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Philippine opposition calls for chain of protest

Philippine opposition calls for chain of protest

Several thousand Filipinos demanding President Joseph Estrada's resignation spent a third day on the streets of the capital on Thursday as the country's top clergyman called for a human chain of protest.

But with the former movie star president still enjoying significant support, especially among the Philippine poor and in parliament, it was unclear whether the protest movement would reach the same intensity as a 1986 "people power" revolt.

Thursday's protest was centred on the Edsa shrine, one of the rallying sites for that revolt that swept Ferdinand Marcos from power.

"Go to Edsa. Stay at Edsa. Keep watch and pray," Archbishop of Manila, Cardinal Jaime Sin, one of the leading figures behind the movement to remove Estrada, said in a statement.

Sin, who played a major role in the 1986 people power movement, said he would hold mass at 5 p.m. (0900 GMT) and called for a human chain from the Ninoy Aquino statue along Ayala Avenue in Makati business district to the Edsa shrine, about 10 km (six miles) away.

"At six p.m. (1000 GMT), I will be at the Edsa Shrine to receive the human chain," he said.

The protests were triggered by a decision by a Senate impeachment court on Tuesday to reject evidence against Estrada which prosecutors said would show the former actor had amassed 3.3 billion pesos ($60 million) while in office, in violation of anti-corruption laws.

The decision pointed to Estrada's likely acquittal on corruption charges. The trial came to an abrupt halt on Wednesday after all 11 prosecutors resigned.

Philippine financial markets were sent reeling on Wednesday because of fears of political turmoil with the peso hitting an all-time low and stocks slumping six percent. Early on Thursday the peso was consolidating in a new near-term range of 54.00-55.00 to the dollar, with the market still trying to assess the political scene.

The main share index was 0.77 percent lower at 0322 GMT.

FOCUS ON PROSECUTORS

House of Representatives Speaker Arnulfo Fuentabella said majority members were not inclined to accept the resignation of the prosecutors from the impeachment court.

Fuentabella told a local radio station majority members met late on Wednesday to discuss their next move after the impeachment trial was adjourned.

"We are inclined not to accept the resignation of prosecutors," he said.

He said he believed it was the duty of prosecutors when they took their oath to finish the case on behalf of the House.

The House majority, which is made up of about 120 members out of the total 218 House members and broadly supports Estrada, were due to meet again on Thursday to try to persuade the prosecutors to return to the trial.

But the prosecutors, most of them from opposition groups, have said their resignation was irrevocable.


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