Arroyo reassures nation as military is put on high alert

President Gloria Arroyo yesterday calmed frayed nerves in Manila amid rumours of another military coup even as hundreds of Philippine soldiers were placed on standby.

The events came in the midst of a dragging constitutional impasse emanating from a move to oust the Supreme Court chief justice Hilario Davide.

In an official statement, Arroyo said that her move to put all units of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on high alert is "a proactive move" and does not contribute to destabilisation of the government.

"This alert order means the situation is under control. It should call for calm and not hysterics as we are safeguarding public order against any transient instabilities," the President said in a press statement released yesterday morning.

Earlier, retired Gen. Ramon Montano of the now defunct Philippine Constabulary had indicated that some officials in the palace were behind destabilisation talks to divert public attention from criticisms against the Arroyo administration.

The President herself pointed out that "the threat of opportunistic destabilisation always runs parallel with transient political controversies and we must not take any chances or lower our guard." She assured Filipinos that "there will be maximum tolerance in the face of legitimate and peaceful mass actions."

While some groups and personalities were trying to drag the military into the impeachment case against Davide, the armed forces clarified that it remains apolitical and maintains focus on its mandated task of maintaining peace and stability.

"There is no cause for worry. News of a coup are baseless. The AFP leadership requests those groups and individuals who are spreading these rumours to refrain since this information is baseless," AFP Public Information Office chief, Lt. Col. Daniel Lucero, said.

Lucero said the military, along with the Philippine National Police, were placed on "red alert" in anticipation of protest rallies for and against the embattled chief justice.

He said security forces were watching four critical areas where protests might be staged. He said church leaders had asked troops to guard a Roman Catholic shrine in Manila marking the spot from where "People Power" uprisings removed Philippine presidents in 1986 and 2001.

Other areas being watched were shopping centres in the financial district and roads leading to the presidential palace complex.

Meanwhile, a prominent lawyer yesterday said certain military officers and civilians were plotting to take advantage of the ongoing crisis.

"I heard that a group from the Armed Forces and another group outside (the military) are waiting for an opportunity to show the people that this government can no longer function," said Mario Ongkiko, a lawyer who investigated the July 30 mutiny.

05/11/2003

Bron : Gulf News

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