No rally today at EDSA - PNP

- Non Alquitran and Pia Lee-Brago -
At least 200 anti-riot policemen will be posted at the vicinity of the EDSA Shrine in Mandaluyong City today to prevent the Council of Philippine Affairs (COPA) from holding a political rally.

However, COPA officials had earlier assured government and Church authorities that they will not hold a protest action at the shrine. Instead they will attend a Mass to be celebrated by Manila Auxiliary Bishop Socrates Villegas, who is also the EDSA Shrine rector.

Vice President Teofisto Guingona Jr. is expected to attend the Mass, but he said his attendance does not mean he is aligning himself with COPA secretary general Pastor "Boy" Saycon.

Guingona said he accepted an invitation to attend the Mass as an expression of gratitude to Saycon for supporting him throughout the controversy over his resignation as foreign affairs secretary.

However, Guingona’s presence at the Mass may give political color to the event at the EDSA Shrine. Earlier, he had received advice from Fr. Nikko Bautista, an EDSA I and EDSA II figure, that he must not allow himself to be used by political groups such as COPA.

"I’m not a tool of anyone, but I’d like to acknowledge the help from people," he said.

Guingona’s resignation as foreign affairs secretary formally takes effect today. The President and Guingona had publicly clashed over policy issues, notably the redeployment of US troops in the country through the joint RP-US Balikatan 02-1 anti-terrorism exercise.

Metro Manila police chief Deputy Director General Edgar Aglipay warned COPA that police will not hesitate to disperse them if they insist on holding a political rally at the EDSA Shrine.

"They can attend a Mass at the EDSA Shrine, but there’s no way we will allow them to stage a political rally at the site," Aglipay said, referring to COPA whose secretary general Saycon feuded with President Arroyo over suggestions that close supporters of ousted President Joseph Estrada are being recruited to join the administration.

As early as 8 a.m. today, 200 anti-riot policemen will be at the EDSA Shrine. Chief Superintendent Rolando Sacramento, director of the Eastern Police District, leads the 200-strong anti-riot contingent.

Aglipay said he was implementing an order issued by Manila Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin to prevent any group from using the EDSA Shrine as a site for political rally.

On Friday, Saycon assured that his group will not hold a political rally and that the 5:30 p.m. Mass today will be "a reflection of where we all came from, which is EDSA I and EDSA II."

Saycon has said there was an attempt to sow discord between him and Mrs. Arroyo.

The President alluded to Saycon and COPA on Wednesday as "termites" destroying a "strong republic" that she is trying to build.

Mrs. Arroyo also suggested that Saycon must resign from the board of the Philippine Deposit Insurance Corp. Saycon has informally informed the PDIC that he is leaving his post.

The President was apparently angered by Saycon’s statements expressing disillusionment over her purported plan to recruit opposition leaders to her government.

The President has said that Saycon and another COPA leader, Triccie Sison, were making "false claims" that three supporters of Estrada, brothers Ronaldo and Ricardo Puno and Jose Jaime Policarpio will be given government posts.

In August 2001, COPA was reportedly planning to withdraw support from the Arroyo government in protest of the President’s move to appoint only a few COPA members to government posts.











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