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Supporters of ex-Philippines leader rally after high court voids protests policy

[JURIST] Supporters of ousted Philippines president Joseph Estrada [BBC profile] protested Wednesday outside the Manila courthouse where he is being tried for corruption, a day after the country's Supreme Court [official website] ruled 13-0 that current President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's policy of breaking up unauthorized demonstrations by force as they form is unconstitutional [ruling text]. Estrada is charged with stashing some $77 million in gambling payoffs, kickbacks and illegal commissions in secret bank accounts under an alias.

Estrada was ousted in 2001 in a revolt that brought Arroyo, formerly his Vice-President, to power. He has been in detention ever since and his trial is now in its fifth year. A verdict may come later this year. Responding to the Supreme Court ruling Tuesday, new Philippines Solicitor General Eduardo Nachura [Manila Times report] said the government would nonetheless continue to require protesters to secure rally permits from local authorities under Batas Pambansa 880 - a 1985 statute on public assemblies [text] - and a presidential spokesman cautioned against taking the decision as a "carte blanche" for anarchy and destablization: "We must warn those who intend to overthrow the government not to test the mettle of the authorities, who will move forcefully in the case of a clear and present danger to the Republic." Reuters has more. The Manila Standard Today has local coverage.

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