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Philippines Descends Into Deeper Turmoil
Sonya Bryskine, Epoch Times Australia Staff
3/5/2006

Filipinos marked the 20-year anniversary of freedom from dictatorship on Saturday February 25 in the shadow of the state of emergency, imposed by the current President Gloria Arroyo.

Arroyo declared the controversial 1017 bill of Martial Law on Friday, after an alleged plot to overthrow her was thwarted by security forces. BBC reported that the military detained the commander of an elite regiment who were planning to incite crowds at anti-government rallies.

The crackdown came just a day before the country was set to celebrate 20 years since liberation from the previous dictator Ferdinand Marcos. However, their planned festivities sizzled out to virtually empty streets after Arroyo imposed a ban on all public gatherings.

This was a sharp contrast to the chaotic scenes in 1986 when one million people stood up to army tanks on the EDSA highway, forcing dictator Ferdinand Marcos to flee. The "people power" uprising supposedly freed Philippines from two decades of autocracy, marred by nine years of enforced martial law and virtually no press freedom.

It is a paradox that 20 years on, the Filipinos' civil liberties were again impeded and critics have argued that Arroyo's response is reminiscent of the very dictatorial traits against which they revolted. The pro-opposition The Daily Tribune, whose Manila offices were raided by police, also condemned the government's action.

"The stench of Martial Law has pervaded the entire country…For what else can one call a warrantless raid at an ungodly hour of 12:45 a.m. Saturday, where armed and uniformed policemen swooped down on the newspaper offices…without a search warrant", said an publisher's note of the paper.

The daily wondered whether the banning of rallies is not a "clear infringement on the citizens' freedom to assemble peacefully for redress of grievances…We are back to 1986. And that is the biggest irony yet." The Daily Tribune has vowed to fight against the government take-over, after its offices were shut down.

President Arroyo has been increasingly unpopular. The opposition have accused her of corruption and falsification of vote results in the 2004 election, demanding that she steps down.

The New York Times analyst Seth Mydans believes that the net effect of the continuing demands for Arroyo's resignation may knock the country off balance once again. A respected polling agency Pulse Asia has found that nearly a quarter of Filipinos said they believed their country was "hopeless" and that one-third said they would emigrate if they could.

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