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Arroyo to HK for Clinton meet

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By Joel Guinto
First Posted 17:25:00 12/01/2008

MANILA, Philippines — President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will leave the country for Hong Kong on Monday evening, as security was tightened around Malacañang.

But government expressed confidence she would weather the expected wave of street protests sparked by the dismissal of the latest impeachment complaint against her and new efforts by allies in Congress to amend the Constitution, which critics see as a ploy to extend her term.

Arroyo will attend the Clinton Global Initiative, hosted by her Georgetown University classmate, former United States President Bill Clinton. She will take a commercial Philippine Airlines flight scheduled to depart from the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) at 6:30 p.m.

Along Mendiola, one of the main roadways leading to the Palace, four military trucks and a fire truck were positioned on the side of the street fronting the San Beda College while soldiers in full combat uniform, but armed only with truncheons, were assembled on the

Helmets and shields were laid out on the Don Chino Roces bridge, with both lanes blocked with several layers of barbed wire.

Soldiers and four military trucks were also positioned along J.P. Laurel Street, the main entrance to the Palace from the Sta. Mesa and Nagtahan Bridge areas.

“The soldiers were requested by the Manila Police District [MPD]. They are just anticipating, in case hindi makayanan [they can’t handle the situation],” Captain Carlo Ferrer, spokesman of the Armed Forces National Capital Region Command (NCRCom), said in a phone interview.

Ferrer said the deployments were a precaution even as authorities were not expecting big crowds of protesters. There were no protests in Mendiola on Monday, soldiers there said, although on Sunday, protesters against efforts to rewrite the Charter were in the area.

Asked about the rallies, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said: “This is not something new. It has happened before, every time there are issues like this up in the air.”

Ermita expressed confidence that Arroyo would overcome the latest controversies hurled against her government.

“I don’t see why not, we are very sure…We have survived many, many situations, lets not be panicky about this,” he said.

On Tuesday, a committee report that junked the latest impeachment complaint against Arroyo will be submitted to the plenary of the House of Representatives. All impeachment complaints against Arroyo since 2005 were dismissed by her allies in Congress.

Administration lawmakers are also pushing for amendments to the Constitution, by convening Congress into a constituent assembly, with a resolution to this effect signed by 167 House members as of Sunday.

“We keep on telling you that the effort on Charter change is coming from the lower house, and so the Palace doesn’t meddle with the lower house being an independent body,” Ermita said.

But in the same breath, Ermita acknowledged: “We say again after all in the end, it is a numbers game, in a separate body such as Congress. And secondly, it will have to go through a plebiscite, lets find out whether those who are talking against it are supported by the majority of the people,” he said.

He said the ruling Lakas Christian Muslim Democrats party has “no official position” on whether or not the resolution should be signed by its members.

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Written by joelguinto

MonUTC2008-12-01T15:06:38+00:00UTC12bUTCMon, 01 Dec 2008 15:06:38 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm12

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