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Last Updated: Saturday, 12 June, 2004, 14:24 GMT 15:24 UK
Filipinos celebrate independence
By Sarah Toms
In Manila

President Gloria Arroyo
Surveys suggest Mrs Arroyo will win by a narrow margin
The people of the Philippines have celebrated 106 years of freedom from Spain, but they still do not know who will lead them for the next six years.

After months of election campaigning and weeks of vote-counting, President Gloria Arroyo is in a tight race against film star Fernando Poe Jr.

The president attended a parade in the heart of Manila on Saturday before giving her Independence Day message.

The speech stressed unity, stability and economic achievement.

But Mrs Arroyo also said too much politics was eroding the strength of the nation.

Earlier, the president skipped the raising of the flag at a monument to national hero Jose Rizal, who was executed by a Spanish firing squad. Her office said security concerns had forced her to miss the event.

US rule

Surveys suggest Mrs Arroyo will beat Mr Poe by a narrow margin once all the votes from the 10 May election are counted.

Fernando Poe Junior casting his ballot
Poe has traded on his fame as a movie star

Her government warns of instability plots and his camp complains about election fraud.

At a reception with diplomats, Mrs Arroyo repeated her policies to stamp out corruption, elevate the poor and improve the image of the Philippines overseas.

The islands were a Spanish colony for more than 300 years until 1898, when revolutionaries declared independence.

Spain ended that dream by selling the Philippines to the US, which ruled here for almost 50 years.

But it is the next six years and the next leader that Filipinos are most concerned about now.

Arroyo 'wins presidential poll'
05 Jun 04  |  Asia-Pacific
Profile: Gloria Arroyo
06 May 04  |  Asia-Pacific
Profile: Fernando Poe Junior
06 May 04  |  Asia-Pacific
Timeline: The Philippines
19 May 04  |  Country profiles
Country profile: The Philippines
21 Dec 03  |  Country profiles

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