April 17, 2006
By Dana Robert Dillon
President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is in trouble.
The political situation in her island nation is in crisis. Her
popularity ratings have dropped into the low teens. "People power"
demonstrations break out regularly in Manila. She recently survived
an alleged coup attempt.
Arroyo appears to have given up on convincing her constituents of
her competence. Instead, she has resorted to the methods many
dictators use to silence criticism.
The Reporters Without Borders Web site says that 52 reporters who
covered the Philippines have been murdered since 1986, and 42 of
the cases remain unsolved. The Committee for the Protection of
Journalists says that 22 have been murdered since 2000, making the
Philippines the most murderous country in the world for journalists
over that period.
The April 5 edition of The New York Times carried a story that
alleges intimidation of the press by security forces in the
Philippines. Members of the Philippines press corps in Washington
confirmed a campaign of oppression and said at least one of them
had been directly intimidated and had property confiscated by the
Elsewhere, Philippines troops surrounded a TV station on the
islands for more than a week recently to punish negative
No one claims that President Arroyo ordered or knew of any of the
killings of reporters. But government foot-dragging when it comes
to apprehending the killers is unacceptable for a country that
receives such large amounts of American aid.
Meanwhile, the United States continues to prop up the Arroyo
regime. Indeed, it bestowed more aid on the Philippines in 2006
than the year before.
But as a close observer of foreign policy on Capitol Hill said
recently, there is a "growing awareness in Congress about the
deterioration of the rule of law in the Philippines." That
awareness extends to the White House, where debate continues over
whether President Bush should meet with President Arroyo.
In a stunning display of Orwellian "doublethink," Arroyo wants to
convince policymakers that her illegal and unconstitutional
suppression of journalists actually serves to preserve the
constitution and rule of law.
Congress and President Bush must show her that this "logic" doesn't
fly here, and that this goes for all allies in the global war on
Instead, Congress and President Bush should review the security
assistance provided to the Philippines and ensure that
accountability procedures are followed and American-provided
equipment and aid is used properly.
We have a carrot to offer. Arroyo desperately wants a visit with
President Bush to shore up her shaky political situation at home.
We should tell her to get serious about apprehending those who kill
journalists and about preventing intimidation of the press. If she
does, we can discuss a presidential visit. But not before.
Dillon is a senior policy analyst in the Asian
Studies Center at the Heritage Foundation.
First appeared in FOXNews.com
The political situation in her island nation is in crisis. Her popularity ratings have dropped into the low teens. "People power" demonstrations break out regularly in Manila. She recently survived an alleged coup attempt.
Dana Robert Dillon
Senior Policy Analyst
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