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2 former Philippine presidents join big Manila rally calling for Arroyo's resignation

2 former Philippine presidents join big Manila rally calling for Arroyo's resignation

Two former Philippine presidents, once bitter foes, joined tens of thousands of protesters at a rally Friday to press for President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's resignation over a raging corruption scandal.
It was the largest crowd yet since Arroyo's latest crisis erupted weeks ago when the Philippine Senate heard testimony, broadcast on live television, that linked her husband to multimillion-dollar kickbacks in a government telecommunications deal.
The crowd included former opponents ex-President Corazon Aquino, who ushered in democracy when the country's first "people power" revolt ousted dictator Ferdinand Marcos in 1986, and former President Joseph Estrada, who was forced out over massive corruption by a second "people power" uprising in 2001.
"I thought my work was done because I am already old," said Aquino, 75. "But this is what the times ask for, for us to unite so that the deceit will end and we will find out the truth. Thankfully there are still many of us shouting, 'Gloria, enough, resign already.'"
Aquino used to be one of Arroyo's biggest supporters before breaking away in 2005 amid allegations that the president had rigged the 2004 election.
Soldiers and police went on high alert, setting up checkpoints at major highways as demonstrators braved a drizzle and gathered in Manila's financial district. Police estimated turnout at 15,000, while organizers estimated the crowd at about 80,000.
People began dispersing at 8 p.m., when the rally permit expired.
The rally was organized by a loose coalition of opposition groups, business people, left-wing activists, Roman Catholic church-backed organizations and a large evangelical group, the Jesus is Lord Movement.
The crowd included former opponents who, like Aquino and Estrada, have united to oppose Arroyo, who has fended off three impeachment bids and four coup plots in seven years in power.
"No single group or person claims credit in leading this initiative," said Renato Reyes, secretary-general of the left-wing alliance Bayan.
"Mrs. Gloria Arroyo made this possible. Her bankrupt and corrupt regime provided the urgency for everyone to set aside their differences and struggle together for truth and justice."
In southern Iligan city, about 1,000 Muslim and Christian protesters _ including lawyers, teachers, priests, nuns and Muslim guerrillas in civilian clothes _ gathered in a public plaza to call for Arroyo's ouster.
Smaller anti-Arroyo rallies were held elsewhere in the country.
Arroyo's latest trouble stems from allegations of corruption in a US$330 million (