Some Rebel Philippine Troops Surrender
Sunday July 27, 2003 10:19 AM
By PAUL ALEXANDER
Associated Press Writer
MANILA, Philippines (AP) - With a deadline for surrender fast
approaching, rebellious soldiers who stormed a major commercial
complex early Sunday and wired it with explosives said they were
willing to negotiate their grievances with the Philippine government.
``We don't know yet what will happen. But right now the officers
requested an open forum to air their grievances,'' navy Lt. Sr. Grade
Antonio Trillanes, who is among the officers President Gloria
Macapagal Arroyo ordered arrested Saturday, told reporters inside a
residential high-rise the soldiers seized in the heart of Manila's
Hours after about 200 soldiers occupied the Glorietta center, more
than 15 of them surrendered after Arroyo ordered military and police
to suppress the mutineers ``immediately.'' Arroyo gave the soldiers
until 5 p.m. (5 a.m.) to surrender.
The rebels claimed Arroyo had extended the deadline, but there was no
immediate comment from the presidential palace, and the deadline
later passed without incident.
``We will just wait ... as long as necessary,'' Trillanes said. ``I
think the gesture of extending that deadline is bending backwards for
The standoff began soon after Arroyo ordered the arrest of junior
officers who deserted with their weapons and were believed to be
plotting a coup.
Renegade troops in camouflage uniforms set up gun posts and rigged
explosives at 3 a.m. around the outside of the Glorietta complex,
which includes one of the capital's largest shopping malls.
``We are not attempting to grab power. We are just trying to express
our grievances,'' Trillanes, who is among the officers Arroyo ordered
arrested, 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.
Trillanes claimed to have the support of 2,000 officers and soldiers.
Radio reports said about 100 men were involved. They were armed with
rifles and wore red arm bands with a symbol of sun rays.
``There is absolutely no justification for the actions you have
taken,'' Arroyo told the rogue soldiers in a nationally televised
address. ``You have already stained the uniform. Do not drench it
with dishonor. Your actions are already hovering at the fringes of
U.S. Ambassador Francis Ricciardone downplayed fears of a nationwide
crisis, saying the mutiny was caused by ``a small group of men who
are evidently rather determined to push with their political point.''
Rumors of a coup plot had been spreading for the last week. Arroyo
took action Saturday, 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.''
The officers responded in a video released just before the takeover,
accusing the government of selling arms and ammunition to Muslim and
communist rebels, staging deadly bombings to justify more aid from
the United States, and preparing to declare martial law to stay in
Australian Ambassador Ruth Pearce initially was prevented from
leaving a nearby ritzy apartment complex where a number of foreign
diplomats live. But all residents were later evacuated, some left
carrying children and luggage. Many appeared alarmed as they passed a
rebel machine gun outside the building.
National Security Adviser Roilo Golez said he hoped for negotiations
and a peaceful resolution.
``We have to be very prudent about this,'' he told reporters. ``This
is similar to the 1989 coup attempt.''
There were several coup attempts against former President Corazon
Aquino in the late 1980s by officers complaining about corruption.
In a 1989 attempt, rebellious troops also occupied the commercial
center. They held onto it, deploying snipers on top of the
Intercontinental Hotel and nearby high-rises, for several days until
they were persuaded to surrender.
The rebellious officers issued a statement early Sunday talking of
disillusionment over corruption and favoritism. Soldiers and officers
in the past have complained about low pay; the military is poorly
equipped and trained, and hampered by budgetary constraints.
``We demand the resignation of our leaders in the present regime,''
the statement said. ``We are willing to sacrifice our lives today, to
pursue a program not tainted with politicking.''
Interior Secretary Jose Lina ordered the arrest of Sen. Gregorio
Honasan, citing an intelligence report reportedly linking the former
army colonel to the mutiny. Honasan, who has been accused of
involvement in past coup plots, denied he had any ``influence or
control'' over the mall takeover.
Arroyo was sworn in as president as her predecessor, Joseph Estrada,
was forced out in January 2001 by mass protests over alleged
corruption. Supporters of Estrada continue to challenge her
legitimacy as leader.
Estrada was moved Sunday from a military hospital where he has been
detained while on trial on corruption charges to the military's Camp
Aguinaldo amid concerns that there might be an effort to free him.
Arroyo has said she won't run in presidential elections next May,
although rumors persist that she will change her mind.
Arroyo, a 56-year-old economist, has enjoyed generally solid public
support and is one of the staunchest U.S. allies in Asia. The United
States has been working closely with the 120,000-strong Philippine
military, which has been battling Muslim separatists and communist
rebels for the last three decades. But the military remains poorly
equipped and trained, hampered by budgetary constraints.
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