Fri, Nov 30, 2007 - Page 1 News List

Curfew imposed on Manila after coup bid

BOTCHED ATTEMPT More than a dozen soldiers on trial for a failed 2003 mutiny stormed out of a courthouse and tried to launch another revolt

AP , MANILA

Roman Catholic Bishop Julio Labayen, center, announces the surrender of the renegade soldiers, while former vice president Teofisto Guingona, behind Labayen, and rebel officers look on yesterday at the Peninsula Hotel in Makati City, near Manila.

PHOTO: AFP

Troops and SWAT teams stormed a five-star hotel yesterday that dissident military officers took over after walking out of their coup trial and demanding that Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo resign.

Soon after the incident ended with the dissidents surrendering, the government announced a midnight to 5am curfew for Manila and the surrounding area, with checkpoints set up and the military and police on red alert.

Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno said he hoped the curfew would only be enforced for one night.

At least two people were injured during the assault of the Peninsula hotel in Makati, Manila's business district. An armored personnel carrier, earlier used as cover by the security forces, was used to crash through the roped-shut lobby entrance, and dense clouds of tear gas wafted through.

A leader of the dissident officers agreed to leave peacefully.

"For the safety of everyone, we're going out ... because we cannot live with our conscience if some of you get hurt in the crossfire," Antonio Trillanes told reporters.

"There's no loss here," said Trillanes, who was elected to the Senate in May, campaigning from detention. "We just did what has to be done. It is tantamount to treason if I don't do anything. If somebody lost here, it's the whole nation."

The military men and their civilian sympathizers -- including former vice president Teofisto Guingona -- were led in groups to waiting police buses. It was not immediately clear if they were being arrested or taken in for questioning. Several journalists were also were detained.

Arroyo offered reassurances that the government is stable and claimed that the military is loyal to her.

"Again and again we have shown to the world the stability of the institutions of our democracy and the strength of this government," she said on national TV.

"Wrong and misguided deeds of the few do not speak for the people or the army and police," Arroyo said. "The full force of the law will be meted out without any concession. Additional charges are being prepared to hold accountable those who committed new crimes."

The first shots erupted about 75 minutes after a deadline passed for the men to surrender in the face of contempt of court warrants filed against them. After the sound of breaking glass, tear gas began wafting through the lobby, and those inside covered their faces with cloths soaked in water.

At least one dissident soldier, distinguishable by a red armband, crouched inside the hotel lobby, his finger near the trigger of an M-16 rifle. Many journalists refused a request from the president's spokesman that they leave.

Joined by other dissident officers and leaders from the opposition and the left, the coup defendants clearly were trying to foster the Philippines' third "people power" revolt, making phone calls and sending cellphone text messages seeking to generate crowds to support them.

But as the day wore on and hotel guests were evacuated, few people turned out for the latest effort to oust Arroyo, who has survived at least three coup plots and three impeachment efforts during nearly seven tumultuous years in power.

Asked if he had a message for Arroyo, Trillanes said: "Sooner or later, the time of reckoning will come."

The trial for Trillanes and his codefendants is over a 2003 insurrection in which troops took over a shopping center and hotel and demanded Arroyo's ouster.

This story has been viewed 3145 times.
TOP top