PRESIDENT OF THE PHILIPPINES
Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (born April 5, 1947), also known by her initials GMA, is the current and 14th President of the Republic of the Philippines. She is the second female leader of the country after President Corazon Aquino.
Arroyo was born Gloria Macaraeg Macapagal to parents Diosdado Macapagal (later the 9th President of the Philippines) and to Evangelina Macaraeg. She attended Assumption College for her Elementary and High School Education, later graduating valedictorian in 1964. She studied for two years at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. where she was a classmate of future US President Bill Clinton. Upon returning to the Philippines, Arroyo pursued a Master's Degree in Economics from the Ateneo de Manila University and a Doctorate Degree in Economics from the University of the Philippines.
In 1968, she married Jose Miguel Arroyo (born 1946), with whom she has three children: Juan Miguel (1969), Evangelina Lourdes (1979), and Diosdado Ignacio Jose Maria (1974).
From 1977 to 1987 Arroyo held teaching positions in different schools, notably the University of the Philippines and the Ateneo De Manila University. In 1987 she was invited by President Corazon Aquino to join the government as Assistant Secretary of the Department of Trade and Industry. She was promoted to Undersecretary two years later. In her concurrent position as Executive Director of the Garments and Textile Export Board, Arroyo oversaw the rapid growth of the garment industry in the 1980's.
Entry into politics
Even though her father served as president of the Philippines, Arroyo didn't enter politics until 1992, twenty-seven years after her father left office. She was elected to the Senate in 1992 and was reelected in 1995, topping the senatorial elections with nearly 16 million votes.
Arroyo proved herself a hard-working legislator, filing over 400 bills and authoring or sponsoring 55 laws of economic importance during her tenure as senator.
In 1998, she briefly considered a run for the presidency but was convinced by President Fidel V. Ramos to join the ruling LAKAS Party as the running mate of its presidential candidate, Speaker Jose De Venecia. De Venecia and Arroyo ran a nationwide campaign supported by Ramos and the powerful LAKAS machinery. Arroyo won as vice president with almost 13 millions votes, more than twice the votes of her closest opponent, Senator Edgardo Angara. But De Venecia lost to the popular incumbent vice president, Joseph Estrada.
Arroyo began her term as Vice President on June 30, 1998. Shortly after, she was appointed by Estrada to the Cabinet as Secretary of the Department of Social Welfare and Development, where her main duty was to oversee the government's social programs for the poor.
She resigned from the Cabinet in October 2000, after President Joseph Estrada was accused of corruption by a former political supporter. Arroyo joined the civil society and many Filipinos in calling for the president's resignation.
On January 20, 2001, after days of political turmoil and street protests, the Supreme Court declared the presidency vacant. The military and the national police had earlier withdrawn their allegiance to Estrada and shifted it to Arroyo. Arroyo would be sworn in the same day as the 14th president of the Philippines by Supreme Court Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr.
The ouster of Estrada would later be known as EDSA II, after the EDSA Revolution of 1986 that brought down the administration of Ferdinand Marcos. EDSA is a reference to Epifanio de los Santos Avenue, a highway in metropolitan Manila that was the main site of the demonstrations.
Estrada later questioned the legitimacy of the High Court's declaration when he sought to reclaim the presidency but the Supreme Court upheld the legitimacy of Arroyo's succession. Even though Estrada and his adherents never recognized Arroyo as the rightful president, she was still able to wield all the powers and privileges of the presidency. The international community also recognized Arroyo as President of the Philippines.
Presidency: first term (2001-2004)
Arroyo's succession to the presidency divided the country between her and Estrada's supporters and as such her first term was hounded by questions of illegitimacy from the political opposition even though the Supreme Court had already decided on the matter. On the other hand, the overwhelming victory of her political allies and the rejection of many Estrada-affiliated politicians in the elections of May 2004 was considered by many to be virtual recognition of her presidency by the electorate.
Her biggest challenge was to reform a government perennially perceived to be corrupt. She found it hard to fulfill this daunting task because of attempts by Estrada's supporters and her political enemies to undermine her leadership.
On May 1, 2001, thousands of supporters of deposed President Estrada, marched to the presidential palace and demanded the release and reinstatement of Estrada, who was earlier arrested on charges of plunder. The protesters refused to be pacified and violence ensued. Arroyo declared a state of rebellion and many protesters, including prominent political leaders, were arrested. The state of rebellion was lifted after a few days, when the threat to Arroyo's government died down.
On July 27, 2003, she faced another apparent rebellion when renegade junior officers and their followers mutinied and seized a hotel and shopping mall in the business district of Makati City in Metro Manila. Arroyo delivered a televised warning to the renegades and threatened hostile action if they did not surrender. Senator Rodolfo Biazon, a former general, was requested to talk to the mostly young, rebel soldiers. They surrendered soon after it became apparent that they would be attacked by government forces. The mutiny was rumored to have been connected to Estrada and his supporters. A former aide of Estrada has been arrested in connection with the uprising. The President formed the Feliciano Commission to investigate the mutiny. The commission later found that the rebellions, dubbed the Oakwood Mutiny (named after the hotel the rebels seized), was planned and not spontaneous. It was obviously an attempt to bring down the Arroyo Government. The connection to Estrada, however, was never proven.
On August 2003, Arroyo's husband, Jose Miguel, was accused of corruption by Senator Panfilo Lacson. The senator alleged that the First Gentleman siphoned off campaign funds and contributions to a bank account under the fictitious name, "Jose Pidal". The accusations were never legally substantiated.
Despite announcing in December 31, 2002, that she would not contest the presidential elections of 2004, Arroyo changed her mind and decided to seek a new six-year term. During a large gathering in her home province Pampanga, Arroyo declared that she has decided to "defer her retirement," citing the growing clamor from her supporters to run in the election. Because of this turnaround, her popularity rating suffered.
Arroyo was always lagging in the polls months prior to the campaign season but she later steadily climbed until she became number one on the polls. This success was later attributed to her political machinery, the K4 Coalition dominated by the LAKAS Party (She assumed co-chairmanship of LAKAS with De Venecia in 2002); her choice of running mate, the popular senator, Noli De Castro; her endorsement by influential religious groups; and the loyal support to her by provinces such as Cebu and Pampanga, among others.
She fought a bitter campaign with the opposition candidate and Estrada's best friend, popular film actor Fernando Poe, Jr. Her other challengers were former Senator Raul Roco, Senator Panfilo Lacson, and Evangelist Eduardo Villanueva.
As predicted by the polls, she won the presidential election of May 10, 2004, with a margin of more than a million votes over her closest rival, Poe.
Accusations on the use of taxpayers' money for her campaign funds came out during the campaign when the national elections were in full swing. She, like Estrada before her, was also charged with plunder and corruption for the alleged use of public funds for her campaign.
Arroyo's victory was also marred by accusations of cheating from her rivals. Minor irregularities were discovered during the elections but cheating on a nationwide scale is yet to be proven by the president's accusers.
Presidency: second term (2004-present)
Arroyo was proclaimed by Congress as the president-elect on June 24, 2004, more than a month after the election.
She was inaugurated on June 30, 2004, on the island of Cebu, the first Philippine President to do so. This was done in gratitude for the support given to her by the people of Cebu during the election.
[The De Castro-Soliman Issue]
Issues of political patronage immediately began to swirl around the president when rumors that VP-elect Noli de Castro would be taking over as Secretary of the Department of Social Welfare and Development, replacing incumbent Secretary Dinky Soliman. Soliman, an ardent supporter of President Arroyo during the campaign in the urban poor areas felt betrayed and announced as such in a tearful press conference. Several weeks later, De Castro formally said he would not accept the DSWD post.
[Angelo de la Cruz Episode]