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Philippine Protesters Press Arroyo to Quit

June 12, 2005|From Associated Press

MANILA — An estimated 5,000 protesters demanded Saturday that Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo step down, marking the biggest anti-government rally since allegations surfaced that she fixed last year's election and her family received gambling kickbacks.

The government has denied the allegations, saying they are part of a plot to unseat Arroyo. Police nationwide and soldiers in the capital, Manila, were on full alert against a power grab in a country with a history of coup attempts.

Arroyo's popularity has nose-dived since the release of an alleged wiretapped conversation between Arroyo and an election official to fix the 2004 election, and claims of payoffs to Arroyo's son and brother-in-law from illegal gambling operators.

The allegations are bad news for Arroyo, who has been struggling to address the nation's many problems, including poverty, rising prices, a deficit and corruption.

Arroyo said Saturday that "purveyors of instability and intrigue" were undermining her efforts to reform the economy, adding that she was focused "like a laser beam" on reforms "to turn this economy around, and no one will deter me from that mission."

"We cannot resolve our differences by tossing out the democratic process just because we are not getting our way," she said.

In a rare show of solidarity, a wide spectrum of anti-Arroyo groups, including opposition politicians and rival leftists, joined forces in Saturday's rally, dubbed a "National Day of Mourning." Police estimated that 5,000 people participated.

"The rally for me can be seen as a measure of how far or how widespread the disgust is for Arroyo and her isolation," said Rep. Teddy Casino, of the left-wing Bayan Muna party. Casino said his party sought Arroyo's ouster but opposed a coup d'etat, a military junta or a "palace coup."

"This is the early stage of the struggle for the eventual regime change that is expected," he said.

However, talk of "an imminent downfall is not accurate," he said.

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