Archive for Sunday, July 27, 2003

Filipino rebels seize shopping center

President orders surrender of rogue soldiers

July 27, 2003

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— Rebellious soldiers stormed a major commercial center in Manila early today, hours after the Philippine government ordered the arrest of officers believed to be plotting a coup. The president threatened to use force to end the standoff.

With demands that the government resign, troops in camouflage uniforms around 3 a.m. seized control of the Glorietta complex, which includes one of the capital's largest shopping malls. They rigged explosives and set up gun posts outside the structure.

The military responded by sending marines to positions nearby. Television footage later showed them shaking hands with some of the rogue officers, raising questions about what government forces would do if ordered to mount an assault.

Around 10 a.m., seven hours after the takeover began, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo went on national television and set a 5 p.m. (6 a.m. CDT) deadline for the rebels to surrender.

"Past this deadline, the chief of staff is authorized to use reasonable force to dislodge your group," Arroyo said.

"There is absolutely no justification for the actions you have taken," she continued. "You have already stained the uniform. Do not drench it with dishonor. Your actions are already hovering at the fringes of outright terrorism."

There were no reports of any violence in the standoff as the rebel soldiers pledged to remain inside the complex. In an earlier statement, they demanded the government resign and said they were prepared to die to force change.

"We are not attempting to grab power. We are just trying to express our grievances," navy Lt. Sr. Grade Antonio Trillanes told reporters on the scene.

He said that the explosives were for self-defense. "If they try to take us down, we will be forced to use it," said Trillanes, who is among the officers Arroyo ordered arrested.

Trillanes claimed to have the support of 2,000 officers and soldiers. Radio reports said about 100 men were involved.

Unlike the two "people power" revolts that peacefully ousted two presidents in recent years, there appeared to be little public support for the mutiny. The military chief of staff declared loyalty to Arroyo.

Rumors of a coup plot had been spreading for the past week. Arroyo took action Saturday, publicly announcing that she had ordered the military and police to hunt down and "arrest a small band of rogue junior officers and soldiers who have deserted their post and illegally brought weapons with them."

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