Philippines Quashes Coup Attempt

MANILA, Philippines -- Elite military and police units stormed the Manila Peninsula Hotel on Thursday, ending a short-lived coup attempt by a small group of soldiers and others who had called on the army to mutiny.

The government forces fired tear gas into the lobby of the hotel and used an armored personnel carrier to batter down its glass doors before storming in, but there were no casualties.

The rebel soldiers, a senator and a handful of priests who had occupied the plush icon in the sprawling city of 12 million people were arrested.

Most of the guests had been evacuated before the assault, but over 100 people, including hotel staff and journalists, were caught in the midst of the action.

Filipino Senator Antonio Trillanes, who led a failed mutiny in 2003 against President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and was elected to the upper house in May, was hauled away in plastic wrist restraints.

Fellow mutineers were also arrested along with scores of journalists.

Authorities said the journalists would be freed after identity checks.

"We are going out for the sake of the safety of everybody," Trillanes earlier told reporters.

"For your sake, because we will not live with our conscience if some of you get hurt or get killed in the crossfire. We cannot afford that," Trillanes said.

"The wrong ways of some do not speak well for the nation or the armed forces and the police," Arroyo said in a brief television address, her only public reaction.

"Just like before, we will impose the full force of the law strictly and without favor."

It was the latest in a series of coups in the Philippines since the ouster of dictator Ferdinand Marcos two decades ago.

It started when Trillanes and some other soldiers walked out of their own trial for the 2003 mutiny, escorted by guards assigned to keep them from escaping.

They marched to the Peninsula Hotel in Manila's Makati financial district and took over the building, calling for the overthrow of Arroyo.

"We have been witness and victims of the kind of ruthlessness this administration is giving to the people. Now, like soldiers we are going to face this," Trillanes told reporters, when asked whether he was ready to face fresh charges over this incident.

Journalists trying to do live phone-ins spluttered and covered their faces with handkerchiefs as the tear gas rose from the lobby to higher floors.

The rebel soldiers, who had earlier stopped people from leaving the hotel lobby as a 3 p.m. deadline for them to end their mutiny passed, later relented and let them go.

Arroyo, deeply unpopular because of long-running corruption allegations, has survived at least two coup plots and three impeachment bids because the jaded middle class is sick of political instability, and she has a huge majority in the lower house.

The government imposed a curfew from midnight to 5 a.m. in Manila and two surrounding regions on Friday, a government holiday. Officials called it a precautionary measure.