Philippines:State of Rebellion

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State of Rebellion

The government declared a state of rebellion and ordered the arrest of key opposition figures today after clashes between police and backers of ousted President Joseph Estrada killed at least four people.

"This is not just a demonstration. This is a rebellion," government spokesman Rigoberto Tiglao said. He said the declaration by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, restricted to Manila, gives her greater power to halt rebellion but he did not say what those powers are. It also gives the military greater freedom to help police quell protests.

At least four people died today as thousands of Estrada supporters, armed with rocks and clubs, skirmished with police around the presidential palace.

Fighting subsided in the afternoon after many protesters backed off, setting fire to a backhoe, four vans, a police car and a fire truck in their path.

At least 12 policemen, a newspaper photographer and 25 civilians were injured and 30 protesters were arrested, police said.

Arrests Ordered

Justice Secretary Hernando Perez ordered the arrest of at least 11 key opposition figures today, including Sens. Gringo Honasan and Juan Ponce Enrile, former Estrada spokesman Ernesto Maceda and former National Police Chief Panfilo Lacson.

Enrile, one of Estrada's most prominent allies, was the first arrested but police were looking for the others, said Col. Reynaldo Berroya, the police intelligence chief.

Lacson, who is running in May 14 Senate elections, said he told his lawyers to question the arrest order.

Berroya said the arrests were ordered in connection with the protests but did not outline the accusations.

Most of those on the wanted list have large followings among the pro-Estrada protesters.

Arroyo Survives Ordeal

Today also marked was the second time in as many days that Arroyo survived an attempt to force her from office and reinstall Estrada.

She claimed he and his allies incensed supporters in an effort to seize power for their own benefit.

Arroyo earlier accused key opposition figures, without naming them, of plotting to overthrow her and establish a junta.

"The vandalism, robbery and injury and deaths are the work of these politicians," Arroyo, looking exhausted after a second consecutive sleepless night, said in a brief nationally televised statement.

"They should be blamed. It is clear that their theme is to bring down the legitimate government so ... they would establish their own junta."

Violence Near Presidential Palace

Associated Press reporters saw seven people with what appeared to be gunshot wounds from pre-dawn clashes on the 10-mile march to the presidential palace from a shrine to the 1986 "people power" revolt that toppled late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

At least two policemen were killed and scores injured as the crowd, which had been rallying for Estrada's release from custody on corruption charges, forced its way through several police lines and stoned a policeman who already was laying injured and bloody.

One protester was fatally shot in the face; no details were available on the fourth reported death. The reports were carried by radio and TV networks.

Some officials downplayed the significance of the clashes.

"We will not become like Indonesia, where upheavals are nonstop," said House of Representatives speaker Feliciano Belmonte. "This is just one incident, an outpouring of emotion."

Marchers drove a dump truck through an initial line of riot police who dropped their plastic shields and scattered.

Some of the estimated 20,000 marchers picked up the shields and raided a construction site for scrap wood for clubs.

They returned to the palace gates and started throwing stones, only to get pushed back, first by warning shots, then by tear gas and water cannons. Two helicopter gunships hovered overhead.

Shortly before noon, riot police made another attempt to drive away the few thousand remaining protesters. Other police fired warning shots in the air. Estrada's followers retaliated by hurling stones.

Estrada lawyer Raymond Fortun said Arroyo's actions threaten opposition rights. "We are pretty much uncertain about our basic rights now," Fortun said.

A statement by the U.S. Embassy today backed Arroyo and called on protesters to "respect the rule of law and let the judicial process take its course."

Report: Estrada Airlifted to Special Detention Center

Estrada was arrested last Wednesday on the capital offense of plunder for allegedly pocketing millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks in 31 months in office. After spending time in a jail cell, he has been undergoing medical tests at a hospital.

He was airlifted out this morning, with local TV reporting he was transferred to a special detention center at Santa Rosa, 40 miles south of Manila.

Arroyo has vowed to permit peaceful protest and crack down hard on efforts to destabilize her government.

She was sworn in Jan. 20 as Estrada was packing to leave the presidential palace in the face of growing protests over the corruption allegations. He denies any wrongdoing.

Copyright 2001 ABC News Internet Ventures.

http://my.abcnews.go.com/PRINTERFRIENDLY?PAGE=http://abcsource.starwave.com/sections/world/DailyNews/philippines010501_politics.html

-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), May 01, 2001


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