GMA WARNS OF NEW PLOT TO BRING DOWN GOVT

MALACANANG, September 1, 2003  (STAR)  - One month after foiling a military mutiny, President Arroyo called on Filipinos yesterday to remain vigilant and help her frustrate what she described as attempts to bring down the government.

Mrs. Arroyo blamed these efforts, as well as "speculators" who she did not name, for the fall of the local currency.

After quashing a short-lived mutiny by a small band of military officers July 27, the government has been hit by the resignation of Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes and corruption allegations against the President’s husband Jose Miguel Arroyo.

Elements of the opposition last week launched a drive to demand Mrs. Arroyo’s resignation and force a snap presidential election.

In transcripts of a weekend radio address released by Malacañang, Mrs. Arroyo said the government is gathering evidence against certain individuals who she said were "plotting to bring down the government."

"But I assure you that I will not allow them to succeed. These conspirators are desperate because the nation’s institutions are standing firm. I am warning them again to stop violating the Constitution," the President said.

Mrs. Arroyo urged Filipinos to "remain vigilant and help defeat these viruses of society."

Also yesterday, Foreign Affairs Secretary Blas Ople urged foreign governments and investors to ignore the political tumult that followed the July 27 mutiny, insisting the President maintains a firm grip on power.

The political squabbling – which has knocked down both the local currency and share prices – should be seen in the context of parties jockeying for position ahead of the May 10, 2004, presidential election, Ople wrote in his newspaper column.

"The notion of a political ceasefire, implying a forced silence on the issues gripping the country, is probably not conceivable at this stage," Ople said.

"One reason for this is that the opposition is under the false illusion that the Arroyo administration is so weakened that all it needs to be toppled is a swift coup de grace that can be inflicted on the floor of Congress and a massive rally in the streets.

"Then there is the belief in some government circles that leaders of the opposition can be decimated by linking them to the (July 27) mutiny and the bigger coup attempts purported to follow from it."

Ople chastised the press for failing to put the situation in its proper context, which has resulted in investment flight.

He said the Manila envoy of a key Philippine ally told him last week that "all foreign embassies in the Philippines had the problem of putting the events as reported by local media in their proper context."

"Foreign investors have to be reassured that the Philippines is not about to collapse, that the economic fundamentals remain sound, that the government of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is essentially and fundamentally stable," Ople said.

The Philippine peso has in the past week been at its most volatile since the second EDSA revolt in January 2001, hovering at the 55 to the dollar level.

In order to help defuse the political tension, a summit of leaders from both the administration and opposition has been scheduled early this week, though naysayers doubt that it could achieve anything.

Attacks on the government –spanning from the halls of Congress to media and in rumors and alleged disinformation spread by text messages, have come in waves since the July 27 mutiny by junior military officers.

Though some 300 odd soldiers of the aborted coup have been accounted for, the actual masterminds are feared to be planning more ambitious and well-funded attempts at a power grab.

The resignation of Defense Secretary Reyes may be seen as merely symptomatic of the unrest afflicting the armed forces, analysts said.

"For the first time in history, the armed forces are divided vertically and not horizontally," a defense department source said, on customary condition of anonymity.

The source even feared that things might come to a head by October or November, with different commands nationwide either maintaining allegiance to the administration or opting to rise against it.

This, observers said, is the reason why the next choice for defense secretary is the most crucial decision the President will make and could well determine if she can ride out the reminder of her term. — With AFP


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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