WASHINGTON, August 8, 2003 By Jose Katigbak, (STAR Washington Bureau)  - The situation in the Philippines is going from bad to worse because President Arroyo is an ineffective leader who cannot quell domestic disorder and control the military, The Washington Times said.

In a lead editorial titled "Chaos in the Philippines," the conservative newspaper on Wednesday said it agreed with the call made by Ilocos Norte Rep. Imee Marcos that President George W. Bush’s planned state visit to Manila in October should be postponed due to a security breakdown in the country.

"The message needs to be clear that Mrs. Arroyo must get a grip on the chaos," said the Washington Times, one of only two major dailies published in the United States capital.

The deteriorating situation in the Philippines has global implications and "Mrs. Arroyo’s inabilities as a leader and lack of control of the military make an already volatile country even more dangerous," the newspaper said.

It said government corruption was to blame for the escape of convicted senior Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) member Fathur Rohman al-Ghozi from a high-security detention cell in Philippine National Police (PNP) headquarters at Camp Crame.

The daily said that the world can expect many more bombings akin to the suicide attack on the JW Marriott hotel in Jakarta, Indonesia that killed 14 people and injured over 150 others Tuesday.

The Times described Al-Ghozi as a leader of the JI, which has been linked to Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda terror network and was blamed for last year’s Bali bombings and Tuesday’s attack in Jakarta.

Referring to the failed July 27 mutiny in Makati City, the Times said the failed coup underscored how fragile Mrs. Arroyo’s hold on power is.

"Military chiefs have even refused to appear before the legislature to address the mutiny. This bold lack of respect for civilian authority is a consequence of the way the President came into power without a democratic election," the Times said.

"Because the reality is that she owes them for her position as much as she needs to keep it, the brass is untouchable," it added.

"A growing number of Filipinos think (Sen. Panfilo) Lacson, who is running for president (in 2004), offers the best chance to quell domestic disorder and control the military. Mrs. Arroyo clearly cannot do it," the Times concluded.

Last October, the Times in an editorial said Mrs. Arroyo’s popularity was dropping because of continuing violence in the Philippines.

A statement from the office of opposition Sen. Panfilo Lacson interpreted the senator’s mention in the Times editorial as one that "practically endorsed" Lacson "as the most capable" among the presidential wannabes. The Times also criticized the Arroyo administration for its efforts to suppress both the media and the political opposition in the Philippines, citing the arrest of Daily Tribune publisher Ninez Cacho-Olivarez.

"The President and her advisers should know that trying to muzzle their opponents gives credibility to their criticisms," the editorial said.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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