Maria Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (born Maria Gloria Macaraeg Macapagal on April 5, 1947) is a Filipina politician. She is the fourteenth and current president of the Philippines. Arroyo is the country's second female president, and the daughter of late former Philippine President Diosdado Macapagal. She is a direct descendant of the Lakandula rulers of the ancient Luzon Empire.
A professor of economics, Arroyo entered government in 1987, serving as assistant secretary and undersecretary of the Department of Trade and Industry upon the invitation of President Corazon Aquino. After serving as a senator from 1992 to 1998, she was elected to the vice presidency under President Joseph Estrada, despite having run on an opposing ticket. After Estrada was accused of corruption, she resigned her cabinet position as Secretary of Social Welfare and Development and joined the growing opposition to the president, who faced impeachment. Estrada was soon forced from office by peaceful street demonstrations, and Arroyo was subsequently sworn into the presidency on January 20, 2001. She was elected to a full six-year presidential term in her own right and was sworn in June 30, 2004.
In 1961, when Arroyo was just 14 years' old, her father was elected as president. She moved with her family into Malacañang Palace in Manila. A municipality was named in her honor, Gloria, Oriental Mindoro. She attended Assumption Convent for her elementary and high school education, graduating valedictorian in 1964. Arroyo then studied for two years at Georgetown University's Walsh School of Foreign Service in Washington, D.C. where she was a classmate of future United States President Bill Clinton and achieved consistent Dean's list status. She then earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics from Assumption College, graduating magna cum laude in 1968.
In 1968, Arroyo married lawyer and businessman Jose Miguel Arroyo of Binalbagan, Negros Occidental, whom she had met while still a teenager. They had three children, Juan Miguel (born 1969), Evangelina Lourdes (born 1971) and Diosdado Ignacio Jose Maria (born in 1974). She pursued a Master's Degree in Economics from the Ateneo de Manila University (1978) and a Doctorate Degree in Economics from the University of the Philippines (1985). From 1977 to 1987, she held teaching positions in different schools, notably the University of the Philippines and the Ateneo de Manila University. She became chairperson of the Economics Department at Assumption College.
In 1987 she was invited by President Corazon Aquino to join the government as Assistant Secretary of the Department of Trade and Industry. She was promoted to Undersecretary two years later. In her concurrent position as Executive Director of the Garments and Textile Export Board, Arroyo oversaw the rapid growth of the garment industry in the late 1980s.
As a legislator, Arroyo filed over 400 bills and authored or sponsored 55 laws during her tenure as senator, including the Anti-Sexual Harassment Law, the Indigenous People's Rights Law, and the Export Development Act.
The 1995 Mining Act, which allows 100% foreign ownership of Philippine mines, has come under fire from left-wing political groups.
Arroyo began her term as Vice President on June 30, 1998. She was appointed by Estrada to a concurrent position in the cabinet as Secretary of Social Welfare and Development.
Arroyo resigned from the cabinet in October 2000, distancing herself from President Estrada, who was accused of corruption by a former political supporter, Chavit Singson, Governor from Ilocos Sur. She had initially resisted pressure from allies to speak out against Estrada, but eventually joined calls for Estrada's resignation.
Weeks later, Estrada filed a lawsuit challenging the legal basis of the Arroyo presidency and insisting he remained the lawful president, though adding he would not try to reclaim his post. The Supreme Court issued its decision on March 2, 2001, asserting that Estrada had resigned the presidency and relinquished his post. The court unanimously voted to dismiss Estrada's petition, reaffirming the legitimacy of Arroyo's presidency.
Support for the opposition and Estrada subsequently dwindled after the victory of administration allied candidates in the midterm elections that was held later that month. Arroyo outlined her vision for the country as "building a strong republic" throughout her tenure. Her agenda consists of building up a strong bureaucracy, lowering crime rates, increasing tax collection, improving economic growth, and intensifying counter-terrorism efforts.
Although the Philippine Constitution bars a president from reelection, it allows for the election of a person who has succeeded as president and has served for not more than four years. In December 2002, Arroyo made the surprise announcement that she would not seek a new term in the Philippine general election, 2004. Ten months later, however, she reversed her position and declared her intention to seek a direct mandate from the people, saying "there is a higher cause to change society... in a way that nourishes our future".
Arroyo faced a tough election campaign in early 2004 against Estrada friend and popular actor Fernando Poe, Jr., senator and former police general Panfilo Lacson, former senator Raul Roco, and Christian evangelist Eddie Villanueva. Her campaign platform centered on a shift to a parliamentary and federal form of government, job creation, universal health insurance, anti-illegal drugs, and anti-terrorism.
Arroyo lagged behind Poe in the polls prior to the campaign season, but her popularity steadily climbed to surpass Poe's. As predicted by pre-election surveys and exit polls, she won the election by a margin of over a million votes against her closest rival, Fernando Poe, Jr. She took her oath of office on June 30, 2004. In a break with tradition, She chose to first deliver her inaugural address at the Quirino Grandstand in Manila before departing to Cebu City for her oath taking, the first time a Philippine president took the oath of office outside of Luzon.
In the middle of 2005, Samuel Ong who is a former deputy director of the country's National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) claimed to have audio tapes of wiretapped conversations between President Arroyo and an official of the Commission on Elections. According to Ong, the contents of the tape prove that the 2004 national election was rigged by Arroyo in order to win by around one million votes. On June 27, Arroyo admitted to inappropriately speaking to a Comelec official, claiming it was a "lapse in judgement", but denied influencing the outcome of the election. Attempts to impeach Arroyo failed later that year.
Two witnesses, Antonio Rasalan and Clinton Colcol, stepped forward in August 2006, claiming involvement in an alleged plot to alter the results for the May 2004 elections. Rasalan claimed that he was fully convinced that the election returns presented at the House of Representatives were manufactured and had replaced the original documents.
On January 25, 2008, Pulse Asia survey (commissioned by Genuine Opposition (GO) per former Senator Sergio Osmeña III) stated that 58% percent of Filipinos in Mindanao believed that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo cheated in the Philippine general election, 2004. 70% also "believed that because of recurring allegations of election fraud, the credibility of the balloting process in Mindanao was at a record low.
The declaration of Proclamation No. 1017 gave Gloria Macapagal Arroyo the power to issue warrantless (and until then unconstitutional) arrests and to take over private institutions that run public utilities.
The President, through the Department of Education, suspended classes in elementary and high school levels. In response, colleges and universities suspended classes. By virtue of PP 1017, she declared a State of Emergency for the whole country in an attempt to quell rebellion as her grip on power began to slip, stop lawless violence and promote peace and stability. The government's first move after the declaration was to disperse demonstrators, particularly the groups picketing along EDSA. Former Philippine president Corazon Aquino was among those that protested, along with leftist and extreme right activists. A number of public figures were reported to have been arrested.
After the foiling of the plot and the dispersal of the rallies, PP 1017 continued for a week on threats of military plots (such as the military stand-off of February 26 at Fort Bonifacio headed by Col. Ariel Querubin), violence, illegal rallies and public disturbance.
Six leftist representatives - Satur Ocampo, Teodoro Casiño, and Joel Virador of Bayan Muna, Liza Maza of GABRIELA, and Crispin Beltran and Rafael Mariano of Anakpawis - were charged with rebellion. Crispin Beltran of Anakpawis was arrested on February 25 on charges of inciting to sedition and rebellion. To avoid further arrest, the other five found shelter at the Batasan Complex.
On Saturday, February 25, the office of the Daily Tribune, a newspaper known as a hard-hitting critic of the Arroyo administration, was raided. After the raid, an issuance of Journalism Guideline followed, authored by the government in order to cope with the "present abnormal situation", according to then Chief of Staff Michael Defensor. The move to suppress freedom of the press against the Daily Tribune was criticized by Reporters Without Borders.
The decree was lifted on March 3, 2006. However the opposition, lawyers, and concerned citizens filed a complaint in the Supreme Court contesting the constitutionality of PP 1017. The court, on May 4, declared the proclamation constitutional, but said it was illegal to issue warrantless arrests and seize private institutions.
Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV and Brigadier Gen. Danilo Lim surrendered to authorities after an armored personnel carrier rammed into the lobby of the hotel. Director Geary Barias declared that the standoff at the Manila Peninsula Hotel is over as Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, Brig. Gen. Danilo Lim along with other junior officers agreed to leave the hotel and surrender to Barias after the 6 hour siege. There was difficulty getting out for a while due to the tear gas that was covering the area where they were hiding.
Days after the mutiny, the Makati City Regional Trial Court dismissed the rebellion charges against all the 14 civilians involved in the siege, and ordered their release.
The issue has captivated Filipino politics since it erupted in Philippine media around August 2007, largely through the articles of newspaper columnist Jarius Bondoc of the Philippine Star. It has also taken an interesting turn of events, including the resignation of Abalos as COMELEC chairman, the alleged bribery of congressmen and provincial governors (dubbed as "Bribery in the Palace"), the unseating of Jose de Venecia, Jr. as House Speaker, and the alleged "kidnapping" of designated National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) consultant-turned-NBN/ZTE witness Rodolfo Noel "Jun" Lozada, Jr.
Arroyo, a practicing economist, has made the economy the focus of her presidency. Economic growth in terms of gross domestic product has averaged 5.0% during the Arroyo presidency from 2001 up to the first quarter of 2008. This is higher than previous recent presidents when compared to the 3.8% average of Aquino, the 3.7% average of Ramos, and the 2.8% average of Joseph Estrada. The Philippine economy grew at its fastest pace in three decades in 2007, with real GDP growth exceeding 7%. Inflation during the Arroyo presidency has been the lowest since 1986, averaging 2.5%.
A controversial expanded value added tax (e-VAT) law, considered the centerpiece of the Arroyo administration's economic reform agenda, was implemented in November 2005, aiming to complement revenue-raising efforts that could plug the country's large budget deficit. The country aims to balance the national budget by 2010. The tax measure boosted confidence in the government's fiscal capacity and helped to strengthen the Philippine peso, making it East Asia's best performing currency in 2005-06. The peso strengthened by nearly 20% in 2007, making it by far Asia's best performing currency for the year, a fact attributed to a combination of increased remittances from overseas Filipino workers and a strong domestic economy.
Arroyo's handling of the economy has earned praise from observers including former US President Bill Clinton, who praised Arroyo for making "tough decisions" that put the Philippine economy back in shape.
The managing director of the World Bank, Juan Jose Daboub, criticized the administration for not doing enough to curb corruption.
Early in her presidency, Arroyo implemented a controversial policy of holiday economics, adjusting holidays to form longer weekends with the purpose of boosting domestic tourism and allowing Filipinos more time with their families.
The Arroyo administration has forged a strong relationship with the United States. Arroyo was one of the first world leaders who expressed support for the US-led coalition against global terrorism in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks, and remains one of its closest allies in the war on terror. Following the US-led invasion of Iraq, in July 2003 the Philippines sent a small humanitarian contingent which included medics and engineers. These troops were recalled in July 2004 in response to the kidnapping of Filipino truck driver Angelo de la Cruz. With the hostage takers demands met, the hostage was released. The force was previously due to leave Iraq the following month. The early pullout drew international condemnation, with the United States protesting against the action, saying giving in to terrorist demands should not be an option.
Arroyo's foreign policy is anchored on building strong ties with the United States, East Asian and Southeast Asian nations, and countries where overseas Filipino workers work and live. In 2007, the Philippines was host to the 12th ASEAN Summit in Cebu City.
On August 21, 2007, Gloria's administration asked the Senate of the Philippines to ratify a $4bn (£2bn) trade deal with Japan (signed on 2006 with the former Japanese prime minister Junichiro Koizumi), which would create more than 300,000 jobs (by specifically increasing local exports such as shrimp to Japan). Japan also promised to hire at least 1,000 Philippine nurses. The opposition-dominated senate objected on the ground that toxic wastes would be sent to the Philippines; the government denied this due to the diplomatic notes which stated that it would not be accepting Japanese waste in exchange for economic concessions.
A May 2006 Amnesty International report expressed concern over the sharp rise in vigilante killings of militant activists and community workers in the Philippines. Task Force Usig, a special police unit tasked to probe reported extra-judicial killings, by state run death squads counts 115 murders and says most of these are the result of an internal purge by communist rebels. Human rights groups put the number as high as 830.
These violations were alleged to have been committed against left-leaning organizations and party-list groups including BAYAN, Bayan Muna and Anakpawis. These organizations accuse the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines for the deaths of these political opponents. Arroyo has condemned political killings "in the harshest possible terms" and urged witnesses to come forward. "The report, which Melo submitted to Arroyo last month, reportedly linked state security forces to the murder of militants and recommended that military officials, notably retired major general Jovito Palparan, be held liable under the principle of command responsibility for killings in their areas of assignment."
General Palparan who retired September 11, 2006 has been appointed by President Arroyo to be part of the Security Council. This has alarmed left-leaning political parties about the potential for human rights violations.
An independent commission was assembled in August 2006 to investigate the killings. Headed by former Supreme Court Justice Jose Melo, the group known as the Melo Commission concluded that most of the killings were instigated by the Armed Forces of the Philippines, but found no proof linking the murder of activists to a "national policy" as claimed by the left-wing groups. On the other hand the report "linked state security forces to the murder of militants and recommended that military officials, notably retired major general Jovito Palparan, be held liable under the principle of command responsibility for killings in their areas of assignment." Stricter anti-terror laws have also caused some concern in recent years.
Under Arroyo's government, the Philippines has become second only to Iraq as the world's riskiest place to report the news, with 23 journalists killed since 2003
In her July 23, 2007 State of the Nation Address, Arroyo has set out her agenda for her last three years in office, and called for legislation to deal with a spate of political killings that have brought international criticism to her presidency. She promised to bring peace to the troubled south, and also defended a controversial new anti-terrorism legislation. Arroyo told the joint session of Congress that "I would rather be right than popular." Lawmakers and lawyers, however, were dismayed by the SONA's failure to highlight and address this major hindrance to human rights. Specifically, the Alternative Law Groups (ALG) echoed the lawmakers’ position that Mrs Arroyo failed to take responsibility for the problem.
In 2007, incidences of extrajudicial killings dropped 87%, with the decline attributed to the creation of a special task force to handle the killings.
The Social Weather Stations 2nd Quarter 2008 survey revealed that Arroyo is the 'Most popular leader', since 1986. Her net satisfaction rating (the difference between those satisfied and dissatisfied) dived to -38 points from -26 in March, 2007. It was a 12-point drop from net -26 (27% satisfied, 54% dissatisfied) in the last March 28 to 31, 2008 survey. It was the 4th consecutive drop since June 2007's neutral -3. Her previous worst was a -33 rating in May 2005.