Manila, Aug. 3 (Reuters): The Philippine government today backed a call to suspend a Senate inquiry into a failed soldiers’ mutiny, warning that the renegades might use the sessions to stir up further dissension in the armed forces.
It also said it was supporting local police efforts to enlist the help of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation in establishing the sources of high-tech weapons used by the mutineers in their abortive July 27 uprising.
Opposition senators accused security officials of keeping the public in the dark about the mutiny by refusing to present its five leaders at a Senate hearing on Friday. Another group of senators filed a resolution urging suspension of the inquiry to enable officials, who had been summoned to testify, to concentrate on tracking down soldiers still missing from their units.
“Definitely, we are in favour of that (suspension),” presidential spokesperson Ignacio Bunye said on local radio. “This would allow authorities to proceed with their work to eliminate any residual threat to our society.”
Bunye said the government was not curtailing the rights of the army renegades to air their case “but they do not have any right to use a congressional inquiry as a platform to sow further trouble”. “Their desire to have a platform from which they can continue to spread their lies and agitate fellow soldiers is not a right guaranteed by our laws.”
The department of justice has filed coup charges against 321 troops involved in the 19-hour takeover of a luxury hotel in Manila’s main business district.
The military said the hotel siege was part of an abortive coup intended to establish a 15-member junta to govern the country. National Bureau of Investigation chief Reynaldo Wycoco said yesterday he was seeking FBI help to find out the sources of some of the weapons used by the mutineers.
He said some of the equipment, including sniper rifles and night vision goggles, could be part of US military aid but that other equipment could have been bought from abroad.
The Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper supported calls for the suspension of the Senate probe, saying “it would grant the enemies of the state the chance to strike again”.
Citing a military report that about 100 soldiers were still unaccounted for, the Inquirer said in an editorial: “It is imperative that the authorities redouble their efforts to uproot the very roots of rebellion.”