GMA’S EX-ALLIES MARK EDSA2 W/PROTESTS

Manila, Jan. 20, 2003 - Some of the groups that helped install President Arroyo in Malacañang through Edsa 2 said yesterday they would mark her second anniversary in office with nationwide protest actions because she has done nothing to improve then people's economic plight.

They said the economy worsened under her administration which has been continuously hounded by corruption and other controversies.

The Palace earlier said Arroyo's speech at the Our Lady of Peace Church-Edsa Shrine for the Edsa 2 anniversary today will focus on her anti-corruption campaign and on electoral reforms.

Conrado Limcaoco, presidential adviser on media and ecclesiastical affairs, said Arroyo's speech would be non-political.

Arroyo's speech will follow a Mass to be said by Cardinal Jaime Sin at noon.

Limcaoco said the celebration will be more simple than last year's.

Presidential spokesman Ignacio Bunye took exception to calls to forego celebrations in the light of worsening corruption.

He said the economy fared well compared to other countries in the region. On the peace and order front, he said at least five of 21 kidnap for ransom groups have been neutralized. He said only a couple of hundreds remain of the thousands who joined the Abu Sayyaf and the remnants have been cornered in a section of Jolo island.

The disgruntled Edsa 2 groups said controversies that have hounded Arroyo since her assumption as president on Jan. 20, 2001 only showed she had turned her back on the "principles" that guided Edsa 2.

"Nandiyan ang Code-NGO deal, Impsa deal, telecomms franchise scam, ang dami-dami," said Linda Montayre, secretary general of the People's Consultative Assembly.

"Ngayon isisisi pa nila yung Impsa deal kay (former President) Estrada. Sa totoo lang, administrayon na ni Gloria ang nag-apruba diyan. Mina-muddle nila yung mga issue," she said.

Code-NGO (Caucus of Development for NGO Networks), headed by a sister of Finance Secretary Jose Isidro Camacho, earned P1.4 billion from the sale of P35 billion "peace bonds" without spending a single centavo. The peace bonds deal is still being investigated by the Senate.

The Impsa deal involves the rehabilitation of the Caliraya-Botocan-Kalayaan hydroelectric plant complex by the Argentine firm Impresas Metalurgicas Pescarmona SA (Impsa). The Senate is investigating allegations of a $14 million bribe surrounding the contract which was approved four days after Arroyo assumed the presidency.

Montayre said investors were not impressed with Arroyo's declaration last December 30 that she is not running in the 2004 presidential elections.

"Wala na talagang foreign investors na nagtitiwala kay Gloria. Marami kaming nakakausap na investor. Dati kung umaalis sila paisa-isa. Pero ngayon in droves na talaga. Kahit ano pa ang sabihin ni Mrs. Arroyo wala na siyang magagawa dahil wala nang sumusuporta sa kanya," she said.

Montayre said she would drop a "bombshell" today in a press conference at the Club Filipino in San Juan.

"Hindi kayo mabibigo," she said.

Expected to attended the affair are former Senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Francisco Tatad.

Sanlakas said for Arroyo to gain the people's trust, she should abolish the purchased power adjustment, suspend water rate hikes, and re-channel the budget for debt servicing to social services.

"Two years have passed since GMA assumed the throne of Malacañang via Edsa 2. Two years have gone after the `trapos (traditional politicians)' seized power in Edsa. And with that two years, trapos haven't shown anything beneficial for the many," said Wilson Fortaleza, Sanlakas president.

For today's anniversary, the Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino came up with a slogan, "Pangako ng Edsa, Mga Trapo ang Nagtamasa."

BMP said the living condition of the people under the Arroyo administration even got worse.

"We are not asking GMA to do a miracle ... But this is where we could actually measure and verify her sincerity. It's not too late for the President to prove that, though unwanted and un-elected, she could really make a big difference," said Leody de Guzman, BMP secretary general.

The Kilusang Mayo Uno said it felt a tinge of regret for helping install Arroyo.

"Lumala ang kahirapan sa ilalim ni Gloria," said Joe Maglunsod, KMU secretary for federation affairs. "Sa ngayon, 4.87 million ang unemployed at mga five million naman ang underemployed. Wala talagang glorya kay Gloria matapos ang Edsa 2."

Maglunsod said the rallies that the militant groups would hold today would be peaceful.

"Pero lalapit kami sa Edsa Shrine. Kung yung mga pulitiko papayagan na makapasok doon bakit hindi kami? Kaya naman sila nandiyan sa puwesto dahil din sa mga grupong katulad namin. Hindi naman tayo martial law ngayon, di ba? Bakit bawal?" he said.

Limcaoco and Bunye, asked why there were no advisories or news items on today's activities festivities like last year, said Arroyo prefers to have a "simple and more solemn" celebration.

Limcaoco said the celebration is more meaningful this year in light of Arroyo's announcement she is not running in 2004 so she could concentrate on making the dream of Edsa 2 come true, "which is a corruption-free government and a country of good governance and unity."

He said the noontime mass would coincide with the hour Arroyo was sworn in as the 14th president.

Members of "civil society" would hold celebrations at the People Power monument in Quezon City, among other gathering places, in deference to the church's call last year to respect the Shrine and not turn it into a political stage. (Malaya)


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