Manila, March 1, 2003 -- Anti-war protesters, mostly students and members of militant and religious groups, flocked to the Quirino Grandstand at the Luneta (Rizal Park) to protest a US-led attack on Iraq.

Police estimated the crowd at about 15,000 to 25,000 but organizers said it was about 50,000 to 100,000 as more people arrived when the rally got into full swing.

The crowd of priests, housewives, farmers, artists, leftists and students in school uniform dwarfed celebrations by about 600 people on Tuesday marking the anniversary of the "people power revolt" of 1986.

Cardinal Jaime Sin, in a message read by Bishop Teodoro Bacani of Novaliches, said God will "vanquish enemies of peace" and asked Filipinos to "pray that the leaders of the world may uphold peace."

"He will conquer the worlds with his love. He is the front of mercy. He will listen to our prayers," he said.

Sin said the call for peace should not be confined to the issue on Iraq but should apply to individuals.

"To pray for peace is to open our hearts to God's power, to renew all things. To pray for peace is to pray for justice, equality, and forgiveness. Let us be the mirrors of God's merciful love. Let our lives serve as a pilgrimage of love and peace to Jesus Christ who 'is our peace," he said.

Vice President Teofisto Guingona asked the United States and other governments "not only to govern but to give life to the true sense of justice."

"We pray for peace. Not just a cessation of hostilities in our own land and a permanent stay for serenity in Iraq, but a meaningful lasting peace ... for the poor not only to survive but to overcome, for governments the world over not only to govern but to give life to the true sense of justice," he said in his prayer.

He said anti-war groups gathered at the Rizal Park not to blame but to pray "to guide us, to strengthen us and to enlighten those in the helm of power to give us peace."

Other prominent personalities at the rally were Sen. Francis Pangilinan, former Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, and Congressmen Satur Ocampo and Etta Rosales.

The participants started converging at Liwasang Bonifacio and Plaza Miranda at around 12:30 p.m.

"I want my voice to be heard. I am against war," said Luz Landaos, a 51-year-old beautician, as she clutched the hand of her six-year-old granddaughter.

"Stop the US War in Iraq" some placards read, while others called for US troops now training Philippine troops in Mindanao to leave the country.

One group of protesters targeted President Arroyo, singing "Gloria, Gloria is going to war - you're a liar, you're a liar."

More than half of those who joined the rally were students and members of militant organizations.

Administrators of sectarian schools belonging to Catholic Educators Association of the Philippines reportedly suspended classes so that their students could join the rally.

Schools that had representatives included Adamson University, Ateneo de Manila University, Centro Escolar University, Colegio San Juan de Letran, Dela Salle University, Far Eastern University, Kalayaan College, Philippine Christian University, St. Scholastica's College, Technological Institute of the Philippines and Polytechnic University of the Philippines, Arellano University, Trinity College, University of Sto. Tomas, and Holy Family School. Other groups that participated in the biggest anti-war rally were El Shaddai, CBCP Episcopal Community on Interfaith Dialogue, Legislators Against War, Citizens Council of Peace, National Council of Churches in the Philippines, Apostolic Catholic Church, Episcopal Church of the Philippines, United Church of the Philippines, Association of Major Religious Superior in the Philippines, Kairos Philippines, Couples for Christ, Daughter of Charity, Redemptorist (CSSR), Franciscans (OFM), Canossian Sisters, San Carlos Seminary, World Apostole of Fatima, Task Force Urban Conscientization, Lay Forum Philippines.

Siervas De San Jose, Justice Not War Coalition, Muslim Solidarity for the People of Iraq, Migrante International, Moro Christian People's Alliance, Pilgrims for Peace, Prescription for Peace, Artist for Peace, Anib Manggagawa, Bayan, Bayan Muna, Bagong Bandila, Pilipina Inc., Volunteers against Crime and Corruption, Filipino-Muslim Chamber of Commerce, Capitol Medical Center, National Union of Students in the Philippines, College Editors Guild of the Philippines, Alliance of Concerned Teachers.

Quezon City School Teachers Associations, GZO Peace Institute, KAISA Foundation, Kaanib, ALL-UP Workers Union, Anakbayan, Student Christian Movement, League of Concerned Professionals and Businessmen, Peace for All, Kilusang Mayo Uno, Tabak KMPP, Agham, www.peace, Gabriela, Anakpawis and Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas.

CRY-OUT NOW (Church People Cry: Out with US Troops Now) challenged Arroyo to order the immediate pullout of all US troops in Mindanao and withdraw support for US unilateral action against Iraq.

Defense officials in Washington have said US troops will expand their training role by going into combat against Abu Sayyaf.

Philippine officials deny US special forces will fight the bandits directly - which would break a constitutional ban against foreign combat troops - but analysts say the Americans will play a far more aggressive role than Manila is ready to admit. (Malaya)

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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