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Philippine President Lifts State of Emergency


Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has lifted a week-old state of emergency imposed in response to an alleged plot but criticized as illegal and a threat to freedom of expression.

The Philippine president announced the lifting of the state of emergency on national television Friday, explaining her security advisers had assured her the government was no longer under threat.

Mrs. Arroyo says she believes law and order has been fully restored.

Mrs. Arroyo issued the emergency proclamation, known as 1017, over an alleged coup plot by elements in the military and her political opponents.

Former President Fidel Ramos, who despite previously supporting Mrs. Arroyo, had criticized the emergency declaration, says he welcomes the lifting of the decree.

"I am gratified in the lifting of presidential proclamation 1017 because that would preempt more serious actions on the part of the restive military and police components," he said.

A government spokesman, Ignacio Bunye, said security forces stationed at various newspaper, radio, and television offices will leave now the emergency has ended.

But he warned investigations would continue against those charged with rebellion under the state of emergency.

Critics argue Mrs. Arroyo announced the emergency as an excuse to target her political opponents and muzzle civil rights.

More than 70 people have been charged with rebellion during this past week, including six members of congress and several military officers.

Mrs. Arroyo banned demonstrations and warned the press against publishing reports critical of her government.

But protests continued despite the ban.

Hundreds of people gathered Friday to denounce the loss of press freedom under the state of emergency.

Lawyer and commissioner for national heritage Trixie Angeles says the people must protect their civil liberties.

"We have to let the people know that the state…exists for the people, if you oppress the people, then the state has no right to exist at all," Angeles said.

The Supreme Court said Friday it would still hear arguments against the state of emergency scheduled for March 7. The government says it is ready to defend the legality of the action.

Shortly before Mrs. Arroyo lifted the emergency, two small bombs exploded in Manila, but caused little damage.

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