Manila – Security in the Philippines was tightened last weekend after a bomb was discovered at the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) in what was seen as a possible plot to assassinate the president.
The 5 Ibs TNT bomb was found near the parade square, where President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was supposed to attend the PMA annual reunion. Arroyo skipped the gathering after the armed forces uncovered the coup plot by anti-government forces to use the PMA homecoming as a springboard for a power grab, according to news sources.
The plot dubbed “Oplan Hackle”, an alleged destabilization blueprint “calls for a mass escape of junior officers detained for participation in a short-lives mutiny in 2003 by January 20…once anti-government forces seize power, the plan calls for the abolition of the legislature and the judiciary and the closure of several media outfits”, according to Army Chief LG Esperon and a source in the intelligence community (INQ7 net, 17 Feb).
Rumours of unrest are common in the Philippines after a dozen coup attempts in the past 20 years and popular uprisings backed by the army that toppled presidents in 1989 and 2001 (Reuters).
Arroyo had little respite from crises since being swept to power in 2001, where she led massive anti-corruption protests that toppled the previous president Estrada. She has since faced two failed power grab attempts, one by pro-Estrada followers and another by young officers. She won another 6-year term in 2004 but was accused latter of rigging the election. The impeachment attempt against her by the opposition lawmakers failed last September after being blocked by Arroyo’s majority allies in Congress.
The National Capital Regional Police Officer chief, Director Querol has ordered increased patrols and intensified police visibility in crowded areas and vital installations.
“Whoever is planning something against the government will not succeed because the Armed Forces is strong and its members remain loyal to the Constitution and the chain of command…The various service commanders promised to help the civil government move the country forward. So they will do their part as far as addressing the problem of terrorism, insurgency and any military adventurism is concerned,” said Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye.
This political crisis is the worst to hound Arroyo since she came to power, and it came amidst a devastating landslide that wiped out a farming village, leaving up to 1,800 dead. “These are the times that try our souls,” said Arroyo during a nationally televised emergency meeting. International rescue efforts and aid supplies are pouring in.
Filipino army finds bombs, ups security – sources, Reuters, 19 Feb
Amid coup rumors, GMA skips PMA trip, Philstar, 18 Feb
Police on high alert as PMA holds reunion, The Manila Times, 18 Feb
Defensor confirms plan to overthrow government, The Manila Times, 18 Feb
Military flip-flops on Arroyo, key Cabinet execs kill plot, 17 Feb
Cops in alert for new coup plot, Manila Standard Today, 18 Feb
PMA reunion under tight guard, The Manila Times, 19 Feb
Manila uncovers plot to overthrow, even kill, Arroyo, 18 Feb
Philippines’ Arroyo Struggles to Deal with Disaster While on Guard against Coup Threats, Ohmy News, 18 Feb