President Corazon Aquino today asked the Filipinos who propelled her into office to organize themselves to protect her hold on power and require public accountability of her government.
Speaking to hundreds of thousands of cheering Filipinos at a rally and thanksgiving mass, Aquino warned that "the situation, while stable, is not totally under control yet." Saying that "there are still holdout pockets of military and civilian loyalists" of deposed President Ferdinand Marcos, she asked her supporters to channel the "people's power" that overthrew Marcos last week into grass-roots organizations "for meaningful participation of the citizenry and the shaping of our nation's future."
The crowd cheered enthusiastically when Aquino began her speech by proclaiming the restoration of habeas corpus, suspended by Marcos after he lifted martial law in 1981. Aquino declared that the suspension of the law, which safeguards against illegal arrest, had harmed the country's fight against a Communist insurgency.
In an appearance before the widest audience since she took office, Aquino brought a roar of approval from the crowd with her congratulations on the ouster of Marcos.
"Standing before you today," she declared, "I have never felt prouder to be a Filipino."
"People power has brought down a dictator," she said. "It can support our drive to make our government a government of the people."
With the factions of Aquino's broad opposition movement now jockeying for influence and government appointments, political observers here said Aquino wants to institutionalize the street demonstrations that swept her into power.
"She wants to have organized groups she can call on to go back into the streets at a moment's notice," said Luis Beltran, editor of the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
Increasingly public disputes among some of Aquino's appointees have made it clear that several factions are pressing Aquino for concessions on appointments and policy issues. The Unido front of Vice President Salvador Laurel and the Philippine Democratic Party-Laban organization under her brother-in-law, Agapito Aquino, are arguing over the number of Cabinet seats and local appointees each group should have.
Also, Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile has voiced openly the military's misgivings about Aquino's pledge to release senior Communists among other political prisoners.
"She wants to ward off these pressures," said Beltran, "and show [the factions] that they will have to contend with millions" if they decide to challenge her.
The move also might strengthen Aquino for a possible showdown with the Marcos-appointed Supreme Court and elections commission. Her spokesmen already have said that pickets will be used to try to force Marcos appointees on the two bodies to resign.
"I call on all of you to organize at the grass-roots level in your communities and villages," Aquino said during the nationally televised rally. "By interest group, by sector, build people's organizations," she said.
To help combat corruption and unresponsive bureaucracies, Aquino urged citizens "to watch over the government at all levels -- from the president and vice president, to my ministers, all the way down to the lowest levels of the bureaucracy." Aquino added, "do this so that we may commend the worthy and correct or punish those that stray from the path we have taken."
Aquino warned government officials, "I will be uncompromising about corruption." Addressing herself to civil servants installed under Marcos, she said, "To those that have had to compromise under the previous regime, turn a new leaf and follow this call to turn the government into one that is believed, trusted and even loved by our people."
Aquino instructed civil servants to listen to citizens' complaints and told her listeners, "If anyone in government does not listen to what you have to say, bring it to my attention."
Jubilant Filipinos pressed into a city park for the rally and mass that sustained the atmosphere of her electoral campaign.
Filipinos -- many wearing the symbolic yellow of the campaign -- pressed around a grandstand where Aquino and her government were seated among priests, nuns and soldiers who played key roles in last week's overthrow of Marcos.
The crowd waved flags and banners and wore yellow T-shirts with slogans such as "Veteran of the Philippine Revolution" or "I stood in the human barricade," a reference to the cordon of unarmed citizens that protected pro-Aquino rebel troops from attack by Marcos loyalist troops last week.
Aquino announced that 480 political prisoners were either free or being processed for release.
She said her special committee on political prisoners will meet Wednesday to consider the cases of four senior leaders of the Communist insurgency still in prison.
Aquino told the crowd that she plans to open the Malacanang presidential palace to the public for the first time in about two weeks and that the first day's visits will be reserved for the poor.
She promised that, despite her concern for reconciliation with supporters of former president Marcos, her government was preparing to prosecute "those that have committed grave crimes against the people, such as human rights abuses and stealing."
In his homily during the thanksgiving mass, Roman Catholic Cardinal Jaime Sin showed unprecedented personal support for Aquino. He drew approving roars from the crowd by flashing her party's laban [fight] hand signal and leading a chant of "Co-ry! Co-ry!"