FORMER ALLIES ASK GMA TO QUIT FOR TITO

Manila, Jan. 21, 2003 - Militant former allies of President Arroyo who helped install her to power two years ago after ousting President Joseph Estrada demanded yesterday that she step down and allow Vice President Teofisto Guingona to take over.

Members of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) and other militant groups struggled with anti-riot police near Camp Crame in Quezon City to allow them to assemble at the EDSA Shrine to celebrate the second anniversary of Estrada’s overthrow.

Waving streamers: "Mrs. Arroyo a traitor," the demonstrators tried to march from Santolan Road and EDSA to the shrine at the corner of Ortigas Avenue but anti-riot policemen stopped them near Camp Crame and firemen aboard firetrucks bombarded them with water when they tried to break the blockade.

Elmer Labog, KMU secretary general, said militant labor would force Mrs. Arroyo out of Malacañang if she does not voluntarily step down.

"Allowing Mrs. Arroyo to stay in Malacañang for 18 months is too much," he said. "In the last two years, (Mrs.) Arroyo only caused too much damage on the lives of the Filipino, particularly the poor and workers."

Labog said Mrs. Arroyo should immediately step down from the presidency to spare the Filipino people from "further degradation and suffering."

The Arroyo administration allowed "exorbitant increases" in the prices of oil, electricity and other essential services instead of uplifting the living conditions of workers, he added.

Renato Magtubo, chairman of Partido ng Manggagawa (PMP), said they would pressure Mrs. Arroyo to implement radical reforms to improve the lives of Filipinos.

"The lesson of the first and second EDSA (revolts) are clear," he said. "There is nothing to gain from upheaval that merely replaces the president. What is needed is to institute a real change in the lives of the people and the rotten system of elite rule."

The country does not only need a change in presidents but a radical transformation of society if Mrs. Arroyo fails to implement reforms, he added.

Teddy Casiño, Bayan secretary general, said Mrs. Arroyo, who is the "main beneficiary" of Estrada’s ouster, has "grossly betrayed" the cause of EDSA II.

"Without serious pro-people reforms following her Dec. 30, 2002 announcement, there is a possibility that she may face the same fate as (Estrada)," he said.

"The Filipino people are fed up with two years of betrayal by the main beneficiary of people power 2. We come back to EDSA to decry (Mrs.) Arroyo’s repeated and unrepentant treachery to the causes and ideals of the uprising." With reports from Mayen Jaymalin, Pia Lee-Brago, Benjie Villa

Joe Dizon, spokesman for the Estrada Resign Movement, said Mrs. Arroyo should immediately turn over the reins of government to Guingona.

"Two years of misrule are enough, Mrs. President," he said. "Your decision not to run for president in 2004 came too late and matters too little at this point," he said.

"The nation will be better off without you now. Since the President has caused so much disunity and has become the single, biggest stumbling block to reforms, she should take this truly ultimate sacrifice."

Dizon said "other political forces" should not allow Mrs. Arroyo to drag the country down with her as she aggravates the nation’s disunity and prolongs economic and political crisis.

"Her lack of vision, compromising and opportunist stance, militarist attitude and puppetry to elite and foreign interests have made her detestable to many of our countrymen," he said.

Robert Reyes, another anti-Estrada leader, said Mrs. Arroyo has not achieved moral and political ascendancy in the government since she took over the presidency two years ago.

"Both EDSA I and II are failures," he said. "The government is in a mess, trying to claim moral ascendancy, which not even the President can make."

Reyes said Mrs. Arroyo’s announcement that she would not run in the 2004 elections is a "realization of the failure" of her administration to bring significant changes in the government.

"GMA’s announcement that she will not run for elections in 2004 doesn’t exonerate her from the alleged mistakes and blatant abuses of people close and affiliated to her," he said.

"She doesn’t have to run because she will still be the President if the constituent assembly succeeds."

Reyes said the President should "put her foot down" and stop Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr. from pushing the convening of Congress into a constituent assembly to initiate changes in the Constitution and pave the way for a shift to a parliamentary system of government.

"She should tell (De Venecia) to junk the (his call for) a constituent assembly," he said. "She should put him in the proper place or we will end up with (De Venecia) running the country under a parliamentary system of government."


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