Like the three presidents who preceded them, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Benigno S. Aquino III and Rodrigo R. Duterte faced major crises during their tenure that tested their will and courage. How they rose to the challenges and carried out the Herculean task of leading the nation provides guidance and pathways for the new president.
President Arroyo served as chief executive for nine and a half years while serving the unexpired term of ousted President Estrada. His tenure was marked by several high-profile crises. Like President Corazon Aquino, her rule has been challenged by disgruntled elements in the armed forces. On July 27, 2003, more than 324 soldiers occupied the Oakwood Serviced Apartments in Makati Mall. They demanded the resignation of Arroyo, then Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes, then Philippine National Police director general Hermogenes Ebdane, and AFP intelligence chief Victor Corpus. The standoff ended after the government successfully negotiated with the mutineers.
She overcame the “Hello Garci” crisis in July 2005 which cast a shadow over her election victory in 2004. Tape recordings of a wiretapped conversation between her and Comelec official Virgilio Garcillano have been made public. She admitted in what is now known as the “I’m sorry” speech that the conversation took place, but denied that it was about rigging the election results. Recall that members of her cabinet, labeled as the “Hyatt 10”, called for her resignation from a luxury hotel in Pasay City, but political forces identified with former President Ramos rallied behind her and she resisted the threat. Three impeachment complaints filed against her in the House of Representatives were unsuccessful.
In February 2006, she issued Proclamation No. 1017 to stave off an alleged military takeover attempt and spirited protest rallies against her rule. The Supreme Court declared the proclamation constitutional, but said it was “unlawful to make warrantless arrests and seize private institutions”. In November 2007, the highly publicized Manila Peninsula Standoff occurred, resulting in the arrest of Brig. General Danilo Lim then detained Senator Antonio Trillanes IV. It’s reminiscent of the Oakwood mutiny staged by Trillanes and company in 2003.
A vital card in his crisis management game was his appointment of 11 AFP chiefs during his presidency which lasted 10 years and five months.
During all of these political crises, the Arroyo administration has been credited with achieving the highest average GDP growth rates of the post-EDSA era at 5% for the period 2001 to 2008 relative to the average 3.7% in the Aquino administration and 3.7% average growth under the Ramos and Estrada administrations. Former President Bill Clinton, Arroyo’s classmate at Georgetown University, praised her for making “difficult decisions that put the Philippine economy back in shape.”
On August 23, 2010 – just 55 days after President Benigno S. Aquino III took office – a disgruntled former policeman seized a tourist bus in Intramuros, drove it past the Quirino Grandstand in Luneta and started a drama of hostages which ended tragically in the death of eight tourists from Hong Kong. His tenure will be marked by other high-profile crises.
In 2013, a trilogy of major crises confronted it: the siege of Zamboanga in September, the damage caused by an earthquake of intensity 7.2 which hit Bohol on October 15, and the widespread damage and heavy toll caused by super-typhoon Yolanda or Haiyan. .
On September 9, 2013, rebel forces belonging to the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) attempted to take over Zamboanga Town Hall and occupy the town. Some 300 armed insurgents, led by Habier Malik took hostages. President Aquino remained in Zamboanga City for nine days to directly oversee the military and police operations that were mounted to end the siege.
He said he decided to be in the “war zone” because as commander-in-chief of the army and police, “it was his responsibility to ensure that all government agencies properly managed the crisis, not just the armed uprising. but also the fate of thousands of displaced city dwellers.
A month later, President Aquino spent the night and slept in an outdoor tent in Loon, Bohol, after inspecting the damage and distributing relief supplies to residents displaced by the earthquake. According to newspaper reports: “A local official said the President’s nightly presence reinforced residents’ belief in the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology’s statement that the island was not threatened by another powerful earthquake.
Super Typhoon Yolanda or Haiyan which made landfall in Samar then swept through the rest of the Visayas and Palawan on November 8, 2013. Here is how it was described by World Vision: “The fury of the typhoon affected more than 14 million people in 44 provinces. , displacing 4.1 million people, killing over 6,000 and leaving 1,800 missing. In addition, Typhoon Haiyan damaged 1.1 million homes, destroyed 33 million coconut trees (a major source of income) and disrupted the livelihoods of 5.9 million workers. Overall damage is estimated at $5.8 billion.
President Aquino has appointed former Senator Panfilo Lacson as Presidential Assistant for Recovery and Rehabilitation. In addition to mobilizing support from the private sector, Lacson is credited with completing a comprehensive report on the extent of the damage and a plan to ensure full rehabilitation.
(Next episode: Crisis management in the Duterte administration)
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