Military tribunal acquits 11 young officers who allegedly plotted to oust Philippine president

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Philippines acquits 11 alleged coup plotters

MANILA, Philippines — A Philippine military tribunal acquitted 11 officers Thursday of plotting a foiled 2006 coup against President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

The defendants are among a total of 28 military officers who were detained following the alleged plan to force Arroyo from power.

Arroyo has survived four attempted coups and four impeachment attempts over alleged corruption in her more than eight turbulent years in power.

The tribunal ruled there was a lack of evidence against the 11 officers and ordered them freed. The court said it will make a ruling later on the rest of the officers, who included two generals famous for their battle exploits and fierce criticism of government and military corruption.

The cleared officers, who were brought to court in military uniform under heavy escort, embraced each other and high-fived. Their relatives quietly wept behind.

Lawyer Vicente Verdadero, who represented many of the acquitted officers, said they could go back to military service, but he was not sure if they were still interested.

The 28 junior army and marine officers, including their commanders, allegedly plotted to march from their suburban camps to a pro-democracy shrine along the main highway in the bustling capital — and then publicly withdraw support from Arroyo. The government alleged the protest was a part of a larger plan to force Arroyo from power.

The 120,000-strong Philippine military, one of Asia’s weakest, has been wracked by rebellion since dictator Ferdinand Marcos was overthrown in 1986 by a nonviolent “people power” revolt. Nearly a dozen coup attempts have erupted since then, each undermining civilian rule.

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