Fri, 04 May 2001

Arroyo must exercise restraint

The Philippines has survived its black May Day surprisingly well. Residents of Manila were shocked by the sudden burst of violence by a rampaging mob on Monday night and into Tuesday. But by yesterday, there was a mood in the city of getting back to business. With the last of the mobs off the streets, the stock market rose and the peso gained strength.

There is cause to wonder if the president and her administration are far behind this optimistic curve. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo came to power on the back of her own intimidating street protests. Now she has begun making troubling threats against the opposition.

Mr. Estrada was considered the hope of the lower classes, a champion of the poor. When he was removed on charges of corruption last month, many of his supporters felt they had once again been betrayed by the nation's rich and privileged.

President Arroyo, who happens to be the privileged daughter of a former president, must tread carefully in the new Philippines democracy. The president should take her cue from the stock markets, and try to get back to business as usual as quickly as possible. She cannot do this by launching a lengthy crackdown against her political opposition, and should resist the temptation.

Clearly, the poor people of Manila -- and elsewhere -- have serious concerns. They cannot be allowed to resort to violence. But with peace restored to the streets, Mrs. Arroyo should indicate that she is willing to listen to the grievances of her poor citizens, and try to deal with them. Otherwise, there will always be the threat of more violence.

-- The Bangkok Post