Arroyo justifies emergency powers

The Philippines president has defended her use of emergency powers to foil an alleged coup plot, as authorities detained another suspect in a widening crackdown.

    Gloria Arroyo ordered a purge in the military

    In her first live interview since the crisis erupted nearly two weeks ago, Gloria Arroyo said government moves to head off the supposed plot by "military adventurists" and communist rebels had saved the economy and averted violence.

    She also dismissed opposition allegations that the state of emergency that was imposed for a week from 24 February had infringed civil liberties protected by the country's constitution.

    She told a TV channel: "Our swift action headed off potential violence. I am a big believer in the principles of democracy.

    "But I also believe that we must stop those people who would abuse these freedoms and help put in power those people who would destroy these very same freedoms, like the communists and misguided soldiers and police.

    "I moved to protect the public interest."

    The government has detained six military and police officers and filed charges of rebellion and attempting a coup against 16 people, including six representatives from fringe leftist political parties.

    Legal challenges

    The latest to be detained is Major Jason Aquino, the former operations chief of the elite Army Scout Ranger regiment, whom military sources had not reported for duty since July, when he was sacked for pamphleteering against Arroyo.

    The Philippines president confirmed that she would hold talks with military leaders, but did not give a date for the meeting or provide further details.

    She said the security situation in the country was "quiet and peaceful" but the government remained watchful against another attempt at destabilisation.

    Arroyo lifted the state of emergency on Friday, but the Supreme Court was set to hear legal challenges filed by the opposition later on Tuesday.

    Some of the officers detained have complained about the military's role in the alleged rigging of the May 2004 presidential election, in which Arroyo defeated the country's top movie star, Fernando Poe, who since has died.

    Arroyo, who survived an impeachment complaint in the legislature last year over alleged election fraud, has denied stealing the vote and rejected opposition calls to stand down.

    Jose Maria Sison, the founder of the 37-year-old Maoist communist insurgency in the Philippines, last week publicly backed a military coup as the only way to remove Arroyo from power.



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