Enrile Arrested For Alleged Role In Coup Attempt
MANILA, Philippines (AP) _ Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, the former defense minister who played a key role in Corazon Aquino’s presidential victory, was arrested today for allegedly supporting last year’s bid to topple her.
The opposition denounced the arrest as an attempt to quash dissent, and military dissidents claimed the move was a prelude to martial law.
Enrile, one of Mrs. Aquino’s most vocal critics, was among seven people indicted for ″rebellion with murder″ in connection with the bloody Dec. 1-9 coup attempt, in which at least 113 people were killed and more than 600 injured.
″What we are witnessing today is the effective operation of our criminal justice system under a constitutional democracy,″ said presidential Press Secretary Tomas Gomez. He said the 160,000-member armed forces went on alert to prevent ″reprisals″ after Enrile’s arrest.
Later today, a spokesman for military dissidents who launched the December coup attempt said the Philippines ″should brace itself for the imminent declaration of martial law.″
Enrile surrendered outside the Senate chamber to agents of the National Bureau of Investigation, who served him an arrest warrant also charging him with harboring fugitives.
He was taken to bureau headquarters where he was booked and fingerprinted. He told reporters he would ask the Supreme Court for bail, although none is usually allowed for the rebellion with murder charge.
Before surrendering, Enrile said: ″I know that those who are accusing me will surely have their day, as I have my day today.″
The others indicted today were former Lt. Col. Gregorio ″Gringo″ Honasan, Cagayan provincial Gov. Rodolfo Aguinaldo, retired Brig. Gen. Felix Brawner, retired Lt. Col. Billy Bibit, businessman Rebecco Panlilio and his wife.
Enrile was the most well-known figure charged so far in the failed coup, the sixth and bloodiest attempt to unseat Mrs. Aquino since she took office in the 1986 uprising that toppled the late President Ferdinand Marcos.
Enrile led the February 1986 military mutiny that triggered the ″people power″ uprising Mrs. Aquino rode to power. But Mrs. Aquino fired Enrile as defense minister in November of that year after a failed coup by his followers.
Charges against Enrile stem from statements by witnesses who claimed they saw Honasan and about 100 rebels at the senator’s home on the first day of the coup attempt. Enrile claims he has not seen Honasan since 1987.
Hours after his indictment was announced, Enrile appeared at the Senate and in a speech to his colleagues said: ″The regime of President Corazon C. Aquino has marshaled all its forces in fabricating charges against me in order to silence the voice of the opposition in this chamber.″
″As I leave you today, I pledge to you that no jail or prison shall stop me from trying my best to voice the grievances of the Filipino people,″ he added. Supporters of the failed coup have charged the Aquino goverment with mismanagement and corruption.
Vice President Salvador Laurel arrived later at the bureau headquarters and told reporters that if Enrile’s arrest was an attempt ″to stifle the opposition, this is not going to work.″
Laurel broke with Mrs. Aquino in 1987 and later organized the opposition Nacionalista Party along with Enrile.
In a speech Sunday marking her fourth anniversary in office, Mrs. Aquino repeatedly denounced Enrile, who as Marcos’ defense minister ordered the arrest of thousands, including her assassinated husband Benigno Jr., during martial law from 1972 until 1981.
She thanked the public for ″protecting″ her from him.
Aguinaldo, a former lieutenant colonel, was suspended as governor for 60 days after telling a Manila radio station that he was sending tanks and artillery to the capital to support the coup attempt.
Honasan, who has been dropped from the military rolls, led the August 1987 mutiny against Mrs. Aquino and played a leading role in last December’s putsch. He was arrested in December 1987 but escaped the following April.
Brawner, former military commander for northern Luzon, had been serving as a consultant to the Senate defense committee after he retired from the armed forces last year. He was accused of giving advice to the rebels during the coup attempt.
Bibit, the security chief of the customs bureau, was accused of ransacking the customs armory to get weapons and food for the mutineers. He was arrested last month.
Panlilio and his wife were reportedly seen at Enrile’s house with Honasan on the first day of the Decmeber coup attempt.