Manila – Anti-government forces, led by deposed president Joseph Estrada, have developed a three-stage destablisation plot against President Gloria Arroyo, a senior Malacanang official said. The climax of their plot is supposed to occur around July 25, when Mrs Arroyo delivers her annual State of the Nation Address at the opening of the joint session of Congress.
The latest jueteng scandal - in which Mrs Arroyo’s husband and eldest son have been accused of receiving kickbacks from operators of the illegal numbers’ game – is part of the plot, the official said.
His remarks came as Mrs Arroyo’s approval ratings fell to an all-time low. According to a Social Weather Stations poll released on June 3, 59 per cent of respondents were dissatisfied with the President’s performance, and only 26 per cent were satisfied.
"They are trying to whip up a confluence of events that would culminate in a people power," the official, who asked not to be named, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer on June 3.
The plot had a "dress rehearsal" on Labour Day when retired General Fortunato Abat called for a people power revolt to remove Ms Arroyo from office. The official said the opposition would try again on June 12 on Independence Day, but the main action would be during the opening of Congress on July 25.
The destabilisation theme was raised again by Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye during a radio interview on June 5. He said an unnamed group of people would soon make public a taped conversation allegedly between President Arroyo and a Commission on Elections’ official in which plans to rig the election were discussed.
"In an attempt to gain credibility for their 'evidence', the plotters are claiming that the tape came from sources in the United States government," Mr Bunye said.
In a commentary published in The Philippine Star, writer Babe Romualdez said President Arroyo needs to offer "a clear and focused direction" on where the country is going – fast.
"The opportunity for GMA to turn things around is still there, but that window of opportunity is fast closing – with the increasing number of hungry people in the streets," the writer added.
* Palace: Opposition plotting coup again (The Manila Times, June 6)
* GMA’s lowest rating: A wakeup call (The Philippine Star, June 5)
* Scandal part of coup plot, says Palace exec (Philippine Daily Inquirer, June 3)