Philippine military chief confirms coup threats

The Philippine military chief confirmed that the country faces the threat of possible coups by disgruntled officers, but said plotters have no capability to carry out their plans. Gen. Generoso Senga was reacting to the latest of frequent coup rumors circulated by mobile phone text messages, after four young officers accused of leading a failed 2003 mutiny escaped from an army prison last week.

"I think we can say there is a threat but threats have different levels," Senga told a news conference attended by the chiefs of the army, navy and air force. "At this point I cannot say that the threat is that serious," he said, adding "there are indications of some intentions (to stage a coup) but intentions are different from capability."

Senga said the military continued to receive and verify threats to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's government, but he refused to give details or identify suspects. Coup rumors have swirled since last year, when Arroyo faced vote-rigging and corruption allegations, and survived an impeachment bid in September.

Although some key political allies have withdrawn support from her, Arroyo continues to enjoy the backing of the military and police top brass. Justice Secretary Raul Gonzales caused alarm on Friday when he suggested a coup was in the offing later that day or early Saturday.

Security forces set up checkpoints in the capital, Manila, and barricaded roads leading to the presidential palace, but the weekend passed without incident. Army chief Lt. Gen. Hermogenes Esperon said he had relieved Brig. Gen. Ruben Rafael, the commander of the camp where the four mutineers escaped, as well as two other officers and two enlisted men for negligence.

He said investigators were looking into their possible collusion in the escape. Senga said it was possible that the escaped officers have support within the organization, but stressed the 117,000-strong military will remain apolitical and follow the constitution, reports the AP. N.U.