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Philippine General Strike Calls on Estrada to Resign

November 15, 2000|From Associated Press

MANILA — An unusual alliance of left-wing workers and conservative business groups held a general strike Tuesday against Philippine President Joseph Estrada, who faces a Senate impeachment trial on corruption charges.

The House of Representatives sent the impeachment charges to the Senate on Monday. But business groups and workers called on Estrada to resign, fearing that a prolonged trial will further damage the economy.

Tens of thousands of militant laborers, students and transport workers went on strike and joined protests in key cities, forcing many schools to suspend classes and many offices to close.

About 30,000 people joined street protests in the central city of Bacolod, organizers said. Streets were empty in Davao, a bustling southern port city, as many office workers chose to stay home.

More than 20,000 labor and student activists gathered late Tuesday near the presidential palace in Manila, carrying banners and burning effigies of Estrada. Many stayed into the night for a vigil.

In the financial districts, brokers and analysts in black shirts and armbands walked off trading floors about 30 minutes before the markets closed, clapping their hands and chanting "Erap resign," using the president's popular nickname. They briefly joined protesters in the street.

"We want to send the message that we are mourning what is happening in our country," said the stock exchange governor, Vivien Yuchengco.

Fears of political instability generated by the scandal have caused the country's currency, the peso, and its stock market to plunge, although both rose slightly Tuesday on bargain-hunting.

A provincial governor testified last month that he had given the president more than $10 million in illegal gambling payoffs and tobacco taxes. Estrada is the first Philippine president to be impeached, although motions were raised against four others, including former dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos.

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