July 7, 2005
Manila: Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, president of the Philippines, fired her entire cabinet on Thursday amid reports that some of the secretaries in charge of economic and social departments were planning to quit over allegations of electoral fraud against her in the May 2004 presidential polls.
“I am asking the entire cabinet to tender their resignations in order to give the executive a free hand to reorganise itself,” she said in an address given live on radio and television.
Mrs Macapagal said she was not giving in to the rising clamour for her to step down after she admitted talking to an appointee in the election commission during the counting of the votes last year.
She promised to work to change the Philippine constitution to pave the way for a federal and parliamentary form of government, a popular demand of reform-oriented political parties, business groups and civic organisations whose support is crucial for her political survival.
The president also vowed to consult more groups in appointing new members of the cabinet, adding that they would be given more leeway in running the day-to-day affairs of government. “I will ask sectors for names of those they would like to invite to replace those who will not return to the cabinet,” she said.
Political analysts said Mrs Macapagal’s move was a big gamble to consolidate support from wavering allies and reach out to critics. “She is trying to buy time and stay in power longer,” said Benito Lim, a political science professor at the Ateneo de Manila University.
But her action deeply disappointed a prominent business leader. “The president’s move to fire her cabinet is a desperate act designed only to pre-empt the resignation of her principled secretaries. She has lost the ability to govern rationally. For our country’s sake, she must resign,” said Ramon del Rosario, a former finance secretary and chairman of the US-Philippine Business Council.
A local television news channel has reported that some of Mrs Macapagal’s cabinet secretaries may resign over the vote-rigging charges, which were triggered by alleged audio recordings of the president talking to a top election official during the canvassing of last year’s polls.
Investors said financial markets were likely to be hit by Mrs Macapagal’s announcement last night.
“The only reason why investors continue to have confidence in the Philippines is because of her economic managers. Now, it turns out they are quitting or have been fired,” said Astro del Castillo, managing director of First Grade Holdings, a Manila-based investment company.