Sat, Jan 21, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Protesters demand Arroyo's ouster

DPA , MANILA

Thousands of protesters took to the streets in the Philippine capital yesterday to demand the removal of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo as the country marked a 2001 mass uprising that installed her into power.

More than 1,500 members of leftist groups marched along Recto Avenue in Manila, several meters away from the Malacanang presidential palace, where security had been tightened earlier in the week.

Another group of 150 demonstrators gathered at the "people power" monument along Efipanio delos Santos Avenue, or EDSA, the site of the military-backed mass uprising in January 2001 that ousted then-president Joseph Estrada.

A similar people power uprising in February 1986 toppled the 20-year regime of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

On January 20, 2001, Arroyo, who was then Estrada's vice president, was sworn into office as the country's new president after tens of thousands of Filipinos rallied for days along EDSA.

Arroyo won a six-year term as president in May 2004 elections, although her victory has been marred by allegations that she rigged the vote.

The protesters yesterday waved banners saying, "Oust Gloria" and "Spirit of EDSA betrayed by Gloria," as they vowed to continue campaigning for Arroyo's removal.

"The lessons of people power are not lost to the anti-Arroyo movement," Renato Reyes, secretary-general of the left-wing New Nationalist Movement, or Bayan, said in a statement.

"If the people's movement, patriotic officers and men of the military and the opposition groups unite on a common platform of good governance and social justice against a tyrannical and bankrupt regime, then peaceful people power is possible," he added.

Compared to previous years, the government did not hold any ceremony to mark the anniversary of the 2001 uprising.

Presidential spokesman Ignacio Bunye noted that the public was already "losing faith in people power" amid continuing political uncertainty in the country.

"It is clear that the people are sick and tired of political turmoil, especially since it is perceived as driven by self-interest," he said. "We believe the people are more interested in having a clear direction for the nation rather than the reckless gambles at power."

"The president has a clear economic and political roadmap and that is what will carry us through to a better future," Bunye said.

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