Tue, Nov 21, 2006 - Page 4 News List

Thirty officers to face court-martial over Philippine plot

AP , MANILA

Thirty Philippine officers implicated in a February plot to topple the president will face a court-martial, the military chief said yesterday.

General Hermogenes Esperon said he accepted the recommendation of military prosecutors that there was probable cause for the officers to stand trial on charges of trying to create a mutiny, violating military discipline and other related offenses.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has accused military "adventurists," communist rebels and their civilian financial backers of plotting to oust her in February, when she declared a weeklong state of emergency.

Arroyo has survived at least three coup plots and two impeachment bids since she came to power in 2001, and her administration has vowed to prosecute plotters to ensure political and economic stability.

Esperon told reporters he dropped charges against eight officers for lack of evidence.

He insisted that the 117,000-strong military -- which has been struggling to ease restiveness within its ranks, fight corruption and modernize equipment -- has been undergoing crucial reforms to improve accountability and ethical standards.

"We see that the issues that have probably brought about this destabilization are being addressed," he said.

"While we're addressing threats to national security, we would like internal reforms to go on," he said.

Among those to be court-martialed were former marine commandant Major General Renato Miranda, army Brigadier General Danilo Lim and marine Colonel Ariel Querubin.

Miranda quit his post in February, and the military relieved Lim as chief of the elite Scout Rangers and placed him and Querubin in custody. Lim and Querubin were involved in coup attempts in the 1980s but were given amnesty.

The officers and several civilians also are facing a separate criminal trial on charges of rebellion.

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