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Manila rebel standoff ends

From CNN Correspondent Maria Ressa

Mutinous soldiers flash V-signs as they agree to drive back to barracks
Mutinous soldiers flash V-signs as they agree to drive back to barracks

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Armed men set up booby traps in Manila's financial center. CNN's Maria Ressa reports (July 26)
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Pacific archipelago of 7,107 islands 600 miles southeast of China. Tropical climate.

POPULATION: More than 76 million. Most descendants of migrants from Southeast Asia and Indonesia; large ethnic Chinese minority.

RELIGION: About 84 percent Roman Catholic; others mostly Protestant, Muslim, animist.

LANGUAGE: Filipino, Malay language based on Tagalog; English, second official language, widely used in business and government.

HISTORY: Spanish colony from 1521 to 1898, when U.S. Navy defeated Spainish fleet at Manila Bay. Americans crushed Filipino rebels in six-year war. Japan occupied islands in World War II. Independence granted in 1946.

RECENT POLITICAL UNREST: Dictator Ferdinand Marcos ousted by popular protests in 1986. Several failed coup attempts against President Corazon Aquino in late 1980s by military officers complaining about corruption. President Joseph Estrada forced from office on Jan. 20, 2001, by mass protests over corruption allegations.

MANILA, Philippines (CNN) -- A 21-hour standoff between government troops and a group of rogue soldiers in downtown Manila has ended peacefully.

Nearly 300 rogue military forces had barricaded themselves in a hotel protesting against what they said was corruption in the government.

Each side has made concessions, and the troops have returned to their barracks and said they are willing to face charges, the sources said.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo told a media conference after the siege ended that the rogue soldiers would be receiving no special treatment over their behavior.

President Arroyo said the government's decision to negotiate with the rebels had brought "positive results."

"Once more, this has been a triumph of democracy," she added.

The rogue troops immediately began to remove explosives they had placed around the Oakwood Hotel, the five-star long-term hotel which they had occupied since early Sunday.

The hotel's guests had been transferred safely to other area hotels, a spokesman for Oakwood said.

The accord came after the government twice extended its deadline for surrender.

The rogue forces accuse the government of President Arroyo of arming rebel groups and fanning the flames of the Muslim rebel insurgency in the southern Philippines, so Arroyo can remain in power after her term expires next year.

The government called that accusation a "lie" and said the soldiers are playing on the fears of many Filipinos after the infamous 21-year term of President Ferdinand Marcos, during which he did the same thing.

Marcos instigated a series of bombings and civil unrest in the late 1960s and early 1970s, using that as an excuse to declare martial law in 1972. It took the People Power Revolt of 1986 to end Marcos' dictatorship.

The soldiers spent Saturday night laying a perimeter of what they claimed to be plastic explosives, around the shopping district where the Oakwood hotel is located.

After Arroyo demanded they surrender by 5 p.m., they responded by threatening to detonate the devices.

One of the rebel officers, Navy Lt. Antonio Trillanes, denied that the group's actions amounted to treason.

"No, in fact they're the ones who have committed treason," Trillanes said, referring to Arroyo's government.

"They're the ones selling arms and ammunition to the enemies of the state, and for treason they deserve to die, not us."

Trillanes said the mutiny was not a coup attempt, despite a week of rumors that disgruntled officers within the 113,000-strong Philippine Armed Forces were plotting one.

He said the rigging of the devices was only a way for the soldiers to air a complaint against Arroyo's government.


CNN's Maria Ressa, who spoke to the troops inside the building during the siege, said both sides had sought a peaceful solution to the standoff.

"The rebels were relatively idealistic," she said.

"They said their concerns had not been heard through normal channels ... and their charges (of corruption in the army and politics) do have a resonance with society, which has become cynical during the past three decades.

"Also, the army was unwilling to take action against their own."

Arroyo had issued a nationwide state of rebellion, adding limited powers, but stopped short of declaring martial law.

"There is absolutely no justification for the actions you have taken," Arroyo had told the rogue soldiers in a nationally televised address earlier. "You have already defamed the uniform. Do not drench it with dishonor."

In the late 1980s, at least six coups were attempted against the government of President Corazon Aquino. All took place in the middle of the night in such sensitive areas as government television stations and military compounds.

This is the first time a commercial center has been targeted.

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