GMA: AFP, PNP solidly behind me
- Jose Rodel Clapano () - April 29, 2001 - 12:00am
President Arroyo said yesterday the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) are "squarely behind" her administration and are prepared "to meet any challenge to the Constitution."

In her first public statement since supporters of jailed former President Joseph Estrada gathered at the Our Lady of EDSA Shrine in Mandaluyong City to demand his release and return to power, a stern-looking Mrs. Arroyo said on television she had been monitoring demonstrations since the former president was arrested Wednesday. He is to be tried on charges of plunder.

Mrs. Arroyo warned the people against taking advantage of the situation and urged them "not to let yourselves be used by those who have ambitions to further their selfish political agenda."

"Let us not fall victim to the sinister plot of a few misguided elements who dream of taking advantage of this situation to further their ambitions at the expense of the rule of law and our people’s welfare," the President said.

For their part, Cabinet members said yesterday "right-thinking" generals and men of the AFP and PNP are firmly behind the President.

At a press conference, Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes denied the leadership of the military was divided and that loyalty checks have been made on generals.

"The AFP, PNP and other government agencies are firmly behind this administration and will thwart any attempt to overthrow it. We would like to inform the public that the government is in full control of the situation," Reyes said.

Mrs. Arroyo said she has urged maximum tolerance in dealing with the pro-Estrada demonstrations. At the same time, she said it was her duty to ensure the law was enforced equally without favor.

Estrada backers, mostly from the poverty-stricken core of his support base, began the fourth day of rallying for the former actor to be freed and restored to the presidency.

The crowd has been peaceful so far, but there have been concerns that they may either try to free Estrada or march on to Malacañang. The government’s main concern was the "threat of violence" from infiltrators.

And amid the rampant coup rumors, top AFP and PNP officials, who have put their forces on high alert, again pledged their support for Mrs. Arroyo.

AFP chief Gen. Diomedio Villanueva said he had spoken to all top officers and there was no basis for reports of defections,

Army commander Lt. Gen. Jaime de los Santos said his field commanders "gave me assurances that we are united under our government and President Arroyo."

Reyes brushed aside Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago’s earlier claims that at least 17 police and military generals have reportedly expressed support for Estrada.

"It’s easy to start a rumor. There are good intelligence reports and there are bad reports. We are trying to verify them all," Reyes said.

He called on opposition leaders to stop agitating the people to prevent the present situation from turning violent.

He also said the government is determined to respect the people’s right to express their grievances.

"This is a free country. But we will not allow them to capitalize on the situation to create trouble and endanger the people," Reyes said.

Interior and Local Government Secretary Jose Lina said it was unlikely the EDSA protests would convince AFP and PNP generals to defect.

"On a higher plane, no right-thinking officer would exchange good governance to bad governance. The generals are very loyal to the government," Lina said.

National Security Adviser Roilo Golez said the absence of a just cause would not turn the protests into another people power revolution.

"Righteousness or moral justification is always the basis of support from the military," Golez said.

ARMED FORCES OF THE PHILIPPINES DEFENSE SECRETARY ANGELO REYES DIOMEDIO VILLANUEVA GOVERNMENT INTERIOR AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT SECRETARY JOSE LINA MANDALUYONG CITY MIRIAM DEFENSOR-SANTIAGO MRS. ARROYO PRESIDENT ARROYO REYES
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