Attempt to Arrest Governor Tied to Coup Attempt Leaves 14 Dead
MANILA, Philippines (AP) _ Officials tried Sunday to arrest a governor indicted in a recent coup attempt, but his supporters defended him in clashes that left at least 14 people dead, including a general, authorities said.
The trouble began early Sunday when officials sent to arrest Gov. Rodolfo Aguinaldo in the city of Tuguegarao were taken hostage in a hotel. Later, government forces stormed the hotel, leading to a series of clashes later in the day in the city. At least 10 people were reported wounded.
Aguinaldo, a former lieutenant colonel, escaped, but officials said Sunday about 200 of his followers had surrendered.
The military chief of staff, Gen. Renato de Villa, placed the armed forces on nationwide alert and ordered the military to capture Aguinaldo ″at all costs.″
Scattered shooting was still reported late Sunday in Tuguegarao, capital of Cagayan province 250 miles north of Manila.
Col. Emiliano Templo told reporters Aguinaldo’s followers were believed to be holding some people hostage in homes near the hotel.
However, Acting Gov. Melvin Vargas said 10 more Aguinaldo followers surrendered early Monday and released about 30 hostages they were holding at a pawn shop. It was unclear if other hostages were still being held.
Troops blocked a major bridge south of Tuguegarao, stranding thousands of travelers. Templo said Aguinaldo’s followers included his private army, government militiamen and army Scout Rangers.
Marines were flown from Manila on Sunday to reinforce security in Tuguegarao, a city of more than 80,000 people. Philippine Airlines canceled flights to the city and schools were ordered closed Monday.
In Manila, a homemade bomb exploded late Sunday in the Makati district, but no injuries were reported and it was apparently unrelated to the fighting.
Local Governments Secretary Luis Santos and Brig. Gen. Oscar Florendo had gone to Tuguegarao to serve Aguinaldo with the arrest warrant.
Before dawn, Aguinaldo’s supporters surrounded the six-story Delfino Hotel and took Florendo, chief of the military’s civil relations service, and three aides prisoner and trapped Santos and others on the second floor.
About 3 p.m., government forces launched an attack. Florendo, 51, was wounded during the rescue and was dead on arrival at a city hospital, said defense spokeswoman Lourdes Ilustre.
Santos, two mayors, two colonels and a navy commodore were rescued unharmed, officials said.
Casualty figures were incomplete, but regional commander Col. Miguel Fontanilla said at least 14 people died.
They included 10 killed during a clash at a checkpoint near a bridge, three in fighting near a gasoline station and Florendo at the hotel, he said.
President Corazon Aquino said Florendo ″was killed by one of the followers of suspended Gov. Rodolfo Aguinaldo .... The act of cowardice and treachery of Aguinaldo’s followers will not go unpunished.
″I call on all our people to continue to reject violence and uphold our constitutional democracy and the processes of law in a peaceful manner.″
In a radio interview at the hotel earlier Sunday, Aguinaldo said he was a ″victim of injustice .... I don’t mind dying as a villain.″ He threatened to take his followers into the mountains and become ″a rebel.″
Aguinaldo was suspended in January as governor of Cagayan province for allegedly supporting the Dec. 1-9 military rebellion and had been holed up in his hometown of Gattaran, 45 miles north of Tuguegarao.
Aquinaldo told a Manila radio station on Dec. 1 that he was sending tanks and artillery to the city to support mutineers trying to oust Mrs. Aquino.
The governor was indicted along with Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile and five others in connection with the coup attempt, the sixth and bloodiest attempt to topple Mrs. Aquino since she took power in 1986.
Enrile appeared in court Monday to face the charge of ″rebellion with murder″ in connection with the failed coup. But the arraignment was put off until the Supreme Court decides whether the charge is valid. The court is to hear arguments Tuesday.
Aguinaldo was also implicated but never charged in a August 1987 coup attempt. Later, he raised a private army, ostensibly to fight Communist guerrillas. He ran for provincial governor in January 1988 and was elected by a landslide. Aguinaldo was formerly the provincial commander of Cagayan and many of the troopers assigned there are believed loyal to him.