By Rasheed Abou-Alsamh
WE all thought we would never see the day that a state of emergency would be called again in the Philippines by a president who is so unpopular and insecure that she felt she had to do so. Yet on Friday, the Philippines woke up to a declaration of such an emergency by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo because of an alleged military coup plot against her.
Not only were many soldiers arrested, but on Saturday Anakpawis Rep. Crispin Beltran and two other political enemies were arrested for allegedly plotting with the military to overthrow her. Nine other leftist politicians managed to escape in time before being arrested. To make matters worse, police raided the offices of the staunchly anti-Arroyo newspaper The Daily Tribune, and announced they would be reviewing every single word being written by that paper. Hello?! What happened to the freedom of the press and freedom of expression? As usual they are the first to be thrown out of the window in such a situation, which is a great shame because if the Philippines really had something going for it, it was its freewheeling and rollicking press, that made it the most vibrant in Asia.
Former President Fidel Ramos has finally told Arroyo enough is enough and refused to appear when he was allegedly summoned to Malacanang Palace on Friday to give his usual support to the stubborn and demented woman who lives there.
Yet the fact remains that President Arroyo has proved a failure at effectively ruling the country, what with the “Hello Garci” tapes scandal last year and the allegations of corruption against her own son and husband. And let’s not forget that she illegally grabbed power in EDSA II in early 2001, throwing a democratically elected president, Joseph Estrada, into prison.
Arresting opposition politicians and effectively shutting down a critical press will not make matters better for Arroyo or the country. The peso, having made remarkable gains in the past few months, is sure to suffer now, and foreign investors will surely be scared away for at least a year if not more.
I fear for the lives of my fellow journalists, such as Inquirer columnist Conrado de Quiros, who have been brave enough to speak out against Arroyo despite many pressures not to do so. I just hope he isn’t arrested too. That would surely be the final blow to the miniscule shred of credibility left in the Arroyo administration.