World | Philippines

150,000 people protest against move to amend constitution

An estimated 150,000 marchers took part in a peaceful thanksgiving rally led by Church leaders yesterday against President Gloria Arroyo's move to amend the 1987 constitution.

  • By Gilbert Felongco, Correspondent
  • Published: 00:00 December 18, 2006
  • Gulf News

  • Image Credit: AP
  • Protesters hold a caricature of Philippine President Gloria Arroyo (right) and House Speaker Jose de Venecia before their march towards Manila’s Rizal Park yesterday. They were attending a Roman Catholic church-led prayer rally against a plan by lawmakers to change the constitution.

Manila: An estimated 150,000 marchers took part in a peaceful thanksgiving rally led by Church leaders yesterday against President Gloria Arroyo's move to amend the 1987 constitution.

Organisers took efforts to prevent the mass action from turning into a rally by some politicians.

There were no immediate reports of any violence, but police officers scattered around Manila's Rizal park amid reports that communist insurgents may try to sabotage the event.

Footage of television news reports aired by various networks showed thousands of participants taking part in the rally, most of whom were students asked by their schools to attend the demonstration.

Organisers of the event, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) said that while the people who attended the event yesterday fell short of the projected 500,000 people who had committed to join the thanksgiving rally the peaceful demonstration exhibited the sentiments of most Filipinos in efforts by some sectors to change the constitution.

Former president Corazon Aquino, Senator Franklin Drilon and several other politicians attended the event but were not allowed to address the crowds.

Opposition

Thousands of people, led by various Catholic Church groups converged at the site of the rally in Central Manila's Quirino Grandstand before 4pm local time. Dozens of politicians, mostly from the political opposition showed up for the event prompting police to ban them from clambering up the stage and unfurling banners.

Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales during a speech he delivered during the event said politicians and leaders must give up their individual ambitions to achieve such unity.

"We need the gift of unity but that unity cannot be had except only through sacrificing of ambitions. The only valid equation is to sacrifice for the good of everyone especially the poor in our midst," he said. Likewise, he agreed that reforms must be instituted in the country's political system, but the purpose is not to change the constitution but to ensure clean elections.

"There are still many things to thank God for when we look at our lives just as there are also other needs we have to pray to God for help when we see all poverty around us," he added.

Earlier on Saturday, CBCP president Angel Lagdameo said the rally can be considered a thanksgiving for the Filipinos after the House of Representatives and the presidential palace announced that they are shelving efforts to amend the 1987 constitution.

To secure yesterday's rally at the Quirino Grandstand, the national police had deployed a total 15,000 policemen for the event according to Senior Superintendent Samuel Pagdilao, police spokesman.

Prayer

At the same time the rally was being held in Manila, President Gloria Arroyo issued a statement saying that she hoped that the power of the people at the rally would "include prayer for the victims of the recent typhoons and a call to action to volunteer their time and donate their money to bring the blessings of the season on those in need in typhoon-ravaged areas".

She added: "We must pray for our nation and take action to help others in need. The proposed Thanksgiving Prayer Rally is a peaceful expression of the people that their democracy is working and their voices are being heard."

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