Fri, Sep 09, 2005 - Page 9 News List

Arroyo survives for now, but how much longer can she last?


President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo might have survived a bid to impeach her over allegations she cheated in last year's elections, but analysts and officials warned that her victory could spell more trouble and disquiet for the Philippines.

As Arroyo's allies in Congress swamped the motley group of opposition legislators in upholding the decision to junk all three impeachment complaints against the president, thousands of protesters took to the streets to demand her resignation.

A shadowy group of young officers in the military also warned that its forces were "now planning to initiate the time of reckoning" and launch "a new order that will promote and recognize what is right and what is wrong."

Former president Corazon Aquino and the widow of Arroyo's rival in last years presidential election led the march of anti-Arroyo forces toward the House of Representatives to express their dismay.

Analysts warned that while the street protests were not yet big enough to force Arroyo out of office, the unrest would continue to hurt the country.

"The dismissal only creates more instability," political science professor Benito Lim said. "This crisis will drag on. The turmoil will not end soon because the ability to govern will continue to be impaired."

Opponents claimed that Arroyo has been crippled since the crisis broke three months ago, with the release of wire-tapped conversations allegedly of her and a senior election official about fixing the results of the election in May last year.

Arroyo apologized for a "lapse in judgement" in talking with the official while votes were still being counted, but she insisted that she won the elections fair and square.

Despite losing support from key allies, she has also rejected calls for her resignation and urged the opposition to give her a day in court by filing an impeachment complaint in Congress.

Opposition congressman Francis Escudero said that with the dismissal of the impeachment process against Arroyo in the House, the people's search for truth has been aborted.

"The simple questions -- like did she [Arroyo] lie, did she cheat, did she steal -- have remained unanswered," he said. "It will continue to haunt her wherever she goes."

Senator Rodolfo Biazon, a former ally of Arroyo, said that although Congress has already passed a ruling on the impeachment bid, the "public's judgement has yet to come."

"The public was given a glimpse of what probably is the truth," he said, referring to initial public hearings on the wiretapped recordings, "but Congress failed to provide a conclusive resolution to the issues raised by hints of what the president was accused of."

Aquino, who was propelled into power by a four-day "people power" revolution that ended the 20-year rule of dictator Ferdinand Marcos in 1986, has urged the public to take a stand.

She called for support for a multisector group called the Coalition for Truth in seeking Arroyo's removal from office.

"Every avenue for arriving at the truth has been blocked, and every opportunity to find the truth is being closed," the coalition said in a statement on the eve of the House vote.

"President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's response to our call for the truth has been to suppress evidence, hide her accomplices, engage in grand cover up, sow fear, foment distrust and use every instrument at her disposal to encourage division among our people," it added.

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