Enrile Challenges Government on Coup Charge, Station Closed
MANILA, Philippines (AP) _ Opposition Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile today accused the government of issuing coup warnings to prepare the public for martial law. He challenged officials to arrest alleged conspirators.
The government, meanwhile, backed down from threats to immediately close three or four radio stations for broadcasting right-wing propaganda. Officials said one station controlled by supporters of ousted President Ferdinand Marcos had been closed, and three others were ″being watched.″
The U.S. Embassy denied the United States was involved in a news conference by a renegade officer, which some press reports said took place at Clark Air Base.
President Corazon Aquino flew to southeastern Luzon today to inspect bridges damaged by Communist rebels. It was her first known trip outside Manila since an Aug. 28 coup attempt and was announced by the presidential palace after she returned.
Enrile issued his challenge in an interview with radio station DZRH.
″They are conditioning the mind of our people that we are in a grave crisis so they can have the basis for declaring an emergency and martial law,″ Enrile said.
Enrile served as defense minister under Marcos and administered martial law from 1972 until 1981. Mrs. Aquino fired him as defense chief in November after a failed coup plot by his supporters.
″If they already have evidence and they know about it, they should arrest all those planning these things, including politicians whom they claim to be part of it,″ Enrile added.
″They must not wait for it (coup attempt) to happen,″ Enrile said. ″Arrest the people involved so that the country will not be disturbed.″
Presidential spokesman Teodoro Benigno said in a news conference Wednesday that conspirators included politicians linked to Enrile, the pro-Marcos New Society Movement, as well as forces of Col. Gregorio ″Gringo″ Honasan, leader of the August attempt. Honasan served as Enrile’s chief of security at the defense ministry.
The list also allegedly included Mrs. Aquino’s exiled cousin Eduardo Cojuangco, Benigno said. Benigno claimed the plotters, if successful, would allow Marcos to return from Hawaii, where he has lived since his Feb. 25, 1986, ouster.
In a news briefing today, Benigno said the government received ″a warning of an impending coup″ but gave no further details.
Benigno said there was no plan to arrest any alleged conspirators because ″unless there is any overt act, they are not guilty of having violated the law.″
Enrile denied his alliance was involved. Nicanor Yniquez, leader of the New Society Movement, also denied involvement in a plot and said the administration was ″either witch-hunting or they are overly nervous.″
Cojuangco, who lives outside Los Angeles, Calif., also denied involvement in a statement issued through a spokesman in Washington.
Pro-government troops, armed with machine guns, armored personnel carriers and semi-automatic rifles, guarded the presidential compound and three nearby bridges. Witnesses said troops also deployed at major approaches to the capital.
Benigno said Wednesday that three or four radio stations would be closed for broadcasting anti-government propaganda. But Jose Luis Alcuaz, chairman of the National Telecommunications Commission, said today only station DZME had been shut down while the others were issued warnings.
″We are seeing how they behave,″ he told The Associated Press. He said DZME, one of more than 40 stations in the capital, was closed because ″it was the worst.″
Alcuaz said his staff had tapes of a DZME commentator calling government officials ″fleas of Mrs. Aquino, the thief″ and ″a bunch of fools.″
Threats against broadcasters followed an uproar created when private television station GMA aired an interview Tuesday with Honasan. The National Bureau of Investigation has offered a $12,500 reward for Honasan’s capture.
Enrile said the government allowed Communist rebels to appear on television during the 60-day cease-fire earlier this year and should respect the right of free expression when right-wing opponents seek to air their views.
Several Manila newspapers reported today that renegade Lt. Col. Reynaldo Cabauatan, who is being sought in a January coup attempt, met with reporters Tuesday night at Clark Air Base to denounce President Aquino. The U.S. Embassy denied it.
″The Embassy further has no information to indicate that he is or has been on any U.S. facility,″ the statement said.
Others who attended the news conference said it was held a few miles away from the base.