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Philippine Military to Try 30 Officers in Alleged February Coup Plot

The Philippine military has decided that 30 officers implicated in an alleged plot earlier this year to overthrow the government of President Gloria Arroyo will face a court martial.

The Philippine military chief, General Hermogenes Esperon, announced the decision in Manila Monday. He says he accepted the conclusion of military prosecutors that there is sufficient evidence to try the 30 officers for mutiny and other charges. At the same time, charges against eight other officers were dropped because of lack of evidence.

Key figures among those being charged include former Marine General Renato Miranda, Marine Colonel Ariel Querubin and Army General Danilo Lim. Both Lim and Querubin were involved in coup attempts in the 1980s but were granted amnesty.

President Arroyo, who declared a one-week state of emergency in February to halt what she said was a plot, has accused military adventurists, communist rebels and some members of the political opposition of working together to bring down her government.

However, the military suffers many ills - including poor equipment and corruption - which are thought to have contributed to discontent that may have helped bring about a coup plot.

General Esperon assured reporters that military reforms will be carried out alongside the mutiny trials.

"While we are making sure that the military justice system will work against these destabilizers, in the armed forces of the Philippines," Esperon says. "We are also seeing to it that the issues that have probably brought about these destabilizations are also being addressed…"

The mutiny charge nominally carries the death penalty, but that penalty has been abolished in the Philippines. So the maximum punishment for the officers would be life imprisonment.

Over the past two decades, the Philippines has been subjected to numerous coup attempts and plots, in addition to the popular revolts that succeeded in ousting Presidents Ferdinand Marcos in 1986 and Joseph Estrada in 2001. Both of those revolts were backed by the military and the influential Catholic Church.