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Philippines Police Arrest 16 in Plot to Overthrow Government


Philippine police have filed charges of rebellion against 16 people, including a former senator and four congressmen, who stand accused of plotting to overthrow the government. Officials say more arrests are expected in the coming days as President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo continues her crackdown on the opposition.

The rebellion charges come just three days after President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo declared a state of emergency, saying her government had quashed a coup by disgruntled soldiers and opposition members from both the left and the right.

The emergency decree gives Mrs. Arroyo sweeping powers, including those to make arrests without a warrant, ban demonstrations, and take over facilities, including media outlets, that may affect national security.

Police raided an opposition newspaper, The Daily Tribune, shortly after the emergency was declared, and officials say they are "studying" charges of inciting sedition against the publisher, Ninez Cacho-Olivarez.

Troops have also been posted outside two of the country's largest television stations.

Many people here are worried about the powers Mrs. Arroyo is using to quash dissent, but the 58-year-old former economist says the emergency proclamation will help the nation's economy.

Mrs. Arroyo says attempts to overthrow the government during former administrations have hurt the economy.

The president did not say when the emergency decree would be lifted, but pledged, once again, to improve the lot of the fractious military by earmarking money for salary increases and housing.

Despite the emergency, disgruntled Marines, angry their chief had been removed from his post, staged an eight-hour standoff on Sunday at their headquarters in Manila.

Several thousand protesters gathered near the blocked off entrances to the barracks, but the incident ended peacefully, with the Marines agreeing to obey their officers.

Other organizations vowed Monday to defy the ban on demonstrations.

Carol Araullo, Chairman of BAYAN, a group established in 1985 to fight against then dictator, Ferdinand Marcos, says the opposition, on both left and right, plans to hold demonstrations soon.

"So in one word. We will defy. We will defy this illegal, illegitimate order. We will bring our movement to oust this illegal and fraudulent government from power…our message is that we are not cowed," said Araullo.

The group urged citizens to wear a red ribbon, or tie one onto their house gates, to show their defiance of the emergency decree.

A group of lawyers and other citizens on Monday petitioned the Supreme Court to lift the state of emergency.

One of the petitioners and a spokesman for the Alternative Law Group, Attorney Mailon Manuel, says the state of emergency violates the constitution.

Mrs. Arroyo survived a bid to impeach her over allegations of corruption and vote rigging in the 2004 elections, but has been unable to shake the public's distrust. Recent local surveys show she is now more unpopular than former dictator Marcos.

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