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500,000 Rally in Capital Against 2nd Term for Philippine President

September 22, 1997|From Reuters

MANILA — Half a million people opposed to a second term for President Fidel V. Ramos marched in Manila on Sunday, warning that they will never allow a return of dictatorship in the Philippines.

The rally, the largest in the nation in more than a decade and a source of tension between church and state, took a conciliatory turn when Roman Catholic Cardinal Jaime Sin welcomed Ramos' pledge Saturday to step down when his term ends in June.

"We are thanking the president for what he said," Sin said in a sermon that seemed to defuse the church-state rift.

"In thanksgiving, we now pray for national reconciliation."

Ramos watched live television coverage of the rally from the heavily guarded presidential palace, according to his aides.

The government had tried to abort the rally by warning that it could turn violent. It ended peacefully, but not before a strong message was sent to Ramos that efforts to change the constitution so he could seek a second term would be unacceptable.

The constitution, rewritten in 1987 after the late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos was ousted, limits each president to a six-year term.

Clad in the symbolic yellow of the "people power" revolt that toppled Marcos in 1986, demonstrators stood in driving rain and broke into applause as former President Corazon Aquino warned Ramos not to cling to power.

Meanwhile, two commuter trains collided in a Manila suburb today after one separated from its engine and rolled backward into the path of the second train, officials said. At least six people were killed and more than 100 hurt, authorities said.

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