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Philippine Prosecutors Charge Former Senator, 6 Left-Wing Lawmakers Plotting Coup


In the Philippines prosecutors have filed rebellion charges against dozens of people, including a former senator and six left-wing lawmakers, accusing them of plotting a coup in February to bring down the government.

A senior Philippines prosecutor, Emmanuel Velasco, said Monday that the legislators conspired with communist rebels and military officers to overthrow of the president.

Philippines President Gloria Arroyo declared a one-week state of emergency at the end of February in response to what she called a clear threat to her elected government.

Five of the lawmakers charged Monday have been holding out in the Philippine Congress since late February to avoid arrest. They deny the charges.

Prosecutors say the lawmakers can be arrested as soon as the trial court issues a warrant.

One of the accused, representative Satur Ocampo, says the lawmakers are challenging the charges on a procedural question, because they were not allowed to file counter-claims. He says a challenge to the substance of the allegations has also been lodged at the Philippines Supreme Court.

"We look at all these legal proceedings as evidence of political persecution, not prosecution," he said. "What we detect is a maneuver to deprive us of participation in congress by getting us in jail and having to face a possible long period of trial."

Ocampo says the charges lack credibility because they accuse the lawmakers of conspiring with the Communist Party to commit rebellion starting in the late 1960s when the party was formed. He says one of the accused was a small child at the time.

The other four lawmakers in Congress are Teodoro Casino, Joel Virador, Liza Maza and Rafael Mariano. The sixth lawmaker, Crispin Beltran, is in police custody but in hospital.

Former Senator Gregorio Honasan was also charged Monday but has gone into hiding. He was involved in coup attempts in the late 1980s.

President Arroyo maintains the state of emergency in February was necessary to crush the conspiracy to overthrow her government. But critics say she was cracking down on the opposition, which has accused her of vote rigging in the 2004 election. She survived an impeachment call last year.

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