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Manila charges 49 alleged plotters against Arroyo

Written by: Staff
|

MANILA, Apr 24 (Reuters) Philippine prosecutors filed rebellion charges today against 49 people, including six leftist lawmakers and some soldiers, for their alleged role in a plot to overthrow President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in February.

The government has said the plot against Arroyo, who survived an impeachment attempt last year over accusations of vote-rigging and graft, included plans to kill her by a group of rogue troops conspiring with communist rebels and some of her political foes.

Emmanuel Velasco, head of the seven-member panel of state prosecutors that evaluated rebellion complaints by the police, said there was probable cause to send the cases to court.

''The rebels are less impelled by love of country than by lust for power,'' Velasco said, quoting from a 52-page resolution.

''They have become no better than mere terrorists to whom nothing, even the sanctity of human life, is allowed to stand in the way of their ambitions.'' Political turmoil and coup plots are common fixtures in the Philippines after presidents were deposed by popular revolts backed by the military in 1986 and 2001.

But many analysts say Arroyo overreacted to the alleged plot by invoking a state of emergency for a week and playing up the left-right conspiracy to allow security forces a freer hand to fight communists and intimidate her other opponents.

Among those charged with rebellion were the leaders of the communist rebel movement -- including Jose Maria Sison and Luis Jalandoni, who both live in exile in the Netherlands -- and two retired soldiers believed to have links with the insurgents.

Brigadier-General Danilo Lim, removed as commander of the army's elite Scout Rangers regiment after being identified as a leader of the failed coup attempt, was not among those charged.

Velasco said there was some proof the leftist lawmakers, five of whom have taken refuge in the lower house of Congress since late February, allowed their offices to serve as fronts for anti-Arroyo protests.

''They were also accused of using the facilities and finances of the House of Representatives and the armed forces to overthrow the government,'' he added.

The leftist lawmakers quickly protested against the justice department's decision to file charges, saying it as ''a classic example of persecution by political association''.

''The motive is to kick us out of Congress and bar our party-list organisations from further participating in the parliamentary arena,'' they said in a statement.

REUTERS PR HS1610

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