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State of emergency lifted, but would this be the last?

Updated On: Mar 07, 2006

Manila - The week-long state of emergency was lifted in the Philippines last Friday (3rd March), after assurance by the President’s advisers that the coup threat has eased.

According to Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye, the President’s decision to lift the state of emergency was based on the assessment and recommendation of the defence, justice and police chiefs in light of the normalizing situation. Senator Rodolfo Biazon however argued that Mrs Arroyo was under pressure from the US to end the emergency.

“I firmly believe that order has been restored. It is important that our political enemies and opportunists stop troubling the economy and embarrassing the Philippinesbecause of their nonsense shows,” said Mrs Arroyo over the radio and television.

Although normalcy is restored, there has been warning that President Arroyo will not hesitate to declare an emergency again if the situation calls for it. “If the existing situation before the proclamation of 1017 will be repeated, definitely the corresponding action would be the same” said Bunye.

Analysts warn that Arroyo will continue to face rebellious oppositions, rightist soldiers and communist rebels who are pushing hard for her to step down and even conspiracies to topple her administration. “While the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) remains loyal to the President, a ‘mutating’ number of rebellious groups in it, and former soldiers will continue to try to overthrow the government,” said Mr Noel Morada from the political science department at the University ofPhilippines.

The lifting of the emergency rule is welcomed by many especially the economic team, foreign investors and the US State Department. What is comforting in this crisis is the little effect it had on both the internal and external economy. “The problems in the Philippines and Thailand are very much contained within domestic boundaries, this is unlike the 1997 financial crisis,” said Dr Chua Hak Bin, senior regional economist at DBS Bank. Also despite the political uncertainty, the peso was at a 3 ½ - year high. “The reason is that the market believes in President Gloria Arroyo’s economic reforms, and knows she will stay in power…eventually good economics will translate into good politics,” said Luz Lorenzo, an economist.

However, little has been changed politically in a ‘country that has never been able to resist political drama’ (ST, 4 March). Philippine politics are still more about personalities than agencies that uphold the rule of law; debates tend to centre on the lack of credible institutions. Corruption remains a chronic problem and coup attempts are common, these points to the root problem where political elite finds it hard to relinquish power.

‘In the Philippines, the elite control the regions, with powerful families filling the positions of governors and mayors and retaining an iron grip on congressional seats inManila. Cemented in place by generations of largesse and private armies, it is a feudal structure that resists all efforts at change’ (People power keeps them rolling, ST, 4 March).

Mrs Arroyo’s popularity rating is now lower than former dictator Marcos as she battles with the question of her legitimacy in office after an allegation that she cheated in the May 2004 election.

Sources:

Arroyo lifts emergency rule in Philippines, The Straits Times, 4 March

Arroyo lifts state of emergency, The Straits Times, 3 March

Pressure on Arroyo’s rule set to continue, The Straits Times, 4 March

Investors stay put despite turmoil, The Straits Times, 3 March

Marcos still casting shadow over Philippines, The Straits Times, 4 March

People power keeps them rolling. Or does it? The Straits Times, 4 March

7-day emergency ends, The Manila Times, 4 March

Emergency can be reimposed-Bunye, The Manila Times, 5 March

Philippine government continues to monitor anti-government forces, 5 March

Philippine Emergency Over, but problems Remains for Arroyo, 4 March

Arroyo lifts state of emergency, INQ7 Net, 3 March