There are various groups from the political opposition, civil society and the Left plotting to bring down Philippine President Benigno Aquino III, said Senator Antonio Trillanes IV on Friday.
“The way to deal with this is to expose them right away so their plan will be burned. At the same time, let’s focus on the [military] rank and file. They might get lucky recruiting them,” he said in a phone-patch interview with reporters.
“They’re riding on the genuine sentiments of the public over the Mamasapano incident. They’re trying their best to connect this to the president so the outrage will be directed at him. That’s their formula,” he said.
“They’re agitating the public so it would snowball,” he said.
But so long as the military is not involved, the Aquino government has nothing to worry about, he indicated.
Trillanes, claiming intelligence sources, said the groups are planning street protests against the administration in the wake of public outrage over the massacre of 44 police commandos in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, on January 25.
He advised the authorities not to take these groups lightly or they might succeed in recruiting soldiers to their cause.
“They [Malacañang] should not be alarmed, but they should not be complacent either,” Trillanes said.
“Otherwise, if they’re able to recruit one [soldier], we have a big problem,” he said, but declined to identify the groups.
At a Senate hearing last Thursday, Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago disclosed intelligence information about a coup plot against the President that she said was being financed by a wealthy Filipino.
Defence Secretary Voltaire Gazmin confirmed receiving such coup reports, but gave an assurance that the officers and men of the Armed Forces would not take part in these.
The killing of 44 elite members of the Philippine National Police Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) troopers at the hands of Muslim rebels have sparked outrage and calls for the resignation of the President.
Trillanes, the leader of the July 2003 failed coup against the Arroyo administration, also known as the Oakwood mutiny, said the “players on the ground” included the political opposition, some civil society groups, some elements of Catholic groups and some Leftist groups.
Trillanes said he was exchanging information with intelligence agencies.
No military involved
“They have been meeting. Apparently, somebody wanted to make some money. So far, no military personnel has attended any of their meetings,” he said.
The groups were in the process of organising massive rallies, including one planned for next week, on the pretext of seeking justice for the slain SAF commandos, Trillanes said.
Trillanes doubted the groups would succeed, pointing out that the usual motivation for plotting a coup would be corruption, oppression or discontent.
“While the president may have shortcomings or lapses, he’s not bad or corrupt. We can’t force the issue,” he said.
He said these groups are good at planning, but disappear when the time comes to execute the plan.
“There are usual players, there are usual characters. They’re only good at raising funds. The potential recruits in the police and military should realise this,” he said.
Malacañang assured the public that the security situation remained stable despite the reported rift between the police and military arising from their lack of coordination in the Mamasapano operation to capture international terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias “Marwan,” and his Filipino associate, Abdul Basit Usman.
“The AFP and the PNP are determined to uphold their duty under the Constitution and the law,” said Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma.
Loyal to Aquino
From Cebu City, military and police officials in the Visayas on Friday discounted rumours of a coup plot, maintaining that they remain loyal to the President.
“We are always in support of the government and the present administration,” said Supt. Renato Dugan, spokesperson of the Police Regional Office in Central Visayas (PRO-7).
He said there was no demoralisation among the ranks over the killing of the 44 SAF.
“What happened in Mamasapano is still under investigation. We are waiting for the results. Staging a coup plot is not the solution,” Dugan said.
A military official, who heads a battalion in the Visayas, said that while they were sad over what happened in Mamasapano, their support for the government remains steadfast.
“Mamasapano was very tragic but we just let the investigating bodies do the investigation,” said the military official who asked not to be named.
“The moment we took our oaths to serve the country, we are ready to be hit by bullets and either be wounded or die. The soldiers have their own sentiments over what happened but we remain loyal to the government,” he added.
Concerned about work, debts
The military official dismissed talk of any coup plots against the Aquino administration, saying the soldiers were more concerned about their work and the loans they had to pay.
The military official asked not to be identified because of a directive from higher office not to comment on the Mamasapano encounter.
Maj. Ray Tiongson, spokesperson of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division based in Capiz, dismissed reports of recruitment among the soldiers there.
In a text message, he said the soldiers remained focused on their job of ensuring the safety and security of the people.
“Our soldiers here are professional and loyal to the Constitution and we follow the chain of command,” Tiongson said.
Army and police officials in Negros Occidental province also gave assurances that they remained loyal to civilian rule.
“I am very confident that, here in Negros, our officers and men are professionals who recognise that civilian authority remains supreme over the military at all times,” said Col. Jon Aying, the 303rd Infantry Brigade commander.
“We sympathise with the families of those who died at Mamasapano, not only for the Fallen 44 but also for those from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters,” he said. — With reports from Carla P. Gomez and Carmel Loise Matus, Inquirer Visayas