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Rebellious Philippine Soldiers End Mutiny, Surrender - 2003-07-27


Heavily armed renegade soldiers who seized a commercial complex in the Philippines surrendered late Sunday, ending a nearly 19-hour stand-off.

Philippine President Gloria Arroyo emerged relieved and triumphant to announce the end of the latest crisis to hit her government. Speaking to reporters in Malacanang Palace, she said the peaceful end is a "triumph for democracy."

"The crisis is over. Two hundred ninety-six soldiers, including 70 officers, are standing down and returning to barracks," she said.

The soldiers mostly young officers, surrendered after hours of talks with government negotiators and retired military officials. The troops had been demanding that President Arroyo and Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes resign, accusing the government of corruption, selling arms to Muslim rebels and staging terrorist attacks to gain more aid money from the United States.

They had earlier threatened to die for their cause. But shortly after their surrender, a spokesman for the group, Lieutenant Senior Grade Antonio Trillanes, said many of them realized that an all-out confrontation would only harm a lot of people.

Ms. Arroyo said the soldiers' grievances will be investigated. Military chief Narciso Abaya said five main leaders of the rebellion would face court martials.

But Lieutenant Trillanes said he is not convinced that their grievances will be addressed and fears that anomalies in the military would continue.

The crisis started in the early hours of Sunday when the soldiers stormed the complex, which includes an upscale apartment building where many expatriates and diplomats stay. The Australian ambassador was among those briefly held, but all of the hostages were later released unharmed. C-4 explosives planted around the commercial complex have been removed.

Security is still tight in and around the capital. Monday, President Arroyo will deliver what is expected to be her last state of the nation address. She had said she will not run for re-election next year.