THOUSANDS of protesters took to the streets as President Benigno Aquino called on the nation to support his reforms as he faced the biggest political crisis in his four years in power in the Philippines.

The Supreme Court this month declared partly illegal a £2.5billion economic stimulus fund Mr Aquino created in 2011 from budget savings, sparking a storm of controversy that put into doubt his commitment to fighting corruption.

In his second-to-last State Of The Nation Address yesterday Mr Aquino listed his administration's successes in areas such as infrastructure development, military modernisation, and reforms to stamp out corruption in revenue agencies.

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In the televised address, he said: "This is the result of reforms, and this is what we fought for and continue to fight for, not the continuation of the status quo, but change in the system for everyone's benefit."

Outside Congress, about 5,000 protesters, most of them left-wing activists, burned an effigy of Mr Aquino as he delivered his speech. Police used water cannons to prevent protesters from breaching barricades.

Economists are concerned the controversy over the Supreme Court's ruling is slowing public spending because officials are more wary about accusations of recklessness and are subjecting decisions to more scrutiny, putting at risk big infrastructure projects which will drive growth.

Two impeachment complaints related to the stimulus funds have been filed against Mr Aquino in recent weeks, accusing him of betraying public trust and violating the constitution following the court's ruling.