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Philippine military warns troops from joining rally calling for president's ouster

Philippine military warns troops from joining rally calling for president's ouster

The Philippine military warned Thursday that troops face arrest if they join a major rally planned by religious groups and left-wing activists to press for President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's resignation over a raging corruption scandal.
Military chief of staff Gen. Hermogenes Esperon also urged Arroyo's opponents to avoid encouraging troops to support anti-government activities, saying such intervention by the armed forces could threaten the country's nascent democracy.
The 120,000-strong military has been on its highest state of alert due to resurgent coup rumors and a wave of anti-government protests this week, including a rally Friday that organizers said could muster 50,000 people in Manila's financial district, Makati.
About 5,000 police are to guard the prayer protest to be joined by a number of Catholic bishops and a large evangelical group, the Jesus is Lord Movement. Government forces, backed by tanks, are standing by in military camps, ready for deployment, the military said.
If military personnel join the protest, "We will take action in coordination with the police because that's a violation of the law," Esperon said.
Coup rumors, mostly circulated via cell phone text messages, have surged in recent days, but none has been verified as authentic.
"We have not monitored any movement by any suspected group but we can never let our guard down," Esperon told The Associated Press.
A security official said there was concern that restive officers may be lured to take part in Friday's protest if turnout is huge. The official, who helps monitor the protests, spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to media.
The military played a key role in "people power" revolts that ousted dictator Ferdinand Marcos in 1986 and President Joseph Estrada in 2001. Current generals, led by Esperon, have taken steps to ensure troops remain loyal to Arroyo, who has survived at least four attempted power grabs in her seven years in power.
Esperon also said efforts to encourage troops to join protests and other anti-government activities could endanger the country's democracy. A group of detained suspected coup plotters has urged troops to support and protect anti-Arroyo protesters.
"A military intervention would surely weaken democratic processes and institutions. That goes against the aspiration of those who fought to regain our democracy," he said.
Protesters have been galvanized by anti-corruption hearings in the Senate on a telecommunications contract that allegedly involved kickbacks to senior officials and the president and her husband. All those involved have denied the allegations.


Updated : 2021-03-03 11:29 GMT+08:00