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People-powered out in the Philippines?

President Arroyo could hang on due to fatigue with military overthrows and weak opponents.

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Francisco Sionil José hardly considers himself a fan of Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, but he believes it's time to get tough, really tough, with young military officers who persist in thinking the overthrow of the government will resolve the country's problems.

"Whenever there's a coup attempt by the military, they punish them by telling them all to do push-ups," says Mr. José, author of more than 20 books on such issues as poverty and revolution in the Philippines. "You don't do that. You line them up and shoot them."

While the Army builds maximum-security cells for the military rebels who sought to take power last month on the 20th anniversary of the People Power Revolt, Ms. Arroyo vows revenge.

"I can't spend all my time chasing the bully around the schoolyard," she says in an interview with a sympathetic newspaper, the Philippine Star. She'll keep after "underground conspiracies," she promises, "until these are completely mopped up and wiped out."

Such strong words, though, belie the opposition of an extraordinary range of enemies, many of whom doubt if she can survive politically or, if she does, whether she can govern effectively. Rich or poor, people here agree the country suffers from deep social and economic inequities that aren't helped by political instability.

"The problems of this country are so profound, there's a prolonged impasse," says Sheila Coronel, director of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, responsible for a series of ground-breaking studies detailing the depths of political corruption, nepotism, and incompetence at all levels. "I don't see any solution any time soon."


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