About 20,000 supporters of deposed president Ferdinand Marcos, some of them waving red-white-and-blue banners from his election campaign earlier this year, rallied peacefully today in a downtown park to demand his return to power.
It was the largest public show of support for Marcos since he left the Philippines with his family on Feb. 26 in the face of a revolt by civilian opponents and soldiers that swept Corazon Aquino into the presidency.
The rally came as politicians from Marcos' New Society Movement prepared to convene a meeting on Monday that they will call a session of the National Assembly, in defiance of Aquino's abolishment of the body.
Marcos' running mate in the Feb. 7 election, Arturo Tolentino, addressed today's crowd, which gathered in a park by Manila Bay. People wore Marcos pins and T-shirts, held pictures of him and his wife, Imelda, and periodically broke into chants of his campaign slogan, "It's still Marcos!"
"The present administration is an administration that violates the will of the people," Tolentino said, drawing cheers. "The will of the people is that the president of this country should be Ferdinand Marcos and the vice president should be Arturo Tolentino."
Many of the speakers and placards accused U.S. officials of kidnaping Marcos when they flew him out of the country on a U.S. Air Force jet.
Aquino late last month abolished the assembly and proclaimed a "provisional constitution" that gives her powers that critics say are greater than those employed by Marcos during his 20-year rule.
In the past week, several thousand Marcos loyalists have staged vigils outside a television station here that recently broadcast an interview with Marcos. Today, they put up barricades to block a main avenue and defied police attempts to drive them off. Aquino and military leaders have said that people are free to demonstrate as long as they remain orderly. There were no police in evidence at today's rally, which was much smaller than rallies that Aquino mounted during her street campaign.
Many of Marcos' rallies during his campaign were made up largely of people paid to attend. Today's group, however, seemed to have a different mood, with people standing for hours in a hot sun and expressing what appeared to be strong emotion for Marcos.