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Former Philippine Senator Arrested on Rebellion Charges


Former senator and military officer Gregorio Honasan, who is accused of involvement in February's failed coup against Philippine President Gloria Arroyo, has been arrested after evading police for much of the year. Honasan is one of the more colorful and controversial figures in Philippine politics and has a long history of involvement in coup plots going back to the ouster of dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

Authorities captured Honasan early Wednesday morning in a raid on a residence in the Manila suburb of Quezon City. Police say the former senator hurt his leg while trying to escape by jumping from a moving vehicle. He had been on the run for nine months and authorities had offered $100,000 for his capture.

Honasan, who also is a former army colonel, faces rebellion charges for his alleged roll in February's failed coup, as well as involvement in a 2003 mutiny by junior military officers demanding President Arroyo's resignation.

Popularly known as Gringo, Honasan is a colorful figure in Philippine politics and once called himself the resident adviser on failed coup attempts.

Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez says Honasan began building a following when he led a group of military officers to stir up popular unrest against former President Ferdinand Marcos, who was ousted in 1986 by a people power revolt.

"He became a mythical soldier. He gave the aura of some sort of a swashbuckling, invincible soldier. So he has gathered sympathizers, people with kindred spirits, enamored by his exploits … popular to the public," Gonzalez said.

Later, Honasan led several coup attempts against President Corazon Aquino, including one in which he used a captured plane to bomb the presidential palace. President Aquino asked the American military for help and Honasan's backers did not retreat until U.S. warplanes flew over the city.

The former senator could receive a life sentence if convicted of the charges against him. Justice Secretary Gonzalez says his arrest will discourage others who might want to destabilize the government.

President Arroyo survived the alleged coup attempt in February and has defeated two impeachment bids. The opposition accuses her of corruption and cheating in the 2004 elections, allegations she denies.

Gonzalez says individuals representing Honasan had attempted to negotiate his surrender over the past several months, but says the efforts were not sincere and were just attempts to buy time.

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