16 charged with Philippines coup plot

The Philippine president has stepped up a purge of suspected coup plotters as police filed rebellion cases against 16 people, including a former hero of the 1986 People Power uprising.

    Arroyo has pledged to improve the armed forces' morale

    Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, the President, appeared on television on Monday, a day after dozens of elite marines briefly defied the state of emergency she ordered on Friday over a plot that allegedly included plans to kill her.

    Arroyo, who survived an impeachment attempt last year over allegations of vote-rigging and graft, gave no sign of when the emergency rule would be lifted. Instead, she revived an old pledge to improve the lot of the country's demoralised military.

    Avelino Cruz, the defence secretary, said the government would assess later on Monday whether to end the state of emergency, which allows for arrests without warrants and an extension of detention without charge.

    But he added: "We are not letting our guard down."

    The country's vibrant media has been on the defensive, particularly after the offices of an opposition newspaper were raided by police before dawn on Saturday.


    Tensions receded after Sunday's five-hour stand-off at a Manila military base, where about 100 marines had put on a show of force and called for public support over the dismissal of their commander for his alleged links to the plot

    Schools were closed for the day, but it was otherwise business as usual in the capital, with offices and shops open and no troops in the streets.

    About 100 marines put on a
    show of force at the Manila base

    Financial markets were calmer after being spooked on Friday by the crisis. The peso was up nearly 0.5% on the day at 51.96 to the dollar and the main stock index almost recouped all of Friday's 1% loss.

    Arroyo said: "Thank God the stock market went up by 19 points and the peso strengthened ... maybe because of the right handling of the standoff in the Marines yesterday."

    Police said the 16 facing rebellion cases included four leftist Congress members, as well as active and retired soldiers.

    Three had been arrested and a fourth, a leftist congressman, was detained at an airport on the southern island of Mindanao.

    On the run

    One of those on the run was Gregorio Honasan, a former army colonel and senator who has been linked to most of the dozen coup attempts in the Philippines over the past 20 years.

    Known as "Gringo", Honasan led a small group of soldiers who broke away from Ferdinand Marcos in 1986, sparking the People Power revolt that restored democracy in the impoverished Southeast Asian country.

    Police published a list of 50 communist leaders, including some living in exile, who were also wanted for separate cases of rebellion or insurrection.

    Virgilio Pablico, legal chief of the police's criminal investigation arm, speaking to a news conference said:

    "The leftist and the rightists movement have conspired to overthrow the duly constituted government, as evidenced by testimonial evidence and other pieces of electronic paraphernalia."

    Arroyo has not endeared herself
    to the country's armed forces

    Problems loomed on a new front for Arroyo on Monday as a group of lawyers challenged her emergency rule in the Supreme Court, arguing it was unconstitutional.

    Marlon Manuel, spokesman of the Alternative Law Group, said:"The president cannot suppress 'people power' with a superfluous and illegal edict."

    Widely criticised

    Arroyo has been widely criticised for resorting to powers that many say hark back to the Marcos era.

    An umbrella group of senior business executives joined the chorus of criticism on Monday, saying the state of emergency was contrary to national interests.

    "It was also an over-reaction to events," the Makati Business Club said in a statement. "The martial law period resulted in greater poverty, more insurgency and greater instability."

    SOURCE: Agencies


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