by Jherlyn Meneses/Asianjournal.com
LOS ANGELES – Opponents of embattled Philip-pine President Gloria Arroyo held a “mass for the truth” on Sunday and vowed more street protests in the coming weeks to press for her resignation.
Hundreds of students joined former President Corazon Aquino, Manila Mayor Alfre-do Lim, and representatives of the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP) and the Associ-ation of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines (AMRSP) in the mass which was held at the University of Santo Tomas in Manila. They sang nationalistic hymns and raised clenched fists as they repeated demands for Arroyo to resign.
Also in the gathering was whistle-blower Rodolfo Lo-zada, Jr. who implicated Arroyo’s husband and a political ally in a corruption case sur-rounding a botched telecoms deal. Lozada’s explosive tes-timony has led to escalating calls for Arroyo to step down, and on Friday more than 15,000 people gathered in the capital’s Makati financial district in the largest protest since the scandal broke last year.
United Opposition (UNO) spokesman Adel Tamano said more rallies and mass actions will be held to press for President Arroyo’s resig-nation and for the “truth” to come out.
“There will be more rallies to come, we believe that the rally last Friday has led to snowballing effect. We are beginning to reach a critical mass,” Tamano said on local radio. He added that the pro-tests in Manila were matched by smaller rallies in key cities around the Philippines. Tamano said that momentum is now on the side of those pressing for “truth and justice”.
“It cannot be business as usual (for President Arroyo),” said former peace adviser Teresita “Ging” Deles. She said the political situation will only intensify.Aquino and another ex-President, Joseph Estrada, were the key figures in last week’s protest and both called for Arroyo to step down.
“I don’t want to discour-age you but it appears it may take a longer time because we have not awakened those countrymen of ours who seem to be feigning sleep. Still I am not losing hope. If we were able to remove a dictator, maybe it would be easier for us now because there’s no martial law and I hope we will not have martial law,” Aquino addressed the crowd in UST.
Aquino wearing a bright yellow outfit — her signature color and also the color of UST — asked for patience and stressed that she would not abandon Lozada, who had linked Arroyo and her husband, Jose Miguel Ar-royo, to the scandal-tainted NBN deal.
Meanwhile, BAYAN Sec-retary General Renato Reyes said Friday’s rally was the “strongest rejection” yet of Arroyo. “This is an encouraging sign of political maturity among Filipinos,” he said, adding that the next protest would be on March 8, to coincide with International Women’s Day.
Arroyo’s chief legal coun-sel, Sergio Apostol, said the President was confident her opponents could not draw enough people to the streets to oust her. Pres. Arroyo has kept a low profile amid the anti-government protests, and her spokesman Ignacio Bunye on Sunday said she had spent Friday chairing a mining conference and visit-ing development projects in the countryside.
The president earlier said she would not step down until her six-year term ends in 2010 and denied that her family had profited from government deals. She has ear-lier survived three impeach-ment bids in Congress, and put down two coup attempts.