| President Arroyo attends mass at a Manila church (AFP)
Manila, Feb. 26 (Reuters): About 100 elite Philippine troops briefly defied the government and its emergency rule today, calling for public support after the Marine commander was removed over an alleged plot to oust President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
The Marines returned to barracks peacefully after staging a show of support for their sacked chief, in full battle gear and with three armoured personnel carriers, at their base in Manila.
“It’s a good thing that they were able to resolve the problem internally,” said defence secretary Avelino Cruz. “We should insulate the military from politics.”
The Philippine armed forces, low on morale and riddled with graft in their battle against communist and Muslim insurgencies, spawned at least a dozen coup attempts since the overthrow of dictator Ferdinand Marcos in a “people power” uprising in 1986.
Colonel Tristan Kison, the military spokesman, said there were no unauthorised troop movements in Manila.
The Philippines, Washington’s closest security partner in Southeast Asia, is closely watched by investors as Asia’s most active issuer of sovereign debt after Japan.
Arroyo, who survived an impeachment attempt last year over allegations of election cheating and corruption, invoked a state of emergency on Friday to confront what she said was a conspiracy by political enemies, communists and “military adventurists”.
| An officer runs inside a Marine compound with his troops
to show their support for Colonel Ariel Querubin in Manila on Sunday. (AFP)
Military sources said the standoff at the marine camp was resolved by a straw poll of senior commanders.
“There was a vote of 9 to 6 in favour of following the chain of command,” said a senior officer.
Brigadier-General Nelson Allaga, the new chief of the marines, said he had talked to all commanders in the fie-ld. “I am now in control,” he said. “There are no more problems.”
Senior military officers said Major-General Renato Miranda had been given a “graceful exit” as chief of the 8,000 marines in the 117,000-member armed forces after he became the most senior officer so far to be linked to the foiled coup.
“There will be more changes in the coming days,” a senior military official said. “Our investigation continues.”
On Friday, the head of the elite Scout Rangers regiment was detained for allegedly planning to lead troops, including some Marines, to incite crowds at anti-Arroyo rallies.
A former police chief and leftist congressman have also been detained for questioning. An opposition newspaper was raided.
More arrests were expected in coming days. The government suspended Monday's primary and secondary classes in Manila.
Government officials said they had been considering an end to emergency rule before the protest by Miranda's men at the base, near the capital's Makati business and diplomatic area.
Dozens of civilians, mainly from leftist groups but also nuns clutching rosary beads, gathered at the base after an appeal for public support by a respected Marine colonel loyal to Miranda. Police moved in to disperse the crowd but backed off.
There were pockets of protest elsewhere in Manila, including 1,000 students at the University of the Philippines who said they would boycott classes until Arroyo resigned.
Despite pushing reforms to improve revenues, cut debt and curb rampant corruption, Arroyo has not been able to escape the turmoil of a fractious military. “It looks like it’s deeper than everybody thought,” an analyst said.