50,000 stage protest over `crony' state

VOTED INTO office in an unprecedented landslide, Joseph Estrada - a former star of Filipino movies - finds his presidency subject to very mixed reviews one year on.

Some 50,000 protesting Filipinos marched in Manila yesterday through a tropical storm, to a rally led by Cardinal Sin and former President Cory - key figures in the uprising that dislodged former President Marcos in 1986. Well-heeled businessmen joined peasant activists; crucifixes consorted with red flags. But the main hues were yellow, proclaiming support for the anti-Marcos movement.

Shreds of paper, also yellow, spilt from office towers in central Manila where the demonstrators converged on a statue to Ninoy Aquino, Cory's husband, shot dead in 1983 when returning from exile to a Manila run by Marcos.

The rally was crowded with ghosts. There were rumours that Communist infiltrators planned to disrupt proceedings with a bombing. "It is one of those scare tactics used by Marcos before. That is why we are here," one man smiled.

A small placard in the crowd put the case in equally simple terms: "No to Cronyism - Preserve the Free Press - No to Constitutional Change". Cardinal Sin and Mrs Aquino assumed the podium. "The people of the world will laugh at us, if we have not learnt from our mistakes of the past. Never again! Never again!" said the Cardinal.

"What is better than to stand up for freedom and good government against the threat of tyranny and corruption?" said Mrs Aquino, while carefully not attacking the current President personally. Mr Estrada himself has shrugged off the criticism. "I am a President, not a psychiatrist," he said at one point.

Central to the rally was Mr Estrada's plan to change the constitution. He says it needs correction if the Philippines is to be globally competitive; the proposed cure - removing controls on foreign ownership of land and utilities. He denies darker political purposes.

But his opponents are suspicious. It has been suggested that reopening the document may lead to dangerous political adjustments. Under the 1987 constitution, presidents are restricted to one term.

Lack of trust in the Estrada administration is fuelled by an alleged crackdown on the independent Filipino press. Isagani Yambot, publisher of The Philippine Daily Inquirer, says the hard-hitting paper has become the victim of a "financial squeeze". After two exposes involving members of the President's extended family, advertising was withdrawn by government financial institutions and substantial private interests. As with press freedom, so with allegations of cronyism. Mr Estrada has declared cronyism "dead and obsolete under my administration". But members of one commercial organisation, the Makati Business Club, said "the return of cronyism and influence peddling" was the most critical issue during Mr Estrada's first year.

The President says he will push on with constitutional change. But the controversy over his administration is un-likely to be smothered soon.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

SThree: Recruitment Resourcer

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: Do you want to get in...

Ashdown Group: Project Manager - Birmingham - up to £40,000 - 12 month FTC

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Manager - Birmingham - ...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before