Philippine President says state of emergency stays for now

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said Wednesday she will keep a 6-day-old state of emergency in place while awaiting reports on the aftermath of a foiled coup plot.

The justice secretary, meanwhile, said he was not ready to recommend lifting emergency laws as it wasn't clear if the threat to Arroyo's administration had been eliminated.

Arroyo imposed the emergency decree on Friday to quash a coup plot that allegedly involved disgruntled soldiers, communist rebels and civilian backers.

"I want to lift the state of emergency at the soonest possible time," Arroyo said on national TV. "I am asking for three reports to be submitted to me within 24 to 72 hours to review the situation."

She said her justice secretary will submit a report on moves to destabilize the government, the secretary of defense will report on control of the military, and the national police chief will advise on the peace and order situation.

"I will remove the state of emergency once I am convinced that each official can assure me that we fully control the situation," she said.

Arroyo, under intense fire from critics for her declaration and alleged curtailment of civil liberties, said the government had to act to secure the republic's safety.

"The government moved to secure the safety and peace of the republic and we will end the state of emergency once we fully achieve these guidelines on destabilization, armed forces and the rule of law."

Opposition activists and civil libertarians claim her decree is unconstitutional and say they worry that a string of warrantless arrests, a ban on rallies and a raid on a critical newspaper are jeopardizing political freedoms and fanning unrest.

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court deferred a decision on at least four petitions challenging Arroyo's declaration until next week.

Justice Secretary Raul Gonzales said he would not recommend the emergency laws be lifted yet. He said the Cabinet met Tuesday to review the crisis and decided to keep the decree in place, despite Arroyo's economic team saying it was damaging the country's image.

"We have to evaluate the security situation and the economic situation in the country, the effects of this proclamation on the economy, foreign investment and our allies," Gonzales said. "I think the situation has leveled off, but to say whether we have or not neutralized the people who want to topple the government, I am not prepared to answer at this point, reports the AP.

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