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Philippine President's Supporters Withdraw Support, Urge Resignation

  • Heda Bayron

Gloria Arroyo
Major political allies of embattled Philippine President Gloria Arroyo, including former President Corazon Aquino, have withdrawn their support and urged her to resign amid allegations of election fraud. Mrs. Arroyo's four-year tenure is looking increasingly shaky.

Former president Aquino's comments came during a day of non-stop political blows to President Gloria Arroyo. One by one, Mrs. Arroyo's former allies stepped forward and called on her to resign.

In a statement Friday afternoon, Mrs. Aquino urged Mrs. Arroyo to make the "supreme sacrifice," and step down.

Earlier in the day, another of Mrs. Arroyo's major political allies, the Liberal Party, announced that it had asked for resignation.

"My party, the Liberal Party, has come to a decision to appeal to her to resign because of a lost capacity to govern," Liberal Party member Senator Rodolfo Biazon said.

The party said if Mrs. Arroyo ignored its advice, members would vote in favor of an impeachment complaint currently before Congress.

On Thursday, Mrs. Arroyo stoutly refused to resign, and a spokesman repeated this on Friday. Mrs. Arroyo pledged to undertake massive government reforms instead. She then asked for the resignation of her entire cabinet.

On Friday, eight cabinet secretaries resigned, and demanded their boss's resignation as well.

The crisis, sparked by secret recordings of a telephone conversation between Mrs. Arroyo and a senior election official during last year's vote counting, has divided and paralyzed the country. Mrs. Arroyo, who won the poll by a narrow margin, apologized for the conversation, but denies she cheated her way to victory.

Politicians and political analysts say she is on shaky ground. Over the past few days, she has also lost support from church organizations, while a military-linked group has raised the idea of establishing a "transitional revolutionary" government in her place.

There are those who caution against repeatedly forcing legitimately elected leaders from office. In the last 19 years, mass protests have driven out two Philippines presidents accused of corruption.

On Friday, Senator Manuel Villar, part of the ruling coalition, urged fellow politicians and the public to follow legal means in resolving the crisis.

"We should not be led by siren songs of shortcuts for snap elections, for revolutionary constitutional governments, of experimenting on solutions outside the constitutional framework," he said.

The mass protests have been nicknamed "EDSA" after the major Manila highway where the mass demonstrations tend to occur. Political analysts like Senator Villar, and Mrs. Arroyo herself, say the country's image would suffer if another EDSA were to take place.

"The world will not forgive an EDSA-3 in 2005, but would instead condemn the Philippines as a country whose political system is hopelessly unstable," she said. " And the Filipinos, as among the finest people in the world, but who always shoot themselves in the foot."

So far, there have been limited street demonstrations in the capital, Manila. Police and the military have been placed on high alert, and the military has been ordered to stay out of politics.

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