MANILA, Philippines – Mutinous troops who seized a Manila (search) shopping and apartment complex demanding the government resign ended a 19-hour standoff late Sunday and returned to barracks without a shot fired.
As President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (search) announced the crisis was over in a televised address, retreating mutineers defused the explosives they had rigged up inside the financial district's glass-and-stone Glorietta center.
"This is a triumph for democracy. May God bless the Philippines," the smiling and visibly relieved president said as aides with her at the presidential palace applauded.
She said that 296 soldiers, including 70 officers, were involved and that all would face prosecution based on "the articles of war."
Early Monday, police arrested a key aide of disgraced former President Joseph Estrada (search) for his alleged involvement in the mutiny and escorted him into a news conference in a wealthy Manila suburb.
Police said Ramon Cardenas, a member of Estrada's Cabinet, owned a house near Manila where officers found assault rifles, ammunition and red arm bands similar to those used by the mutinous soldiers.
They described the residence as a "staging area or safehouse" for the mutineers.
Cardenas was Estrada's deputy executive secretary during his presidency, which ended in January 2001 when massive street protests toppled him from power over alleged corruption. Estrada is now standing trial and his lawyers earlier denied he was involved in Sunday's uprising.
Generals loyal to Arroyo had sent hundreds of troops to surround the besieged complex, home to wealthy Filipinos, foreign businesspeople and diplomats. The surrender by nearly 300 renegade forces followed negotiations between their leaders and top government officials -- and repeated threats from Arroyo to crush the rebellion with armor and sharpshooters.
The mutineers, wearing camouflage and red arm bands emblazoned with white sun rays, carried rifles as they were trucked away to a nearby army base, where they were disarmed. They were then returned to their home barracks and kept under military guard.
On Monday, five junior officers considered organizers of the uprising underwent questioning, said army spokesman Lt. Col. Joselito Kakilala.
The Philippines has seen dozens of military uprisings and coup attempts since the "people power" ouster of dictator Ferdinand Marcos (search) in 1986.
Sunday's rebellion erupted 24 hours ahead of a state of the nation address by Arroyo -- and amid rumors of a coup plot -- but she denied the standoff had loosened her grip on the presidency.
"I assure the world that this event does not in any way injure our national security and political stability," she said.
Renegade troops claimed to have 2,000 supporters, but the group inside the complex was far smaller. There appeared to have been little public support for the mutiny. Arroyo's armed forces chief of staff, Gen. Narciso Abaya, pledged loyalty to the president.
The mutineers had complained about corruption and misconduct by senior officers and the government, as well as favoritism within the ranks and problems with a military retirement fund.
Some demanded an inquiry into terror bombings in the country's south and better control over military weapons and ammunition distribution.
"We are not attempting to grab power. We are just trying to express our grievances," a senior mutiny leader, navy Lt. Sr. Grade Antonio Trillanes, told reporters. He said the explosives were for self-defense. "If they try to take us down, we will be forced to use it."
Some emerged from the standoff saying they were happy it was over. "We have gotten across our message clear to the whole nation and maybe to the whole world," said marine Capt. Nicanor Paeldon.
The unrest at the Glorietta complex started after Arroyo ordered the arrest late Saturday of junior officers and soldiers who deserted and were believed to be plotting a coup.
Hours later, at 3 a.m., the mutineers set up gun posts and rigged explosives with wires around the complex, from traffic signs and doors to an upscale department store. Snipers perched atop the twin towers of the Oakwood Hotel, a favorite of foreigners, and lay in wait in the entrance.
Despite its dramatic beginning, the rebellion took on a casual air. Mutineers gave press conferences and seemed relaxed, and marines who showed up to surround the complex first shook hands with some rebellious officers.
Arroyo angrily set two deadlines for the rebels to surrender, but both passed as negotiations continued.
She earlier declared a "state of rebellion," giving authorities powers to make arrests without warrants, and reprimanded the rogue soldiers on television: "Your actions are already hovering at the fringes of outright terrorism. You have already stained the uniform. Do not drench it with dishonor."
Before storming the complex, the rebels released a statement demanding "the resignation of our leaders in the present regime."
They also released a video accusing the government of selling arms and ammunition to Muslim and communist rebels, staging deadly bombings to justify more aid from the United States, and preparing to declare martial law to stay in power.
Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes said he recommended to Arroyo that an independent commission look into some of the allegations.
The influential Roman Catholic archbishop of Manila, Cardinal Jaime Sin, said in a statement that reforms were needed but that it "must be done through peaceful means and deeds of justice."
Arroyo, a 56-year-old economist, has enjoyed solid public support and is one of the staunchest U.S. allies in Asia. The United States has been working closely with the 120,000-strong Philippine military, which has been battling Muslim separatists and communist rebels for three decades.