Socialist Worker


Issue No. 1732

Mass demonstrations forced the resignation of the president of the Philippines, Joseph Estrada, on Friday of last week. Over 200,000 people took to the streets of the capital, Manila, for several days last week after court proceedings against Estrada over corruption effectively collapsed.

He stood accused of accepting tens of millions of dollars in kickbacks from illegal gambling and shady bank deals. The decision by senators hearing the case not to accept evidence damaging to Estrada triggered the protests.

People gathered at the shrine to the 1986 protests which brought down the pro-US dictator of the Philippines, Ferdinand Marcos. Last week's protests were not on the same scale as those 15 years ago, but they summoned up the same image of 'People Power'.

They also threatened to go beyond the limited aim of getting rid of Estrada. That is why the chief of the army, Angelo Reyes, and other key state officials moved rapidly to dump Estrada and make opposition leader Gloria Macapagal Arroyo president.

Big business and the army want Arroyo to restore stability. She is a US-trained economist, friend of Bill Clinton and daughter of a former president of the Philippines in the 1960s, Diosdado Macapagal. She is wealthy and has the backing of the country's 'old money'-centrally the Spanish business dynasties such as the Ayala family, which owns one of the country's biggest corporations.

Estrada, a former movie star, was elected in 1998 largely on the back of votes from the rural and urban poor. But he failed to deliver on promises to help the poor such as lower rents. Jun Sovela, a farmer from the town of Bulacan, says, 'He has not fulfilled any of his promises to the poor.'

He surrounded himself with Chinese businessmen and corrupt deals. Estrada's resignation underlines the instability across South East Asia. An Estrada-style political outsider has just been elected in Thailand, rocking the political establishment.

The Indonesian government is fragmenting. The whole region is still mired in the economic crisis which swept East Asia three years ago.

Stop torture and massacres of political prisoners in Turkey

Public meeting Tuesday 30 January, 7.30pm, Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, London (nearest tube Holborn)

Speakers: Jeremy Corbyn MP, Harold Pinter, John Foster (NUJ), Kazim Bayraktar

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Sat 27 Jan 2001, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1732
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