Leading Law Agency Seeks Indictment of Top Senator in Latest Coup Attempt
MANILA, Philippines (AP) _ The National Bureau of Investigation recommended today that Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile be charged with rebellion for an alleged role in this month’s attempt to topple President Corazon Aquino, an official said.
Enrile denied involvement and said the accusations were meant to harass the opposition.
Fernando de Leon, the chief state prosecutor, said witnesses claimed to have seen Enrile with mutiny leaders on Dec. 1, when thousands of troops launched the sixth and strongest attempt to topple Mrs. Aquino.
De Leon said the recommendation would be referred to a panel of prosecutors to decide whether charges would be filed. Enrile was fired as defense minister in November 1986 after a failed coup by his followers.
″The statement of the witnesses points to the fact that at the height of the coup on Dec. 1, many soldiers with white patches on their shoulders were seen at the residence of Sen. Enrile and some guests there inside the house were conferring with him,″ said de Leon.
De Leon said those reportedly seen with Enrile included former Lt. Col. Gregorio ″Gringo″ Honasan, believed to have been a key leader in the failed putsch.
De Leon said the witnesses were hotel waiters who were catering a meal at Enrile’s Makati residence on the first day of the nine-day coup attempt, which claimed the lives of 113 people and left more than 500 wounded.
Enrile said there were no soldiers at his residence. He said ″not more than 20″ bodyguards in civilian clothes were present that day along with some guests who attended a Mass traditionally held every first Friday of the month at his house.
″I welcome the opportunity to face them ... in the courts,″ Enrile said. ″I know that I have not done anything that is criminal under our laws. I am not part of the rebellion.
″They want to seal the lips of the opposition in the country and to threaten them, but I will tell them now ... that they cannot silence me,″ he said. ″This government is like a wounded tiger flailing its paws.″
Early today, panic-selling swept the country’s major stock exchange after a senior general warned of a possible new coup attempt. Government institutions bought stocks to ease selling pressure.
Dealers blamed the decline on a statement Wednesday by Maj. Gen. Ramon Montano, chief of the Philippine Constabulary, that a new coup may be launched after Jan. 17.
Montano warned the new attempt could be launched by renegade leaders of this month’s coup attempt. Many of the key ringleaders, including Honasan, remain at large.
″Our intelligence data tell us that the next possible timetable for a coup could be between Jan. 17 and 30,″ Montano told reporters.
In a related development, the newspaper Malaya today published what it said was a secret government ″watchlist″ of 55 people allegedly linked to the failed coup. The list included Vice President Salvador Laurel and Enrile.
Laurel, a longtime political rival of Mrs. Aquino, demanded that the government confirm whether the report was true and if so, explain the basis for the allegations. There was no immediate comment from the presidential staff.