Philippine military chief warns of new coup plot

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MANILA, Sep 20 (Reuters) The military chief of the Philippines said today fresh attempts were being made to destabilise the government of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, but all such efforts would be scotched.

His comments came as Arroyo tries to control the fallout from a kickbacks scandal in a telecommunications contract awarded to a Chinese firm. A witness at a senate inquiry into the deal has said Arroyo's husband was involved in the deal and that multi-million dollar kickbacks were involved.

General Hermogenes Esperon told reporters that efforts were made to recruit some soldiers into a coup plot, but the troops stood firm.

''Too bad for them, our soldiers have been imbued with the idea that it is only through the chain of command that we should be performing our duties,'' he said, adding those who had been approached had reported the recruitment efforts.

Esperon did not identify any specific group or any individuals behind the fresh plots against Arroyo, but said they could be linked to some politicians and leftist groups seeking to oust Arroyo from power.

Arroyo was swept into power through an army backed-popular uprising in 2001 that ousted her predecessor Joseph Estrada, who then stood trial for plunder and was sentenced to life imprisonment.

Although the military top brass have stood by Arroyo since, she has escaped two attempts by rogue soldiers to remove her from power in 2003 and 2006.

The Philippine military has been instrumental in the overthrow of two presidents in the past two decades, and disaffected officers have staged at least a dozen coup attempts.

REUTERS SZ RAI1138

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