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SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands (November 28, 2000 - Saipan Tribune/PINA Nius Online)---A petition calling for the resignation or removal from office of Philippine President Joseph Estrada is circulating in the Northern Marianas among overseas Filipino workers based here.

More than a thousand have reportedly signed the paper since the political crisis confronted the Estrada administration last month.

The one-page petition seeks support from the estimated 20,000 Filipino workers and residents in the islands for the mounting calls back home for their embattled president to step down.

"[W]e believe that the Philippine President, Joseph Ejercito 'Erap' Estrada, is the primary root cause of the downfall of our country's economy. His weak administration, that lacks genuine leadership, has worsened our country's peace and order, destabilized the business and investment climate, has rampant cronyism and massive graft and corruption," reads the petition.

"We also believe that Estrada's administration is incompetent and does not have a sincere commitment for the betterment of our country and its citizenry," it adds.

Once signature gathering from the Northern Marianas is completed, the petition will be sent to the Philippines, addressed to various non-governmental organizations, the Makati Business Club, the country's House of Representatives and the Senate, as well as television station ABS-CBN.

Mr. Estrada has come under fire in recent weeks over allegations that he received millions of dollars from a provincial governor, Luis "Chavit" Singson of Ilocos Norte province, in payoffs in the nationwide illegal gambling "jueteng." The Philippine leader, who has denied the charges, is facing impeachment proceedings in the country's Senate, which will start by next week, according to news reports.

The petition is the first ever undertaken in the Northern Marianas by Filipino workers in connection with the political and economic problems besetting their country.

For additional reports from The Saipan Tribune, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Saipan Tribune.

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