Philippine President Joseph Estrada wants five days and a pardon before he stands down and leaves the presidential palace, opposition spokesmen said yesterday.
"He told us that the First Family has already left Malacanang [the presidential palace]. He's alone there now in the palace," Renato Corona, chief of staff of Vice-President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said.
Under the constitution, Arroyo automatically takes over the presidency should Estrada leave office.
A spokesman for Philippine opposition parties said Estrada, whose impeachment trial on corruption charges triggered the political crisis, was seeking a "pardon" in transition talks.
Asked if Estrada wanted a pardon, Roberto Pagdanganan said: "That is the basic offer that he made. We are saying that he no longer has any government.
"Then the best option for the president at this stage is to resign ... so there would be no need for the people in the hundreds of thousands to go to the palace."
Corona said Estrada wanted time. "He is asking for a few days ... he wants five days to get his things ready," said Corona, quoting representatives of Arroyo, who were holding talks with Estrada.
Military commanders said they would accept orders only from Arroyo and urged Estrada to quit immediately.
Most of the Cabinet, the entire armed forces leadership and the whole national police withdrew support during the tension-filled day, saying they could not hold office under Estrada's leadership following his impeachment trial on charges of corruption.
Many of them and other senior military officers then joined some 200,000 people holding a rally at the site of the 1986 "people power" revolution that toppled dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
Before the wave of defections, protest organizers had threatened to lead the huge crowd -- which continued to swell as night fell -- in a march on the presidential palace.
The arrival of each senior official at the protest site was greeted with exultation, wild dancing and frenzied shouts of joy.
Earlier in the day, Estrada, addressing the nation for the second time in a matter of hours, said he would ask Congress to call the snap presidential poll along with planned Congressional elections in May. He made no mention of resignation.
"I am sad that things have reached this stage. In the interests of peace I am calling on Congress to call for a snap election," he said.
"I will not participate in the snap election ... and I will turn over the presidency to whoever is elected."
But a spokesman for Arroyo said: "That's illegal and unconstitutional." Other opposition leaders called it a delaying tactic.
A group of opposition leaders, senior military officers and ministers who resigned from the Cabinet said they would take orders only from Arroyo and said Estrada was isolated and had lost the moral authority to govern.
Estrada was holed up in the Malacanang presidential palace with aides, lawyers and the few cabinet ministers who remain loyal, other palace sources said.
Palace officials said Estrada was still in the palace and denied rumors he had fled.
About 100 soldiers patrolled the grounds but the area was quiet, witnesses said.
By nightfall, four armored personnel carriers rolled into the presidential palace compound to beef up security.
Estrada's Senate impeachment trial on corruption charges has brought the worst political turmoil to the country since the revolt that toppled Marcos.
Although the number of protesters on the street were far less than in 1986, the capitulation of the administration was as dramatic.
Defense Secretary Orlando Mercado, Armed Forces chief General Angelo Reyes and a host of senior military officers joined the opposition protesters on the EDSA highway at a church shrine which was one of the main rallying points of the 1986 revolt.
Then, most of the cabinet followed, including Finance Secretary Jose Pardo, Socio-Economic Planning Secretary Felipe Medalla and Tourism Secretary Gemma Cruz Araneta.
"I welcome the heroism of our generals and the Secretary of Defense," Vice-President Arroyo told the rally.
Reyes said Estrada was a good president but his departure was in the best interests of the country.
"We would like to request that ... we start the healing process ... and that we allow President Estrada, members of his family to exit with dignity," Reyes said. "Let us not be vindictive, let us not be persecutive in mood."
Central Bank Governor Rafael Buenaventura said he would not resign as he had a duty to provide financial stability.
Earlier, there were minor clashes between protesters and supporters of Estrada, whose power base was among the country's teeming poor.
In his first broadcast, Estrada reiterated his innocence, but said he would abide by the result of the impeachment trial.
In a major concession, he ordered his lawyers to open the bank records the Senator-judges had voted 11-10 to suppress -- a decision which brought the impeachment hearings to an abrupt halt and provoked four days of growing protests.
The peso, which hit a record low of 55.75 to the dollar on Wednesday, surged through 50 after the Estrada announcement, briefly hitting a high of 47 to the dollar. The stockmarket had closed up 1.02 percent before the Estrada statement.
Cardinal Jaime Sin, the country's top clergyman called on Filipinos to join the EDSA protesters.
Sin's call was reminiscent of broadcasts he made from a dissident radio in 1986 when he urged Filipinos to gather at EDSA and join a popular uprising against Marcos.
"I am calling on all of you to stay at EDSA the whole day. EDSA is holy ground. God is in this place," Sin said in a statement on Friday. "Do not go anywhere."
In the impeachment hearings, Estrada faced removal from office if convicted of any one of the charges against him -- corruption, bribery, betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the constitution.
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