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Last Updated: Saturday, 25 February 2006, 12:13 GMT
Emergency order unsettles press
Government troopers were called upon to reinforce their comrades at the Armed Forces of the Philippines Headquarters
President Arroyo said the country faced 'a clear and present danger'

President Gloria Arroyo's declaration of a state of emergency in the Philippines gets a worried response in the country's newspapers.

Several question the timing of the move. It came as people prepared to hold a march and rallies to mark the 20th anniversary of the "people power" revolt of 1986, which removed President Ferdinand Marcos from power.

"Chaos interruptus," states an editorial in Manila Bulletin, which condemns the president's move.

It points out that a state of emergency is generally declared in areas afflicted by natural calamities or general disorder. "But Proclamation 1017, Gloria Arroyo's declaration of a state of emergency on the eve of a march, makes one wonder how threatening that march is..."

The paper states that there is nothing in the Philippines constitution about "declaring a national emergency in the case of clear and present danger" and calls for a constructive dialogue with the opposition "but only if there's a withdrawal of 1017".

'Virtual paralysis'

The pro-opposition Daily Tribune, whose Manila offices were later raided by police, also condemns the government's action.

It wonders whether the banning of rallies is not a "clear infringement on the citizens' freedom to assemble peacefully for redress of grievances".

"Gloria has issued a proclamation declaring a state of emergency, which is claimed to vest her with the power to take over vital industries, including the media. Is this not the height of irony, since this development comes during the very days that Filipinos fought for their democracy and freedoms?" the paper asks.

"For too long, it was clear to all that the Arroyo regime has been in a virtual state of paralysis, and all stemming from the issue of her questioned legitimacy."

"We are back to 1986. And that is the biggest irony yet."

It takes more than a revolution to liberate this nation from its woes. There is no quick fix to the nation's ills
Philippine Star

A commentary by William Esposo in Philippine Inquirer is concerned that the state of emergency order will increase political tensions "thereby increasing the prospects that all this can escalate into a civil war".

"Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo may have removed a serious threat to her tenuous hold on the presidency but there is reason to believe that we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg of the crisis..." he writes.

"[Mrs] Arroyo has survived another threat to her claim to the presidency. Has she effectively eliminated these threats? I doubt it. Arroyo merely won a battle but not the war - far from it."

"In truth, the Declaration of a State of National Emergency will just intensify the resolve of her opponents to employ more drastic means in order to succeed."

Hard work

Several papers, including Manila Standard Today, are concerned about the economic impact of the political developments. The paper notes that stock and currency markets fell sharply in reaction to the government's announcement.

"The political opposition and its rabid followers may have succeeded in some measure to temporarily halt the country's recent economic gains," the paper thinks.

"Eroding the confidence of investors through personal and petty considerations, however, will not fix the country's major woes - poverty and unemployment."

The Philippine Star agrees.

"Circumstances today are markedly different from those in 1986, or even in 2001," the paper argues.

"The public response is not a rejection of the grievances of those who can't stop reliving the glory days of people power. As survey after survey has shown, many Filipinos believe that those grievances against this administration are valid," it says.

"But the results of two people power uprisings have led to the realisation that it takes more than a revolution to liberate this nation from its woes. There is no quick fix to the nation's ills."

"The nation needs hard work, discipline, institution building, the rule of law. It will take something other than repeated attempts to recreate the 1986... revolt to fulfil the promise of people power."

Call for calm

In an editorial headlined "Be calm, sober - and just", Manila Times analyses the background to President Arroyo's "momentous step".

"We condemn military adventurism and any movement aimed at removing President Arroyo - or any lawfully installed official - from office by illegal and unconstitutional means. And we are glad that the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) command nipped the attempted coup," it says.

"But we find ourselves duty bound to exhort the president, the defence officials, the military high command and the police to do their jobs with serenity, a high sense of justice and unflagging alertness to the dignity and human rights of Filipino citizens."

"Nothing less than the rule of law and just, honest, transparent, good governance will be acceptable to the Filipino people, as well as to international observers."

BBC Monitoring selects and translates news from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages. It is based in Caversham, UK, and has several bureaux abroad.

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