Manila - In 1989, a group of officers belonging to the Young Officers' Union (YOU) almost succeeded in toppling President Corazon Aquino in a 1989 coup attempt. With the Philippines once again mired in a political crisis, YOU is apparently back with a new mission: To save the country by bringing down embattled President Gloria Arroyo.
At a time when the political rumour mill has gone into overdrive, the jury is still out as to whether the alleged YOU threat, made in a three-page statement released to the Philippine Daily Inquirer, should be taken seriously.
An Armed Forces spokesman cast doubts on YOU's very existence, saying that the group had been deactivated. YOU, which comprised young officers from the ranks of lieutenant to lieutenant-colonel, hammered out a peace pact with the government in 1995 that paved the way for an amnesty grant to its 4,000-odd members. The pact allowed YOU members to return to their military posts and claim back pay.
Lt-Col Buenaventura Pascual, the Armed Forces' public information chief, said on July 22 that the statement supposedly released by YOU contained words that were more in line with leftist ideology, such as "the whole system of government".
In the statement, the group said it decided to scrap the peace accord because the political, economic and national security situations had "turned from bad to worse". The statement was signed by a Lt-Col Arsenio Alcantara, spokesperson of the YOU Central Command, and authenticated by seven YOU representatives. All are believed to have used pseudonyms. "There is a systems failure everywhere, there is no peace and order," it said.
Lt-Col Pascual hinted that opposition politicians might have had a hand in the statement. "I do not want to speculate but you can see that the statement was released at (July 14) and this morning, Sen (Panfilo) Lacson made a statement. I do not want to add political colour to it but you can see the scenario," he added.
Still, Interior Secretary Angelo Reyes was not taking things for granted. "We have asked our PNP and the AFP to look deeper into this and validate and find out if these are true," he said.
Both the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines have declared their neutrality in the political crisis. For the past two months, President Arroyo has been fighting for her political survival amid allegations that her family had received payoffs from illegal gambling operators and that she herself had a role in rigging the 2004 presidential elections.
* AFP doubts if YOU still exists; Palace orders probe (Philippine Daily Inquirer, July 23)
*Young officers vow to bring Arroyo down (Philippine Daily Inquirer, July 22)