Court to rule on Philippines star

The Philippines Supreme Court has begun hearing a bid to bar the current frontrunner for May's presidential elections from running for office.

A panel of judges is hearing expert testimony on whether Fernando Poe, who was born to a US mother, has the citizenship required to be a candidate.

Hundreds of Poe supporters marched towards the court during the hearing, but were doused with water cannons.

They have warned of trouble if Mr Poe is barred from standing.

A former film star who has never held political office, Mr Poe is currently enjoying an eight-percentage-point lead over President Gloria Arroyo.

The court is expected to take days or weeks to reach a decision, and tension ahead of the verdict is high.

Police used water cannons against about 400 Poe supporters three kilometres (1.8 miles) from the court in central Manila, while at least 3,000 Poe backers gathered in a Manila park to hear political speeches, repeatedly chanting "FPJ" (Fernando Poe Junior).

They finally dispersed when Mr Poe's wife, also a former film star, urged them to break up.

"FPJ is a Filipino. FPJ doesn't want trouble," Susan Roces said.

The authorities fear a repeat of the violence which engulfed Manila in May 2001 when then-President Joseph Estrada, also a former actor, and a friend of Mr Poe, was ousted in a military-backed coup.

The Philippines has a volatile history of "people power" revolts and military interventions.

During the last presidential election dozens of people were killed in political violence.

Campaign

President Arroyo, a former economist, contends that she has the experience and the reforming policies to break the country's cycle of poverty and violence.

Mr Poe is a secondary school dropout who, at least until the start of campaigning, had no publicly announced policies.

In addition to the hearing regarding Mr Poe, the Philippines judiciary is also set to rule on another case with political ramifications.

The Supreme Court has ordered the retrial of two men who were due to be executed on kidnapping charges after Mrs Arroyo lifted a moratorium on executions last month.

The court said that it will hear new evidence in the case of Roderick Licayan and Roberto Lara, which their defence lawyers say will clear the men.

19/02/2004

Bron : BBC World

Archief - Home