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Philippines President Vows to Punish Military Mutineers - 2003-07-28

In her annual State of the Nation address, delivered one day after a failed military mutiny, Philippines President Gloria Arroyo vowed to punish those responsible, but said she will use the rest of her term to address the dissatisfaction leading to the revolt. She pledged to launch an investigation into the root causes of the uprising.

President Gloria Arroyo rallied her nation to unite and work together to achieve peace and progress, despite setbacks in recent weeks.

In an address to Congress, that was nationally televised, she said she is creating independent commissions to investigate Sunday's failed rebellion by disgruntled junior military officers.

The rebels stormed a commercial complex and demanded her resignation, but surrendered after a 19-hour standoff with police and the military. "Such actions are deplorable and will be met with the full force of the law, including the political component," Ms. Arroyo said.

President Arroyo pledged to prosecute civilians who may have had a hand in the uprising. Her statement follows the arrest of an aide to former president Joseph Estrada, after police found high-powered weapons, ammunition and other links to the rebels in his residence.

During the mutiny, Mr. Estrada was transferred to a high-security facility. The former president is in government custody while on trial for corruption.

Ms. Arroyo also announced reforms within the police force, following the escape of a high-profile regional terrorist, Fathur Rohman Al-Ghozi, from custody earlier this month. The escape was considered a serious embarrassment for her government.

Senate President Franklin Drilon welcomed the president's strong stance against those who continue to challenge her government. "The president turned a crisis into opportunity to unite our people," he said.

But others wanted to hear more from Ms. Arroyo. Opposition senator Edgardo Angara said, "I think the true and real state of the nation is what happened yesterday and people were expecting her to respond directly and address the issues raised by these young idealistic officers."

In her address, Ms. Arroyo vowed to continue fighting terrorism, corruption and drugs, which she said are the "greatest menace" to national security.

But she also re-committed her government to seeking peace with separatist groups, announcing that talks with Muslim rebels from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front would begin next week.

While Ms. Arroyo spoke, hundreds of protestors gathered outside to demonstrate against what they say is her failure to root out corruption.

Following her speech, political observers are again speculating on the possibility that Ms. Arroyo may yet run for re-election. She has said she will not seek re-election, so that she can focus on her administration's targets for the rest of her term.