Philippine security forces on full alert amid massive anti-Arroyo protests

In no way can Philippine’s President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo clear her name from never-ending allegations of election fraud and corruption. Massive protest can make Arroyo repeat the fate of her predecessors, when huge demonstrations that toppled the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos in 1986 and Arroyo's predecessor, Joseph Estrada, in 2001.

Protesters swarmed Manila's financial district Wednesday for the biggest rally yet to pressure President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to quit over vote-rigging allegations, as security forces went on full alert amid fears of terror attacks and swirling coup rumors, reports the AP.

Several thousand people gathered by early afternoon, some carrying a huge banner reading "Goodbye Arroyo," while protest supporters rained confetti on the crowd from nearby buildings.

Environment Secretary Mike Defensor, one of Arroyo's closest advisers, told foreign journalists that Arroyo "will never resign." He said the crisis over the president's alleged election fraud is "reversible" and that public trust can be restored.

He admitted, however, that the current situation is potentially explosive, calling it "just one notch short of getting violent."

The demonstration was aimed at uniting a broad spectrum of opposition groups and parties in the biggest show of force since the political crisis erupted last month over allegations that Arroyo rigged the May 2004 election and her family received illegal gambling payoffs.

As Philippine Daily Inquirer reports, the rally is shaping up to be a big showbiz production. A backstage where dressing rooms and a control booth for sounds and lighting as well as a lounge for guests had been set up. Opposition stalwarts, militant leaders, and showbiz personalities are expected to attend the rally.

Two weeks ago Arroyo’s Cabinet shed a top official facing tax-evasion charges, Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap – it proved to be a sacrifice needed to draw away attention from claims for Arroyo to resign after she admitted talking with an election official about her hopes for a million-vote margin in last year's ballot.

"We want this rally to be big enough to jolt her," said opposition Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay, adding protest leaders were targeting a crowd of about 50,000. "We want a resignation, we want changes, we want reforms now."

Adding to Arroyo's problems, Moody's Investors Service followed the lead of two other rating agency companies and downgraded the country's credit outlook to negative from stable, citing possible fallout on the budget and external payments "if political turmoil intensifies or is prolonged."

"The Moody's news has provided additional bullets to shoot down the market," First Grade Holdings managing director Astro del Castillo said after the main stock index fell by 0.8 percent.

National Treasurer Omar Cruz dismissed suggestions that the country may have trouble repaying its foreign debt.

Yesterday Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr. said, that President Arroyo is ready to cut short her term as her "biggest legacy" to the country to accelerate moves to amend the Constitution and change to a parliamentary system of government, says The Philippine Star .

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