ANGELES CITY, September 6, 2003 (STAR) By Ding Cervantes  - Capampangan leaders, who recently formed a group called Coalition for the Advancement of the Promises of EDSA (CARE), said they are prepared to instantly mobilize thousands of people from various parts of Central Luzon to stage "people power" against any moves that would threaten the country’s democracy.

"This was shown last Wednesday when no less than 7,000 people from Pampanga and other parts of the region showed up within 24 hours after we decided to hold a rally at the EDSA Shrine, amid talk of another coup," said Angeles City councilor Alex Cauguiran, one of the CARE convenors, who include Gov. Lito Lapid.

Cauguiran said Olongapo City Mayor Katherine Gordon is also committed to mobilize both government and non-government groups in her city in case there is ny need for people power to counter "forces threatening our democratic institutions."

"We can mass at least 3,000 people at short notice, and this could swell later," Cauguiran said.

Despite the rains and floods in most parts of Pampanga and the rest of Central Luzon last Wednesday, about 7,000 people from the government sector and non-government organizations showed up at the Paskuhan Village in San Fernando City this province to join the motorcade to the EDSA Shrine.

People from Olongapo City, Zambales, Nueva Ecija, Bulacan and even the Ilocos took part in the rally.

Cauguiran estimated that the participants swelled to about 20,000 as supporters from Metro Manila later joined the mass action.

But Cauguiran stressed that CARE is "apolitical," saying its supporters include politicians from opposition parties.

"Politicians in Pampanga and the rest of Central Luzon are willing to cross party lines and forget politics altogether to preserve our democracy. It just happens that the legitimate president of our democracy is President Arroyo and so we must respect this, as against the dreadful scenario of a military junta," he said.

Lapid said residents of Marikina, Caloocan, Pasay and Makati also joined the EDSA Shrine rally.

"We did not expect that. I suppose the people are just fed up with all the politicking and the destabilization efforts that could only make their lives worse," he said.

Cauguiran said business and government leaders, in their personal capacities, helped in funding the rally.

"People, including those who did not have much in their pockets, voluntarily joined the rally, while those who could afford volunteered to share their resources so that others would have at least some food to eat during the activity," he said.

Should it be necessary, he said CARE supporters are willing to stage rallies at the EDSA Shrine until any threats to democracy are dissipated.

"Anyone who threatens our democratic institutions is an enemy," said Angeles City Mayor Carmelo Lazatin.

Pampanga Mayor’s League president Marino Morales of Mabalacat town was a bit more political in saying that while CARE’s objective is to protect democracy, last Wednesday’s rally was also meant to express support for the Arroyo administration.

The Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) in Central Luzon, however, lashed out at "some Pampanga local government executives shielding the Arroyo administration from charges of graft and corruption and failure of governance."

Bayan-Central Luzon chairman Roman Polintan said the rally was "nothing but a misplaced manifestation of support to President Arroyo and intended to protect her from the people’s growing condemnation of high-level corruption in her government."

He urged them "to once again demonstrate their patriotic fervor by launching massive protest actions to oust President Arroyo just like what they did to President (Joseph) Estrada and President (Ferdinand) Marcos."

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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