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6 Philippine Military Officers Arrested  for Allegedly Trying to Destabilize Government - 2004-01-29

The Philippine government has detained six military officers suspected of trying to destabilize the administration.

The officers were taken into custody after an interview with local reporters in which they accused the administration of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo of using the military to influence the national elections in May.

They accused the defense secretary of using the military to spy on opposition candidates ahead of the May presidential election.

Government officials quickly denounced the group as military adventurists trying to destabilize the administration. They may face rebellion charges. One member of the group told reporters they were simply trying to air legitimate grievances about the military and were not plotting a coup.

The incident, coming less than a year after a mutiny by 300 soldiers at an upscale apartment block in the heart of Manila's business district, spooked local markets. The peso Thursday fell to a record low against the dollar, and stocks fell more than two percent.

President Arroyo, in a speech to mark the 13th anniversary of the national police force, said Thursday there was no threat to national security. She blamed the incident on civilians trying to exploit the military for political ends.

"That incident is an isolated incident, no untoward developments have been monitored and a widespread plot is not indicated," she said. "This is another case of partisan exploitation of military adventurism."

The military is a powerful institution in the Philippines. It initiated a coup to topple dictator Ferdinand Marcos in 1986 and supported a popular revolt that chased former President Joseph Estrada from the presidential palace in January 2001. Military officers, however, also have engaged in a number of failed coup attempts.

Philippine elections often feature accusations of cheating, vote buying, corruption and violence.