ad info

 > magazine
 web features
 magazine archive
 customer service
  east asia
  southeast asia
  south asia
  central asia

Other News
TIME Europe
Asiaweek Services
Contact Asiaweek
About Asiaweek
Media Kit
Get up to 3 months of Asiaweek free when you subscribe online!


Edwin Tuyay for Asiaweek.
The late Macapagal still watches over Arroyo's future.

Is She Ready to Rule?
Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has her own troubles too

Interview: Ex-president Ramos on what Estrada should do

Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is on the move. The Philippine vice president has temporarily shifted residence from her luxury high-rise apartment back to the sprawling house in Makati's tony Forbes Park neighborhood where she grew up. The split-level four-bedroom home sits on a 2,000-square-meter lot, twice the size of the session floor of the Philippine Senate. A large bronze bust of Arroyo's father, the hugely popular late president Diosdado Macapagal, dominates the terrace that overlooks the manicured garden. As Arroyo pursues her bid to succeed scandal-ridden Joseph Estrada as president, the house reminds visitors of her heritage, and her possible destiny. She has been entertaining a steady stream of guests. The house shows that Arroyo belongs to the elite, who have always ruled the country. And it demonstrates that Arroyo has the money to compete in a presidential election, whether the one scheduled for 2004, when Estrada's term ends, or the snap vote Congress is now considering.

As Estrada struggles to save his presidency, Arroyo, 53, is the woman to watch. She had carefully avoided calling for Estrada's resignation since a scandal erupted a few weeks ago, in which provincial governor Luis Singson accused Estrada of taking millions of dollars of illegal gambling proceeds (the president denies the allegation). But last week, Arroyo took off her gloves. "The best political solution," Arroyo told Asiaweek, "is resignation." Why the change of heart? Arroyo has lately run into her own difficulties, with charges that she, too, has been connected to the gambling business. Manila's business leaders seem lukewarm toward her. They worry that she has no vision — after all, they point out, she served under Estrada until recently. They complain about her populist-style politicking and that she relies too much on her father's reputation. Arroyo may realize that if a snap election is called, she would have to face other candidates (including possibly Estrada), with no guarantee of victory.

Yet Arroyo already seems to be preparing for a campaign. If she has to run, Arroyo plans to be ready. The recent visitors at the Macapagal home have included leaders of a host of political parties. After resigning as social welfare secretary in the Estrada cabinet, Arroyo has been busy trying to unite the fractured opposition. She has already forged alliances with former defense secretary Renato de Villa and former Cebu governor Emilio "Lito" OsmeNa, both of whom lost to Estrada in 1998. The three have linked up with the main opposition party, Lakas-NUCD-UMDP. Says Arroyo: "We will speak as one." This week, she flies to Cebu, traditionally an opposition stronghold, where she, de Villa and OsmeNa will determine the line-up of candidates for next May's congressional elections. Says de Villa: "We have all agreed that the person to lead a united movement should be the vice president."

A difficult task for Arroyo will be winning the support of the business community. She will need their cash — it can take tens of millions of dollars to bankroll a presidential candidacy. The vice president, who has a Ph.D in economics, has been trying to woo the business community with her pro-business policies. She vows transparency and a level playing field, to bid out all government contracts, and not to coddle cronies. But prominent businessmen like the Ayalas have yet to come out openly for her. When Arroyo returned Oct. 17 from 11 days abroad, she was warmly received at a welcome-home rally by some 3,000 supporters. No tycoons showed up. One reason the business elite has not been more enthusiastic about Arroyo may be pragmatic. Philippine conglomerates undertake a number of big projects requiring concessions, licensing and permits. Naturally, their owners do not want to antagonize a sitting president. The Ayala group, for example, is still awaiting a contract for a railway connecting their property in the Makati business district to an area south where they have more than 4,000 hectares of residential, commercial and industrial development.

Perhaps the best thing going for Arroyo is that she is generally well-liked. Even at the peak of Estrada's popularity, she consistently scored higher approval ratings than the president. In the end, those are the figures that may count the most, and not how many parties she can unite nor how much money she can raise. Estrada now faces calls to resign from practically the full spectrum of society. Arroyo could one day be president. But nobody seems to think she could solve the deep, systemic problems that have crippled the country's economy. The kindest thing some in the business community will say is that she is not Estrada. Says Romeo Bernardo, a former finance undersecretary: "Arroyo is a vast improvement over the president." Unfortunately, that may not be enough to fix the Philippines.

Back to the top

Write to Asiaweek at

This edition's table of contents | Home


Quick Scroll: More stories from Asiaweek, TIME and CNN


U.S. secretary of state says China should be 'tolerant'

Philippine government denies Estrada's claim to presidency

Faith, madness, magic mix at sacred Hindu festival

Land mine explosion kills 11 Sri Lankan soldiers

Japan claims StarLink found in U.S. corn sample

Thai party announces first coalition partner


COVER: President Joseph Estrada gives in to the chanting crowds on the streets of Manila and agrees to make room for his Vice President

THAILAND: Twin teenage warriors turn themselves in to Bangkok officials

CHINA: Despite official vilification, hip Chinese dig Lamaist culture

PHOTO ESSAY: Estrada Calls Snap Election

WEB-ONLY INTERVIEW: Jimmy Lai on feeling lucky -- and why he's committed to the island state


COVER: The DoCoMo generation - Japan's leading mobile phone company goes global

Bandwidth Boom: Racing to wire - how underseas cable systems may yet fall short

TAIWAN: Party intrigues add to Chen Shui-bian's woes

JAPAN: Japan's ruling party crushes a rebel at a cost

SINGAPORE: Singaporeans need to have more babies. But success breeds selfishness

Launch CNN's Desktop Ticker and get the latest news, delivered right on your desktop!

Today on CNN
Web-only Exclusives
November 30, 2000

From Our Correspondent: Hirohito and the War
A conversation with biographer Herbert Bix

From Our Correspondent: A Rough Road Ahead
Bad news for the Philippines - and some others

From Our Correspondent: Making Enemies
Indonesia needs friends. So why is it picking fights?

COVER: Cronies: Why Asia's battle against cronyism is taking forever
Connections: Li Ka-shing has got them
Fall: Suharto's buddies are fighting their way back
Fighter: Sabri Zain on the new Malaysia
Reformers: Crusaders wage war against corruption
Cronyism in Asia: A primer

JAPAN: A housewife's win means politics will never be the same

DIPLOMACY: Why the U.S. was at Kim Jong Il's coming-out party

UNITED STATES: Where Gore and Bush stand on Asian issues

PHILIPPINES: Gloria Macapagal Arroyo rallies the opposition

MALAYSIA: Post reformasi, NGOs push for change

SINGAPORE: Living with Shame — the island-state lightens up

Timor: Despite the dangers, refugees begin the long trek home

Faded Beauty: Getting nervous about 3G network costs

Please Hold: Firms turn to computers to serve customers better

Best Bettor: Winning at the track just takes the right software

Cutting edge: Snoop-proof and wire-free

Cinema: Digital drive: a boost for Asia's young movie-makers

People: Wiranto croons the wrong note with Indonesian activists

Health: A cold cure that could kill

Markets: How to survive the roller coaster

Insurance: Who'll be left standing in Japan?

Investing: Biotechnology may be the next dotcom

Renong: Can Halim Saad save his troubled company?

Interview: Hong Kong's monetary chief: no new Crisis

The Bottom Line: Asiaweek's ranking of world economies

Back to the top   © 2000 Asiaweek. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.