Organizers of an interfaith rally on Friday said that everything is set for an “awesome display of unity" against moves for Charter change (Cha-cha) initiated by Arroyo administration allies in the House of Representatives.
“On Friday, thousands will come together to deliver the strongest rebuke yet of Charter change and term extension. To those testing the people’s patience by insisting on Cha-cha, our response is a resounding NO!” said Renato M. Reyes, Jr., Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) secretary general in a statement.
Organizers have earlier said that the rally’s theme is “Stop Gloria’s Cha-cha now!” and it hopes to draw the broadest array of organizations and personalities opposed to Charter change.
Various civil society and activist organization, leaders of Catholic church and religious groups, political parties, business groups and professionals are expected to join the protest action Friday afternoon in Makati City.
The BAYAN statement said more than 70 organizations would participate including BAYAN, Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines, Makati Business Club, Former Senior Government Officials, Concerned Citizens Movement, Bangon Pilipinas, United Opposition (UNO), Edsa 3 Coalition, Black and White Movement, Nacionalista Party, Liberal Party, Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino, Be Not Afraid Movement and the Integrated Bar of the Philippines.
“We plan to end the year united in a common cause and determined to stop the Cha-cha express dead in its tracks. This is just the first action and hopefully not the last. Mrs. Arroyo should be forewarned, the people will not take Cha-cha sitting down,” added Reyes.
“We expect a good turn-out of several thousands on Friday. There will be marches from various points in Makati before the groups converge on Paseo and Ayala at 3:45 pm. The Interfaith program starts at exactly 4 p.m. to be followed by a cultural and political program till 9 p.m.,” Reyes said.
Reyes said senators who have confirmed their attendance in the rally are Manuel “Mar” Roxas II, Manny Villar, Francis “Chiz” Escudero, Loren Legarda, Panfilo Lacson and Richard Gordon.
Roxas, who had earlier vowed to join street protests against Cha-cha, called on the public on Thursday to join the interfaith rally.
"Sumama tayong lahat sa rally laban sa Cha-Cha. Siguruhin natin na hindi matutuloy ang maitim na balak ng mga kakampi ng Palasyo na palawigin pa ang termino ni GMA (Let's join the anti-Cha-Cha rally. Let's stop together the Palace plot to prolong GMA's term," said Roxas in a statement.
The statement said Roxas and members of the Liberal Party will join the rally in Makati City.
The senators’ attendance comes just as all 23 senators signed a resolution rejecting moves initiated by Arroyo administration allies in the House of Representatives for a unilateral convening of a Constituent Assembly (Con-Ass) to tackle proposed amendments to the Constitution.
A radio dzMM report said the Senate resolution, initiated by Senator Francis Pangilinan, declared the unilateral convening by the Lower House of a Con-Ass as “unconstitutional”.
Deposed president Joseph “Erap” Estrada also confirmed his attendance to the protest action.
"This Administration has deprived the Filipino masses of their chosen leader not just once, when they ousted me, but twice, when they cheated FPJ [Fernando Poe Jr.] in the 2004 elections. We will not allow the people to be deprived of having a duly elected president a third time. We cannot and will not allow GMA nor these power-hungry congressmen to stay in power beyond 2010 through charter change," said Estrada in a statement Thursday.
"If Chacha is allowed now, who will re-write the Constitution, these administration congressmen? We cannot entrust the future of our country with corrupt congressmen," said the former president.
Also expected to attend are former vice president Teofisto Guingona, Caloocan City Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez and Senate NBN-ZTE probe star witness Jun Lozada.
Religious and festive program
Reyes said Catholic, Protestant and Evangelical bishops as well as Muslim religious leaders would lead the the interfaith program at 4 p.m.
A four-hour political and cultural program would then feature speeches from civic and militant groups, political leaders and sectoral organizations. The organizers said speakers were allotted three minutes for their speech.
The cultural program would also be “festive” said Reyes with rock bands, rappers, and theater actors who are set to perform for the night.
“The protest will also be festive, in keeping up with the holiday season. We will rock against Cha-cha and rage against Gloria,” Reyes said.
Placards being prepared for the rally include slogans such 'All I want for Christmas is to stop Chacha!', 'Paskong walang Chacha!' and 'Paskong wala si Gloria!'.
NCR police on full alert
The National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) on Thursday meanwhile has upgraded the alert status for Metro Manila to full alert ahead of the protest action in Makati City.
NCRPO chief Director Leopoldo Bataoil also ordered the activation of Task Force "Metro Manila Shield" and Special Task Group "Ayala" to organize and consolidate all security forces in the conduct of security coverage in order to ensure that all measures are in placed in order to protect the participants and the public against criminality and terrorist threats.
Bataoil said 300 Civil Disturbance Management (CDM) police personnel from the Regional Mobile Group (RMG) and 100 additional personnel from the NCRPO provisional battalion will be placed on standby.
He also directed all police personnel to observe maximum tolerance and to avoid any act that will undermine the freedom of speech and of expression of the rallyists.
The NCRPO chief met with Makati City Mayor Jejomar Binay, who is also UNO president, and the organizers of the interfaith rally at the Makati City Hall on Thursday to coordinate the actions between the PNP and the protestors in case of exigencies during the.
In the said dialogue, Bataoil urged the organizers to help the PNP ensure the peaceful conduct of the rally by policing their own rank and by exercising more vigilance to prevent the infiltration of destabilizers in the ranks of the protestors.
Organizers were given a permit to conduct a rally at the corner of Ayala Ave. and Paseo de Roxas, in the heart of Makati’s central business district. The permit which include installing the technical preparations for the rally starts 12 noon to 10 p.m. With a report form Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News