| President Gloria Arroyo in Manila. (AFP)
Manila, Feb. 24 (Reuters): President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo declared emergency rule in the Philippines today after the military said it foiled a coup attempt, but analysts criticised the move as unwarranted and potentially damaging to the economy.
Talk of plots against Arroyo, who survived a crisis last year over allegations of vote-rigging and graft, has been running high around this week’s anniversary of the 1986 “people power” revolt that overthrew dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
Police used fire hoses and batons to disperse about 5,000 protesters, including nuns and priests, near a shrine that was a focal point of the anti-Marcos revolt and another in 2001 that ousted Joseph Estrada as president. The demonstrators fought back and threw stones.
In the capital’s Makati financial district, riot police took up position as several thousand protesters gathered.
Corazon Aquino, the first post-Marcos President and a former ally of Arroyo who has called on her to step down, joined the crowd as yellow confetti rained down from office towers.
“Clearly this is detrimental to foreign sentiment,” said Joseph Tan, regional economist at Standard Chartered Bank.
Emergency rule, which allows arrests without warrants and an extension of detention without charge, is a very sensitive issue in the Philippines after nine years of martial law under Marcos.
“This is my warning to those conspiring against the country ' the full force of the law will fall on your betrayal,” Arroyo said in a taped address, adding she had authorised the military and police “to take the necessary measures”. In her proclamation, Arroyo described a “systematic conspiracy” by members of the Opposition, communist groups and “military adventurists” to bring down her government.
Military commanders and Arroyo’s allies supported her move but senators and human rights lawyers demanded it be revoked. Gilbert Remulla, an Opposition leader in Congress, said the government was “creating chaos and confusion”.