February 19, 2006

Filipino army finds bomb, ups security: sources

By Manny Mogato

MANILA (Reuters) - The Philippine army tightened security
on Sunday after finding a bomb in its top military academy, one
of the alleged targets in a plot to overthrow and possibly kill
the president, military sources said.

The device, loaded with 5 lbs (about 2 kg) of TNT, was
found late on Saturday hidden in a clutch bag near the parade
ground at the Philippine Military Academy, where President
Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was meant to attend an annual reunion
this weekend.

The academy's superintendent declined to confirm the

"We are still investigating," Brigadier General Leopoldo
Maligalig told Reuters by telephone.

Arroyo, who is commander-in-chief of the armed forces,
skipped the gathering in the mountain resort of Baguio, about
250 km (160 miles) north of Manila, after the coup plot by
fugitive mutineers was revealed this week.

Arroyo survived an impeachment attempt last year over
allegations of vote-rigging and fraud.

The explosive was discovered only hours after the reunion
of the academy's graduates, including the army's top

Earlier this week, Reuters, quoting two senior generals,
reported details of a plot to unseat and possibly kill Arroyo.

The plan involved a mass escape of mutineers originally set
for January, hostage-taking at the weekend gathering of
military commanders, occupying army camps and removing Arroyo.

On Sunday, the commander of the police's elite force issued
a statement denying rumours his troops were planning to storm
the main police camp in Manila and hold top police commanders
hostage as part of a strike against Arroyo.

"Our ranks remain intact," said Chief Superintendant
Marcelino Franco, who was called to a meeting with the head of
the police on Sunday to discuss the rumours.

Talk of a plot by some elements of the military has been
growing since the escape from an army camp in January of four
alleged leaders of a bloodless, one-day mutiny in 2003.

Rumours of unrest are common in the Philippines after a
dozen coup attempts in the past 20 years and popular uprisings
backed by the army that toppled presidents in 1986 and 2001.

Police in Manila went on heightened but not maximum alert
on Friday over reports of large anti-Arroyo protests planned
for February 24, the day before the country marks the 20th
anniversary of the "people power" revolt that ousted dictator
Ferdinand Marcos.