- The Washington Times - Friday, February 16, 2001

People power again

The "people power" that ousted Philippines dictator Ferdinand Marcos also ousted an elected president accused of corruption, a special envoy from the new Filipino government said yesterday.

Raul Rabe, a former ambassador to the United States, said the removal of Joseph Estrada last month was unusual but not illegal.

"We admit it was extra-constitutional, but not necessarily unconstitutional," Mr. Rabe told members of Congress at a Capitol Hill breakfast meeting.

"While we sort of mirror your constitution and refer to your legal writings, we do have our own history and practices," he said.

"The people power movement was a national movement. We were reaching back into our own history," he said, referring to the removal of Mr. Marcos in 1986.

Mr. Rabe is here to explain the goals of the new administration and to answer any criticism of the ouster of Mr. Estrada.

The Philippines Supreme Court stripped Mr. Estrada of his office Jan. 20, after most of the government joined mass protests demanding his removal on charges of corruption.

Vice President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was installed as president.

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, who hosted the meeting, told Mr. Rabe not to worry about criticism over the removal of Mr. Estrada.

"Bask in the glory that you have fought and set the standard again," the California Republican said.

Capitol Hill diplomacy

Congress appears ready to provide more money to repair crumbling U.S. embassies, if the State Department agrees to streamline its bureaucracy and adopt other reforms advocated by key lawmakers.

The department's "huge bureaucracy … is the most immune to change in the federal government," Rep. Harold Rogers said at a hearing this week of the House International Relations Committee.

Mr. Rogers, chairman of the panel's appropriations subcommittee, exerts considerable influence over the State Department's budget.

Ben Barber of The Washington Times, who covered the hearing, says the Kentucky Republican echoed recommendations made by Frank Carlucci, secretary of defense under President Reagan, in a recent report on deterioration in the U.S. diplomatic service.

Mr. Rogers endorsed Mr. Carlucci's call for more authority for ambassadors in the operation of their embassies and control over embassy employees from other agencies, such as the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Agriculture and Commerce departments.

Rep. Tom Lantos, California Democrat, added that "we must modernize and rebuild" America's diplomatic structures or else "rely on our military forces" to defend American interests.

Rep. Benjamin A. Gilman, New York Republican and former committee chairman, endorsed a call for an autonomous construction agency to take over the huge job of upgrading embassies overseas to improve security and working conditions.

The State Department is rebuilding bombed embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, fixing up its Belgrade embassy and planning new embassies in Berlin and China.

Lewis B. Kaden, chairman of the Overseas Presence Advisory Panel, told the committee that the diplomatic communications system needs a lot of work and the State Department needs to reduce the number of diplomats in large embassies such as in Paris and London.

Mr. Carlucci, while advocating many of the same reforms as the committee, told the panel that he suspects Secretary of State Colin Powell probably will resist a suggestion from Sen. Jesse Helms, North Carolina Republican and chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.

Mr. Helms has advocated replacing the Agency for International Development with a system of grants to private and faith-based charities, which he believes would be a more efficient use of money.

Mr. Carlucci knows how Mr. Powell thinks. After all, he once outranked him as defense secretary when Mr. Powell was an Army general.

"Powell said he wants to go very carefully on moving boxes around," Mr. Carlucci said, referring to departmental reorganization.

"It often turns into a nightmare."

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