Defying last-ditch scare tactics, a broad movement of groups seeking President Arroyo’s resignation yesterday mobilized tens of thousand protesters at the interfaith rally at the Ninoy Aquino Monument in Makati City.
Organizers placed the crowd at 75,000 to 80,000. The police figure was 15,000.
Makati City Mayor and United Opposition president Jejomar Binay unleashed a minor political earthquake when he ended his opening remarks by calling on stage former Presidents Corazon Aquino, in her trademark yellow dress, and Joseph Estrada, in a red windbreaker.
Aquino and Estrada gave brief remarks before the crowd, in an apparent effort not to violate the agreed rally protocol that no politician would be allowed on stage, except for Binay who was tasked to deliver a welcome speech.
Aquino and Estrada sat beside each other on the makeshift stage.
Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. said rally organizers saw the crowd peak at around 5 p.m., soon after marchers from various points in the country’s financial capital converged at Paseo de Roxas and Ayala avenue.
Reyes said the huge turnout represented "the strongest rejection yet of Mrs. Arroyo."
"No single group or person claims credit in leading this initiative. No one is excluded and everybody, every group, made a contribution.
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," Reyes said.
Priests in white cassocks recited the rosary, university students shouted "Fight for Truth" and office workers from nearby high-rise buildings sprinkled confetti.
"Goodbye Gloria" and "Kick Out Gloria, Change the System" were among the hundreds of placards held up.
In the interfaith portion of the rally, representatives of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, United Church of Christ in the Philippines, the Philippines for Jesus Movement and Jesus is Lord Movement alternated prayers, reflections and stinging rebukes against Arroyo.
Hundreds of green balloons were released at the end of the program to signify "that we are sending prayers to God," said Fr. Joe Dizon of Church-based group Solidarity Philippines.
As in the rally last February 15, more protesters applauded and responded when speakers, including bishops, pastors and priests, raised calls for President Arroyo’s resignation.
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Here are some video coverage of the protest action: