Manila – The Philippines' influential bishops provided embattled President Gloria Arroyo with some reprieve over the weekend after they said in a much-awaited statement that they would not demand her resignation. As the nation wonders how the political crisis will resolve itself, some analysts and Mrs Arroyo's rivals are starting to talk about the "FVR" factor.
According to the Philippine Daily Inquirer, former president and military chief Fidel Ramos saved the day for Mrs Arroyo on July 8 – when eight of her ministers quit – by making an unexpected appearance at Malacanang Palace and announcing his unwavering support for her. However, his support reportedly came at a price: A commitment from Mrs Arroyo to support a Ramos pet project – changing the Constitution to move the country from presidential to a parliamentary government. The government has denied any such quid pro quo, reported AFP.
The President's opponents have been quick to criticise the Arroyo-Ramos link.
Opposition Senator Panfilo Lacson even claimed on July 10 that he had received information that a so-called High Council, supervised by Mr Ramos, is running the government and that Mrs Arroyo has been reduced to a figurehead.
The United Opposition called on Mrs Arroyo to inform the nation if she had started sharing power with Mr Ramos, 77. "We just want know whether Mrs Arroyo is still able to perform her duties, or whether she, in fact, has already relinquished some of her powers to the former president," said former Senator Francisco Tatad.
Mr Ramos, whose term from 1992-98 saw political stability and economic growth, resented being called a "kingmaker". "The man behind the throne is the kind of a role that some shadowy characters like to play – I'm not like that," Mr Ramos said on July 10.
He also brushed aside suggestions that he is now the Philippines' de facto leader. Mr Ramos said that he is doing his part as a "concerned citizen and as an ex-president". "It is to help ensure the well-being and security of our people as someone who still has a residual influence of being an ex-president."
* Ramos resents being called kingmaker (Philippine Daily Inquirer, July 11)
* Lacson: Ramos running the government (The Manila Times, July 11)
* Ramos bids to rescue Arroyo – but at a price (The Manila Times, July 11)