Present Manila History, the restoration of democracy.

Restoration of Democracy and the Fifth Republic (1986 to present)

Corazon Aquino's assumption into power marked the restoration of democracy in the country. Aquino immediately formed a government to normalize the situation, provided for a transitional constitution which restored civil liberties and dismantled the heavily Marcos-ingrained bureaucracy, abolishing the Batasang Pambansa (parliament) and relieving all public officials.

The all Aquino-appointed 1986 Constitutional Commission submitted to the people a new Constitution which was overwhelmingly ratified on February 2, 1987 and went into effect on February 11 of the same year. The new constitution crippled presidential powers in declaring martial law, proposed the creation of autonomous regions in the Cordilleras and Muslim Mindanao and restored the presidential form of government and the bicameral Congress.

Under Aquino's presidency, progress was made in revitalizing democratic institutions and respect for civil liberties. However, the administration was also viewed by many as weak and fractious and a return to full political stability and economic development was hampered by several attempted coups staged by disaffected members of the Philippine military.

External Factors

Dormant for over 600 hundred years, Mount Pinatubo in Central Luzon erupted on June 1991, the second largest volcanic eruption of the 20th century and cooled global weather by 1.5°C. It left more than 700 people dead and 200,000 homeless.

On September 16, 1991, despite the lobbying of President Aquino, the Senate rejected a new treaty that would have allowed a 10-year extension of the US military bases in the country. The United States turned over Clark Air Base in Pampanga to the government in November, and Subic Naval Base in Zambales in December 1992, ending almost a century of military presence in the Philippines.

Aquino endorsed the candidacy of her Defense secretary Fidel V. Ramos in the 1992 elections, which he won by just 23.6% of the vote, over Miriam Defensor-Santiago, Eduardo Cojuangco Jr., House Speaker Ramon Mitra, former First Lady Imelda Marcos, Senate President Jovito Salonga and Vice President Salvador Laurel.

Early in his administration, Ramos declared "national reconciliation" his highest priority. He legalized the communist party and created the National Unification Commission (NUC) to lay the groundwork for talks with communist insurgents, Muslim separatists and military rebels. In June 1994, President Ramos signed into law a general conditional amnesty covering all rebel groups, as well as Philippine military and police personnel accused of crimes committed while fighting the insurgents. In October 1995, the government signed an agreement bringing the military insurgency to an end.

A standoff with China occurred in 1995, when the Chinese military built structures on Mischief Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands claimed by the Philippines as Kalayaan Islands.

A peace agreement with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) under Nur Misuari, a major Muslim separatist group fighting for an independent Bangsamoro homeland in Mindanao, was signed in 1996, ending the 24-year old struggle. However an MNLF splinter group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) under Salamat Hashim continued the armed Muslim struggle for an Islamic state.

Joseph Estrada – The Movie Star

Wielding overwhelming mass support, former movie actor and Vice President Joseph Ejercito Estrada won with close to 11 million votes, the 11-man race for the presidency in the 1998 elections. Estrada beat among others, his closest rival and administration candidate, House Speaker Jose De Venecia who got only 4.4 million, Senator Raul Roco, former Cebu governor Emilio Osmeña and Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim.

Under the cloud of the Asian financial crisis which began in 1997, Estrada's wayward governance exacted a heavy toll on the economy. Unemployment worsened, the budget deficit ballooned, the currency plunged and the economy recovered much slower than its Asian neighbors. He waged an all-out war against the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front in Central Mindanao in late 1999 which displaced half a million people.

The bandit Abu Sayyaf Group abducted 21 hostages including 10 foreign tourists from the Sipadan Island resort in neighboring Sabah, Malaysia in March 2000 and held them hostage in Basilan, until freed in batches, after over $20 million in ransom were reportedly paid by the Libyan government.

In October 2000, Ilocos Sur governor Luis "Chavit" Singson a close Estrada friend, accused the President of receiving collections from jueteng - an illegal numbers game. On November 13, 2000 the House of Representatives impeached Estrada on grounds of bribery, graft and corruption, betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the constitution. His impeachment trial in the Senate began on December 7 but broke down on January 17, after 11 senators allied with Estrada successfully blocked the opening of confidential bank records that would have been used by the House Prosecutors to incriminate the President. Shortly after the Senate blocked evidence against Estrada, thousands of people massed up at the EDSA Shrine, site of the People Power Revolution which ousted Marcos in 1986. Protesters at the EDSA Shrine rapidly swelled into the millions demanding for Estrada's immediate resignation. The en masse resignation of Estrada's cabinet and the withdrawal of support of the military and the police on January 19 signaled Estrada's loss of control of the government. The Supreme Court declared the presidency vacant on January 20, 2001 and swore in Vice President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as the country's 14th President, while Estrada and his family evacuated the Malacañang Palace grounds.

Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo

Seeking to retain the presidential immunity from suit, Estrada challenged the legitimacy of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's government, claiming he did not resign from office and Arroyo was just an Acting President, but was dealt with a blow when the Supreme Court twice upheld its legitimacy.

On April 25, two weeks before the mid-term senatorial elections of May 2001, the Sandiganbayan - the Philippines' anti-graft court, issued a warrant arrest for the deposed president, which prompted his fanatic supporters to stage the so-called "EDSA Tres" or a third People Power Revolution at the EDSA Shrine which attempted to overthrow Arroyo's government on May 1.

In May 27, 2001 the Abu Sayyaf Group abducted another 20 hostages, including 3 Americans from the Dos Palmas resort in Palawan. The Abu Sayyaf executed one of its American hostages, other hostages were subsequently released after negotiations and ransom payments. The Abu Sayyaf was later neutralized when their leader Abu Sabaya was killed in an encounter off the coast of Sirawai, Zamboanga del Norte and the capture of Ghalib Andang (also known as Commander Robot) in Sulu on December 8, 2003.

Arroyo supported the US led Invasion of Iraq and sent a contingent of troops to Iraq. The troops were withdrawn in July 2004 as a condition for the release of a Filipino worker hostaged by Iraqi militants.

Complaining of high-level corruption in the military, a group of about 300 junior military officers staged a mutiny on July 27, 2003 occupying the Oakwood Premier in Ayala Center in Makati City and rigging the vicinity with bombs. The mutiny ended 22 hours later after the surrender of the mutineers.

Retracting several previous pronouncements, Arroyo ran in the May 10, 2004 elections against popular movie actor and Estrada buddy Fernando Poe, Jr., Senator Panfilo Lacson, her former Education Secretary Raul Roco and evangelist Eduardo Villanueva. After a lengthy canvassing in Congress, Arroyo was finally proclaimed the winner of the election on June 24 with over 1.1 million votes over her strongest contender Fernando Poe, Jr., her running-mate Senator Noli De Castro won the vice-presidency and the administration party, the Lakas-CMD secured the majority in both houses of Congress.

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