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Friday, August 20, 1999 Published at 05:05 GMT 06:05 UK


World: Asia-Pacific

'People power' rally in Philippines

Thousands are expected to gather in Manila

By John McLean in Manila

Tens of thousands of people are expected to join a rally in Manila on Friday to demonstrate their opposition to what they regard as a new threat to democracy in the Philippines.

The rally has been organised by the leaders of the People Power Revolution that overthrew the regime of President Ferdinand Marcos in 1986.

They believe that some of the abuses committed by the Marcos regime are in danger of reappearing under the incumbent President, Joseph Estrada.

People power

This demonstration is a deliberate revival of the People Power phenomenon that deposed President Marcos.

Thirteen years ago, Filipinos took to the streets of Manila in their hundreds of thousands and, by sheer force of numbers, persuaded Mr Marcos to flee the country.

The leader of the People Power Revolution was Corazon Aquino who, as president, established a democratic system.

Now, Mrs Aquino is using the same tactic to deliver a warning to the incumbent president, that he should not allow democracy to wither.

"I would like to be able to let the president know what is in the minds and hearts of people - not just me, but of many people - who were responsible for helping us to restore democracy," she said.

Cronyism

Mrs Aquino and her followers believe that under Mr Estrada there has been a resurgence of the kind of abuses last seen during the Marcos regime.

They believe that there has been a return to economic cronyism, that the freedom of the press is under attack and that the president's plans to amend the constitution have a nefarious purpose.

Mr Estrada denies all these accusations, and he intends to show that he retains the immense popularity that won him last year's presidential election.

While Mrs Aquino can expect to attract tens of thousands of Filipinos to her People Power rally, Mr Estrada plans to attend another rally on the other side of Manila, organised by a charismatic Christian preacher who often draws crowds more than a million strong.



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