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Philippine Officials Say Coup Risk Lessening, but State of Emergency Remains


Philippine officials say the risk of a coup has lessened, but the state of emergency imposed by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo will remain in place for at least another day. Both the police and the military have relaxed their alert levels, saying the situation is "normalizing."

Philippine government and police officials said Thursday they would likely recommend a lifting of the state of emergency soon, as the threat of a coup diminishes.

But Secretary of Defense Avelino Cruz says the emergency will remain in place for at least another 24 hours.

Cruz says the defense department believes threats to national security still exist. He says he would not recommend lifting the state of emergency Thursday, but will assess the situation on a daily basis.

Justice Secretary Raul Gonzales said on Wednesday he did not think the emergency should be lifted, but he did an abrupt about-face on Thursday.

"So considering the entire situation, the economy, the foreign relations even, and investors in the country, we feel that we can advise the president that the direction should be towards lifting - but, really, it's her judgment call," he said.

On Wednesday, Mrs. Arroyo gave officials until Saturday to report to her on the security situation in the country. She says she will lift emergency rule once she is assured there are no more threats to the government.

Mrs. Arroyo imposed the controversial state of emergency Friday after alleging that rogue members of the military and her political opponents were plotting a coup.

The imposition of the emergency decree has alarmed many in the country, as Mrs. Arroyo has used it to muzzle dissent. She has banned demonstrations, authorized arrests without warrants, intimidated the media and cracked down on her political enemies.

So far, more than 70 people have been charged with rebellion, including six members of congress and several military officers.

The police have raided an opposition newspaper, and warned media outlets they face closure for negative reporting on the government.

Around 100 Senate employees wearing black armbands on Thursday protested the emergency decree, which many here believe is unconstitutional.

Senator Ramon Magsaysay, also wearing a black armband, says the civil rights of the people have been stifled.

"The basis of democracy is transparency, openness, and this has been effectively throttled by the Executive," he said.

Mrs. Arroyo's popularity plummeted after allegations that she cheated in the 2004 elections, which she went on to win by only one million votes. In September, she narrowly survived an attempt to impeach her on allegations of election fraud and corruption.