Apparently there was more to the story than just rumors, as the Philippine military has identified several soldiers tied to a planned coup against President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
The Philippine army has questioned at least 14 lieutenants and sergeants linked to a plot to unseat President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, a general said on Wednesday, adding he was confident no coup attempt would ever succeed.
Lieutenant-General Hermogenes Esperon, head of the army, said authorities had identified about 16 junior officers who were planning to carry out a coup. Two of them are absent without leave.
But he said the army has convinced most of the officers to abandon the plot and has disciplined a few uncooperative junior officers.
“I am confident that we have a solid armed forces,” Esperon told reporters. “Any coup attempt would not succeed because we have a solid army.”
The plot, named “Oplan Hackle”, was meant to create a military junta and involved the mass release of officers facing trial for leading a failed uprising in July 2003.
Citing intelligence reports, Esperon said the revolt was planned for either last weekend when graduates of the Philippine Military Academy gathered for a reunion or on March 25 when Arroyo will address the graduating class of 2006.
“We are not saying that we have totally pre-empted ‘Oplan Hackle’,” he told a news conference at the main military camp in Manila.
“We continue to investigate to find out more details. But, we are ready to take action against any group that will destabilise this country, this government.”
Esperon also said authorities had identified the military units of about 200 soldiers that had been recruited to take part in the plot.
Rumours of unrest are common in the Philippines after a dozen coup attempts since the 1980s but talk of a plot has been growing as the 20th anniversary of the army-backed “people power” uprising against former dictator Ferdinand Marcos kicks off this week.
A second army-backed popular uprising five years ago chased out Joseph Estrada from power, allowing Arroyo to rise from the vice-presidency.
Arroyo appealed to soldiers and police officers to thwart efforts by her political enemies to grab power.
“I call upon our soldiers not to cede a single town to those who dream of breaking up the country,” she said after laying a wreath at the military’s hero’s cemetery in Manila, part of her noticeably low-key commemoration of Marcos’ ouster.
I find it interesting that all parties identified are lieutenants and sergeants. I’d be interested in looking into the history of successful military coups to see if there were any that didn’t directly involve higher brass. Perhaps some of those linked will roll over on a bigger fish.
Back when the story was merely rumors being investigated, I blogged the following:
Should a successful coup occur, there is no way to predict the nature of the government that would emerge to fill the void. Nevertheless, I would not shed a tear at the departure of Arroyo. We are talking about a woman who politically survived a morass of corruption, in part because of a willingness to exile her own husband. More disgusting than the corruption, however, is Arroyo’s pathetic willingness to undermine our efforts in Iraq by paying terrorists $6 million and withdrawing Philippine troops from the Iraqi theater, all for the ransom of one truck driver.
I stand by that.