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Philippines relaxes alert levels, emergency remains

Written by: Staff

MANILA, Mar 2: Philippines authorities relaxed their maximum alert levels today but security was still tight around key buildings as the country remains under emergency rule after the discovery of a coup plot.

''We felt the situation is normalising,'' the army's Major Bartolome Bacarro told Reuters, adding that the military's alert level had dropped to blue from red.

National police spokesman Samuel Pagdilao said the alert level had been lowered from full to heightened alert but security around key facilities such as the presidential palace in Manila would remain.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo invoked emergency rule, which gives the state broad powers of detention, last week after the discovery of a coup plot to oust her.

She has promised to review the order within the next two days but has so far resisted calls to lift it amid warnings that many plotters are still at large.

Arroyo is waiting for the national police chief, the secretary of defence and the justice secretary to report back on the security situation before she makes her decision.

The justice secretary said on Wednesday he could not yet recommend lifting the order despite calls from Arroyo's economic team, the US State Department and foreign investors for the situation to return to normal as soon as possible.

''The American business community deeply regrets the current recurrence of political instability in the Philippines and urges an early and peaceful resolution within the rule of law,'' the American Chamber of Commerce said in a statement.

PLOTTERS Senior military intelligence officials, who declined to be named, warned on Tuesday of another possible coup attempt after rumours swirled of continued unrest among Marines over the dismissal of their commander in connection with the plot.

Security officials have also warned that many plotters were still at large.

Arroyo, who last year survived an attempt to impeach her over allegations of vote-rigging and graft, has accused members of the opposition, communist groups and ''military adventurists'' of conspiring to bring down her government.

State prosecutors have filed formal charges against three of 16 leftists and soldiers on a police list of alleged rebels.

But the trio, including Gregorio Honasan -- a former colonel and senator who has been linked to most of the dozen attempted coups in the Philippines over the past 20 years -- have only been charged in connection with previous plots.

State prosecutors have yet to file charges related to the revolt foiled last week.

The other 14 on the police list include five leftist lawmakers who have been holed up in the lower house since Monday claiming immunity from arrest unless the police produce warrants.

Protests against Arroyo have been low-key since the state of emergency was declared last Friday, the eve of the 20th anniversary of the fall of dictator Ferdinand Marcos in a million-strong ''people power'' rebellion, and financial markets have more than recovered from the shock.

Students from Ateneo University were planning a ''noise barrage'' on Thursday and a women's group was going to hold a silent protest against the state of emergency.

Around 50 journalists demonstrated peacefully yesterday over the threat to press freedom after Arroyo warned the media about biased reporting and a pro-opposition newspaper was raided over the weekend.


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