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State of Emergency in the Philippines: Arroyo takes charge

Updated On: Feb 28, 2006

Manila – President Gloria Arroyo had declared a state of emergency last Friday after a foiled coup attempt by right-wing soldiers and communist rebels to bring down her administration.

The Arroyo’s government had launched a crackdown on the “enemies of the state” with the arrest of key military figures including army Brigadier-General Danilo Lim, the alleged coup mastermind; the commander of the elite Scout Rangers, Marine Brigade Commander Ariel Querubin; and police Superintendent Narzalino Franco. Several opposition personalities have also been arrested and a newspaper, The Daily Tribune, was placed under the control of the police for being highly critical of the government.

Permits for rallies to mark the 20th anniversary of “people power” were cancelled, with riot police dispersing anti-Arroyo demonstrators with high-pressure water hoses. Security forces were also given powers of arrest without warrants.

The President said that for the past months, the political opposition has conspired with the extreme Left, represented by the communist New People’s Army, and the extreme right, represented by military adventurists (Manila Times, 25 Feb).

The emergency rule has been highly criticized by the opposition and critics, including former President Fedel Ramos who viewed the proclamation as “overkill” and “Marcosian”, unjustified by recent developments and detrimental to national development particularly the economy. He also lamented that the state of national emergency came at a time when the nation was supposed to celebrate the “spirit of EDSA, which is about patriotism, sacrifice, and suffering.” This also raised fears among the political oppositions of an impending imposition of martial law.

Mrs Arroyo stopped short of declaring martial law, a sensitive issue because Marcos used it to rule by decree. Emergency rule, which is just a notch below martial law, allows for indefinite detention without warrant (Straits Times, 26 Feb).

“She clearly has seized the initiative. The opposition is so used to taking to the streets and now they have to reinvent their strategy,” said political science professor Benito Lim. He further added that “the government’s threat that it could take over television stations and newspapers deemed to be acting against the national interest had sent a chilling message to the country’s boisterous media.” (Straits Times, 26 Feb).

Analysts cautioned that the state of emergency had the potential for the public to turn against her if public dissatisfaction towards her government grows.

Meanwhile, a military standoff was sparked on Sunday when marine commander Major General Miranda was relieved of his duties after the government asked him to step down because of personal reasons. His backers, claiming he was forced out rallied behind him in a protest which drew a crowd of three to four thousands including opposition politicians, leftist leaders and their followers.

The five hours standoff was defused without violence after their new commander, Brigadier-General Nelson Allaga reinforced the loyalty of the men. “It is clear we follow the chain of command, and we follow the duly constituted authority,” he said after a meeting in the marine headquarters.

Authorities warned of more arrest with more than 200 people lined up as suspects in the latest coup plot against Mrs Arroyo. The Armed Forces of the Philippinesand the Philippine National Police have been ordered to carry out “the necessary and appropriate actions and measures to suppress and prevent acts of terrorism and violence,” said Norberto Gonzalez, National Security adviser.

Malaysia’s foreign minister, Syed Hamid assured that the political unrest in the Philippines will not affect solidarity in Southeast Asia’s political and economic grouping.

Sources:

Military stand-off defused in the Philippines, The Straits Times, 27 Feb

Philippines marines end standoff, The Straits Times, 26 Feb

Ramos deserts Arroyo, The Straits Times, 26 Feb

Filipinos mark “people power” under emergency rule, The Straits Times, 25 Feb

The Plot, The Straits Times, 25 Feb

The Plotter, The Straits Times, 25 Feb

Arroyo’s emergency rule may stroke anger, The Straits Times, 25 Feb

Arroyo declares state of emergency after foiled coup bid, The Straits Times, 25 Feb

Arroyo invokes emergency rule in the Philippines, The Straits Times, 24 Feb

Unrest in the PhilippinesThailand won’t affect ASEAN: Malaysian FM, The Jakarta Post, 26 Feb

State of Emergency, The Manila Times, 25 Feb

General in on plot stripped of command, The Manila Times, 25 Feb

FVR: Its like bad old days of Marcos, The Manila Times, 26 Feb

GMA to use power prudently, The Manila Times, 26 Feb

Police take over antigovt paper, The Manila Times, 26 Feb

Government cracks down on enemies, The Philippine Star, 26 Feb

FVR: GMA proclamation an “overkill”, The Philippine Star, 26 Feb

Marines face off in Fort Bonifacio, The Manila Times, 27 Feb

Standoff at Fort resolved, Manila Standard Today, 27 Feb

More arrest soon, Palace warns, Manila Standard Today, 27 Feb

Coup plot’s major flaw: Everyone knew it was coming, The Philippine Star, 27 Feb