Philippines Political Situation

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Andrew Matheson
10:42am Friday 27 November

Philippines Political Situation

President Arroyo began her administration vowing to target corruption and work towards poverty alleviation. She also promised to stabilise the economy, (focussing on fiscal discipline) as the budget deficit had more than doubled in the period of political uncertainty.

As she came in over halfway through her predecessor's term, President Arroyo was in the unique position (under the Philippine constitution) of being able to stand for a second term in 2004. National elections for the President, Congress and half of the Senate, were held on 10 May 2004. After initially declaring that she would not be running, President Arroyo changed her mind and the campaign became a contest between her and movie star Fernando Poe Jnr.

On 20 June 2004, more than six weeks after the Presidential election, a committee representing the Congress, announced that Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo had won. This tally was then referred to the Congress as a whole. Congress' count put Arroyo with just over one million votes over Poe. The Presidential inauguration was held on 30 June 2004. In her 2004 State of the Nation Address, Arroyo focussed on the need to address problems of criminality and terrorism, and renewed her pledge to build a "strong republic".

Impeachment charges were bought against President Arroyo in July 2005. The President was accused of tampering with the results of the May 2004 elections following a public airing of a taped conversation between the President and an electoral officer during the elections. She rejected calls for her resignation and the Congress rejected the charges in September 2005.

In her 2005 State of the Nation Address, following the attempted impeachment, the President indicated support for a ‘special constituent assembly' to change the Philippine Constitution to establish a Parliamentary system of government rather than the current Presidential system.

On 24 February 2006 the President declared a state of emergency; due to alleged conspiracy to bring down the government after a section of the military took part in a mass anti-government demonstration. A newspaper office was raided and some high profile arrests of opposition figures were made. The state of emergency was lifted after seven days. Subsequently, there have been several other challenges to President Arroyo's power and she continues to lack a popular support base, faces a hostile Senate, and has been forced to rely on the military to maintain political stability. Prospects of further impeachment charges have receded as a result of the 2007 mid-term elections. Although Administration candidates fared poorly in the Senate elections, the President's control of the House of Representatives, in which impeachment charges would have to originate, was strengthened. President Arroyo has come under pressure to cut short her presidency, which is due to finish in 2010.  She has been accused of exaggerating threats to national security in order to allow the security forces increased freedom to deal with her political opposition.

The Arroyo Administration has been pursuing peace negotiations with both communist and Muslim insurgency groups, although long-lasting peace does not look likely, and the process continues to be complicated by constitutional and political factors, which have recently intensified. The issue of "ancestral domain" remains particularly contentious.

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Last updated: 25 March 2009