Manila – Text messages, which have become a powerful weapon during political crises in the Philippines, were once again flying thick and fast at the weekend. The crux of the message: A coup was in the offing. The rumours were so strong that the Philippine National Police felt compelled to issue a public statement urging the public to ignore them.
PNP spokesman Chief Superintendent Leopoldo Bataoil said on Sept 18 that the message, which was in Tagalog, read: "There is a coup tonight. There are troop movements."
He noted that the PNP had been on full alert in recent days, part of a standard procedure whenever the President leaves the country. President Gloria Arroyo was in New York last week to attend a United Nations' summit.
When she returned home on Sept 17, the PNP returned its alert level to normal, despite the coup rumours. Supt Bataoil said the Armed Forces of the Philippinesconfirmed that troops were indeed on the move on Sept 17, but they were Scout Rangers on their way to the Visayas region.
The latest coup rumours came about a week after former president Fidel Ramos warned that if a new "people power" revolt were to break out, there is a strong possibility that it will be bloody because the Armed Forces will not be united this time.
Mr Ramos said that even if a mere 5 to 10 per cent of the AFP were to voluntarily withdraw their support for President Arroyo, it would be sufficient to trigger a civil war.
However, in his column, Roses and Thorns, Mr Alejandro R Roces, says that while Mr Ramos may be right about divisions within the armed forces, he doubts whether the officers will support any unconstitutional attempts to unseat Mrs Arroyo.
"They may be divided in the sense that some are satisfied with the GMA administration and some are not. But we don't believe that there are a significant number of officers and soldiers in our Armed Forces that will support any unconstitutional means to change the leadership of the country. Our democratic system will prevail. We will solve our problems according to the rule of law."
* PNP unruffled by coup text message (The Manila Times, Sept 19)
* Former president Ramos issues valid warning (The Philippine Star, Sept 17)