Wed, Mar 01, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Arroyo may reverse declaration

CONDITIONAL A senior aide said the Philippine government will consider lifting the state of emergency after an assessment is made by the president's security advisers


Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo may give up her emergency powers as early as Saturday if there is no longer a national security threat after a failed coup plot, a senior aide said yesterday.

"On Saturday they will assess the situation again. We'll see if there will be a decision by Saturday," Finance Secretary Margarito Teves told reporters, referring to Arroyo's security advisers who are monitoring the situation.

"It is possible there will be changes by then," he said.

Arroyo declared a "state of national emergency" last Friday, rattling the financial markets. She said she needed to use the military to crush what she described as an alliance of communist rebels and "military adventurists" aimed at toppling her.

In a widening crackdown, 16 opposition figures, including left-wing legislators, face charges of rebellion and attempting a coup d'etat. A handful of officers from the military and police have also been detained.

Included in the 16 was a group of leftist legislators holed up yesterday inside the legislative building to delay their arrest after the authorities implicated them in the coup plot.

Despite insisting that the potential armed threat to Arroyo had dissipated, the military deployed more than a thousand extra troops at a Manila military base that was the scene of a weekend standoff by an officer linked to the alleged coup.

The 1,200-member army special task group that arrived late on Monday would "respond to any eventuality in Fort Bonifacio and in Metro Manila," said its commander, army Special Forces Colonel Arturo Ortiz.

The Fort, a key base for both army and marines, was the scene of a standoff on Sunday between the government and about 100 armed marines led by decorated combat veteran Colonel Ariel Querubin. He had been sacked as commander of a brigade two days earlier, after he was implicated in the coup plot.

Querubin called for civilians and troops to support him, but the standoff ended when fewer than 50 civilians showed up and the Marines surrendered without a shot being fired.

The US, a close ally of the Philippines, said on Monday it hoped the emergency declaration would be lifted as soon as possible.

Some politicians alleged the coup plot was a pretext for Arroyo to shore up her hold on power after surviving an impeachment vote in Congress last year over charges she cheated in 2004 elections.

Fifteen of the country's 23 senators, including several Arroyo allies, yesterday denounced her proclamation and pledged "remedial legislation" to stop potential abuse of power by the Philippine leader.

A group of lawyers are challenging Arroyo's emergency powers in the Supreme Court, which yesterday ordered the government to explain the basis for the emergency proclamation at a hearing scheduled for March 7.

Police on Monday filed charges of rebellion and attempting a coup d'etat against the six lawmakers and 10 other opposition figures.

The six are accused of being at the forefront of street protests, which the authorities say are part of the plot to oust the president.

Two of the six legislators have already been detained but police handed over one of the detainees, Joel Virador, to the House of Representatives late on Monday at the request of House Speaker Jose de Venecia.

De Venecia has also asked police that he be given temporary custody of the other detained legislator, Crispin Beltran, while the government secures proper arrest warrants against them in court.

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