A small group of Muslim and Christian activists hold a picket Monday, February 25, 2008 in downtown Zamboanga City in southern Philippines calling for the resignation of embattled President Gloria Arroyo, accused of fraud in the 2004 elections. A similar rally is also held in Cotabato City. Opposition politicians and civil society organizations also accused Arroyo of corruption involving the flawed and overpriced national broadband network deal with China's ZTE. (Mindanao Examiner Photo)
ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Feb. 25, 2008) – Political activists and members of militant Muslim groups calling for the resignation of embattled Filipino leader Gloria Arroyo held a peaceful rally on Monday in Zamboanga City.
The protesters, mostly from the group called Kawagib Moro Human Rights, Suara Bangsamoro and the Liga ng Kabataang Moro, distributed anti-Arroyo propaganda to citizens and took turns in criticizing the president on corruption scandals brought about by the flawed and overpriced national broadband network deal with China.
Sittie Sundang, Kawagib Moro Human Rights secretary-general, said public clamor for Arroyo to step down is getting stronger every day. “People want change and they want Arroyo to resign,” she told the Mindanao Examiner.
“The public should know all the truth behind the flawed NBN deal and corruption scandals that are now hounding the Arroyo government,” one activist, Abdul Muktar, said.
Arroyo admitted she knew about the flawed NBN deal, but still signed the $329-million contract with China only to scrap it five months later after the opposition accused her government of corruption.
The opposition said the contract was overpriced by $130 million. The scandal triggered calls from the opposition and civil society groups, including the Church for Arroyo to resign.
“She should resign if she still has little shame left and there must be snap presidential elections in order to restore trust and confidence. We are fed up with corruption,” said Juanita dela Cruz, 54.
But the influential Bishop-Ulama Conference said Arroyo should finish her term in 2010 and appealed to citizens for sobriety despite calls by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines for a communal action in the wake of corruption scandals hounding the Arroyo administration.
CBCP President Archbishop Angel Lagdameo said the Philippines is experiencing a “new brand” of people power in various archdioceses and dioceses. “Various activities in the form of people’s response to calls for communal action are borne out of discussions in the parishes, groups and associations for truth, justice and accountability,” Archbishop Lagdameo said.
But Ustadz Shariff Julabbi, spokesman for the Bishop-Ulama Conference, appealed to religious groups to stay neutral. “Filipinos should unite for the sake of the country and work together for progress and development to achieve real peace in the land,” Ustadz Julabbi said in a separate interview.
Anti-Arroyo protesters also held a rally in Cotabato City on Monday, which coincided with the 22nd anniversary of the EDSA People Power revolution that toppled the Marcos regime.
Bai Ali Indayla, of the Suara Bangsamoro, said the rally was participated by members of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, Liga ng Kabataang, Alyansa ng Kabataan Laban sa Panghihimasok ng Amerikanong Sundalo and Gabriela Youth. (With a report from Mark Navales)