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State of emergency to be extended in Philippines

An official said Arroyo was meeting with her security, economic and political advisers to assess the situation.

india Updated: Feb 27, 2006 10:27 IST
Jason Gutierrez (AFP)
Jason Gutierrez (AFP)

Philippine President Gloria Arroyo will extend a state of emergency she declared over an alleged coup plot after a weekend standoff with Marines renewed political tensions, her spokesman said on Monday.

"I believe the public will understand that the lifting of Proclamation 1017 will be slightly delayed," spokesman Ignacio Bunye said on Philippines radio, referring to the emergency declaration.

He did not say how long the state of emergency would be extended but assured the public that the order was temporary.

An official said Arroyo was meeting with her security, economic and political advisers to assess the situation.

Following months of political turmoil over allegations that she rigged last year's presidential election, Arroyo on Friday declared emergency rule after what was described as a plot to overthrow her government.

Two officers from elite security units in the country's influential and powerful military were detained.

On Saturday, police arrested an opposition congressman and a retired general, while also raiding a newspaper office, but by Sunday Arroyo's advisers had recommended that she lift the emergency declaration, Bunye said.

However, after Sunday's five-hour standoff at Marine headquarters in the capital, it appeared the "threat" had not subsided, he said.

Financial markets on Monday extended their fall due to the crisis, with the peso opening lower at 52.30 to the US dollar from Friday's 52.20, its lowest in about a month.

The composite index opened down 6.98 points or 0.34 per cent at 2,062.95.

The political crisis deepened on Sunday when a highly decorated combat veteran, Colonel Ariel Querubin, sacked as commander of a Marine brigade on Friday, led at least 100 armed men in a defiant stand at the Marines headquarters.

They were protesting the sacking of their commandant, Major-General Renato Miranda, who had apparently taken the heat for his subordinate's political actions.

Querubin had called on "the people" for protection, saying he feared aggression from unspecified enemies. Marines rolled armoured personnel carriers into the compound, while several opposition figures heeded his call.

But after several hours of talks Querubin emerged with the new commandant, Brigadier-General Nelson Allaga, who proclaimed the Marine Corps intact.

The troops returned to barracks.

Querubin had been sacked after telling his superior that he planned to lead his men, unarmed, to an opposition rally in Manila calling for Arroyo's resignation.

"We are thankful that the incident ended peacefully," Bunye said.

Issuing her emergency declaration on Friday, Arroyo spoke of a "tactical alliance" between right-wing and communist forces to overthrow her and "create an unconstitutional regime."

Arroyo's emergency declaration came on the eve of the 20th anniversary of a bloodless military-backed popular revolt that ended the 20-year dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos.

Lawyers said the Arroyo proclamation was not equivalent to martial law and essentially allowed the president to mobilize the military to crush a rebellion. The normal judicial system remains in place.

Bunye said the military leadership remained solidly behind Arroyo, whose popularity has waned since surviving an impeachment vote in Congress last year over charges she cheated. Arroyo in 2003 also quashed a short-lived military rebellion by junior officers.

Analysts say the order has had a chilling effect on an already-fragile business climate.

"Investors are expected to take shelter from the uncertainties that have been hovering above our heads," said stock market analyst Astro del Castillo of First Grade Holdings Inc.

"The concern is not really the state of emergency but more of the people who are out there to grab power. Is the threat over? That's the main question," he said.

First Published: Feb 27, 2006 10:27 IST