Thousands expected for anti-Arroyo protests

Police and military forces in the Philippines are on full alert before President Gloria Arroyo's annual state of the nation address, in which she will outline her government's programme.

    Arroyo was under pressure to withdraw troops from Iraq

    Police are expecting about 20,000 anti-Arroyo demonstrators to take to the streets on Monday as the president delivers her speech before Congress, a month after assuming office for a fresh six-year term. 

    Arroyo's address comes three days after her rival Fernando Poe asked the Supreme Court for a recount of the votes cast in the 10 May election.

    Poe, the country's most popular action star who commands a huge following, accused Arroyo of massive fraud. His followers had earlier threatened street protests against the president. 

    Calls for calm

    Metropolitan Manila police director Ricardo De Leon said he expected about 20,000 anti-government protesters to march on Congress on Monday and called on them to exercise restraint. 

    "Let us all be calm and have a successful SONA [state of the
    nation address]," De Leon said on local radio. 

    "We're there to protect everybody. We guarantee we will respect your rights, but as law enforcers we will prevent any forms of abuse." 

    He said 6000 police officers would guard the grounds of
    Congress and be backed up by the military. 

    He said sniffer dog units would be deployed to search for bombs.

    Arroyo's speech comes amid tensions with Washington after the Philippine leader pulled out the country's 51 troop members from Iraq to save the life of a Filipino man whose captors threatened to behead him unless Manila withdrew from Iraq.



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