Former President Corazon Aquino yesterday advised President Gloria Arroyo to resign due to alleged election fraud and allow Vice-President Noli de Castro to assume the presidency.

"I ask the president to spare her country and herself from this second option [of impeachment at the House of Representatives] and make the supreme sacrifice of resigning," Aquino said while speaking to students at Manila's De La Salle University, a Catholic school.

President Gloria Arroyo with local officials who visited her to show their support for her at the Malacanang Palace in Manila yesterday.
"I say this fully acknowledging the good work she has done in office and the industry and dedication she has displayed," Aquino added.

She was with former Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, who was accused of masterminding the failed cabinet coup, which Arroyo survived last Friday.

The forum was scheduled last week, when Aquino's call for Arroyo to resign was meant to ignite a fuse for the failed plot to oust her and allow the installation of the vice-president as new chief of staff.

Despite the call of the Catholic Bishop Conference of the Philippines that they are not demanding for Arroyo's resignation, Aquino continued with her advice to Arroyo.

Aquino felt that an impeachment trial against Arroyo would also serve as a fuse for national disintegration. She did not acknowledge that her move last Friday was also considered a form of national disintegration since the ruling party had branded it as a failed Cabinet plot.

Aquino's position was tantamount to a call for people's power protest against Arroyo, but added that the latter must spare the Philippines from the violence since various groups might take advantage of the situation.

She was invited by Brother Armin Luistro of the La Salle Brothers. Analysts said that Aquino's statement has made her a virtual ally of the opposition represented by the Revolutionary Patriotic Alliance, or RAM, whose members included right wing rebel soldiers who launched several failed coup plots against the former president from 1986 to 1989.

Aquino's position is similar to that of former President Joseph Estrada, an ally of the surviving family members of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos. A people-backed military mutiny paved the way for the ouster of Marcos and the ascendance of Aquino to the presidency in 1986.

Aquino's position has made her an ally of the leftist groups which have continued to call for Arroyo to step down.

The workers who were killed while holding a strike at Aquino's sugar plantation in central Luzon, are supported by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its military arm, the New People's Army (NPA). The CPP-NPA also called for intensification of armed struggle in the provinces while the political crisis is ongoing. Many believe that Aquino's statement was in reply to the position of the CBCP which rebuked her position. Aquino, like Arroyo, is a devout Catholic. Both listen to the Catholic Church.

The influential CBCP rejected the creation of juntas or revolutionary councils to replace Arroyo. Earlier, Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Rosales said there should be no people power against Arroyo.

Meanwhile, Father James Reuter, executive secretary of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines‚ Episcopal Commission on Mass Media and Communication launched a prayer-power, adding it is the best antidote to those who are planning to launch a people-power against Arroyo tomorrow. "Maybe it's time to try prayer power. God never fails. We can rely on God's promise, but we have to do our part,"he said.