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Philippines Presidential Coup Rumors Fly

Rumors of coup plots are circulating in the Philippines as the nation gets ready to mark the 20th anniversary of the "People Power" revolution that ousted the dictator Ferdinand Marcos. A trash can on the grounds of the Presidential Palace exploded Monday, adding to the tension, but authorities blamed the blast on chemicals and a lit cigarette.

A green garbage can was shredded by Monday's explosion, which brought government workers out of their offices. Journalists at the presidential palace said the shock wave could be felt in the pressroom.

But the head of presidential security, Delfin Bangit, told reporters that chemical combustion, probably triggered by a lit cigarette, was likely the cause.

However, an investigation is underway. Presidential Chief of Staff Michael Defensor told ABS-CBN television he still suspects that unspecified anti-government forces were behind the incident.

"I'm sure that this is part of the scare tactics being initiated by members who would like to destabilize and to bring down the government…You have elements out there who would be thinking like this - to conduct sinister acts to bring down the government, and of course affect the economy," Mr. Defensor said.

Defensor did not provide any details, but last week, Justice Secretary Raul Gonzales said the government had disrupted a plot to overthrow and possibly kill President Gloria Arroyo.

Officials said that scheme was likely the work of soldiers accused in a 2003 mutiny attempt, backed by retired military officers and opposition figures. Talk of a coup plot by elements of the military has been growing since January, when those same soldiers escaped from an Army camp.

All this comes as the nation this week marks the 20th anniversary of the 1986 "People Power" revolt that ousted President Ferdinand Marcos. Along with commemorations of the revolt, large protests against Mrs. Arroyo and her policies are planned, and Manila police are on a state of alert.

President Arroyo defeated an attempt late last year to impeach her on charges of election fraud and corruption. Although she survived that crisis, the opposition, along with some of her former supporters, has continued to call on her to resign.