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Philippines vows no leniency for rogue troops

By Staff
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MANILA, Mar 13 (Reuters) Rogue soldiers face tough action by the Philippine government to discourage coup plots after moves to rehabilitate ''habitual delinquents'' failed, Defence Secretary Avelino Cruz today said.

Cruz, a corporate lawyer before his appointment by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in August 2004, said reforms were also being made to insulate the military from politics, including a proposal to stop soldiers from counting ballots during elections.

''This is not a soft or hard line approach. We're just trying to enforce the rule of law,'' Cruz told a forum with foreign journalists. ''Rehabilitation only postpones the problem.'' The Philippines, fighting communist and Muslim insurgencies, is Washington's closest security ally in Southeast Asia but its military has been a source of political and economic turmoil with at least a dozen coup attempts in the last 20 years.

Senior commanders said they foiled a plot last month by rogue troops, conspiring with communist rebels and some of Arroyo's enemies, to replace her with a civilian-military junta.

The alleged conspiracy prompted Arroyo to declare emergency rule, which lasted for a week until March 3. Three commanders were removed, nearly 30 soldiers and police officers detained, and six leftist members of Congress investigated for rebellion.

Intelligence officials have linked some opposition senators, religious leaders and members of previous governments to the plot but have not revealed any names pending an investigation.

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