end of the rally that, among other things, demanded "establishment of a democratic form of government with a system of checks and balances and accountability," asked "all foreign governments and institutions to desist from giving support and assistance to this authoritarian regime" and called for the prosecution of those responsible for the assassination of Aquino.