Philippine army vows 'not to seize power' after votes

Arroyo, who is not eligible for another term as president, has promised a smooth transfer of power.

Philippine army vows 'not to seize power' after votes

Philippine army generals vowed on Monday not to seize power if presidential elections on May 10 fail to produce a clear winner, dismissing reports of a possible junta as speculation.

Rumours that President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was looking to stay in power beyond her term intensified after an aide said last week there was a risk of an army takeover if no election winners were declared when her term ends on June 30.

There have been several failed coup attempts since 1989 and the former head of the Marine Corps is in jail facing possible court martial for his role in an aborted coup in 2006.

"I assure our people that nothing will happen and we will be there to see to it that everything is legal, the constitution will be respected," Major-General Juancho Sabban, commander of the Philippine Marines Corps, told reporters at an army base.

"These talks about junta are just rumours and speculations. The Armed Forces will be one in protecting the people and the vote. All of us will not follow illegal orders," Sabban said.

Other senior army and police generals shared that sentiment, pointing to failed attempts by rogue troops to grab power.

The Philippines is introducing an automated voting system, and there are concerns machine breakdowns and delays in transmitting results could lead to a failed poll.

Arroyo has survived five impeachment motions and three coup attempts since she came to power in 2001 when Joseph Estrada was forced from office.

"We expect the political noise and volatility to rise as the balloting draws nearer, but a failure of election could be the worst case the markets would not want to occur. That would be a terrible nightmare for us," an economist at a local brokerage said.

"Any indications that she may hold on to power could rattle the markets."

More than 50 million Filipinos will vote for a new president and nearly 18,000 national and local positions on May 10, with automated voting intended to speed up the process and eliminate potential manipulation and fraud.

However, there has been no large-scale test of the system, and the elections commission has not provided any clear back-up in case of technical and logistics problems.

"There's a possibility the military take over," presidential spokeswoman Charito Planas told reporters on Friday when asked on possible scenarios in case of a power vacuum after June 30.

"That's possible as military juntas have taken over in several countries, especially in Southeast Asia," she said

Arroyo, who is not eligible for another term as president, has promised a smooth transfer of power.

However, appointments of loyal generals in key army positions and a Supreme Court decision to allow her to appoint the next chief justice have raised concerns Arroyo is building a platform to stay in power in case a failed election.


Reuters

Güncelleme Tarihi: 22 Mart 2010, 16:52

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