JUNE 11, 2009 (MALAYA) BY ASHZEL HACHERO and JP LOPEZ (Left, right, and center join to denounce her bid to extend stay)

A CROSS-SECTION of society showed up yesterday in Makati City’s business financial district to show their opposition to moves of President Arroyo’s allies to extend her hold on power by amending the Constitution.

Organizers said the rally gathered up to 15,000 participants, including members of militant, student, and Church groups, and political figures. But the police said the crowd to have peaked at only 6,000.

The crowd during the 5 to 8 p.m. rally at Paseo de Roxas and Ayala avenues was bigger than the anti-Cha-cha rally held last December also in Makati, which organizers said had some 10,000 participants.

Towards the end of the rally, actress Bibeth Orteza read a "people’s resolution" denouncing House Resolution 1109, and called for a viva voce vote among the participants.

HR 1109 was passed by Arroyo’s allies last week without Senate participation. It calls on Congress to convene into a constituent assembly to amend the Constitution.

They protesters brought effigies and streamers and banners saying "No to Cha-Cha, No to Gloria Forever."

The protesters started converging toward the rally site at about 4 p.m., under a shower of confetti from buildings on Ayala ave.

Rally organizers set up a stage where speakers took turns assailing the administration-led efforts to amend the Charter, which they said would eventually pave the way for the extension of the term of President Arroyo and other elected public officials.

Makati Mayor and United Opposition president Jejomar Binay said yesterday’s rally was just a prelude to much larger protests in the coming days.

"Kailangang ipakita natin sa rehimeng Arroyo na hindi tayo papayag na ameyandahan at salaulahin an gating Konstitusyon dahil sa kanilang mga pansariling interes," he said.

Former Palace ally Rep. Jose de Venecia Jr. said Arroyo is intent on staying beyond her term.

Rally speakers said amendments to the Constitution could not be trusted in the hands of 117 "irresponsible" congressmen who approved, "like a thief in the night," House Resolution 1109 convening Congress into a constituent assembly.

The faces of the 177 congressmen were flashed on three wide screens at the stage.

During an interfaith rally that preceded the protest action, Bishop Solito Toquero of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines said it has been the position of their group that now this is not the proper time to amend the Constitution.

"Hindi po tayo sigurado sa mga kasalukuyang nakaupo sa Kongreso na nag-apruba ng House Resolutiom 1109. Di po tayo sigurado sa mga iresponsableng nakaupo ngayon," he told the cheering crowd.

Sr. John Mananzan of the Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines said: "Tinatawagan ko ang mga babaylan at mga anito! Isinusumpa natin ang kawalanghiyaan at katiwalian ng administrasyong ito!"

Bayan chair Carol Araullo said "this unity among various groups and personalities has been caused by the very real threat of having Arroyo stay in power. It is somehow to the credit of Mrs. Arroyo and her cohorts that the nation urgently comes together in protest," she said.

Senators Francis Escudero, Loren Legarda, Mar Roxas, Richard Gordon and Maria Ana Consuelo Madrigal were given 30 seconds each to speak.

Other senators seen in the rally were Panfilo Lacson, Rodolfo Biazon, Benigno Aquino III and Pia Cayetano.

"Malacañang’s spokespersons have taken turns in defending the President, insisting that Mrs. Arroyo had no knowledge or blessing of the plot to force Con-Ass in the House. And yet she has not done anything to rein in her allies in Congress from pursuing their political adventurism," she said.

Among other personalities who attended the rally were f Jun Lozada, Pampanga Gov. Ed Panlilio, Sen. Franklin Drilon, Bayan Muna party list Rep. Satur Ocampo, Liza Maza of Gabriela, Teddy Casiño of Bayan Muna, Rafael Mariano of Anak-Pawis, former Rep. Nereus Acosta, former Vice President Toefisto Guingona and his son, Bukidnon Rep. TJ Guingona, former Philippine Tourism Authority chief Nixon Kua, Fernando Poe’s daughter Grace Poe Llamanzares, Armida Siguion-Reyna, Caloocan Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez, former Trade secretary Cesar Purisima, former Education secretary Florencio Abad, Gina de Venecia, Leah Navarro, Vicente Romano, former Social Welfare secretary Corazon Soliman, former Tourism secretary Narzalina Lim, and former DOTC undersecretary Josefina Lichauco.

Among participating groups were the rightist military group Rebolusyonaryong Alyansang Makabayan; leftist militants Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, and Anakbayan; Former Senior Government Officials (FSGO), Alliance of Progressive Labor, Task Force Detainees of the Philippines , Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino, Union of the Masses for Democracy and Justice, Akbayan and many others.

The United Opposition (UNO), Filipinos for Peace, Justice and Progress Movement (FPJPM), Nationalista Party, Concerned Citizens’ Movement, Black and White Movement, Stop Cha-cha Coalition, Sanlakas, Liberal Party, AMRSP and other religious groups, Kilusang Makabansang Ekonomiya, and Bangon Pilipinas led by Jesus is Lord leader Brother Eddie Villanueva also attended the rally.

Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes said similar mass actions were held in Baguio, Calamba City, Lucena City, Batangas City, Nasugbu, Bacoor, Dasmarinas and Silang Cavite, Antipolo City, Cebu City, Tagbilaran City, Sorsogon, Naga, Legazpi, Davao City, Bacolod, Iloilo, General Santos City, Iligan, Cagayan de Oro City, Cabadbaran in Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur and Surigao City.

Ermita: No need for GMA assurances BY JOCELYN MONTEMAYOR

SHE can’t even say, "Read my lips," because she hasn’t spoken, but Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita yesterday said there is no need for President Arroyo to categorically state that there will be presidential elections next year.

He said the merger of Lakas and Kampi parties is proof that the administration is preparing for the 2010 election.

But he failed to allay critics’ fears that if Con-Ass gets off the ground and amends the Constitution to switch to a parliamentary system, the President may run for a House seat and get elected by her peers as prime minister just like Vladimir Putin of Russia.

Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez said that in the absence of a constitutional prohibition, President Arroyo can run for a lower elective position such as vice president, senator, congressman or even mayor.

"There’s no law preventing her, huwag lang reelection (for President)," saying all the Constitution prohibits is reelection.

But Gonzalez said the President has not indicated to her Cabinet any plan to run for any public office when her term expires next year.

Gonzalez said that since the issue remains debatable, the Supreme Court should step in.

On Tuesday next week, the high court is set to hear the early petitions filed by lawyer Oliver Lozano and businessman Louis Biraogo seeking the nullification of HR 1109.

Business groups last Tuesday urged President Arroyo to come out with an explicit commitment that presidential elections will be held next year to dispel speculations of prolonging her power. – With Evangeline de Vera

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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