State of emergency in Philippines

A rather ironic way to note the 20th anniversary of the “People Power” revolution that ousted longtime dictator Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines. Those who marched in Manila to commemorate the revolution over the weekend did so in defiance of a state of emergency that bans all public gatherings. (BBC, Feb. 27) And one of those arrested in the alleged plot against President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is a hero of the 1986 revolution. Details from this Feb. 27 Al-Jazeera account:

The Philippine president has stepped up a purge of suspected coup plotters as police filed rebellion cases against 16 people, including a former hero of the 1986 People Power uprising.

Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, the President, appeared on television on Monday, a day after dozens of elite marines briefly defied the state of emergency she ordered on Friday over a plot that allegedly included plans to kill her.

Arroyo, who survived an impeachment attempt last year over allegations of vote-rigging and graft, gave no sign of when the emergency rule would be lifted. Instead, she revived an old pledge to improve the lot of the country’s demoralised military.

Avelino Cruz, the defence secretary, said the government would assess later on Monday whether to end the state of emergency, which allows for arrests without warrants and an extension of detention without charge.

But he added: “We are not letting our guard down.”

The country’s vibrant media has been on the defensive, particularly after the offices of an opposition newspaper were raided by police before dawn on Saturday.


Tensions receded after Sunday’s five-hour stand-off at a Manila military base, where about 100 marines had put on a show of force and called for public support over the dismissal of their commander for his alleged links to the plot

Schools were closed for the day, but it was otherwise business as usual in the capital, with offices and shops open and no troops in the streets.


Police said the 16 facing rebellion cases included four leftist Congress members, as well as active and retired soldiers.

Three had been arrested and a fourth, a leftist congressman, was detained at an airport on the southern island of Mindanao.

On the run

One of those on the run was Gregorio Honasan, a former army colonel and senator who has been linked to most of the dozen coup attempts in the Philippines over the past 20 years.

Known as “Gringo”, Honasan led a small group of soldiers who broke away from Ferdinand Marcos in 1986, sparking the People Power revolt that restored democracy in the impoverished Southeast Asian country.

Police published a list of 50 communist leaders, including some living in exile, who were also wanted for separate cases of rebellion or insurrection.

Virgilio Pablico, legal chief of the police’s criminal investigation arm, speaking to a news conference said: “The leftist and the rightists movement have conspired to overthrow the duly constituted government, as evidenced by testimonial evidence and other pieces of electronic paraphernalia.”

Problems loomed on a new front for Arroyo on Monday as a group of lawyers challenged her emergency rule in the Supreme Court, arguing it was unconstitutional.

Marlon Manuel, spokesman of the Alternative Law Group, said:”The president cannot suppress ‘people power’ with a superfluous and illegal edict.”

The press in the Philippines is emphasizing a supposed link between the supposed plotters the NPA guerillas. From Manila’s, Feb. 26:

THE ALLEGED connivance between some elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the New People’s Army (NPA) justifies the declaration of a state of emergency by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, her spokesman reiterated late Sunday.

Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said they were correct with their information that Colonel Ariel Querubin and some Marines had planned to join the demonstrations last Friday to call for the resignation of Arroyo.

“That gives very strong grounds for Proclamation 1017,” Bunye said.

Speculations on the alleged link between some members of the armed forces and the NPA surfaced following the escape from detention of military rebels who reportedly sought an alliance with the communist insurgents to topple the Arroyo government.

Gregorio “Ka Roger” Rosal, spokesman of the insurgents, was non-committal although he welcomed an alliance.

First Lieutenant Lawrence San Juan, one of the mutineers who escaped last month and was recaptured recently, was arrested allegedly in the company of two suspected NPA rebels.

The NPA seems to have been very active of late, while the world’s attention is elsewhere. From the Manila Times, Feb. 27:

ZAMBOANGA CITY – Suspected communist insurgents killed two civilians and wounded three government soldiers in separate attacks in southern Philippines, officials said Saturday.

Military reports said two brothers were killed by gunmen believed to be members of the New People’s Army in Kabasalan, Zamboanga Sibugay, on Friday.

The two motorcycle-driving men were on their way to a nearby village when about 12 gunmen shot them, said Maj. Gamal Hayudini, spokesman for the Southern Command.

Three other soldiers were wounded in an earlier attack in Butuan City, northeast of Zamboanga.

Meanwhile, officials said that 15 NPA members surrendered in Compostela Valley and that two others have been arrested in separate anti-insurgency operations in Bukidnon and Misamis Oriental on Friday.

Those who surrendered to the military handed over 15 assorted automatic weapons, said Lt. Col. Francisco Simbahon, spokesman for the Army’s 4th Infantry Division.

The NPA, armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front, is fighting the past three decades to topple the government and to install a Maoist state in the country.

From Minda News, Feb. 25:

BUTUAN CITY — Two persons were killed while three others were wounded in two separate clashes between government troops and New People’s Army guerillas in hinterland barangays here and in Agusan del Sur on Thursday and Friday.

Killed on Feb. 24 was SPO1 Cesar Bacung, of the police provincial mobile group.

Chief Supt. Gerry Barias, newly installed police regional director for Caraga, said the troops were conducting foot patrol 5 am after receiving reports that the NPAs would attack a police detachment in Barangay Tabon-tabon, Sibagat, Agusan del Sur.

See our last post on the Philippines.