Philippines military sets up anti-coup force

February 22nd, 2008 - 4:48 pm ICT by admin  

Manila, Feb 22 (DPA) The Philippine military has set up a special force to thwart attempts to oust President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo as anti-government groups prepared for protests calling for her ouster next week, an official said Friday. Major General Fernando Mesa, chief of the military’s national capital region command, said a battalion of 500 soldiers has been re-assigned to Manila from nearby provinces to guard against coup and destabilisation plots.

“The said forces will form part of our operational readiness and contingencies to prevent any attempts of a power-grab if ever,” he told reporters, adding that the additional troops arrived in Manila in the past two days.

Mesa denied rumours spreading through cellular phone text messages that some soldiers would join anti-government protests scheduled for Monday, the 22nd anniversary of a four-day people power revolt that ousted late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

Various leftist, labour, civil society and Church groups are also planning a massive demonstration to demand Arroyo’s resignation on Feb 29.

“We would like also to assure the public and the business sector that our operational readiness only aims to preserve democracy, ensure that the constitution is followed and that the laws of the land are enforced,” Mesa said.

He warned troops against taking sides amid growing political tensions in the country, which were triggered by fresh allegations of corruption against Arroyo’s husband and key allies.

“We would like to warn all those who would cross the line or challenge the duly constituted authority that they will be met with the full force of the law,” he said.

General Hermogenes Esperon, armed forces chief of staff, and Lieutenant General Alexander Yano, chief of the Philippine Army, rejected calls by Arroyo’s critics for the military to support the public outcry against corruption in government.

Esperon, who will retire in May, said the military cannot intervene in politics but stressed that the armed forces will “protect the democratic process and the democratic institution.”

“The more the military intervenes, the more these democratic institutions become weak,” he added.

The military’s support was a key factor in the success of two mass uprisings that ousted Marcos in February 1986 and former president Joseph Estrada in January 2001.

Yano, who has been named as Esperon’s successor, however, warned that military intervention would only spark a “vicious cycle”.

“There should be no shortcuts, no extra-constitutional means,” he said. “It is improper for some groups to call for the military to intervene. There will be a vicious cycle. We can’t intervene every time there is a political problem.”

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