The History of the Philippines is believed to have begun with the arrival of the first humans via land bridges at least 30,000 years ago. The first recorded visit from the West is the arrival of Ferdinand Magellan on Homonhon Island, southeast of Samar on March 16, 1521.
Spanish colonization began with the arrival of Miguel López de Legazpi's expedition in 1565 and permanent settlement on the island of Cebu, and more settlements continued northward reaching the bay of Manila on the island of Luzon in 1571. In Manila, they established a new town and thus began an era of Spanish colonization that lasted for more than three centuries.
Spanish rule brought political unification to an archipelago of previously independent islands and communities that later became the Philippines, and introduced elements of western civilization such as the code of law, printing and the calendar. The Philippines was ruled as a colonial territory of New Spain from 1565 to 1821, and then administered directly from Madrid. During the Spanish period numerous towns were founded, infrastructures built, new crops and livestock introduced, and trade flourished. Spanish missionaries converted most of the population to Christianity and founded schools, universities and hospitals across the islands.
The Philippine Revolution against Spain began in April 1896, culminating two years later with a proclamation of independence and the establishment of the First Philippine Republic. However, the Treaty of Paris, at the end of the Spanish-American War, transferred control of the Philippines to the United States. This agreement was not recognized by the Philippine Government which, on June 2, 1899, proclaimed a Declaration of War against the U.S. The Philippine-American War which ensued resulted in massive Filipino casualties. Filipino leader Emilio Aguinaldo was captured in 1901 and the U.S. government declared the conflict officially over in 1902. The Filipino leaders, for the most part, accepted that the Americans had won, but hostilities continued until 1913. U.S. colonial rule of the Philippines started in 1905 with very limited local rule. Partial autonomy (commonwealth status) was granted in 1935, preparatory to a planned full independence from the United States in 1946. Preparation for a fully sovereign state was interrupted by the Japanese occupation of the islands during World War II.
With a promising economy in the 1950s and 1960s (even being second to Japan), the Philippines in the late 1960s and early 1970s saw a rise of student activism and civil unrest against the corrupt dictatorship of President Ferdinand Marcos who declared martial law in 1972. Because of close ties between United States and President Marcos, the U.S. government continued to support Marcos even though his administration was well-known for massive corruption and extensive human rights abuse. The peaceful and bloodless People Power Revolution of 1986, however, brought about the ousting of Marcos and a return to democracy for the country. The period since then, however, has been marked by political instability and hampered economic productivity.
Human fossil records indicate that the Philippines may have been inhabited for thousands of years. According to earlier archaeological findings, the first man in the Philippines came from the islands around Asia which Professor H. Otley Beyer, eminent American authority on Philippine archeology and anthropology, dubbed the "Dawn Man". Yet the oldest human fossil found in the Philippines thus far is the 22,000-year-old skull cap of a "Stone-Age Filipino" discovered by Dr. Robert B. Fox, an American anthropologist of the National Museum, inside Tabon Cave, Palawan, on May 28, 1962 and dubbed the "Tabon Man". The Tabon caves of Palawan indicate settlement for at least 30,500 years; these hunter-gatherers used stone flake tools. After these early settlers, the Negrito arrived, whose ancestors include the Ati and the Aeta.
The Austronesian-speaking peoples originated from Proto-Austronesian peoples in South China, coastal Southeast Asia, and island Southeast Asia. The two best known hypotheses are that the Austronesian languages developed either in Taiwan about 7,000 years ago or in island Southeast Asia. The Malayo-Polynesian-speaking peoples, an Austronesian branch, settled in the Philippines about 3,000 BC, and spread eastward to the Pacific Islands, and westward to Madagascar.
The Philippines had trade relations with China and Japan and strong cultural ties with India through neighboring present-day Malaysia and Indonesia as early as the 9th to the 12th century. The social and political organization of the population, in the widely scattered islands, evolved into a generally common pattern. Only the permanent-field rice farmers of northern Luzon had any concept of territoriality. The basic unit of settlement was the barangay, originally a kinship group headed by a datu (chief). Within the barangay, the broad social divisions consisted of the maharlika (nobles), including the datu; timawa (freemen); and a group described before the Spanish period as dependents. Dependents included several categories with differing status: landless agricultural workers; those who had lost freeman status because of indebtedness or punishment for crime; and alipin (slaves), most of whom appear to have been war captives.
Islam was brought to the Philippines by traders and proselytizers from Malaysia and Indonesia. Islamization of the Philippines is due to the strength of Muslim India. By the 13th century, Islam was established in the Sulu Archipelago and spread from there to Mindanao; it had reached the Manila area by 1565. Although Islam spread to Luzon, Animism, syncretized with Hinduism and Vajrayana Buddhism, was still the religion of the majority of the Philippine islands. Muslim immigrants introduced a political concept of territorial states ruled by rajas or sultans who exercised suzerainty over the datu. Neither the political state concept of the Muslim rulers nor the limited territorial concept of the sedentary rice farmers of Luzon, however, spread beyond the areas where they originated. When the Spanish arrived in the 16th century, the majority of the estimated 500,000 people in the islands lived in barangay settlements.
The Philippine islands first came to the attention of Europeans with the Spanish expedition around the world led by Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan in 1521. Magellan landed on the island called Homonhon, claiming the archipelago for Spain and naming them Islas de San Lazaro. He established friendly relations with some of the local chieftains and converted some of them to Roman Catholicism.In the island they explored many islands including the island of Mactan. However, Magellan was killed in a dispute with indigenous tribal groups led by a chieftain named Lapu-Lapu.
Over the next several decades, other Spanish expeditions were dispatched to the islands. In 1543, Ruy López de Villalobos led an expedition to the islands and gave the name Las Islas Filipinas (after Philip II of Spain) to the islands of Samar and Leyte. The name would later be given to the entire archipelago.
Occupation of the islands was accomplished with relatively little bloodshed, partly because most of the population (except the Muslims) offered little armed resistance initially. A significant problem the Spanish faced was the subjugation of the Muslims of western Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago. The Muslims, in response to attacks on them from the Spanish and their native allies, raided areas of Luzon and the Visayas that were under Spanish colonial control. The Spanish conducted intermittent military campaigns against the Muslims, but without conclusive results until after the middle of the 19th century.
The Philippines would have had a similar battle standard, with the coat of arms of Manila in place of the one of Mexico City. Church and state were inseparably linked in Spanish policy, with the state assuming responsibility for religious establishments. One of Spain's objectives in colonizing the Philippines was the conversion of the local population to Roman Catholicism. The work of conversion was facilitated by the absence of other organized religions, except for Islam, which predominated in the southwest. The pageantry of the church had a wide appeal, reinforced by the incorporation of Filipino social customs into religious observances. The eventual outcome was a new Roman Catholic majority of the main Austronesian lowland population, from which the Muslims of western Mindanao and the upland tribal peoples of Luzon remained detached and alienated (such as the Ifugaos of the Cordillera region and the Mangyans of Mindoro).
At the lower levels of administration, the Spanish built on traditional village organization by co-opting local leaders. This system of indirect rule helped create a Filipino upper class, called the principalia, who had local wealth, high status, and other privileges. This perpetuated an oligarchic system of local control. Among the most significant changes under Spanish rule was that the Filipino idea of communal use and ownership of land was replaced with the concept of private ownership and the conferring of titles on members of the principalia.
The Philippines was not profitable as a colony, and a long war with the Dutch in the 17th century and intermittent conflict with the Muslims nearly bankrupted the colonial treasury. Colonial income derived mainly from entrepôt trade: The Manila Galleons sailing from Acapulco on the west coast of New Spain brought shipments of silver bullion and minted coin that were exchanged for return cargoes of Chinese goods. There was no direct trade with Spain.
Spanish rule on the Philippines was briefly interrupted in 1762, when British troops occupied Manila as a result of Spain's entry into the Seven Years' War. The Treaty of Paris of 1763 restored Spanish rule and in 1764 the British left the country fearing another costly war with Spain. The brief British occupation weakened Spain's grip on power and sparked rebellions and demands for independence.
In 1781, Governor-General José Basco y Vargas established the Economic Society of the Friends of the Country. The Philippines by this time was administered directly from Spain. Developments in and out of the country helped to bring new ideas to the Philippines. The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 cut travel time to Spain. This prompted the rise of the ilustrados, an enlightened Filipino upper class, since many young Filipinos were able to study in Europe.
Enlightened by the Propaganda Movement to the injustices of the Spanish colonial government and the "frailocracy", the ilustrados originally clamored for adequate representation to the Spanish Cortes and later for independence. José Rizal, the most celebrated intellectual and radical illustrado of the era, wrote the novels Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, which greatly inspired the movement for independence. The Katipunan, a secret society whose primary purpose was that of overthrowing Spanish rule in the Philippines, was founded by Andrés Bonifacio who became its Supremo (leader).
The Philippine Revolution began in 1896. Rizal was implicated in the outbreak of the revolution and executed for treason in 1896. The Katipunan in Cavite split into two groups, Magdiwang, led by Mariano Alvarez (a relative of Bonifacio's by marriage), and Magdalo, led by Emilio Aguinaldo. Leadership conflicts between Bonifacio and Aguinaldo culminated in the execution or assassination of the former by the latter's soldiers. Aguinaldo agreed to a truce with the Pact of Biak-na-Bato and Aguinaldo and his fellow revolutionaries were exiled to Hong Kong. Not all the revolutionary generals complied with the agreement. One, General Francisco Makabulos, established a Central Executive Committee to serve as the interim government until a more suitable one was created. Armed conflicts resumed, this time coming from almost every province in Spanish-governed Philippines.
In 1898, as conflicts continued in the Philippines, the USS Maine, having been sent to Cuba because of U.S. concerns for the safety of its citizens during an ongoing Cuban revolution, exploded and sank in Havana harbor. This event precipitated the Spanish-American war. After Commodore George Dewey defeated the Spanish squadron at Manila, the U.S. invited Aguinaldo to return to the Philippines, which he did on May 19, 1898, in the hope he would rally Filipinos against the Spanish colonial government. By the time U.S. land forces had arrived, the Filipinos had taken control of the entire island of Luzon, except for the walled city of Intramuros. On June 12, 1898, Aguinaldo declared the independence of the Philippines in Kawit, Cavite, establishing the First Philippine Republic under Asia's first democratic constitution.
Simultaneously, a German squadron arrived in Manila and declared that if the United States did not seize the Philippines as a colonial possession, Germany would. In the Battle of Manila, the United States captured the city from the Spanish. This battle marked an end of Filipino-American collaboration, as Filipino forces were prevented from entering the captured city of Manila, an action deeply resented by the Filipinos. Spain and the United States sent commissioners to Paris to draw up the terms of the Treaty of Paris which ended the Spanish-American War. The Filipino representative, Felipe Agoncillo, was excluded from sessions as the revolutionary government was not recognized by the family of nations. Although there was substantial domestic opposition, the United States decided neither to return the Philippines to Spain, nor to allow Germany to annex the Philippines. In addition to Guam and Puerto Rico, Spain was forced in the negotiations to hand over the Philippines to the U.S. in exchange for US$20,000,000.00, which U.S. characterized as "... a gift from the gods. The first Philippine Republic rebelled against the U.S. occupation, resulting in the Philippine-American War (1899–1913).
Filipinos initially saw their relationship with the United States as that of two nations joined in a common struggle against Spain. As allies, Filipinos had provided the American forces with valuable intelligence and military support. However, the United States later distanced itself from the interests of the Filipino insurgents. Aguinaldo was unhappy that the United States would not commit to paper a statement of support for Philippine independence. Relations deteriorated and tensions heightened as it became clear that the Americans were in the islands to stay.
Hostilities broke out on February 4, 1899, after two American privates on patrol killed three Filipino soldiers in San Juan, a Manila suburb. This incident sparked the Philippine-American War, which would cost far more money and took far more lives than the Spanish-American War. Some 126,000 American soldiers would be committed to the conflict; 4,234 Americans died, as did 16,000 Filipino soldiers who were part of a nationwide guerrilla movement of indeterminate numbers. Estimates on civilian deaths during the war range between 250,000 and 1,000,000, largely because of famine and disease. Atrocities were committed by both sides.
The poorly-equipped Filipino troops were easily overpowered by American troops in open combat, but they were formidable opponents in guerrilla warfare. Malolos, the revolutionary capital, was captured on March 31, 1899. Aguinaldo and his government escaped however, establishing a new capital at San Isidro, Nueva Ecija. Antonio Luna, Aguinaldo's most capable military commander, Gregorio del Pilar, was killed in June at Tirad Pass. With his best commander dead and his troops suffering continued defeats as American forces pushed into northern Luzon, Aguinaldo dissolved the regular army in November 1899 and ordered the establishment of decentralized guerrilla commands in each of several military zones. The general population, caught between Americans and rebels, suffered significantly.
Aguinaldo was captured at Palanan, Isabela on March 23, 1901 and was brought to Manila. Convinced of the futility of further resistance, he swore allegiance to the United States and issued a proclamation calling on his compatriots to lay down their arms, officially bringing an end to the war. However, sporadic insurgent resistance continued in various parts of the Philippines, especially in the Muslim south, until 1913.
In The Specter of Genocide: Mass Murder in Historical Perspective (2003), Prof. Gavan McCormack argues that during the Philippine-American War the outright counter-guerilla operations launched by the U.S. against the Filipinos, an integral part of its violent pacification program, which claimed the lives of over a million Filipinos, constitutes genocide.
United States policies towards the Philippines shifted with changing administrations. During the early years of territorial administration, the Americans were reluctant to delegate authority to the Filipinos. However, when Woodrow Wilson became U.S. President in 1913, a new policy was adopted to put into motion a process that would gradually lead to Philippine independence. The Jones Act, passed by the U.S. Congress in 1916 to serve as the new organic law in the Philippines, promised eventual independence and instituted an elected Philippine senate.
The 1920s saw alternating periods of cooperation and confrontation with American governors-general, depending on how intent the incumbent was on exercising his powers vis-à-vis the Philippine legislature. Members to the elected legislature lobbied for immediate and complete independence from the United States. Several independence missions were sent to Washington, D.C. A civil service was formed and was gradually taken over by Filipinos, who had effectively gained control by 1918.
Philippine politics during the American territorial era was dominated by the Nacionalista Party, which was founded in 1907. Although the party's platform called for "immediate independence", their policy toward the Americans was highly accommodating. Within the political establishment, the call for independence was spearheaded by Manuel L. Quezon, who served continuously as Senate president from 1916 until 1935.
Frank Murphy was the last Governor-General of the Philippines (1933-35), and the first U.S. High Commissioner of the Philippines (1935-36). The change in form was more than symbolic: it was intended as a manifestation of the transition to independence.
In 1933, the United States Congress passed the Hare-Hawes-Cutting Act as a Philippine Independence Act over President Herbert Hoover's veto. Though the bill had been drafted with the aid of a commission from the Philippines, it was opposed by Philippine Senate President Manuel L. Quezon, partially because of provisions leaving the United States in control of naval bases. Under his influence, the Philippine legislature rejected the bill. The following year, a revised act known as the Tydings-McDuffie Act was finally passed. The act provided for the establishment of the Commonwealth of the Philippines with a ten-year period of peaceful transition to full independence. The commonwealth would have its own constitution and be self-governing, though foreign policy would be the responsibility of the United States, and certain legislation required approval of the United States president.
A constitution was framed and approved by Franklin D. Roosevelt in March 1935. On May 14, 1935, a Filipino government was formed on the basis of principles similar to the U.S. Constitution. The commonwealth was established in 1935, electing Manuel L. Quezon as the president and featuring a very strong executive, a unicameral National Assembly, and a Supreme Court composed entirely of Filipinos for the first time since 1901.
Japan launched a surprise attack on the Clark Air Base in Pampanga, Philippines on December 8, 1941, just ten hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Aerial bombardment was followed by landings of ground troops on Luzon. The defending Philippine and United States troops were under the command of General Douglas MacArthur. Under the pressure of superior numbers, the defending forces withdrew to the Bataan Peninsula and to the island of Corregidor at the entrance to Manila Bay.
On January 2, 1942, General MacArthur declared the capital city, Manila, an open city to prevent its destruction, The Philippine defense continued until the final surrender of United States-Philippine forces on the Bataan Peninsula in April 1942 and on Corregidor in May of the same year. Most of the 80,000 prisoners of war captured by the Japanese at Bataan were forced to undertake the infamous Bataan Death March to a prison camp 105 kilometers to the north. It is estimated that about 10,000 Filipinos and 1,200 Americans died before reaching their destination.
President Quezon and Osmeña had accompanied the troops to Corregidor and later left for the United States, where they set up a government in exile. MacArthur was ordered to Australia, where he started to plan for a return to the Philippines.
The Japanese military authorities immediately began organizing a new government structure in the Philippines and established the Philippine Executive Commission. They initially organized a Council of State, through which they directed civil affairs until October 1943, when they declared the Philippines an independent republic. The Japanese-sponsored republic headed by President José P. Laurel proved to be unpopular.
Japanese occupation of the Philippines was opposed by large-scale underground and guerrilla activity. The Philippine Army continued to fight the Japanese in a guerrilla war and was considered an auxiliary unit of the United States Army. Their effectiveness was such that by the end of the war, Japan controlled only twelve of the forty-eight provinces. The major element of resistance in the Central Luzon area was furnished by the Hukbalahap (Filipino: "Hukbong Bayan Laban sa mga Hapon") ("People's Army Against the Japanese"), which armed some 30,000 people and extended their control over much of Luzon.
MacArthur's Sixth United States Army landed on Leyte on October 20, 1944. Landings in other parts of the country followed, and the Allies with the Philippine Commonwealth troops pushed toward Manila. Fighting continued until Japan's formal surrender on September 2, 1945. The Philippines suffered great loss of life and tremendous physical destruction by the time the war was over. An estimated 1 million Filipinos had been killed, and Manila was extensively damaged as the Japanese did not declare it an open city as the Americans had done in 1942. (Women victims of the Japanese occupation of the Philippines)
The Roxas administration granted general amnesty to those who had collaborated with the Japanese in World War II, except for those who had committed violent crimes. Roxas died suddenly of a heart attack in April 1948, and the vice president, Elpidio Quirino, was elevated to the presidency. He ran for president in his own right in 1949, defeating Jose P. Laurel and winning a four-year term.
World War II had left the Philippines demoralized and severely damaged. The task of reconstruction was complicated by the activities of the Communist-supported Hukbalahap guerrillas (known as "Huks"), who had evolved into a violent resistance force against the new Philippine government. Government policy towards the Huks alternated between gestures of negotiation and harsh suppression. Secretary of Defense Ramon Magsaysay initiated a campaign to defeat the insurgents militarily and at the same time win popular support for the government. The Huk movement had waned in the early 1950s, finally ending with the unconditional surrender of Huk leader Luis Taruc in May 1954.
Supported by the United States, Magsaysay was elected president in 1953 on a populist platform. He promised sweeping economic reform, and made progress in land reform by promoting the resettlement of poor people in the Catholic north into traditionally Muslim areas. Though this relieved population pressure in the north, it heightened religious hostilities. Nevertheless, he was extremely popular with the common people, and his death in an airplane crash in March 1957 dealt a serious blow to national morale.
Carlos P. Garcia succeeded to the presidency after Magsaysay's death, and was elected to a four-year term in the election of November that same year. His administration emphasized the nationalist theme of "Filipino first", arguing that the Filipino people should be given the chances to improve the country's economy. Garcia successfully negotiated for the United States' relinquishment of large military land reservations. However, his administration lost popularity on issues of government corruption as his term advanced.
Diosdado Macapagal was elected president in the 1961 election, defeating Garcia's re-election bid. Macapagal's foreign policy sought closer relations with neighboring Asian nations, particularly Malaya (later Malaysia) and Indonesia. Negotiations with the United States over base rights led to anti-American sentiment. Notably, the celebration of Independence Day was changed from July 4 to June 12, to honor the day that Emilio Aguinaldo declared independence from Spain in 1898.
The Philippine Legislature was corrupt and impotent. Opponents of Marcos blocked the necessary legislation to implement his ambitious plans. Because of this, optimism faded early in his second term and economic growth slowed. Crime and civil disobedience increased. The Communist Party of the Philippines formed the New People's Army. The Moro National Liberation Front continued to fight for an independent Muslim nation in Mindanao. An explosion during the proclamation rally of the senatorial slate of the Liberal Party on August 21, 1971 prompted Marcos to suspend the writ of habeas corpus, which he restored on January 11, 1972 after public protests.
A constitutional convention, which had been called for in 1970 to replace the colonial 1935 Constitution, continued the work of framing a new constitution after the declaration of martial law. The new constitution went into effect in early 1973, changing the form of government from presidential to parliamentary and allowing Marcos to stay in power beyond 1973.
Marcos claimed that martial law was the prelude to creating a "New Society" based on new social and political values. The economy during the 1970s was robust, with budgetary and trade surpluses. The Gross National Product rose from P55 billion in 1972 to P193 billion in 1980. Tourism rose, contributing to the economy's growth. However, Marcos, his cronies and his wife, Imelda Romualdez-Marcos, wilfully engaged in rampant corruption.
The political opposition boycotted the 1981 presidential elections, which pitted Marcos against retired general Alejo Santos. Marcos won by a margin of over 16 million votes, which constitutionally allowed him to have another six-year term. Finance Minister Cesar Virata was elected as Prime Minister by the Batasang Pambansa.
In 1983, opposition leader Benigno Aquino, Jr. was assassinated at the Manila International Airport upon his return to the Philippines after a long period of exile. This coalesced popular dissatisfaction with Marcos and began a succession of events, including pressure from the United States, that culminated in a snap presidential election in February 1986. The opposition united under Aquino's widow, Corazon Aquino.
The official election canvasser, the Commission on Elections (Comelec), declared Marcos the winner of the election. However, there was a large discrepancy between the Comelec results and that of Namfrel, an accredited poll watcher. The allegedly fraudulent result was rejected by Corazon Aquino and her supporters. International observers, including a U.S. delegation, denounced the official results. Gen. Fidel Ramos and Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile withdrew their support for Marcos. A peaceful civilian-military uprising, now popularly called the People Power Revolution, forced Marcos into exile and installed Corazon Aquino as president on February 25, 1986.
Corazon Aquino immediately formed a revolutionary government to normalize the situation, and provided for a transitional "Freedom Constitution". A new permanent constitution was ratified and enacted in February 1987. The constitution crippled presidential power to declare 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. Progress was made in revitalizing democratic institutions and respect for civil liberties, but Aquino's administration was also viewed 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. Economic growth was additionally hampered by a series of natural disasters, including the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo that left 700 dead and 200,000 homeless.
In 1991, the Philippine Senate rejected a treaty that would have allowed a 10-year extension of the U.S. military bases in the country. The United States turned over Clark Air Base in Pampanga to the government in November, and Subic Bay Naval Base in Zambales in December 1992, ending almost a century of U.S. military presence in the Philippines.
In the 1992 elections, Defense Secretary Fidel V. Ramos, endorsed by Aquino, won the presidency with just 23.6% of the vote in a field of seven candidates. Early in his administration, Ramos declared "national reconciliation" his highest priority and worked at building a coalition to overcome the divisiveness of the Aquino years. He legalized the Communist Party and laid the groundwork for talks with communist insurgents, Muslim separatists, and military rebels, attempting to convince them to cease their armed activities against the government. In June 1994, Ramos signed into law a general conditional amnesty covering all rebel groups, and 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 peace agreement with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), a major separatist group fighting for an independent homeland in Mindanao, was signed in 1996, ending the 24-year old struggle. However, an MNLF splinter group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front continued the armed struggle for an Islamic state. Efforts by Ramos supporters to gain passage of an amendment that would allow him to run for a second term were met with large-scale protests, leading Ramos to declare he would not seek re-election.
Joseph Estrada, a former movie actor who had served as Ramos' vice president, was elected president by a landslide victory in 1998. His election campaign pledged to help the poor and develop the country's agricultural sector. He enjoyed widespread popularity, particularly among the poor. Under the cloud of the Asian financial crisis which began in 1997, Estrada's wayward governance took a heavy toll on the economy. Unemployment worsened, the budget deficit grew, and the currency plunged. Eventually, the country's economy recovered but at a much slower pace than that of its Asian neighbors.
Within a year of his election, Estrada's popularity declined sharply amid allegations of cronyism and corruption, and failure to remedy the problems of poverty. In October 2000, Estrada was accused of having accepted millions of pesos in payoffs from illegal gambling businesses. He was impeached by the House of Representatives, but his impeachment trial in the Senate broke down when the senate voted to block examination of the president's bank records. In response, massive street protests erupted demanding Estrada's resignation. Faced with street protests, cabinet resignations, and a withdrawal of support from the armed forces, Estrada was forced from office on January 20, 2001.
Vice President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (the daughter of the late President Diosdado Macapagal) was sworn in as Estrada's successor on the day of his departure. Her accession to power was further legitimized by the mid-term congressional and local elections held four months later, when her coalition won an overwhelming victory. Arroyo's initial term in office was marked by fractious coalition politics as well as a military mutiny in Manila in July 2003 that led her to declare a month-long nationwide state of rebellion.
Arroyo had declared in December 2002 that she would not run in the May 2004 presidential election, but she reversed herself in October 2003 and decided to join the race. She was re-elected and sworn in for her own six-year term as president on June 30, 2004. In 2005, a tape of a wiretapped conversation surfaced bearing the voice of Arroyo apparently asking an election official if her margin of victory could be maintained. The tape sparked protests calling for Arroyo's resignation. Arroyo admitted to inappropriately speaking to an election official, but denied allegations of fraud and refused to step down. Attempts to impeach the president failed later that year.
Arroyo currently spearheads a controversial plan for an overhaul of the constitution to transform the present presidential-bicameral republic into a federal parliamentary-unicameral form of government.