Macapagal-Arroyo's Rise Mirrors Aquino's

The sense of history repeating itself was powerful as Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was sworn in as the Philippines' new president Saturday at a monument to the "people power" revolt that toppled the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

A woman related to a popular political leader, gaining power through a mass uprising against a disgraced president: The rise of Macapagal-Arroyo in some ways mirrors that of Corazon Aquino, who succeeded Marcos after his 1986 ouster.

Largely untested as a political leader, Macapagal-Arroyo now faces the task of building bridges in a nation divided by the downfall of her predecessor, Joseph Estrada, while addressing the country's overwhelming poverty.

Macapagal-Arroyo, a 54-year-old trained economist, was a classmate of President Clinton at Georgetown University — and found herself assuming her country's presidency the same day Clinton left his.

When explosive corruption allegations emerged against Estrada, Macapagal-Arroyo — his elected vice president — became head of an opposition movement that united strands as disparate as big business and far-left activists, all seeking Estrada's ouster.

But even as the campaign marched to victory, there were questions over her ability to rule.

In part, her place in politics comes from her famous name: Her father, Diosdado Macapagal, served as president in the early 1960s until being defeated by Marcos in 1965 elections.

She has often noted that during her father's tenure, the Philippines was second only to Japan in economic progress in Asia.

But while she paints herself as a representative of the masses, many of the poor are suspicious of her privileged background and strong ties with business.

Born in Manila in 1948, Macapagal-Arroyo was elected to the Senate in 1992 by a large margin, then in 1998 won the vice president spot — which is elected separately from the presidency.

In Estrada's administration, she also served as welfare secretary until quitting the post on Oct. 12 after corruption allegations emerged against the president.

During the crisis, Corazon Aquino was a major supporter of Macapagal-Arroyo, traveling to churches across the country to pray for the political change that finally came Saturday.

Comparisons to "Cory" will be inevitable, but Macapagal-Arroyo no doubt hopes some parts of history can go unrepeated. Aquino — who had no political experience when she was thrust into power — had a turbulent presidency, surviving at least seven coup attempts.

Aquino was the widow of pro-democracy legend Benigno Aquino, gunned down in 1983 at the Manila airport that now bears his name.

Macapagal-Arroyo is married to lawyer-businessman Jose Miguel Tuason Arroyo, the grandson of a senator. They have three children, Mikey, Luli, and Dato.