Philippine military mutiny leader escapes from court

A captain accused of helping to lead hundreds of troops in a failed 2003 mutiny escaped on Wednesday from a court where he was awaiting a scheduled hearing on the case, the escaped officer and military officials said. Marine Capt. Nicanor Faeldon disappeared at the Makati Regional Trial Court in Metropolitan Manila shortly after asking his guard's permission to buy fruit from a vendor in the court premises, a senior intelligence official said.

Faeldon himself confirmed his escape to reporters, who contacted him by cell phone. He said a compact disc sent to the media would explain what was going on. "We are looking for him now. We are going to his known address," said the senior official, who refused to be identified because he was not authorized to talk to reporters. Asked if the escape had any links to rumors of a coup plot by disgruntled troops, the intelligence official said: "That is what we are still trying to establish."

Faeldon was one of the core leaders of about 300 troops who in July 2003 occupied the ritzy Oakwood Hotel and a nearby shopping mall in the capital's financial district. They rigged the area with bombs, but surrendered peacefully after about 20 hours.

The government said that action was part of a larger coup conspiracy, but the officers said they were only demanding the resignation of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and other officials over alleged corruption.

Faeldon escaped as the military and police are supposed to be on the highest state of alert. Arroyo has been haunted in recent months by calls for her to step down, and coup rumors that have swirled since June rose to a new crescendo in the days before her departure Sunday for a regional summit in Kuala Lumpur.

She survived an impeachment attempt in September when her majority allies in the House of Representatives junked three impeachment bids on a technicality, reports the AP. I.L.

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