Government Unrest and a Military Coup
In May 1998, 61-year-old former action-film star Joseph Estrada was elected president of the Philippines. Within two years, however, the Philippine Senate began proceedings to impeach Estrada on corruption charges. Massive street demonstrations and the loss of political support eventually forced Estrada from office. Vice President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, daughter of former president Diosdado Macapagal, became president in Jan. 2001. In May 2004 presidential elections, President Arroyo narrowly defeated film star Fernando Poe.
Arroyo faced a political crisis in the summer of 2005, after admitting to calling an election official during 2004's presidential race. A taped phone conversation between Arroyo and the official seemed to suggest that she had tried to use her power to influence the outcome. She survived an impeachment motion in July.
Arroyo declared a state of emergency in February, saying the government had foiled an attempted coup by the military. She also banned rallies commemorating the 20th anniversary of the ouster of Ferdinand Marcos. Some observers dismissed the report of the coup attempt as political maneuvering to gain support and weaken the opposition. On June 24, President Arroyo met with Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican, where she announced that the Philippines was abolishing the death penalty.
In Sept. 2007, former president Joseph Estrada was convicted of corruption and sentenced to life in prison.
The government said in Nov. 2007 that it had reached a deal with the separatist Moro National Liberation Front that set boundaries for a Muslim homeland on the southern island of Mindanao. The deal fell apart in Aug. 2008 when fighting broke out between the rebels and government troops following a ruling by the Supreme Court that blocked the agreement. More than 160,000 Filipinos fled their homes and sought refuge from the violence. Peace talks resumed in Dec. 2009.