Current day time temps in the Philippines hover around 95 degrees with a heat index of 100 plus. But even that scorching enviroment is like a forzen arctic wind compared to the heat President Arroyo is feeling. The “political thermometer” started rising late last week, then burst through the top on May day.
Rumors of what officials called another “nuisance” plot to overthrow President Gloria Arroyo dominated the day in the Philippines.
Still, as some 10,000 demonstrators massed to march on the Malacanang presidential palace in Manila, thousands of military and police were put on full alert after the government accused a group of retired generals of trying to recruit forces to mount a coup attempt. The generals called on President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to resign.
“This is now the time to take a peaceful yet bold step to change and regenerate our decayed society and energise our hopeless and desperate people,” Fortunato Abat, a retired army general, told a forum on Saturday.
“I am against a military takeover. I want a civilian-led revolt similar to what had happened in Kyrgyzstan and Ukraine,” said Abat, who heads the Coalition for National Salvation, a group of retired generals.
Arroyo, breaking with normal practice, stayed inside the heavily guarded palace on Sunday to address a group of labor leaders. The annual event is usually held in a public place.
In her speech, she ordered the country’s regional wage boards to study the possibility of raising the minimum daily wage — “with or without a petition from the workers”. She also ordered Finance Secretary Cesar A. V. Purisima to study the possible exemption of minimum wage earners from withholding tax. Progressive political groups have described as “token” and “insult” the move of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to order the Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board (RTWPB) to increase the minimum wages of workers within 30 days.
Jeppie Ramada, spokesperson of Bayan Muna for Southern Mindanao, said that Arroyo’s statement just came when workers called for a salary adjustment due to the increasing prices of basic commodities.
“She was just fooling us because it is impossible for the wage boards to concretize her order. She should pay heed with the demand of all workers for salary increases,” he said in an interview yesterday morning.
He said what the workers really wanted is the legislated wage increase, that is the P125-across the board salary increase for workers in the private sector and P3,000 [$55 dollars] monthly for the public sector.
To put their request into perspective, the average monthly wage is approx. P10,000 so they expect a 30% raise. Nice work, if you can get it! In addition the Philippines pays the highest minimum wage in Southeast Asia and the countries own head of the central bank has denounced any increase as fuel for higher inflation.
But, that’s the good news. In what may be the first signs of a death rattle being heard for the Arroyo administration, Catholic Bishops have threatened to withdraw support for the President:
Catholic bishops yesterday threatened to withdraw their support for President Arroyo and vowed to touch base and join hands with other political forces in ousting the Chief Executive, whom they rapped for “embarking on a terrrorist policy” against the Filipino people.
The same bishops were instrumental in placing Mrs. Arroyo in political power in 2001, as they played a major role in the coup d’etat against the Joseph Estrada government, and again in 2004, when they refused to heed the people’s plaints on the massive electoral fraud committed by the camp of Mrs. Arroyo.
“We are now experiencing a wave of terror in the series of assassinations and disappearances of individuals, journalists and leaders of organizations critical of the Arroyo administration,” Labayen said, stressing that the government has become very repressive, pointing to, among other measures, the Malacañang-imposed policy of its “no-permit, no-rally” policy, which he pointed out is even more wicked than martial law decrees.
“The message of repression is very clear in the imposition by this administration of the ‘no-permit, no-rally policy,’ the national ID system through an executive order despite a Supreme Court ruling to the contrary and the anti-terrorist bill now pending which will relive the dark days of martial law during the Marcos era but in a more vicious way,” the bishop added.
“We would like to remind the GMA (the President’s initials) administration that time is running out and that no force on earth can ever stop the coming deluge of change as the pent-up emotions of our poor suffering people are about to explode,” Labayen said.
Given the physical stature of the Filipino people a “fat lady” can be hard to find, but if one listens intently you can hear one limbering up her voice.
Cache of bomb chemicals seized in Manila warehouse.
The Committee to Protect Journalists has identified the Philippines as the most murderous country for journalists since 2000, followed by Iraq, Colombia, Bangladesh and Russia.
No genuine press freedom in RP: “Twenty-three Filipino journalists have been slain in the last three years, 66 since democracy was restored in 1986. As the world celebrates World Press Freedom Day today [May 03], an Ilocos Sur broadcaster lies in the hospital, the latest victim of attacks against journalists in this country. Three journalists were murdered in the first three months of 2005; four others survived assassination attempts but suffered serious wounds.”
The latest Pulse Asia survey released May 3 says the poorest Filipinos [Class E] either reduced their families’ food consumption* (23%), borrowed money (22%), or sought new sources of income (23%).
The Philippine government yesterday threatened to imprison dissident bishops [see above] critical of the Arroyo government, even as Dagupan-Lingayen Archbishop Oscar Cruz yesterday confirmed at a congressional hearing at the House of Representatives that presidential son and Pampanga Congressman Juan Miguel Arroyo and M2 – a big-time beneficiary of illegal gambling bribes – are one and the same.
Maybe not related, but Hi..Larious: The Philippine communists are denouncing their Chinese breathren for abandoning the Maoist cause.
Cross posted On the Third Hand