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Philippines Still Faces Coup Threat, Says Arroyo - 2003-07-31

Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo says there are still threats of another mutiny within the military. Her announcement comes just days after the president dismissed Sunday's failed uprising of 300 soldiers as a "blip" in her country's history. The mutiny may have been part of larger coup plot gone wrong.

National Security Advisor Roilo Golez told a congressional inquiry Thursday that Sunday's mutiny by 300 soldiers was a mere shadow of a far larger plot to overthrow the Arroyo administration and install a 15-man military Junta.

Mr. Golez tells VOA the Philippine government knew of the mutineers' plans and had been tracking them for months.

"It suffices to say that we had things monitored, when we made some statements [about a potential coup plot] some cynical people tried to dismiss it as a provocation of the government to distract the public attention from other issues," he said. " Now it is apparent that intelligence work has been excellent."

Political risk analyst Bruce Gale, with Hill and Associates in Singapore, says Manila had been conducting talks with a group of senior officers suspected of organizing a coup attempt.

"The plotting was done sometime in early June, but the government got wind of it in early July," he explained. " They held several meetings with these soldiers. There were supposed to be scheduled dinners. They were going to be invited to Malacanang Palace to sort of improve the relationships."

Sunday's day-long mutiny ended peacefully. The soldiers surrendered the commercial complex they were holding in Manila, saying they had achieved their aim of drawing attention to the problem of corruption in the military and government.

Mr. Gale says that he believes the young and disgruntled junior soldiers and officers who staged the mutiny were deserted by more senior coup plotters.

"These soldier realizing that the coup plotters were going to abandon them to their fate, decided, that they were going to gain as much publicity for their cause as possible," he said.

President Arroyo says a threat still exists as long as the masterminds are not yet in custody. But she promised the problem will be contained soon and those responsible prosecuted.

Ms. Arroyo Thursday asked state prosecutors to file rebellion charges against the soldiers in addition to the military court martial proceedings they face.

In the wake of the mutiny, the president did promise a full investigation of corruption charges made by the soldiers. The chief of military intelligence also resigned Wednesday in what he said was a move to calm agitation in the armed forces.