Plot against Philippine President uncovered

Philippine troops loyal to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo uncovered an attempt by rogue soldiers to seize power over the weekend, according to senior military official.

Rumours of plots against Arroyo, or any other leader, are relatively routine in the Philippines, where army-backed "people power" uprisings toppled two presidents and there have been at least a dozen coup attempts since 1986.

But fresh talk of action by some elements of the military, before Christmas or early in the new year, began last week when allegations of cheating by Arroyo in the 2004 elections were resurrected in public inquiries in the two houses of Congress.

A senior general said disgruntled soldiers and police officers were plotting to take over key military bases in Manila and demand the resignation of Arroyo, who left on Sunday for a summit of Southeast Asian leaders in Malaysia.

The rogue soldiers were expecting the bulk of the military to join them in withdrawing support for Arroyo and handing power to a civilian-military junta, he said, citing intelligence reports.

"We were waiting for them to strike but we're prepared to hit back harder," the general told Reuters. "We can just speculate why they did not move. Perhaps they knew we were ready."

There were rumours some officers had been arrested but they could not be confirmed. Military officials said they were keeping watch for unauthorised troop movements or other signs of unrest.

The general said there were reports a battalion of Marines and police commando teams were ready to seize control of an air base and the three major army bases in Manila.

Arroyo, who ended a one-day mutiny by about 300 soldiers peacefully in 2003, survived an attempt to impeach her in September over allegations of vote-rigging and corruption when her allies in the lower house voted down the motion, Reuters reports.


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