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BosNewsLife – Catholic and Protestant church leaders of the Philippines have demanded the resignation of embattled President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo after police violently dispersed a prayer rally in Manila , BosNewsLife learned Sunday, October 16. The prayer rally led by three Catholic bishops and former vice president Teofisto Guingona Jr. near the capital’s presidential palace was dispersed Friday, October 14, by police forces using water cannons, church and government officials said.

There were no immediate reports of serious injuries.

The gathering was meant to put pressure on the president amid election fraud allegations, although most protesters, including nuns, priests, seminarians, Catholics and other believers only carried statues of the Virgin Mary and were praying the rosary, church officials claimed.

“The prayer assembly and rosary procession that was held in Manila was part of a crusade by civil society for truth, honesty, credibility and integrity in government,” said Archbishop Angel Lagdameo, the incoming president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) in a statement monitored by BosNewsLife.

This “procession was a prayer rally and peaceful procession [so] the violent dispersal of the participants was uncalled for and objectionable. It was a crusade for social governance, which is sadly lacking and very much needed in economic progress,” he added.

Presidential spokesman Ignacio Bunye defended the use of “fire hoses” to break up the “protest march.” He said police dispersed the marchers “after the protesters failed to heed warnings not to approach the areas surrounding the ‘Malacanang'”, the word used to describe the presidential palace.

However that explanation did not satisfy Catholic Bishops Deogracias Inigez of Caloocan City , Julio Labayen of Infanta and Antonio Tobias of Novaliches who led Friday’s rally and who demanded the immediate resignation of President Arroyo.

Protestant officials said they supported their demand. “We are one with our Catholic brethren,” explained Protestant Bishop Elmer Bolocon, vice-president of the National Council of Churches of the Philippines

“The people were entitled to hold a rally against a fraudulent president,” added the Catholic oriented Inter-Faith Movement for Truth, Justice and Genuine Change, in a statement.

The pressure from churches comes as a setback for Arroyo, whose popularity remains low despite winning an impeachment challenge over allegations she cheated in last year’s elections. She has always denied any wrongdoing. Arroyo came to power in January 2001 when President Joseph Estrada was ousted in a popular revolt backed by generals and bishops.

An economist by training and an admirer of Britain ‘s “Iron Lady,” former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, the 4 ft 11 (1.50 m) Arroyo wore the look of a warrior in the early days of her presidency. Yet the uphill battle against Muslim separatists and corruption scandals within her government amid a struggling economy tainted her legacy.

The woman who once described her presidency as “made in heaven” said in 2002 that God told her therefore not to seek another term as the Philippines ‘ President. She later changed her mind and participated in the 2004 presidential race, a move commentators said made her less popular, even before the fraud allegations…[Go To Full Story]