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Army wants 40 officers to face trial in Manila

Written by: Staff
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MANILA, Oct 26 (Reuters) The Philippine army recommended toay a military trial for 40 officers for their suspected involvement in an alleged plot to oust President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in February.

The officers from two elite units will face charges of mutiny and conduct unbecoming an officer after nearly three months of inquiry, said Lieutenant-Colonel Bartolome Bacarro, a military spokesman.

Two generals, detained separately in two military camps, were among those investigated for allegedly plotting to seize power on Feb 25 in a conspiracy with communist rebels and Arroyo's political foes.

Bacarro told reporters that General Hermogenes Esperon, the military's chief of staff, was reviewing the recommendation to see if names would be added or dropped from the charge sheet.

''The chief of staff is committed to a speedy disposition of this case,'' Bacarro told reporters.

The officers are also facing rebellion cases in a civilian court.

The Philippines is no stranger to rumoured and actual coup plots and disgruntled soldiers have been involved in more than a dozen attempted power grabs since the overthrow of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos in 1986.

But fearing that harsh punishment will stir more splits in an already demoralised military, participants in past coup bids have been treated lightly. Troops who repeatedly challenged former President Corazon Aquino in the late 1980s were given push-ups.

The recommendation today to court martial the rogue officers came a day after Esperon ordered extra security measures around six of them amid reports of an escape plot.

REUTERS DKB ND1728

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