Manila police arrest \'revolutionary\' leader

Manila police arrest \'revolutionary\' leader

Philippine police arrested an 80-year-old retired general yesterday, one day after he was proclaimed leader of a "revolutionary government" and called on President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to step down.

Fortunato Abat, a frequent critic of Arroyo, and three companions were taken to the main national police camp in Manila.

State prosecutors were preparing sedition charges against Abat and two members of the "revolutionary government," including a former ambassador and a former finance secretary.

"The line must be drawn somewhere and right now," Raul Gonzales, the justice secretary, said on television.

"We cannot allow Abat to run around all the time and attack the government and even proclaim himself the president. We cannot just allow that to keep going on because that might be misinterpreted as the government is totally without any muscle."

Leopoldo Bataoil, a spokesman for the national police, said there was no need for an arrest warrant for Abat because he had violated the law by forming his own government while Arroyo was out of the country.

Arroyo, hit by a political crisis since June over allegations of election cheating and corruption, returned on Wednesday from Malaysia after attending a regional summit and was meeting with visiting South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun yesterday.

Abat, a former defense secretary, did not resist arrest when a team of police in civilian clothes interrupted a meeting at a Manila country club where he had been holding office as "president" since early Wednesday.

"I never had that in mind," Abat said on television by telephone, denying he had planned to oust Arroyo. "Our movement is leading a peaceful event, not a coup or a military takeover."

He said he was not worried about a sedition case because he was already facing the same charges from months ago when he formed a movement to call for drastic changes in the political system.

Abat said that police had only "invited" him for questioning and he was planning to return to the country club afterwards to meet with retired generals and civil society groups.

Updated : 2021-03-01 00:42 GMT+08:00