16 Charged in Alleged Philippine Coup Plot

Police filed charges of rebellion Monday against 16 people suspected of plotting to overthrow Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, as dozens of protesters attempted to storm the legislature, officials said.

Among those charged were former opposition Sen. Gregorio "Gringo" Honasan, a veteran of past coup attempts in the 1990s, five members of the House of Representatives, a communist rebel leader and some soldiers.

"Leftist and rightist movements have conspired to overthrow the duly constituted government," said Virgilio Pablico, head of the police legal department.

He said police had gathered testimony and "pieces of electronic paraphernalia containing the membership and tactical alliance of the two movements."

Arroyo on Friday declared a state of emergency to quash what she called a coup plot. The decree has provoked a backlash, with even some supporters accusing Arroyo of needlessly curbing civil liberties.

About 100 left-wing protesters, yelling anti-government slogans, barged into the House of Representatives building on Monday to denounce the decree and the arrest of a leftist lawmaker, but were pushed back by police, officials said.

Shouting "No to martial law!" and displaying anti-Arroyo placards, the rowdy protesters ran past guards and entered the House lobby, but other guards quickly shut the main door to the plenary hall, where lawmakers had just gone into recess after opening their session.

Only two of those charged Monday have been detained, while the others remain at large. Left-wing Rep. Crispin Beltran and Philippine army Lt. Lawrence San Juan — who was recently recaptured after escaping from military detention for a failed mutiny in 2003 — were brought before a panel of prosecutors.

They refused to participate in the proceedings, calling them a sham.

Beltran's lawyer, Romeo Capulong, said his client was arrested based on a 21-year-old warrant, which he claimed was dismissed in 1988.

"We don't accept the legitimacy of these proceedings," Capulong told state prosecutor Emmanuel Velasco, after being prevented from making an opening statement.

"This is scripted, and we can't blame you because you are acting on orders of your superiors," Capulong said.

In a television appearance Monday, Arroyo said her government would work to prevent economic fallout from the political turmoil. She said several attempts to unseat the Philippine government since 1989 had undermined economic growth in what she described as a "steep price for political mischief."

"Our government will work twice as hard to ensure the momentum is not lost and that we avoid economic fallout," Arroyo said. Thanking those who remained loyal in the political crisis, she announced the government has earmarked money for salary increases and housing for soldiers, policemen, teachers and other government workers.

In a sign that efforts to force Arroyo were still alive, disgruntled marine officers urged people Sunday to defy a ban on rallies and turn out en masse to protect officers implicated in the foiled plot. The effort fizzled, however, after only a few thousand supporters heeded the call.

The head of the marines, Maj. Gen. Renato Miranda, was removed from his post Sunday, sparking a five-hour standoff by marines at their headquarters. The marines have been widely rumored to have been among military units involved in the coup plot.

The standoff ended peacefully when a massive street rally never materialized.

Military spokesman Lt. Col. Tristan said Miranda had asked to be relieved as commander of the marines for personal reasons was not been implicated in the coup plot. But other reports suggested he had been forced out.

The 8,000-strong marines are an elite, well-armed unit at the front line of the government's war against Muslim and communist guerrillas and al-Qaida-linked militants in the country's volatile south.

Two groups of lawyers and other citizens petitioned the Supreme Court to lift the emergency decree, saying it was unconstitutional. The decree bans rallies, permits arrests without warrants and allows the president to take over facilities — including media outlets — that may affect national security.

Schools across the Philippine capital were closed in an apparent bid to prevent students from protesting against Arroyo