IN THE NEWS #465 - Philippine President Arroyo

By Paul Thompson

This is the VOA Special English program IN THE NEWS.

Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has become the fourteenth President of the Philippines. She took the oath of office January Twentieth following a Philippine Supreme Court ruling. The Court ruled that President Joseph Estrada no longer effectively controlled the government. The Supreme Court then approved the swearing in of Vice President Arroyo as the new Philippine President.

Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is an economist. Her father, Diosdado Macapagal, was president of the Philippines in the Nineteen-Sixties. Missus Arroyo was elected to the Senate in the Nineteen-Ninety-Two. Six years later she was elected vice-president.

President Estrada was forced from office by street demonstrations and the sudden loss of support from the military and police. Mr. Estrada's opponents say he was forced out by a "people power" revolution. His supporters say the action was an overthrow of the legal government.

Officials in the Philippines took quick action against Mr. Estrada. Banks were ordered not to permit him to withdraw money. Justice Secretary Hernando Perez barred Mr. Estrada and his family from leaving the Philippines. The actions were taken to prevent Mr. Estrada from taking out of the country some of the millions of dollars he has reportedly received illegally.

Opponents of the former president want him to remain in the country to tried. However, Thursday, Secretary Perez said the former president is free to leave the Philippines at any time. An organization of Philippine lawyers had suggested that forcing Mr. Estrada to stay in the country would be unconstitutional.

Mr. Estrada was charged during a Congressional impeachment trial with receiving money for protecting illegal games of chance. The Senate trial of the charges halted when his supporters refused to admit some important evidence. Thousands of demonstrators protested the halting of the trial.

Some of Mr. Estrada's supporters say he is still the legal president because he has refused to resign. Top officials in the Philippines warned Mr. Estrada not to support any effort to oust President Arroyo.

When President Arroyo took office, she praised the people who demonstrated in the streets to force Mr. Estrada from office. She promised to work hard to improve the economy of the Philippines.

Friday, the President Arroyo had new cabinet members sign a promise to live simply and honestly. She also banned all government officials from financial dealings with relatives.

Foreign governments quickly congratulated the new Philippine president. President George W. Bush called Missus Arroyo Wednesday to express the support of the United States for the new Philippine government.

This VOA Special English program IN THE NEWS, was written by Paul Thompson.

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