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Manila's Arroyo gets tough against rogue troops

Written by: Staff
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Baguio City (Philippines), Mar 25: Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who escaped an alleged coup plot last month, said today (Mar 25, 2006) she would not tolerate disloyal soldiers and vowed they would be strictly punished.

Arroyo, addressing graduates of the Philippine Military Academy in the northern mountain resort city, promised to transform the 117,000-member military into a world-class fighting force by investing heavily in equipment and training.

''We cannot keep sweeping disloyalty under the rug,'' Arroyo, who as president is also the armed forces' commander-in-chief.

''We cannot even allow disloyalty to face the rug with a few push-ups. We must sweep disloyalty out of our house once and for all.'' Participants in past coup attempts have been treated lightly, including push-ups for troops who repeatedly challenged President Corazon Aquino during her 1986-92 term. Other governments had also granted amnesty to plotters, reinstating them to duties.

Some of the leaders of the alleged plot to unseat Arroyo had been implicated in coup attempts in the late 1980s, including the US-trained former commander of the elite Scout Ranger regiment.

Defence Secretary Avelino Cruz has labelled the officers as ''habitual delinquents'' who deserved no mercy.

The army has recommended 20 soldiers face a court-martial for their roles in the alleged conspiracy with communist rebels and some of Arroyo's political enemies.

Arroyo said her government had allocated more resources to reform and professionalise the military so troops would have an ''undivided focus on security concerns, not politics.

''The nation is once again at a crossroads and there are many forces that wish to drag us back and stop our forward progress,'' said Arroyo, a US-trained economist and a daughter of a former president.

Coup plots are not unusual in the poor Southeast Asiann state, where factions in a restive and underfunded military have led at least a dozen attempts to oust presidents since 1986.

But, Arroyo, who continues to be dogged by controversy after surviving an impeachment attempt last year over allegations of fraud and vote-rigging, is often suspected of hamming up security threats to win public support.

Philippine security forces went on full alert on Friday to thwart an alleged plot by rogue troops to assassinate Arroyo at the graduation ceremony today.

Security officials said they sent an extra 1,000 soldiers, including a team if US-trained counter-terrorism commandos to guard Arroyo, some members of her cabinet and the top brass of the military and national police.

REUTERS

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