Standoff at Marine headquarters
- Jaime Laude () - February 27, 2006 - 12:00am
A standoff at Marine headquarters in Fort Bonifacio last night over the relief of its commandant further aggravated political tension as the Arroyo administration vowed to maintain the state of national emergency it had declared last Friday.

At Fort Bonifacio in Taguig City, emotional Marines led by Col. Ariel Querubin barricaded themselves, expressing anger and disappointment over the relief of Marine commandant Maj. Gen. Renato Miranda and seeking the protection of the people "from aggression."

Former Vice President Teofisto Guingona Jr., a couple of senators and several left-wing protest leaders rushed to Fort Bonifacio to support the Marines, who have not yet declared a withdrawal of support for the Arroyo administration as of press time.

Amid strong criticisms for declaring a state of national emergency and the brewing Marine mutiny, Malacañang vowed to continue arresting and prosecuting the plotters of a failed "rightist-communist" coup.

In refusing to lift Proclamation 1017 that put the country under a state of emergency, the Palace, through Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye, cited the existence of a "residual threat" after the conspiracy to overthrow the government was foiled.

Querubin questioned Miranda’s relief, trooped to the Marine headquarters along with soldiers supporting him and called for people power as nightfall approached.

AFP spokesman Col. Tristan Kison said Miranda was not implicated in the coup plot even as Palace spokesman Deputy Press Secretary Ricardo Salud told media Miranda had asked to be relieved.

Last night, the Marines loyal to Querubin had strategically placed several Simba armored personnel carriers (APCs) with mounted M-60 machine guns and battle tanks within the perimeter of their headquarters.

Sen. Rodolfo Biazon, Sen. Ramon Magsaysay, Ilocos Norte Rep. Imee Marcos and several lefttist lawyers were among those who rushed to Fort Bonifacio.

Former President Corazon Aquino was reportedly refused entry into the heavily barricaded camp and she later repaired to Pasong Tamo with relatives.

Biazon said he was there to prevent bloodshed and make sure that the country’s soldiers would not fight each other.

"I am here to prevent bloodshed," he said, adding that he wanted to mediate like he did during the Oakwood mutiny in July 2003.

Soldiers who were with Querubin shouted and openly questioned Miranda’s relief and even sang the Philippine National Anthem.

Miranda’s replacement, Brig. Gen. Nelson Allaga, spoke with Querubin in an effort to convince him into accepting that he is the new Commandant.

Querubin, in calling for people power, asked the people to "protect us from aggression" while they rally in support of Miranda.

According to him and his soldiers, Miranda was relieved and stressed that the latter did not resign which is why there is now confusion over who is the head of the Marines Corps.

Tension died down after Querubin and Allaga went inside the Commanders Lounge to talk as some civilians and nuns prayed at the gate and waited for what is going to happen.

Elements of the National Capital Region Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine Navy personnel were called drive civilians out of the military facility.

In justifying the proclamation, the Palace released to the press a detailed chronology of events that transpired on Thursday night.

"Mop-up operations are ongoing. Individual conspirators will be prosecuted and brought to justice," Bunye said. "The decision to declare a state of national emergency was meant for the people’s welfare."

Government officials said a plan by some military officers to withdraw support from the Arroyo administration and join the opposition rally Friday to call for President Arroyo’s resignation was exposed.

Had the President not acted as she did, he said "we would now be under a rightist-communist junta."

Bunye said the actions of the government were well calibrated and that there was no "overkill," as former President Fidel Ramos and other critics described the proclamation.

"The Constitution and the institutions of government are in full operation. The government has derailed the conspiracy to overthrow it without having to resort to stronger legal measures provided for in the Constitution," Bunye said.

The Palace commended the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) for doing a fine job in putting under control the threats to the country.

"The situation is under control but we still need to be vigilant. But we are sure any other attempts to bring down the government will not succeed," Bunye said.

Bunye said the government would neither abuse nor utilize its powers to harm innocent persons.

He added the critics of the proclamation as well as the actions of the administration could go to court and question their regularity.

He also said ordinary citizens may go about their normal business as the government pursues suspected coup plotters.

Presidential Chief of Staff Michael Defensor also called for sobriety and calm, saying there is "no martial law" and no need to declare military rule, though "stronger measures" to quell unrest are being mulled by the Arroyo administration.
Police arrested Anakpawis sectoral Rep. Crispin Beltran and two retired police generals, Ramon Montaño and Rex Piad. It turned out later that Piad was not targeted for arrest.

Beltran was arrested in Francisco III Subdivision, Muson, Bulacan on Saturday morning while Montaño was picked up in Orchard Golf and Country Club in Dasmariñas, Cavite shortly before noon.

Beltran and Montaño, former chief of the defunct Philippine Constabulary-Integrated National Police (PC-INP), were charged with inciting to sedition for calling for the President’s ouster during the commemoration of the 1986 EDSA People Power revolt Friday.

Both Beltran and Montaño were ordered released by a Quezon City inquest prosecutor pending further investigation, said Senior Superintendent Benjamin delos Santos, division chief of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG).

Police also attempted to arrest two other militant lawmakers, Bayan Muna congressmen Rafael Mariano and Satur Ocampo, who were holding a news conference at the Sulo Hotel in Quezon City, but they managed to slip away.

Law enforcers are also hunting for Gabriela party-list Rep. Liza Maza, Defensor said, adding that Maza was among the list of suspected coup plotters.

Defensor also said the Palace is studying whether or not to seek warrants for the arrest of Poe’s widow, actress Susan Roces and civil society group leader Pastor "Boy" Saycon, whose whereabouts remain unknown.

Beltran was detained on the strength of a warrant issued by a Quezon City court on charges of inciting to rebellion filed against him on Oct. 7, 1985.

The police also raided and sealed the offices of The Daily Tribune on T. M. Kalaw street in Ermita, Manila on the 20th anniversary of the fall of dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

AFP chief of staff Gen. Generoso Senga met the AFP’s major service commanders early yesterday to instruct them on their task to "identify or neutralize the conspirators of the (coup) plot," military spokesman Col. Tristan Kison said, adding that the military remains on maximum alert.

"While the security situation has eased a lot (since Friday), we cannot say for certain if the recruitment or other actions (of the coup plotters) have stopped," Kison said over radio station dzBB.

"The recommendation of the inquest prosecutor is not final, as it is subject to the approval of the Quezon City chief prosecutor. We believe we have a strong case," said Delos Santos.

In an interview, Montaño deplored the arrests, which he said were "illegal and highly unfair."

"This is a start of evil dictatorship," he said. "I did not cheat, lie or steal. How come I’m being arrested? We are in for a long night of oppression by the administration, I don’t think the people can take it. I hope the people will not take it."

Montaño also thanked the PNP for treating him well during his overnight detention at the PNP General Hospital: "I am comfortable, treated well. I have stable blood pressure."

Despite his arrest, Montaño reiterated his call for the President to resign for the sake of the country: "(My call) like so many others, is for the President to resign. I just appealed to the idealistic young officers to join the people for the clamor to change the government." He also said General Order No. 5 is "illegal."

He earlier urged the young and idealistic military officers to break the "chain of command of corruption" and asked other generals supporting Mrs. Arroyo to "rethink their position."

Piad had been invited by the CIDG operatives to Camp Crame in Quezon City: "I was invited for questioning," Piad said. "How can you refuse an invitation when there is a platoon of policemen in front of you? I waited for two to three hours only to be told later that I can go home." Piad also stayed overnight at Camp Crame.
According to the Palace-issued chronology of events, "anti-Arroyo groups" including the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) "planned massive protests" for Feb. 17 to 22 and Feb. 24. The chronology also said the "CPP’s New People’s Army (planned) to intensify attacks on government troops."

"On 20 February in Alex Grill, Matalino St., Quezon City, the Black and White Movement, Akbayan, and other anti-Arroyo groups announced plans to march 20,000 protesters on 22 February around Metro Manila, converge at the People Power Monument on 23 February, and possibly move to Mendiola on 24 February," the chronology said.

It also said "pro-(Poe) groups under (Roces) declared that they would join anti-Arroyo protests on 24 February, at the People Power Monument and Mendiola."

It also noted that supporters of both Poe and ousted former President Joseph Estrada had plans to "hold daily vigils and masses at the People Power Monument" since Feb 12.

The Palace report also showed an alliance has been forming between left-wing and right-wing groups.

Citing the Jan. 17 escape from detention of "four officers among the Magdalo group on trial for the 2003 Oakwood mutiny" the report goes on to say "NPA spokesman Roger Rosal offered sanctuary to the four escaped Magdalo rebel soldiers."

The report also cites a "captured document titled ‘Oplan Hackle,’" which it said contains "detailed plans for bombings and attacks starting on the Philippine Military Academy alumni homecoming on Feb. 18" and to "spring more Magdalo soldiers."

The Palace chronology said "one of the escaped soldiers, Lt. Lawrence San Juan, was arrested on Feb. 21 while plotting with two NPA figures in a communist safehouse in Batangas province" and that "documents of the Magdalo-NPA meeting were captured and would be declassified."

"In an evening meeting at the home of former (Tarlac) congressman Peping Cojuangco, Cory Aquino’s brother, businessmen and mid-level officials plotted moves to bring down the Arroyo government," the document said.

The chronology cited a Time magazine report that said Saycon "phoned a man code-named ‘Delta,’ whom Saycon identified as Brig.Gen. Danilo Lim, (who) said it was ‘all systems go’ for the planned movement against President Arroyo."
According to Saycon as quoted by Time, "a military component was to march on Friday morning to the EDSA Shrine, near the People Power Monument where protests were to converge."

"The troops would be met by Catholic bishops and a Marine general. The general would read a statement withdrawing support from the Arroyo administration," the chronology said. - Aurea Calica, Paolo Romero, Jaime Laude, Cecille-Suerte Felipe, Michael Punongbayan, AFP and AP

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