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Last Updated: Wednesday, 1 March 2006, 10:39 GMT
Arroyo fails to resolve doubts
By Sarah Toms
BBC correspondent in Manila

Gloria Arroyo 1/3/06
Mrs Arroyo's presidency has been dogged by instability
Philippines President Gloria Arroyo's announcement of emergency rule last week has contained any immediate threat to overthrow her.

But analysts say she overreacted, and will not make any real impact on the corruption, restive military and politics of the elite that keep the country in turmoil.

President Arroyo says she wants to lift emergency rule soon, as security forces mop up an alleged conspiracy by leftists, political enemies and rogue soldiers.

Analysts say she must tread carefully, especially in her handling of the military, if she hopes to serve her full term until 2010.

"Arroyo herself can't push ahead too much to consolidate her position as she is not sure of the armed forces, and she has to calibrate her moves to keep the middle classes and big business and the Church from going to the other side," said Joel Rocamora, head of the Institute for Popular Democracy, a Manila-based think-tank.

It has not been an easy presidency for Mrs Arroyo, who rose from vice-president in 2001 when the country's second "people power" uprising overthrew her predecessor, Joseph Estrada.

Philippine military in Manila - 27/2/06
Grumbling among the military is a constant threat

She weathered a brief mutiny by soldiers in 2003 and a crisis last year, including an impeachment attempt in Congress, over allegations she cheated her way to victory in the 2004 election and that members of her family were corrupt.

She has pushed reforms to improve government finances, tackle corruption and cut the country's heavy debts.

But she has not been able to win the love of Filipinos, or escape a fractious political system built on patronage and strong personalities rather than policies.

There is also grumbling among young soldiers and poor voters that Mrs Arroyo is not the legitimate president, although her opponents have offered few alternatives in terms of policies, or leaders.

Effect on economy

Unlike the nine years of martial law under the late President Ferdinand Marcos, Mrs Arroyo has used her emergency rule to target a relatively small number of enemies in politics and the media.

Protesters in Manila on Saturday
Protesters see parallels with the Marcos years

"The raging debate is when she should lift it," said Scott Harrison, the managing director of Manila-based risk consultancy Pacific Strategies & Assessments.

"The financial team is warning of the ripple effect on the markets, the police and the military want the time to arrest people without habeas corpus. But for her reputation, the quicker she lifts it the better."

While Mr Harrison and other analysts see the plot as less serious than Mrs Arroyo portrayed it, they said threats would persist because of the questions about her presidency, the fragmented military, and powerful forces in the background that are not being confronted.

"There are so many issues left unanswered, especially her legitimacy of the presidency regarding the elections. This is the main reason why these protests and forces agitating against the president exist," said Earl Parreno, of the Institute of Political and Electoral Reforms.

Hours after the state of emergency was declared, police raided the offices of the Daily Tribune, confiscating documents and copies of the pro-opposition newspaper. Troops were also sent to watch over the two main broadcasters.

Charges of rebellion have been filed against a leftist politician and an army lieutenant but police are seeking more evidence against other soldiers and opposition figures. They also want the Department of Justice to charge more than 50 communist rebel and party leaders for previous acts of rebellion.

She wanted to deliver the message she is in control and would stay in control until 2010
Earl Parreno

Marcos reminder

The crackdown is being carried out under the president's emergency order, which expands the powers of the security forces and permits arrests without warrants.

The move reminded some Filipinos of martial law under President Marcos, from 1972 to 1981.

"I think she has learned a lot from Marcos by using all the available means to stay in power," Mr Parreno said.

"She deliberately overreacted because she had other objectives and, foremost, wanted to deliver the message she is in control and would stay in control until 2010," he said.

One key issue looming over Mrs Arroyo is a tendency by various presidents - after more than a dozen coup attempts since 1986 - to give leniency to the plotters in a bid to avoid further inflaming divisions within the military and political system.

Former President Fidel Ramos famously made soldiers do push-ups as penance for rising up against his government.

But the Philippine Star newspaper said it was time to throw the book at restive elements in the armed forces to avoid repeating history.

"Individual careers will be ruined, but it will be a small price to pay for the creation of a professional, apolitical military, which is a crucial component of a strong democracy," the paper said.

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06 Sep 05 |  Asia-Pacific

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