- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 2, 2001

MANILA — President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo declared a "state of rebellion" yesterday, sending heavily armed police to arrest key opposition politicians and quell a weeklong protest intent on returning her jailed predecessor to power.
As night fell on the capital, two policemen and two protesters lay dead, with at least 12 policemen and 120 demonstrators injured.
The neighborhood surrounding Malacanang, the presidential palace, looked like a war zone, with rocks, broken glass, empty tear-gas canisters, burned-out cars and looted storefronts.
"The issue here is justice and our capacity to enforce the law," a haggard-looking Mrs. Macapagal-Arroyo told the nation in a televised address. "It is my duty as president to enforce the law."
She vowed to end nearly a week of protests she claimed were organized and funded by opposition leaders aligned with Joseph Estrada, the former president who was jailed April 25 on charges of economic plunder, a crime that carries the death penalty.
Mrs. Macapagal-Arroyo, the daughter of a former Philippine president, had served as Mr. Estradas vice president and as a member of his Cabinet. She broke with him in October when charges surfaced of bribes, kickbacks and embezzlement that led to a deadlocked Senate impeachment trial.
She assumed the presidency Jan. 20, after all but a few Cabinet members defected from the embattled Mr. Estrada and the military withdrew its support.
The arrests of the former president and his son, Jose "Jingoy" Estrada, mayor of a Manila suburb, for amassing about $80 million in payoffs in the 31 months that the elder Mr. Estrada held power have sparked the worst wave of political violence here in 15 years.
Mrs. Macapagal-Arroyo blamed the unrest on Estrada cronies and political allies jockeying for position in the run-up to May 14 polls that will elect half the members of the 26-seat Senate and a full slate of congressmen.
"The vandalism, robbery and injury and deaths are the work of these politicians" the president told the nation. "They will be made to answer to the country for these crimes."
Within hours, Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, who served as defense minister under dictator Ferdinand Marcos, was arrested on sedition charges.
Last week, in the wake of protests sparked by Mr. Estradas arrest, Mr. Enrile threatened to "lead a revolution if the Macapagal administration continues to politically harass Estradas camp and the political opposition."
Mr. Enrile, who is trailing in pre-election polls, denied that he was a "participant to any cabal act or movement to undermine the stability of the republic."
"What happened today does not fit the meaning of rebellion," said Mr. Enrile, a Harvard-educated lawyer. "I should know. Ive been arrested many times before for rebellion."
He is one of 11 politicians, military officers and policemen for whom arrest orders were issued. Others include Sen. Gregorio "Gringo" Honasan, a cashiered colonel who led two coup attempts in the late 1980s against President Corazon Aquino.
Also, named was Ernesto Maceda, a former senator and until recently Philippine ambassador to the United States. Mr. Honasan and Mr. Maceda said they would surrender to police today.
Under the terms of the "state of rebellion" declared in the capital by the president, the suspects can be arrested without a warrant and held for three days.
Mrs. Macapagal-Arroyo offered assurances that the "state of rebellion" declared in the capital would not evolve into martial law. "Its not a formal situation like martial law," she said in a broadcast interview.
Palace sources say the pro-Estrada rallies in Manila were being funded to the tune of $200,000 a day by the opposition political machine.
They initially centered on a shrine along the Edsa highway commemorating the 1986 "Peoples Power" revolution that toppled longtime strongman Mr. Marcos and sparked similar drives for democracy around the globe.
The shrine was also the rallying point for the Macapagal-Arroyo supporters who helped topple Mr. Estrada in January, in a movement popularly known as "Edsa II." But beginning Monday night, elements of the rowdy throng started a 10-mile march to the presidential palace along the Pasig River.
When the mob reached the palace gates, Mrs. Macapagal-Arroyo made good on her promise the previous day "to crush" the protest if it turned violent or disrupted peace and order in the capital.
A pitched battle engulfed the neighborhood throughout the morning, with protesters overturning and smashing vans from local TV networks that they accused of bias against Mr. Estrada.
From his new jail cell in nearby Laguna province, where he was moved as the crowd marched toward the palace, Mr. Estrada issued a statement saying that "the struggle has just begun."
"I earnestly call on our people today for calm and sobriety, and to exercise restraint in the face of the grave crisis facing our nation," he said in a statement faxed to the media.
Mr. Estrada, popularly known as "Erap," denied having encouraged the protesters to march on the palace, laying those plans at the feet of firebrand opposition Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, who still recognizes Mr. Estrada as president.
Mr. Estrada yesterday said the blood of the protest victims was "now in the hands of those in power."
But Manilas politically influential archbishop, Cardinal Jaime Sin, who mobilized hundreds of thousands of churchgoers in this overwhelmingly Catholic country to topple Mr. Marcos in 1986 and Mr. Estrada earlier this year, placed the blame on Mr. Estrada and the leaders of the political opposition.
"Those who abused and manipulated the poor will be accountable to God," he said at a 4 p.m. service at the Edsa shrine, which police had cleared of Estrada supporters. "The blood of innocent victims is in their hands."
As calm began to return to this capital city of about 12 million people late yesterday, Mrs. Macapagal-Arroyo ventured out of Malacanang to demonstrate that the capital was returning to normalcy.
She told reporters that documents discovered in the hospital room from which Mr. Estrada was moved at 4 a.m. yesterday included a draft declaration in which he would "announce his return from a leave of absence from the presidency.


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