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Critics speak up as Arroyo weeds out opponents
Updated: 2006-02-26 14:38


But the president, who survived a crisis last year over allegations of vote-rigging and corruption, came under fire for introducing a rule of law that allows for arrests without warrant and an extension of detention without charge.

Former President Fidel Ramos, her most vital but unpredictable ally, said he was appalled and dismayed by her move. "It is an overkill ... people are more likely to pull the trigger if you have a state of emergency," he said.

There was also biting criticism in newspapers, which Arroyo had singled out for bias in her declaration of emergency rule.

On Saturday, police launched a pre-dawn raid on a pro-opposition newspaper, the Daily Tribune, and troops were sent to watch over the country's two main broadcasters.

"We assured our friends in the media that their freedom of expression will be respected as long as they don't allow themselves to be used by elements who wanted to bring down the government," said police spokesman Pagdilao.

But the Daily Tribune vowed on Sunday not to be cowed.

"President Arroyo and her aides may choose to call it a Declaration of the State of Emergency, but the stench of martial law has pervaded the whole country," it said in an editorial.

Prospero de Vera, Professor of public administration at the University of the Philippines, said a crackdown on the media could backfire on Arroyo.

"The decision to harass the Philippine Tribune and try to harass media outlets is a very, very dangerous gamble on the part of the president because that could undo her," he said.

There have been a dozen coup attempts in the last 20 years. While some analysts say Arroyo amplifies threats to ward off plotters and win public support, others say the risks are real.

"Conditions are ripe for a coup d'etat in a country ... where poverty is so pervasive and the government is unable to deliver basic services," de Vera said. "There is a sufficient number of military adventurists who will keep on trying."

"If she prolongs this (state of emergency) it will only exacerbate the situation. If she goes on a binge of harassment against the opposition I think things will only get worse."

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