Feature

‘People Power’ targets another president

The week's news at a glance.

Philippines

Another Philippine leader may soon be forced from power, said Manila’s Malaya in an editorial. President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is caught in a corruption scandal, and facing populist calls to step down. The first “People Power” uprising, in 1986, drove dictator Ferdinand Marcos from power in a scandal over election rigging. The next one, in 2001, was over gambling kickbacks. It toppled President Joseph Estrada and replaced him with his vice president, Arroyo. Now Arroyo “is in a worse fix” than either Marcos or Estrada. “She faces both scandals at the same time.” Credible accusations that she stole the May 2004 presidential election, coupled with mounting evidence that her husband and son have been taking payoffs from illegal-gambling kingpins, have sunk her approval rating to a paltry 25 percent. At this point, “a nudge is probably enough to send Arroyo packing.”

“Corruption and fraud are only the trigger,” said the Jakarta, Indonesia Kompas in an editorial. Several thousand people who poured into the streets last weekend to protest the Arroyo administration weren’t really angry about the two scandals. After all, jueteng gambling—a simple numbers game—is everywhere, and has been for centuries. And last year’s disputed election is pretty much old news. The loser, movie star Fernando Poe, can’t take power, as he died of a heart attack a few months after the vote. The demonstrators just wanted to vent against the continuing lack of social justice. After four years of Arroyo, unemployment is still higher than 10 percent, and poverty is as entrenched as ever. That is why the opposition “became widespread so quickly.”

There’s one area the opposition hasn’t penetrated, said the Filipino Reporter in an editorial. And that is “the all-powerful but tainted military.” Without the generals, those trying to unseat Arroyo—from the jailed Estrada to the leftists to some elements of the Catholic Church—have no chance. If the military had stood behind Estrada years ago, he, too, would have survived, even though Congress was intent on impeaching him. And don’t forget the real kingmaker in Philippine politics: the U.S., said Su Jun Hui in the Petaling Jaya, Malaysia, Sin Chew Jit Poh. The Americans have publicly stated their support for Arroyo. So she should be able to keep her job—at least “in the short term.”

Her main asset is the opposition’s weakness, said Federico D. Pascual Jr. in The Philippine Star. With Poe gone, there’s no one person who can inspire all the anti-Arroyo forces. Most of the familiar politicians “have been tainted beyond laundering.” Former presidents such as Estrada and Fidel V. Ramos are perceived as irretrievably compromised. And just about “everybody who has been in government for at least one payroll period” has participated in the ubiquitous official corruption. “The lack of alternatives from among the incumbents and the ruling elite is one of the reasons why some of us settle, in desperation, for actors and magicians.”

The Manila Times

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