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Philippines President accused of power grab -

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Philippines President accused of power grab

Karen Percy reported this story on Tuesday, July 28, 2009 12:50:00

PETER CAVE: The President of the Philippines is keeping her cards close to her chest when it comes
to her future.

Gloria Arroyo is due to step down in the middle of next year but her opponents believe she's trying
to find a way to stay in power as Prime Minister.

South East Asia correspondent Karen Percy is in Manila.

(Sound of rally)

KAREN PERCY: Gloria Arroyo spent most of her state of the nation address highlighting her
achievements.

(Sound of rally)

But her words meant nothing to the thousands of protesters just a kilometre or so away from where
she was delivering what should have been her final such address to congress.

(Sound of chanting "Gloria Arroyo")

They called her a liar. They called her corrupt. They accused her of hanging onto power. And try as
she might she did little to quell the talk.

GLORIA ARROYO (addressing rally): There is much to do as head of state til my very last days.

KAREN PERCY: As they tuned into TV sets and radios across the country, it's what they didn't hear
that upsets her opponents.

She acknowledged the end of her term would be in June of next year but didn't spell out when she
would be stepping down.

And she didn't name a successor.

And she didn't do anything to criticise the constitutional changes that are being brought on by her
allies that could see her head a transitional government as the nation becomes a parliamentary
system and the rise of a prime minister, prime minister Arroyo.

GLORIA ARROYO (addressing rally): I have never expressed desire to extend myself beyond my term.

VERGEL SANTOS: She's the most distrusted President ever in this country.

KAREN PERCY: Vergel Santos is editor of BusinessWorld. He's a harsh critic of Mrs Arroyo.

VERGEL SANTOS: That should be an answer, should be the answer to her question about whether she
should be believed at all or not.

KAREN PERCY: She said though, "I've only got a year to go. I'm not the one pushing these
changes"...

VERGEL SANTOS: She said that she had, she had yet until next year to finish her term. This term,
fine, as President, but that doesn't mean they could not be extended, it could not be prolonged,
especially when finally the constitution change process goes through.

KAREN PERCY: Gloria Arroyo is already the second longest serving president behind "Ferdinand
Marcos, with 8 years under her belt so far.

Because she replaced Mr Estrada midway through the term, she was able to contest another election.

But her remaining time in office, however long that might be, won't be easy.

(Sound of rally)

Mass rallies like that seen yesterday are expected to continue as those involved, like Antonio
Tinio from the Alliance of Concerned Teachers, spell out the injustices of her administration.

ANTONIO TINIO: We are here to protest nine years of Arroyo's stay in power; nine years in which the
people have become poo; nine years of widespread corruption, of gross human rights violations,
including the extrajudicial killings of our own members. And we're here also to protest her latest
attempt to perpetuate herself in power through changing the constitution.

KAREN PERCY: But the organisers need to be careful.

If the protests were to turn violent, it might give Mrs Arroyo just the excuse she needs to declare
a state of emergency and stay on indefinitely, just like the dictator Marcos, who ruled the
Philippines with an iron fist for more than two decades.

This is Karen Percy in Manila reporting The World Today.