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Philippine Military Says it Has Crippled Another Coup Plot


The head of the Philippine army says the military has crippled a plotted coup, identifying 14 officers who are said to have been involved. The development comes after months of coup rumors in the country, where President Gloria Arroyo survived an impeachment bid last year and still faces strong opposition.

Lieutenant General Hermogenes Esperon says documents were found detailing the alleged plot, including a list of the names of the plotters.

He says a number of the leaders have been detained, while others have renounced their membership in a breakaway group, and were allowed to return to their duties.

Esperon says that during initiation rites, members of the breakaway group were issued special dog tags - metal military identification tags - to confirm their commitment to the plot. On Wednesday, he waved a set of the dog tags in the air as he told the ABS-CBN television network what had been found.

"We have pinpointed officers, participants, and most of them have now admitted to their recruitment. But as they now come to our investigations they have realized the futility of this movement, and the foolishness of this movement," he said.

Esperon says the conspirators had planned to mobilize at least 200 soldiers to remove President Gloria Arroyo from office by force. He says that while he believes the alleged plot has been blocked, it is possible that other officers could be involved.

Coup rumors, a recurring feature of Philippine political life, have been circulating here for months. The latest rumors have tended to revolve around a group of fugitive officers charged in another plot in 2003.

Mrs. Arroyo survived an attempt to impeach her last September on charges of election fraud and corruption. But her critics, including some former supporters, continue to say she should resign, because doubts about her legitimacy remain.