Manila siege deadline extended
 

The Philippines Government has put back by two hours a surrender deadline for rebel soldiers holed up in a Manila shopping complex.

Earlier, President Gloria Arroyo declared a nationwide "state of rebellion" and told the soldiers they had until 1700 (0900 GMT) to surrender or face an all-out assault.

Now that first deadline has passed there are signs that the rebels may comply with the ultimatum, the BBC's Philippines correspondent John McLean says.

About 15 of the mutineers surrendered earlier and although the majority - about 200 - remain, they have said they are willing to negotiate with the government.

"We don't know yet what will happen, but right now the officers requested an open forum to air their grievances," said navy Lieutenant Antonio Trillanes, a leader of the mutineers.

They are demanding the resignation of Mrs Arroyo and her defence minister, Angelo Reyes, accusing the government of corruption.

"We will just wait... as long as necessary. I think the gesture of extending that deadline is bending backwards for both parties," Lt Trillanes added.

 

Explosion threat

The rebel soldiers are said to be heavily armed and to have ringed the prestigious Glorietta complex, in the Makati financial district, with explosives after storming it early on Sunday.

Earlier Lt Trillanes told reporters outside the complex that the soldiers had only planted explosives as a defence.

Hundreds of troops loyal to Mrs Arroyo have surrounded the area.

Correspondents at the scene say the situation is complicated, with evidence of mutineers exchanging handshakes with the troops sent to surround them.

Those who have surrendered so far have been treated with great respect by the troops taking them into custody, our correspondent says.

One rebel who left the complex saluted a general who was there to accept the surrender and the general embraced him.

Civilians freed

Residents of an apartment block inside the complex - including Australia's ambassador to the Philippines and other foreign nationals - left the compound early on Sunday after being trapped by the incident.

The rebels said they had only been kept inside until daylight for their own safety.

The president ordered the military and police "to suppress and quell the rebellion" under special powers given to her by the constitution.

The US State Department has expressed its "full support" for Mrs Arroyo - a position echoed by Australia's foreign minister.

"We don't want to see presidents fall out of the barrel of a gun," Alexander Downer said.

Allegations

In a televised address, Mrs Arroyo warned the rebels that her troops would use "reasonable force" to retake the complex and insisted that she remained in full control of affairs.

Telling the mutineers that she was their "commander-in-chief", she said:

"You have crossed the line of professionalism and are now engaged in unlawful political action backed by the use of force.

"Your actions are already hovering at the fringes of outright terrorism."

Red armbands displayed by the mutineers feature a sun-symbol flag used in the resistance against Spanish colonial rule.

The group accuses the government of staging terrorist attacks in the Philippines as a means of getting military aid from the US.

Our correspondent in Manila says such allegations have been aired before, but the rebel soldiers have provided no proof for their claims.

27/07/2003

Bron : www.bbc.co.uk

 

Archief - Home