MANILA — Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile criticized the government Saturday, saying a lack of direction and failure to create new jobs have caused Filipinos to lose hope.
Enrile, whose criticism of President Corazon Aquino's policies nearly triggered a Cabinet crisis last week, made the remarks in a speech to an anti-Communist rally attended by some of former President Ferdinand E. Marcos' followers.
Enrile did not attack Aquino's peace overtures to Communist rebels, the theme of numerous speeches by the maverick defense chief in recent months, and did not refer directly to Aquino in his 10-minute speech.
"How can we bring peace to our country if the people are hungry, if the people have no future, if the people are afraid because they don't know what our direction is or where our society is headed?" Enrile told the rally.
Speaking alternately in Tagalog and English, Enrile said the economy has remained stagnant in the eight months since he helped bring Aquino to power by leading a church-backed military revolt that ended Marcos' 20-year rule.
People 'Lose Hope'
"No jobs are being created; many people are jobless. They seem to lose hope," he said, adding that foreign investors cannot be expected to regain confidence in the country if Filipinos lack confidence in themselves.
"That confidence is affected by the problem of our national leadership," Enrile said. He did not elaborate, saying he wanted to talk about how to stop the Communists from making any more inroads in the countryside.
More than 5,000 people, many belonging to the Alliance for Democracy and Morality organized by Baptist groups, attended the rally at Manila's seaside Rizal Park.
Leaders of some organizations calling for the return of Marcos were on the stage but there were no pro-Marcos slogans among signs participants held. Several streamers read, "Minister Juan Ponce Enrile, the freedom fighter for democracy." Enrile was defense minister under Marcos.
Enrile's speech came four days after he and Aquino held a reconciliation meeting to avert a crisis in the wake of Enrile's criticism of Aquino's policy of negotiating peace with the rebels, and calls by some Cabinet ministers for Enrile's dismissal or resignation.