Philippines Transition Raises Hopes

The largely peaceful transition in the Philippines raised hopes of a fresh start in the country today and won praise elsewhere in Asia which is grappling with a host of simmering socio-economic crises.

But newspapers in Taiwan, which had its own brush with a constitutional crisis when opposition parties banded together to threaten the president with dismissal, warned against toppling leaders without holding elections.

On the diplomatic front, China, the United States, Malaysia and New Zealand said they looked forward to working with Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who replaced disgraced President Joseph Estrada on Saturday.

Macapagal-Arroyo, formerly vice-president, took over after the Supreme Court fired Estrada saying he was no longer fit to govern, ending the country's worst political crisis since a 1986 "people power" revolution toppled dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

"People power appears to win victory after victory, but being forced to take to the streets time after time is a tragic fate," Taiwan's United Daily News said.

Sentiment Across Asia Mostly Favorable

"The opposition which mobilized the people must be aware that they are setting the worst precedent for the Philippines," Taiwan's mass-circulation China Times cautioned.

But elsewhere, the response was more favorable.

Thailand's Nation daily newspaper hailed what it called "another remarkable development of democracy" in Southeast Asia, praising the decisiveness of the guardians of the system in upholding the national interest.

Newspapers in Indonesia, whose own President Abdurrahman Wahid is being probed by parliament over financial scandals, gave blanket coverage to Estrada's downfall.

Peaceful Nature of Turnover Praised

In Japan, newspapers praised the peaceful nature of the transition. The Mainichi Shimbun hailed "an example of democracy on display in a bloodless political change."

The crisis came to a head after the country's military and security chiefs rallied to the opposition on Friday and Taiwan's newspapers were not alone in raising a note of concern.

South Korea's Chosun Ilbo praised the expression of "people power" but highlighted what it called "lingering concern" that the military had once again played a decisive role.

"The military should avoid even the suspicion that it wants to meddle in the political process," it said.

China greeted Macapagal-Arroyo as a friend. "China will make joint efforts as always with the government and people of the Philippines in enhancing mutual trust and reciprocal cooperation in all sectors," Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhu Bangzao said.

The U.S. Embassy in Manila welcomed Macapagal-Arroyo's appointment.

"We have had an exceptionally strong working relationship with new President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in the past, and are looking forward to working with her to strengthen U.S.-Philippine relations even further," it said in a statement.

Australia's Prime Minister John Howard described the appointment of Macapagal-Arroyo as the only way out of the crisis.

Malaysia's Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, whose relations with Estrada were strained over his support for his jailed rival Anwar Ibrahim, welcomed the appointment of Macapagal-Arroyo.

But opposition leader Lim Kit Siang predicted that the change would leave Asia's longest-serving elected leader feeling increasingly isolated and threatened by pressures for reforms.

"He has become the last survivor in this region who refused to step down or yield to popular demands for far-reaching political, economic and social changes," Lim said.