Analysis; Breathing Space

Manila Bulletin, February 29, 2008 | Go to article overview

Analysis; Breathing Space


Byline: JASON GUTIERREZ Agence France Presse

MANILA, Feb. 28 (AFP) - Embattled Philippine President Gloria Arroyo's hopes of clinging onto power have been given a boost, analysts said, after the influential Roman Catholic Church decided not to back mounting calls for her to go.

While many were expecting the church, considered the moral voice of the Philippines, to call for Arroyo's resignation, it has instead condemned the continuing culture of corruption" in government.

The Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) met Tuesday to hammer out a united stance on the latest accusations of corruption levelled at the 60-year-old Arroyo.

Stopping short of adding its considerable weight to calls for her to quit is a major boon to Arroyo because the church has played a major part in the removal of past leaders.

Under the late Cardinal Jaime Sin's leadership the church spoke out against the excesses of dictator Ferdinand Marcos and led the so-called People Power demonstrations which eventually saw his downfall in 1986.

Sin was also one of the key players in the removal of then President Joseph Estrada in 2001.

But analysts say the church's announcement should not be mistaken for being in any way a sign of support for Arroyo.

"I would not say that the CBCP statement was a victory for Arroyo," said Ramon Casiple, executive director of the Institute for Political and Economic Reform (IPER), a local think-tank.

"It has given her some time to think things over and of course much-needed breathing space. But I don't think it has made her nights more peaceful," he said.

Casiple said the statement reflected Arroyo's political shrewdness, having endeared herself to a faction within the CBCP that some insiders now brand as "the Malacanang (presidential palace) diocese. …

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