MANILA, Philippines – President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (search) promised Tuesday to crush any political rivals linked to a failed military mutiny, saying those who "still live in the dark ages of dictatorship and deception" are trying to destablize her government.
"All plotters will be brought to justice," she said in a speech at Camp Aguinaldo (search), the main military headquarters, where she distributed medals to loyal soldiers for quelling Sunday's short-lived and bloodless uprising.
Arroyo also promised to bring "unity and reconciliation with justice" within the military, where there are complaints about low pay and corruption. She said the 300 renegade junior officers and enlisted men who gave up after a 19-hour standoff in Manila's (search) financial district will face "dialogue and retribution."
Security concerns remained high. Several armored vehicles and four helicopters sat on the camp's grounds during Arroyo's speech. Soldiers listening to her were ordered to point their rifles at the ground. Senior officers unloaded their pistols as they entered the military club where Arroyo had a snack with top brass after her speech.
Brig. Gen. Victor Corpus, the military intelligence chief, told reporters that more troops had been prepared to join the mutineers had the military not thwarted the plot.
Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes showed off radio equipment, sketches and documents recovered from a room of a luxury downtown hotel occupied by the mutineers.
"There was thorough planning here. It was not a spur of the moment decision, so this is a serious matter. The group is obviously well-funded," Reyes said.
Investigators have linked the plot to supporters of former president Joseph Estrada (search), who was driven from office in 2001 by mass protests and is on trial for allegedly plundering millions of dollars in government funds. Arroyo, who was his vice president, replaced Estrada.
Police on Tuesday charged a former member of Estrada's Cabinet, Ramon Cardenas, with rebellion, a non-bailable crime punishable by life in prison. He allegedly provided a safe house for the mutineers to store weapons and ammunition.
Estrada has denied involvement in the mutiny. "I have nothing to gain from this incident," he said in a statement Monday.
Police also are investigating another high-profile Arroyo opponent, Sen. Gregorio "Gringo" Honasan, who staged at least two attempted coups that plagued President Corazon Aquino in the years after the 1986 "people power" revolt that toppled dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
Arroyo appears concerned the same tactics are being used against her.
"The resort to destabilization can only be the handiwork of the most desperate groups that have completely lost their moral compass," she told the loyal troops. "Sadly, there are those who still live in the dark ages of dictatorship and deception. They must be enlightened if misled. They must be crushed if they persist."
Honasan denies any involvement and charges that authorities want to frame him to divert attention from issues raised by the mutineers, including high-level corruption within the military's top brass and the government.
"They are inventing charges," he said in an interview with privately owned radio network DZRH.