MANILA PHILIPPINES Macapagal-Arroyo Refuses to Identify Her Foes by Richard S Ehrlich
Published in Washington, D.C.
February 3, 2001
Macapagal-Arroyo refuses to identify her foes
By Richard S. Ehrlich
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said in an interview that she is using "intelligence reports" to help foil plots against her two-week-old government but she declined to identify her enemies.
"They know who they are, and it's enough that they have been warned," Mrs. Macapagal-Arroyo told a small group of reporters.
Sitting inside thick-walled Malacanang Palace under a huge presidential seal -- and flanked by advisers -- the nation's new leader used a meeting Thursday with reporters to elaborate on her recent warning that she would "crush" all "enemies of the state."
"I believe that [warning] is why they are also backing off, since the message has been delivered
to them," Mrs. Macapagal-Arroyo said.
"You don't have to know who they are. I was addressing it to them," she said, referring to her first nationally televised address on Tuesday -- 10 days after she gained power.
Mrs. Macapagal-Arroyo's remarks came at a sensitive time in the Philippines, with her predecessor, Joseph Estrada, claiming to be the nation's legitimate president who was ousted in a military coup.
The former vice president took the oath of office for president after a Senate impeachment trial against Mr. Estrada collapsed in disarray, military leaders deserted him and the Supreme Court declared the presidency "vacant."
Despite the unorthodox transfer of power, Mrs. Macapagal-Arroyo has been recognized as the nation's legitimate leader both internationally and by masses of anti-Estrada demonstrators who took to the streets of Manila last month.
Mrs. Macapagal-Arroyo, wearing a cream-and-white checkered outfit, said she felt uneasy about
pointing out her enemies in public.
"It's not my habit to be naming names," she said.
An economist by training, she said she would focus efforts of her administration on rebuilding the Philippines' battered economy and fighting poverty in the island nation of 78 million.
She dismissed rumors of a coup attempt, saying the military had acted in the best interest of the Philippine people by ensuring a peaceful and constitutional transfer of power.
"The military has never been as united as they are now," she said, "and they are united behind the present government."
As she spoke, Mrs. Macapagal-Arroyo sipped from a crystal glass elegantly decorated with gold leaf.
The new president once attended Georgetown University as the future President Clinton's classmate.
Asked why the masses rose up against Mr. Estrada when his impeachment trial collapsed, but similar outrage
did not sweep America when Mr. Clinton survived an impeachment trial in the U.S. Senate, Mrs. Macapagal-Arroyo said the comparison was not appropriate.
"Clinton's impeachment was related to
infidelity," Mrs. Macapagal-Arroyo said. "And if was only infidelity that was Estrada's problem, well, the people could have seen their way through to tolerate an acquittal.
"But it was not the problem. The problem was plunder. The problem was outrageous amounts of
Mrs. Macapagal-Arroyo remained defensive, however, about Mr. Estrada's challenge to her position.
Before accepting questions, she read a prepared statement defending her administration against a public challenge by Mr. Estrada on Wednesday.
"Yesterday Mr. Estrada made his
first public appearance after he left Malacanang," she said, referring to the nation's colonial-era presidential palace.
"He said he is still the president of the Philippines, and my ascension to office is
"Again, I would like to point out that it was the Supreme Court that declared the position of president as vacant. Thus I became president by operation of law.
"We have since then received support for our duly constituted government from foreign and local institutions."