Miriam to GMA: Resign or we will storm palace
- Christina Mendez () - April 30, 2001 - 12:00am
Re-electionist Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago demanded yesterday the immediate resignation of President Arroyo and her entire Cabinet or Estrada loyalists gathered at the EDSA Shrine in Mandaluyong City will storm Malacañang soon.

Speaking before the pro-Erap rally at the shrine last night, Santiago said the President, Vice President Teofisto Guingona Jr. and the entire Cabinet must resign to pave the way for the return of jailed President Joseph Estrada to the presidency.

Santiago denied reports that she was plotting with her brother, Air Force chief Lt. Gen. Benjamin Defensor, and other Estrada allies to stage a coup d’état and install a military-civilian junta.

"Ayaw ko ng junta, gusto ko si Pangulong Estrada (I don’t want to join a junta, I want President Estrada)," Santiago told the wildly cheering crowd.

Apparently referring to the constitutionality of such a development, Santiago said the Constitution had already been tarnished by the military-backed uprising that swept Mrs. Arroyo to the presidency.

"Anong Saligang Batas ang pinaguusapan? Ang Saligang Batas ay niyurakan ng EDSA II (What Constitution are we talking about? The Constitution was tarnished by EDSA II). EDSA II destroyed democracy. EDSA II destroyed the Constitution," she said, referring to the military-backed popular uprising that toppled Estrada and installed Mrs. Arroyo as president last Jan. 20.

While Santiago appealed for the "return" of democracy and the Constitution, she also urged Estrada loyalists to finish it now but did not specify what she wanted finished.

"Tapusin na. Tapusin na. Tapusin na (Finish it. Finish it. Finish it)!" Santiago screamed in an exchange of slogans with the crowd.

The Estrada loyalists responded: "Lusob. Lusob. Lusob (Attack. Attack. Attack)!" but did not say what was to be attacked.

As Santiago spoke at EDSA, top military and police officials held a marathon meeting at Camp Aguinaldo purportedly to monitor troop movements amid the coup rumors.

Around 1,000 policemen were placed on alert at the Western Police District (WPD) headquarters on UN Avenue in Manila while some 2,000 troopers stood guard around Malacañang with yellow ribbons tied on the barrel of their high-powered rifles.

The police and military troopers were part of newly formed Task Force Libra which was formed amid rumors that top military officials had pledged support to Estrada.

Armed Forces vice chief Lt. Gen. Jose Calimlim and Southern Command chief Lt. Gen. Gregorio Camiling both denied involvement in any plot to mount a coup against the Arroyo administration.

Calimlim dismissed the coup rumors as part of a "disinformation campaign" to bolster the ongoing rally of Estrada loyalists at the EDSA Shrine.

"They are sowing intrigue within the military which is not doing any good to the economy," he said.

Camiling, in a statement late last night, also assured the Southcom remains "100 percent behind the present administration and will continue to play its role as an anchor of peace and stability in this part of the country.

"Southcom did not and will never withdraw its support from the duly established administration as mandated by the Constitution," Camiling said in the statement.

The two top AFP generals made the denials even as Estrada’s allies claimed that at least 17 ranking military officials have pledged support to moves to reinstall Estrada to the presidency.

Sen. Vicente Sotto III had claimed that the 17 officers are only awaiting the signal to declare their withdrawal of support from the Arroyo administration.

Former Executive Secretary Edgardo Angara also told the crowd gathered at the EDSA Shrine at midnight Saturday that the Arroyo administration would be toppled in the next 24 to 72 hours.

Armed Forces spokesman Brig. Gen. Edilberto Adan confirmed that there were attempts to recruit some junior officers and enlisted personnel who however told their superiors about the coup overtures.

"There are attempts but these are being reported. They are trying to influence, trying to enlist sympathy," Adan said.

"One good thing here is that the officers and men know where they stand. They did not allow politics to get in their way. While there are attempts, it is heartening to know it is being reported," Adan added.

Other sources in the military confirmed receiving reports that a renegade force, supposedly called specialized insurrectionary unit (SIU), has been formed "to sow terror at the EDSA rally."

Philippine National Police chief Director General Leandro Mendoza also confirmed receiving intelligence reports that some Estrada allies have hatched a plot to establish a military junta.

According to the reports, the junta would be launched by Senators Miriam Defensor-Santiago and Juan Ponce Enrile, former Executive Secretary Ronaldo Zamora, former PNP chief Panfilo Lacson, former Cavite Gov. Juanito Remulla and General Santos City Mayor Adelbert Antonino.

While Mendoza downplayed the reports, authorities are verifying reports that the SIU had established 12 communication relay centers in the cities of Makati, Quezon, Pasig and Cavite.

The relay and monitoring centers allegedly include Urban Patrol Agency, Glamore, Xytron Corp., St. Paul and San Antonio security agencies in Makati City; MICH Corporation in Fairview, Quezon City; V8 Entertainment Center in Imus, Cavite, and Wells Trading Corp. at the PSE Tower in Pasig City.

Mendoza said the reports indicated the SIU has at least four platoons of heavily armed men, with each platoon composed of 30 men, which have been deployed in various parts of Metro Manila.

He said the SIU is being led by disgruntled police and military officers closely associated with Estrada.

They include Calimlim, Lacson, Southern Command chief Lt. Gen. Gregorio Camiling, Air Force chief Lt. Gen. Benjamin Defensor, former Navy chief Guillermo Wong and Brig. Gen. Jake Malajacan.

Police sources also tagged at least six relieved officials of the defunct Presidential Anti-Organized Task Force (PAOCTF) as being involved in the plot.

The officials were identified as Senior Superintendents James Melad as commander, Michael Ray Aquino as intelligence officer, Ricardo Dandan as operations officer and Cesar Mancao as deputy commander, the sources said.

Superintendents Carlos Gadapan and Rolando Anduyan would supposedly lead the "platoons," the sources said.

Aside from the police officers, the SIU will also be backed by the criminal gangs Kuratong Baleleng and Solido. These crime groups are allegedly led by Usman Ali, Efren Ceniza, alias Boy Pikot, and a certain Dindo Pintakasi, the sources added.

"They are actually composed of 120 armed men with high-powered firearms and machine pistols. They will augment the SIU," the sources added.

The sources also revealed that members of a security force owned by an opposition senator as well as members of the Philippine Guardians paramilitary group were also tapped for the operations.
FVR blasts Maceda
Meanwhile, former President Fidel Ramos lambasted former Ambassador Ernesto Maceda for making statements contrary to hard facts.

Ramos, in a statement, bewailed insinuations there is a plot to assassinate Estrada as he angrily stressed that Maceda should refrain from issuing irresponsible statements "especially if he is basing his statements on parlor talk among matrons and beauticians."

Ramos also said he could not have had anything to do with the arrest and detention of Estrada since he was still abroad when it happened and he is not inclined to interfere in the work of President Arroyo.

Earlier, the opposition accused Ramos of masterminding the surprise transfer of Estrada from Camp Crame to the Veterans Memorial Medical Center in Quezon City.

"Maceda knows the true facts and he knows I could not do what he says I am supposed to be doing but everybody knows Manong Ernie. He loves the limelight but he should not prop himself up before the media at my expense," Ramos said.

"Either they are engaged in deliberate disinformation or else, as in many occasions in the past, the former ambassador and the opposition are receiving bum intelligence reports," he added.

For his part, San Juan mayoralty bet Joseph Victor Ejercito, Estrada’s son by his mistress Guia Gomez, said yesterday the rallies at the EDSA Shrine do not need military backing to succeed.

"We don’t need the military since we have the full backing of the entire Filipino masses," JV said.

According to Ejercito, the crowd at the EDSA Shrine is "definitely more than triple that of EDSA II" and lambasted media, specially the Philippine STAR, Philippine Daily Inquirer, ABS-CBN and GMA-7, as being "so grossly unfair" in covering the event.

Organizers of the loyalist rallies had claimed that the four media organizations deflate their figures on the size of the rallies and allegedly portray the rallyists in a negative light. – With Non Alquitran

AIR FORCE ARMED FORCES EDSA ESTRADA MILITARY RAMOS SANTIAGO
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