Monday, June 13, 2005

US Backs Arroyo, Says Coup Rumors Not Credible

The Philippine security forces were on alert for anti-government demonstrations expected on Independence Day anniversary on Sunday, but President Gloria Arroyo said she was uncowed by threats against her rule. Marines were guarding highways around the capital Manila, while riot police were on standby at vital installations, officials said. Left-wing groups and those allied with the political opposition threatened mass protests on Independence Day to call for Arroyo's ouster. However anti-government rallies on Saturday failed to draw the mass support organisers had hoped for. About 2,000 people from various opposition groups converged on the Manila post office in what was a relatively peaceful demonstration. Opposition senators have called on Arroyo to resign amid allegations that she rigged last year's presidential polls to beat Fernando Poe, the country's most popular action star and a friend of deposed president Joseph Estrada. Poe died of natural causes in December, while Estrada, whom Arroyo replaced in 2001 after a military-backed popular revolt ousted him, remains in detention over corruption charges. The President has resisted the calls for her resignation, and called for unity. "I am calling on everyone to do away with dirty politics and focus our energies to improve the economy," Arroyo said in a speech to mark the country's independence from Spanish rule 107 years ago. "My countrymen, the flag is the symbol of power and determination. Mark it in stone, I will show this power and determination to uphold democracy and guide the country in the right direction." Opposition groups have released taped conversations they alleged were of Arroyo and an elections commissioner plotting to cheat in the May 2004 polls. Her family members have also been accused of accepting bribes from operators of an illegal numbers game called jueteng, the same allegations that were the basis for Estrada's impeachment and ouster.
Philippines President Gloria Arroyo

At a reception for diplomats on Saturday Arroyo vowed to maintain stability and asked for their support. She noted that she had worked hard to bring the country "back on the world map" and took her role "very seriously." "I have felt the political heat, but I'm still in the kitchen. I'm still in the kitchen because that's where I belong, to continue to make the tough choices to turn this economy around and no one will deter me from that mission," she said. She accused her critics of creating the image that the country was "nothing more than a private sandbox for political intrigue." This view, she said, was "dangerous and irresponsible" as she challenged the opposition to present a viable alternative to her leadership.
The United States expressed its "unequivocal" support for embattled President Gloria Arroyo and said there appeared to be no real danger of a coup despite persistent rumors. The US government however would oppose "any extra-constitutional or extra-legal efforts to any way undermine" Arroyo's government, The US Embassy said.