- The Washington Times - Friday, August 1, 2003

MANILA — Reports of unauthorized troop movements less than a week after a failed coup by 300 soldiers had the Philippine capital on edge yesterday.

Radio and TV newscasts said troops in southern and northern Luzon, the main island in the Philippine archipelago, were on the move in a potential attempt to rekindle an uprising that ended Sunday without bloodshed.

Although military officials denied the reports, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo refused to lift the “state of rebellion” she ordered Sunday, saying it was necessary because “enemies of the state” are still on the loose.

In Senate hearings yesterday, National Security Adviser Roilo Golez said last weekend’s coup attempt by 70 junior officers and nearly 250 enlisted men was a well-funded effort that likely had support from more senior officers and even some politicians.

“There is support from outside,” Mr. Golez said. “We doubt very much if the young officers were capable of generating [so much] money from their own pockets.”

Ramon Cardenas, a member of the Cabinet of former President Joseph Estrada, was arrested earlier this week in connection with the coup. And the government is considering charges against Sen. Gregorio “Gringo” Honasan. Both Mr. Estrada, in jail and on trial for charges of economic plunder, and Mr. Honasan have denied any role in last weekend’s drama.

When the mutinous soldiers took over a shopping mall and hotel and apartment complex in Manila’s financial district early Sunday they demanded the resignation of Mrs. Arroyo, Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes and other officials. But once it became apparent to them that there was no popular support for the coup — either by the public or among fellow soldiers — the rebels claimed they were only trying to gain attention for their complaints about military corruption.

But Mr. Golez, the national security adviser, told the Senate that the mutineers had planned to install a 15-member junta called the National Recovery Council.

Mr. Honasan, who as a colonel staged a bloody, unsuccessful coup in 1989, earlier this year drew up a National Recovery Program that has wide support among restive elements of the military. Mr. Honasan has not been seen publicly in several days.

The government yesterday formally charged 320 soldiers with attempting a coup d’etat, a crime under the country’s Revised Penal Code. The Philippines weathered seven coup attempts during the early years of the presidency of Corazon Aquino, who assumed the office after long-time strongman Ferdinand Marcos was forced from power in 1987.

The attempted coup and Mrs. Arroyo’s decision against lifting the state of rebellion has rattled business confidence in the Philippines and rankled opposition lawmakers.

“The Philippines remains a good place to do business and most people with experience working here realize that,” said Peter Wallace, a Manila-based business consultant. “But for companies who have been weighing a decision about investing here, these kind of events only give them further reason for pause.”

Sen. Edgardo Angara said the president’s declaration of a state of rebellion violates the constitution. “There is no legal animal called ‘state of rebellion,’” said Mr. Angara, a former president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines. “This invention is not doing honor to the rule of law … because it’s not in the constitution or the penal code.”

For her part, Mrs. Arroyo assured lawmakers that her declaration was not intended to set a “stage for martial law. … This is plain pursuit of criminal justice.”

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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