Philippines President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo faced criticism from prominent Filipinos yesterday for declaring a state of emergency to quash a coup plot, with a former president and military commander saying the move will hurt the Philippines unless it is rescinded soon.
Police meanwhile raided the offices of a newspaper critical of Arroyo, and detained an opposition lawmaker and two retired police generals who were at a golf course at the time they were taken in for questioning.
Several hundred government opponents gathered at a Roman Catholic Mass, where they questioned the legal legitimacy of the state of emergency.
Former president Fidel Ramos, who stood by Arroyo during last year's failed impeachment bid, joined the president's critics, saying in a TV interview: "I was not only surprised, I was appalled and dismayed" by the declaration.
Ramos accused Arroyo of "killing the spirit" of a "people power" revolt that toppled late dictator Ferdinand Marcos 20 years ago to the day. He said he didn't believe the declaration was justified because no actual coup attempt had taken place, and that Arroyo had overreacted.
"If there is a plot of conspiracy, then an immediate investigation must take place to determine whether an actual crime was committed," said Ramos, a military commander who withdrew his support for Marcos and was a key figure in the dictator's downfall.
He did not call for Arroyo's resignation, as his predecessor, Corazon Aquino, has done. Aquino, the icon of the 1986 revolution who restored democracy in the Philippines, led a street protest on Friday during which she urged Arroyo to step down. Ramos and Aquino sat together at the Mass yesterday.
"What is this emergency act all about? Is it another name for martial law?" Aquino said.
Arroyo has said the state of emergency was necessary to prevent a breakdown in law and order.
Friday was one of the toughest and longest days yet for Arroyo, who already has withstood two coup attempts and numerous other crises during five tumultuous years in power.
Imposing a state of emergency is a dangerous move in a country still smarting from the martial-law decrees used by Marcos.
Early yesterday, police barged into the offices of the Daily Tribune and confiscated editorial material and a bundle of newspapers headlining Arroyo's declaration.
After the raid, they posted police at the door but it was not clear if they intended to close the office, the paper's publisher, Ninez Cacho Olivarez said.
The newspaper, which is owned by Olivarez's family, has been among the most critical of Arroyo, and has recently reported on alleged military plots to force her from power.
Also yesterday, Republican Crispin Beltran, a member of the leftist Anakpawis party in the House of Representatives, was taken into custody for questioning at police headquarters in Manila. Local media said Beltran was being questioned about an old rebellion case.
Two former police generals, Ramon Montano and Rex Piad, were detained at a golf course south of Manila. Montano had previously urged Arroyo to resign, and Piad supported the campaign of Fernando Poe Jr., who lost to Arroyo in the 2004 presidential elections.