Filipino police brace for protests

May 21, 2004 at 12:42 AM

MANILA, Philippines, May 21 (UPI) -- Riot police guarded the presidential palace in the Philippines Friday as supporters of opposition presidential candidate Fernando Poe planned mass protests.

Poe supporters have challenged unofficial vote counts that show President Gloria Arroyo leading in the election. Poe has claimed election fraud and his supporters have held rallies and threatened widespread street protests if the official count does not find him the winner.

Gabriel Claudio, general manager of the Arroyo campaign, described Poe's claims as "utterly false, malicious, contemptuous and dangerous," the Inquirer News Service reported. He said the administration was contemplating filing charges against Poe supporters for inciting sedition.

In response to allegations that military leaders assisted the fraud, Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Narciso Abaya urged the accusers to "come out in the open and show evidence, but if you don't have any, just shut up," the Manila Times reported.

An independent poll by the National Citizens Movement for Free Elections gave Arroyo 7.013 million votes to Poe's 6.318 million, with some 49 percent of the votes counted.

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