Embattled Philippine leader warns against mass uprising

Other News Materials 24 February 2008 12:20 (UTC +04:00)

( dpa ) - Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, embattled by calls for her resignation over corruption allegations, warned Filipinos Sunday against supporting a mass uprising to oust her before her term ends in 2010.

The Philippines has removed two presidents in past "people power" revolts: late dictator Ferdinand Marcos in February 1986, and former president Joseph Estrada in January 2001.

On the eve of anti-government protests planned to mark the 22nd anniversary of the 1986 revolt, Arroyo warned Filipinos that the world "will not forgive" a similar uprising this year.

"The world would instead condemn the Philippines as a country whose political system is hopelessly unstable," she said. "Under these circumstances, who would invest in the Philippines?"

The military and police have increased security ahead of Monday's demonstrations. Authorities also warned soldiers and policemen against joining the anti-government protests.

"Members of the military that join the protests will be arrested," armed forces chief of staff General Hermogenes Esperon said, echoing an earlier warning to policemen. "That is against the military law and beyond the duty of a soldier."

Critics have called for a third people power revolt to remove Arroyo, who has rejected calls for her resignation and vowed to finish her term until 2010.

The resignation calls intensified after witnesses alleged that Arroyo's husband and a key ally were involved in the overpricing of a 329-million-dollar government contract with a Chinese company.

The scandal worsened when one of the witnesses accused government security forces of kidnapping him to prevent him from exposing what he knew.

Amid the attacks, Arroyo defended her record and vowed to address the scandal.

"We all know I am not perfect," she said. "But I have worked hard everyday to achieve positive and lasting change for the nation.

"I am assuring the people that if there will be individuals proven to be guilty, they will be punished. I am resolved to fight anomalies. People are angry at corruption. I am too."

The controversial deal has been scrapped, but the opposition-dominated Senate is still investigating the allegations, including revelations that illegal kickbacks from the contract reached at least 130 million dollars.