Sunday, February 26, 2006

More arrests to come

Gov't says more arrests planned
First posted 03:24pm (Mla time) Feb 26, 2006
By Cecil Morella
Agence France-Presse

(UPDATE) AUTHORITIES on Sunday warned of more arrests while the opposition prepared to go to court to challenge emergency powers assumed by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to preempt an alleged coup plot.

Meeting Sunday, the military brass discussed how to "identify or neutralize the conspirators of the plot," military spokesman Colonel Tristan Kison said.

"Our people continue to search for them," added national police spokesman Senior Superintendent Samuel Pagdilao. Neither spokesman identified the targets.

Presidential guards maintained a high alert around MalacaƱang, where major approaches remained barricaded since Friday when Arroyo declared a state of emergency, saying that renegade military officers had formed a "tactical alliance" with communists to topple the government.

Invoking her constitutional powers, Arroyo ordered the military to crush the plot and said the government would take over public utilities if necessary.

Police arrested a left-wing legislator and two retired paramilitary officers on Saturday, when they also raided the offices of the tiny Manila newspaper the Daily Tribune and seized documents.

The paper was later allowed to publish without interference and one of the retired officers was released after he was cleared of any involvement.

At least three senior military and police officials were meanwhile under investigation after the brass uncovered what they described as the plan to withdraw support from Arroyo and take armed soldiers to an opposition rally Friday that called for her resignation.

The crackdown came on the 20th anniversary of a bloodless popular revolt that ended the 20-year regime of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

Since the 1986 revolt, the Southeast Asian country has been troubled by a series of coup attempts. President Joseph Estrada was overthrown in January 2001 and Arroyo, his vice president, was installed as his successor.

Two years after crushing a July 2003 military mutiny, Arroyo overcame an impeachment complaint in the legislature last year over charges she stole the May 2004 presidential election.

Lawyers and opposition leaders meanwhile said Sunday they would go to the Supreme Court during the week to challenge the legality of Arroyo's emergency powers.

Romeo Capulong of the Public Interest Law Center said it was "definitely unconstitutional" and the lawyers would ask the court to issue a temporary restraining order.

Legislator Ted Casino said his Bayan Muna (People First) party would challenge Arroyo's special powers in the Supreme Court.

"While the security situation has eased a lot we cannot say for certain if the recruitment or other actions [of the plotters] have stopped," military spokesman Kison said over GMA Network dzBB radio.

Military and police forces remained on maximum alert, he and Pagdilao said.

Kison described the plot as a "confirmed alliance between the Communist Party of the Philippines", a military clique, and a number of non-government organizations.

The communist party's 8,000-member New People's Army has been waging a 37-year insurgency.

Jose Maria Sison, the exiled founder of the insurgency, called Sunday for a "revolutionary transition council to replace the Arroyo regime."

He said the communists were open to a tactical alliance with the other anti-Arroyo forces to launch "gigantic mass actions in the vicinity of the presidential palace and key points in the national capital region and in the provinces."

Meanwhile, journalists here said they would write to Arroyo to withdraw her declaration of emergency rule.

The proclamation is an "overkill and should be withdrawn immediately," said Isagani Yambot, publisher of parent company, the Philippine Daily Inquirer, adding there was a "real danger to freedom of expression."

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