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Philippine Officials Deny Crisis

October 14, 2000

MANILA, Philippines (AP) _ Top Philippine military officials made a highly unusual late-night television appearance Friday to deny rumors President Joseph Estrada is planning to declare a state of emergency to counter calls for his resignation.

``My message to the people is to stay calm because the people who want to destroy us have long planned to give disinformation and create destabilization,″ Estrada said.

Many, however, found the 11 p.m. appearance by the top military officials to be unsettling rather than reassuring, and an indication the political crisis facing the Estrada administration is fast worsening.

Demands for the president’s resignation have soared in the past week because of allegations by a provincial governor that Estrada received more than $8.6 million in payoffs from illegal gambling operators.

Presidential spokesman Ricardo Puno said the decision to present the military leaders was made to counter a rapidly growing impression that the president was so desperate to hold on to power that he planned to resort to extraconstitutional means.

If not addressed, ``can you imagine what that would cause overnight?″ he asked. ``There is no way that you can leave this thing hanging for an entire evening.″

Among those who have called for the president to step down are the dominant Catholic Church, opposition politicians, and citizens’ groups.

A Senate blue-ribbon committee is investigating allegations by Gov. Luis Singson that he personally arranged the payoffs to the president from operators of an illegal numbers game.

In his first public statement on the scandal, Estrada denied Thursday that he had received any money from illegal gambling and said he would not resign.

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