Manila – “Arroyo will declare martial law around June 21” – declared an SMS message that was sent to mobile phones across the Philippines on June 17. June 21 is the day when the House of Representatives starts hearings on an alleged wiretapped recording of President Gloria Arroyo and an election official talking about rigging the vote. The rumours were so strong that a presidential spokesman had to issue a statement assuring Filipinos that the rumours were just that.
"The detractors of the administration are getting desperate," Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said on June 18. "Having failed to drum up support through their unfounded accusations, they are now peddling disinformation to provoke the public, such as the martial law rumors."
Political text messages on cellular phones spread rapidly in the Philippines, and were credited with bringing together thousands of protesters for the people power revolt that forced former President Joseph Estrada to step down in January 2001.
Transportation and Communications Secretary Leandro Mendoza also denied his rumored involvement in a supposed plan of Mrs Arroyo to declare martial law.
His spokesman, Mr Thompson Lantion, said there was no truth to rumors naming his boss and former police official Reynaldo Berroya as leaders of so-called special operations team that will implement martial law.
"There’s no truth to the matter. Secretary Mendoza will not and will never resort to such a scheme. This is just another handiwork of some groups who can’t do anything for the country but to foment intrigues and conflict," Mr Lantion told reporters.
Mobile phone text messages have been circulating claiming that former national police chief Mendoza and Mr Berroya, former Central Luzon police chief, are heading a 500-strong commando force that includes hit squads.
Apart from the allegations of election rigging, President Arroyo must also grapple with charges that her husband, son and brother-in-law, had accepted bribes from illegal gambling operators.
The embattled President has vowed to continue holding on to the presidency. "They think that by continuing to hit me, and to do it repeatedly, I will lose my resolve and ... I will not be able to lead our government," Mrs. Arroyo said in a speech on June 17.
"But I know that people who support me ... will continue to strengthen my governance for the good of the people."
* Malacañang: No martial law, no emergency measures (The Philippine Star, June 19)
* Text messages warn of martial law by next week (The Manila Times, June 18)