Philippine President Hears Calls for Resignation
Trouble returns to my native land:
Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo faced intense pressure Friday to step down as 10 of her cabinet members and former president Corazon Aquino added their voices to those demanding her resignation.
Arroyo, trying to weather allegations that she cheated in the last election, sought to preempt a cabinet mutiny earlier in the week by firing her entire team. But the month-old leadership crisis escalated dramatically when disaffected cabinet secretaries, including most of her top economic advisers, announced at a morning news conference that it was Arroyo who must go.
Hours later, Aquino also broke with the president, urging her to make the “supreme sacrifice.” A moral icon since she replaced longtime dictator Ferdinand Marcos 19 years ago, Aquino said in a televised statement, “I am asking the president to spare our country and herself.”
In recent days, Arroyo has lost crucial support from both the country’s influential Roman Catholic Church and the junior ranks of the often restive military, which has launched more than a half dozen coup attempts in the last two decades.
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, which holds its annual retreat this weekend, was expected to release a statement further increasing the pressure on Arroyo. A call by the Church for her resignation would be a crushing blow in this overwhelmingly Catholic country.
To avoid chaos in the capital, the armed forces and Manila police placed the metropolitan area on the highest state of alert. Senior military commanders repeated their pledge that the armed forces would remain neutral in the political standoff.
Arroyo, speaking in a taped message released late in the day, accused her detractors of subverting the country’s laws. “Their actions cause deep and grievous harm to the nation because they undermine our democratic principles and the very foundation of our constitution,” she said. She insisted she would stay in office and soon name a new cabinet to work on improving the economy.
The president’s critics have demanded she account for her role in a vote-fixing scandal, which erupted after tapes surfaced of wiretapped conversations she held last year with a national election commissioner. The recordings appear to indicate they conspired to ensure Arroyo would win a second presidential term by at least 1 million votes.
I find Arroyo’s actions utterly problematic, and they likely warrant removal. But, on a more fundamental level, I’m once again disturbed with the way that the entire country is handling the scandal. Mass demonstrations, military pronouncements, church declarations — every major step is being taken outside the realm of the constitution.
If you read the entire article, you’ll notice that the legislature is conspicuously absent. And it’s doubtful that the Post made a mistake there: for the most part, I think that appropriate political representatives are either sidelined or overshadowed. Yet, if the Philippines wants to retain stability and strengthen democratic institutions, the constitutional process should be fully functioning at the heart of the affair.
This point may seem nit-picky. But, as I’ve argued in the past, it’s critically important in the Philippine case because national security hinges on democratic order. Given the fragile country’s involvement in the War on Terror, the entire region has a stake in how Filipinos manage their latest presidential crisis.