June 9, 2009 / 11:24 AM / 10 years ago

Philippines raises alert ahead of anti-Arroyo protest

MANILA, June 9 (Reuters) - Security forces in the Philippine capital went on alert on Tuesday, a day before a planned protest against moves by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s allies to amend the charter and possibly derail next year’s polls.

Arroyo, who is trailing in opinion polls, is barred from seeking re-election in June 2010. But the plan by Arroyo’s allies in the lower chamber of Congress to convene a constituent assembly to amend the constitution may pave the way for lifting of term limits.

Such a move may fuel popular unrest and put pressure on already wobbly financial markets, analysts said.

(For a Q&A on the constitutional change proposal, click on [ID:nMAN472333])

About 30,000 left-wing activists, students, politicians and Catholic priests and nuns are expected to protest in Manila’s business district.

"We are on standby and on red alert," Major Carlo Ferrer, an army spokesman, told reporters, adding a battalion of soldiers was assembled at the main military base in Manila.

About 15,000 police officers were deployed around the capital, said national police spokesman Leonardo Espina.

"Our main concern is the great possibility that the mass action will be infiltrated by saboteurs, terrorists, dissidents and troublemakers," Espina said in a statement.

On Tuesday, local business leaders issued a statement saying moves by Arroyo’s allies in the legislature were meant to "manipulate our democratic processes and institutions to prolong their hold on power". (Reporting by Manny Mogato; Editing by Rosemarie Francisco and Jeremy Laurence)

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