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Philippine Video Could Provide New Evidence of Alleged February Coup Plot

A previously unknown videotape could provide fresh evidence for a Philippine military investigation into an alleged coup plot against President Gloria Arroyo in February this year. The tape shows a key general withdrawing his support from Mrs. Arroyo and calling her presidency "illegal."

Brigadier General Danilo Lim is a key figure in the events surrounding the alleged coup plot. He was removed from his command just before Philippine President Gloria Arroyo announced a national emergency on February 24, and has been in military custody since then.

Lim has denied involvement in any coup plot, but on Monday, local television channel ABS-CBN aired a video of General Lim, announcing he was withdrawing support from President Arroyo, and calling her rule unconstitutional and illegal.

The television station says the tape, apparently shot around the time of the alleged coup, was intended for public broadcast once forces loyal to General Lim had taken over the government during the February turmoil. The general is explicit in his taped message.

"We cannot stand idly by while the rule of law, the moral order, and the integrity of our institutions, the very future of our country and people and our own professional careers, are destroyed by this bogus president," he said. "We have today withdrawn our support from Mrs. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in order to end her unconstitutional and illegal occupation of the presidency."

In the tape General Lim says the military claims only the moral high ground, and does not seek power.

"We call on Mrs. Arroyo to accept gracefully the formation of a new government. As soldiers we do not seek political powers for ourselves," he continued. "We shall not allow anyone to use political power to commit crimes against our people or to pursue their own personal agenda at the expense of the national interest."

The television station refuses to say how and where it got this tape, the existence of which was unknown until late Monday. The presidential palace has not released any statement about the tape. But Presidential Chief of Staff Michael Defensor told the television station that the tape shows there was a threat to the government, and there was a basis for President Arroyo's declaration of emergency rule in February.

Critics say the President used the alleged coup as cover for a crackdown on her political opposition, which accuses her of corruption, and vote fraud in the 2004 election. She survived an impeachment bid last year.

Meanwhile, Vice Admiral Rufino Lopez, in charge of the military investigation into the alleged coup, says reports that investigators have recommended that dozens of officers face court-martial are inaccurate. The military says it has yet to finalize the probe.