Filipinos should invoke the strength of earlier "people power" revolts to unite behind efforts for economic change, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said yesterday, warning that another political uprising would only taint the Philippines' international image.
Speaking at a sparsely attended ceremony at a pro-democracy monument in the capital Manila to mark the anniversary of the 1986 army-backed revolt that ousted dictator Ferdinand Marcos, Arroyo called for national unity.
She said the world "embraced" the 1986 uprising as a harbinger of nonviolent political change and that it "tolerated" a second revolt in 2001 that ousted president Joseph Estrada, who was accused of corruption and misrule.
But, Arroyo said, a third "people power" revolt would draw criticism.
"The world will ... condemn the Philippines as a country whose political system is hopelessly unstable," she said.
Other countries would regard "Filipinos as among the finest people in the world but who always shoot themselves in the foot," Arroyo said, adding that another such revolt would probably turn off foreign investors.
Filipinos should instead unite in support of government efforts to bring about economic recovery, Arroyo said, calling for the public to back her tough reform policies, including new taxes, aimed at creating jobs and improving the country's infrastructure.
"These past years under our government, there was another people power [revolt] that happened. This is the support of the people and sacrifice for our difficult but necessary decisions to strengthen our economy," she said.
In 1986, hundreds of thousands of Filipinos including priests and nuns gathered along the EDSA highway at the heart of bustling metropolitan capital Manila to protect mutinous soldiers from a convoy of tanks and troops loyal to Marcos.
Nuns and unarmed civilians holding rosaries and flowers knelt before tanks to halt their advance in iconic images beamed by TV networks around the world.
Marcos, who ruled with an iron fist for 20 years, was forced to flee into exile in Hawaii, where he died in 1989.
The euphoria, however, soon subsided as the country remained mired in poverty, raging communist and Muslim separatist insurgencies, official corruption and chaotic politics. Democracy remained fragile.
Arroyo, then Estrada's separately elected vice president, was abruptly swept to power following the 2001 uprising that she helped to lead. She ran and won in the 2004 presidential elections but was later accused by the opposition of conspiring with others to rig the polls.
Last year, Arroyo accused disgruntled troops allegedly allied with left-wing guerrillas of plotting to stage a coup to coincide with the 1986 revolt anniversary, prompting her to declare a weeklong state of emergency. About 30 military officers are facing a court-martial.
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