, February 22, 2005
(STAR) By Marichu Villanueva  -  President Arroyo will lead today’s anti-corruption rally to kick off the four-day commemoration of the EDSA people power revolution anniversaries.

Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye revealed this to The STAR yesterday, but vehemently denied that Mrs. Arroyo has required all government workers to attend the rally and government agencies to bring in paid crowds to serve as an audience.

"It’s really an anti-corruption rally since former President Joseph Estrada was ousted precisely on the issue of corruption," Bunye said, referring to the second people power uprising that followed plunder allegations against Estrada and that saw his administration crumble in 2001. The first EDSA revolt in February 1986 overthrew the corrupt dictatorship of late strongman Ferdinand Marcos.

But EDSA anniversary attendance has dropped in recent years, and militant groups have blamed the apparent lethargy over the event on government efforts to use the anniversary as a platform for its programs.

Contrary to the claim of a militant labor group, Bunye stressed that senior deputy executive secretary Waldo Flores merely issued a notice of "invitation" for government employees in the Office of the President to participate in the EDSA event.

But The STAR obtained a copy of the memorandum issued by Flores, which notifies all heads of primary units in the Office of the President to make sure their respective personnel were "directed" to attend the anti-corruption rally at 1 p.m. today at the People Power Monument along EDSA.

The Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (Courage) also accused Malacañang yesterday of using "hakot" or paid crowds to make it appear there is public support for the government’s programs which include "the legislation of new and higher taxes."

In a statement, Courage said it has received reports that Malacañang, through the Office of External Affairs, "issued a memorandum to government departments and agencies as well as local government units to mobilize project beneficiaries, indigents and others" to gather at the event.

Government employees of the National Housing Authority, Department of Social Welfare and Development and the Department of Labor and Employment supposedly received the memo, Courage said.

"Curiously, the instruction also included that ‘logistical support shall be provided for an audience of 30,000,’" the group added.

However, Bunye clarified that Flores’ memo applied only to the personnel of the Office of the President and therefore could not be considered mandatory for other government agencies.

Bunye said he himself would attend the rally.

Courage president Ferdie Gaite lambasted the government and questioned how much money would be "wasted" this year just so Malacañang could gather a paid crowd.

Courage alleged that the administration "will use the EDSA rites to muster support for its policies and programs."

"The Arroyo administration, for fear of another low turnout at this year’s EDSA anniversary, has again exhibited its moral bankruptcy to govern by forcing government employees and other project beneficiaries to join in today’s rally," Gaite said. — With Michael Punongbayan

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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