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Philippine Opposition Protests for Ouster of President Arroyo

Thousands of opposition protesters took to the streets in Manila to call for the removal of President Gloria Arroyo. They accuse her of election fraud, corruption and economic failures. Two thousand riot police were deployed around the capital to ensure security.

There was a festive air in downtown Manila, as music, chants and banners filled several streets. One of the more popular opposition tunes is "Oust GMA" - an abbreviation for President Arroyo, sung to the American tune "YMCA".

The peaceful demonstration came on the 33rd anniversary of the declaration of martial law by former President Ferdinand Marcos. Some opposition leaders say a darkness is descending on the country, comparable to the Marcos era, when the media were constrained and government opponents jailed. But independent analysts say this is a distorted comparison.

Different protesters have different grievances. This 19-year-old student from the University of the Philippines says her school has suffered massive budget cuts under the current government. She says President Arroyo failed other groups, as well, since she assumed office in 2001.

"It has been a long time since the day she took office in Malacanang, all the sectors, all the needs of the people, she wasn't able to give us what we need," the student said.

The economy has become a growing source of discontent in the impoverished nation, as people suffer from rising oil prices and a weakened currency.

Armin Luistro, with the opposition Coalition for the Truth, which organized the protest, says the group is composed of many factions, but it has one common theme. He spoke in an interview with ABS-CBN Television.

"Gloria must go. And if we want truth, if we want justice in the country, then she must go. And that's a generic term to bring in all the different concepts and platforms of the group," said Mr. Luistro.

A move to impeach President Arroyo was defeated in the legislature earlier this month. But opposition leaders say many questions remain about the allegations against her.

Earlier this year tapes were released of her talking with an election official during the 2004 vote count. She said the call was a lapse in judgment and apologized, but denied doing anything illegal.

The government portrays the opposition as bad losers, saying they had their opportunity in Congress but failed. The Arroyo administration has said now everyone must get on with the business of the nation.

So-called people power revolutions have ousted two Philippine presidents in recent decades - President Marcos in 1986 and Joseph Estrada, who was forced out in 2001, allowing Ms. Arroyo, then vice president, to take office. Many political analysts in the Philippines say there is not enough public anger this time around to push out Ms. Arroyo.