Estrada faces renewed pressure to step down

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The Independent Online

Opposition politicians brought impeachment charges against Joseph Estrada, President of the Philippines, yesterday as more than 10,000 people demanded his resignation on the streets of Manila.

Opposition politicians brought impeachment charges against Joseph Estrada, President of the Philippines, yesterday as more than 10,000 people demanded his resignation on the streets of Manila.

Confetti and yellow ribbons were thrown from the windows of the Stock Exchange. Forty-two members of the Philippines Congress, including six from Mr Estrada's own coalition, filed a 12-page motion for impeachment on charges of accepting bribes, committing perjury, violating the presidential oath of office, nepotism and abuse of the constitution.

"It's going to be a tough fight," said Roilo Golez, a congressman who recently defected from Mr Estrada's party. "But this is an irreversible tide."

Mr Estrada's predecessor as president, Fidel Ramos, joined the growing number of distinguished Filipinos who havepublicly called for his resignation. These include another former president, Cory Aquino, Manila's Cardinal Jaime Sin, and the Vice-President, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

Mr Estrada has denounced as "baseless" the allegations against him, which include the charge that he received 414m pesos (£8.7m) in bribes from illegal gambling syndicates, and scooped off 130m pesos from a fund intended to help Filipino tobacco farmers.

"Others are saying I should step down as President," he told a crowd in a Manila slum. "I would never do that because I have a sworn duty to the masses. These people have lost their minds.

"The opposition is sowing disorder and the most affected are the poor. They are mistaken, because the more your president is being beaten, the more he fights back, especially if he is protecting the poor and the downtrodden."

Removing the President would require one-third of congressmen and two-thirds of the Senate to support the impeachment motion, but Mr Estrada's government holds a majority in both houses.

"It is us who have the numbers," congressman Danilo Suarez of the ruling coalition said. "When voting time comes, the impeachment case will not fly."

But the presence on the streets of large numbers of demonstrators is an important omen in a country where Cori Aquino's "People Power" movement of 1986 brought down the former dictator, Ferdinand Marcos.

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