Manila says it's back to normal, but media targeted
MANILA, Mar 6: President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo maintained it was business as usual in the Philippines today after the end of emergency rule, but the government was keeping the heat on media and its propaganda campaign on full blast.
Arroyo invoked a state of emergency for a week, warning of a plot by leftists and rebel soldiers to oust her, but called it off on Friday after deciding the threat had receded.
''Through your help and unity, we will be able to attract more investments, there will be more jobs and a better life in the country,'' she said in a televised address.
But the government has kept up the pressure on local media, which it blames for amplifying calls to revolt, charging three journalists with sedition and keeping seven others under surveillance.
The charges against the publisher of the Daily Tribune and two of its columnists came on Friday, a week after police raided the offices of the opposition newspaper.
Troops had also kept watch over two television stations, a move criticised by human rights groups as a reminder of the nine years of martial law under the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
''No one can take away the right of the government to ensure it won't be drowned out in this propaganda war,'' the Philippine Daily Inquirer quoted Media Secretary Cerge Remonde as saying.
Arroyo, who weathered an impeachment attempt last year over allegations of election-cheating and corruption, is at pains to convince Filipinos and foreign investors there was an organised move to unseat her and that it is now under control.
The government, often suspected of ramping up threats, tried to boost public support for its version of the plot by airing a documentary over the weekend called ''Fight the Betrayal''.
Government television stations also showed documentaries about the communist movement and the renegade soldiers allegedly behind a bloodless, one-day mutiny in 2003.
Intelligence officials have also linked some opposition politicians and religious leaders to the latest plot to overthrow Arroyo and set up a civilian-military junta.
Roman Catholic bishops, an influential voice in politics and everyday life for tens of millions of Filipinos, called for a ''new breed of leaders'' to pull the Southeast Asian country from a cycle of graft and poverty.
Angel Lagdameo, head of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines, wrote in his blog that corruption goes ''up and down and up, infecting the whole body politic like a contagious cancer''.
The Supreme Court is due to hear tomorrow seven petitions against emergency rule, even though it has been revoked.
Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban has said he will investigate any alleged violations of freedom of speech and expression.
''We trust that the justices realise that any so-called chilling effect, which is what the media fear most, cannot be so easily switched off,'' the Inquirer said in an editorial.