opinion rallied behind his widow, Corazon Aquino. A massive campaign of demonstrations and non-violent protest, popularly dubbed 'People Power', confronted Marcos. Equally important, President Reagan faced a groundswell of American public opinion in favour of Aquino, and withdrew his backing from Marcos. The Filipino military, Marcos' last bastion of support, followed suit and Marcos left for Hawaiian exile in February 1986 and died in September 1989. Lacking any political experience whatever, Corazon Aquino took a while to settle into the presidency. Relations between the new government and the military were the most pressing problem. The army sheltered an influential rump of support for Marcos which busied itself plotting against Aquino and had, by the end of 1989, made no less than six coup attempts. All were put down and Aquino kept the bulk of the military on her side by supporting a hard line in the counter- insurgency campaign against the NPA, whose campaign has since all but fizzled out. Military issues also dominated the Philippines' key foreign relations with the USA. The Americans had maintained two large bases on Luzon Island at Subic Bay (navy) and Clark Air Base, plus a handful of smaller facilities, since the end of the Second World War, but the agreement permitting their use was due to expire in 1991. Aquino again faced conflicting pressures: the economic value of the bases against nationalist demands for their removal. Amid tortuous and protracted negotiations, the problem was solved at a stroke by the volcanic eruption of Mount Pinatubo, dormant for 600 years, in the summer of 1991. Clark Air Base - 10 miles from the volcano - was damaged so badly as to render it unusable and the Americans decided to abandon it. In October 1991, the Philippines Senate accepted a deal carved out between the Government and the Americans allowing for a total pull-out by 1994. The country now turned its attention to the presidential election campaign. The constitution prevented Mrs Aquino from putting herself forward for re-election. Fidel Ramos, Aquino's erstwhile Defence Minister and a key figure in recent Filipino politics, secured her endorsement. The election was closely fought between the three principal candidates: Ramos; Aquino's cousin, Eduardo 'Danding' Cojuangco; and Miriam Santiago, a fiery and popular lawyer with an impressive record as an anti-corruption campaigner. Ramos won the poll in May 1992 with 5.3 million votes. Imelda Marcos, who also stood, hoping to exploit her husband's residual popularity, came a poor fourth. On November 24, 1993, Imelda Marcos was found guilty of 'political graft' and was sentenced to up to 24 years in jail, although she remained at liberty, pending appeal. The main issues for the Ramos government were the economy - which had been performing well, driven by export growth - and the continuing insurgencies in the southern part of the archipelago, where the NPA threat had been replaced by the Moslem insurgents of the Moro National Liberation Front. Negotiations proved more successful this time, and the conflict was settled in 1996. The economy continued to perform reasonably well until the closing months of 1997 when the Philippines was one of the main victims of the Asian currency crisis. The peso was hit particularly hard and it was only towards the end of 1999 that the economy began recover. By this time, a new administration was in power under the leadership of Joseph Ejercito Estrada, who had comfortably won the presidential election of May 1998. Estrada headed a new political party, Laban ng Masang Pilipino (LMP, Struggle of the Filipino Masses), which also won the largest bloc of seats (falling just short of an overall majority) in simultaneous congressional elections.
Government: The constitution adopted in 1987 provides for a dual-chamber congress comprising a 24-member Senate and a House of Representatives with a maximum 250 members, of whom 200 are directly elected. The President, who holds executive power, is elected for a 6- year term.
Country Overview: The Philippines lie off the southeast coast of Asia between Taiwan and Borneo in the Pacific Ocean and South China Sea. They are composed of 7107 islands and islets