Philippines braces for Arroyo march

Former leader Joseph Estrada joins calls for the president to step down.

    Anti-Arroyo rallies marked the 22nd anniversary of
    the country's people power movement [Reuters]

     

    Arroyo has survived three impeachment bids and more than 10 coup attempts, the last one just three months ago.
     
    The latest claims to affect Arroyo involves allegations that her husband and a close political ally received $130 million in illegal payments in return for putting pressure on the government to approve an overpriced national broadband network contract with a Chinese corporation.
     
    The pair deny the claims.

    Investigation launched

    Arroyo was reportedly warned last year about possible corrupt dealings with the ZTE Corporation, but signed the contract anyway, only to cancel it five months later.

    The Philippines senate has launched an investigation in the case. 

    Arroyo has warned rivals against any attempts to remove her from power, saying a people's revolt for the third time would hurt the country politically and economically.
     
    She said: "We all know I am not perfect ... but I have worked hard every day to achieve positive and lasting change for the nation."

     

    Meanwhile, the Philippines' security forces have rallied in support of President Arroyo.

     

    The heads of the military and police locked arms on Monday in a "unity march" with several thousand police officers to put an end to coup rumours, circulating in the capital via mobile phone text message.

     

    "We are here to say that these reports and text messages are untrue, that they are completely false, since we in the police and the military are solid, united behind the government," police chief Avelino Razon said.

     

    'Time to go'
     
    There have been several recent protests but none has so far reached the scale that forced two former presidents - Joseph Estrada and Ferdinand Marcos - out of office.
     
    Estrada, the last Philippine president to be forced from office in a 'people power' revolt told Al Jazeera: "If the people don't like her anymore, well it's time to go."
     

    Q&A


    Estrada on Arroyo

    He said people felt that Arroyo had been insulting and fooling them throughout her presidency, and that now they have reached a limit.
     

    "That is why so many different organisations are asking her to resign," added Estrada, a former film actor, who remains hugely popular among the masses despite being convicted of "plunder" in September last year.

     
    He later accepted Arroyo's offer of a pardon.
     
    In Manila, military and police commanders appeared at a joint news conference in a move to dispel rumours of a coup attempt.
     
    "This is our expression ... that our countrymen should not be concerned with rumours of destabilisation," general Hermogenes Esperon, the country's military chief, said.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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