, JANUARY 5, 2007 (STAR) By Cecille Suerte Felipe - Efforts to destabilize the government persist, but Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno said these “will fail as they have failed in the past.”

Even Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Gen. Hermogenes Esperon Jr. also assured the public that groups or individuals who are planning to overthrow the government through armed means would be dealt with quickly and with a stronger force.

Puno, who is also President Arroyo’s adviser on political affairs, said not only the Philippine National Police (PNP) but also other agencies would ensure that efforts to topple the government would not succeed.

“The people who seek to divide the country, to destabilize the nation, are not sleeping. They are meeting, they are talking, they are planning a new year full of fireworks beyond Jan. 1,” Puno said in his speech during the New Year’s courtesy call by officials of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG)’s attached agencies.

“There is this habit of people always trying to stoke rumors of destabilization and coups and whatever,” said Puno. “But I want to emphasize that not just the PNP, but everybody, is prepared for any recurrence of this sort because we have to put a stop to this already.”

PNP chief Director General Avelino Razon Jr. also confirmed the new efforts to destabilize the government.

“They continue to plan, they continue to see if they could make their move,” said Razon, who assured the public that members of the PNP will “do their best to protect the government and the citizenry.”

“Wrong shall not prevail, those that advocate division, those that look to hurt others, those that look to break the peace and stability of our country, shall fail as they have failed in the past,” Puno added.

“Our actions speak louder than our words. And the country can rely on all of us to deliver the message that there will be peace in this country,” he added.

Puno advised those behind the attempts to topple the Arroyo government to “start dealing with things in a normal way and follow the constitutional processes that are available.”

“Anyway, there are going to be elections in less than two and a half years and maybe if we take that path and be less confrontational and combative, the economy might grow faster and the people will become happier,” he said.

Puno cited the improvement of the stock market and the peso rate against the dollar.

AFP always on alert

Esperon, in an interview during the traditional New Year’s call of AFP and defense officials at Camp Aguinaldo, said any attempt to grab power or any action with that objective would be resolved more quickly than in the past.

He said the military and the defense establishments are always on the lookout for possible threats against the nation’s security and are consistently preparing measures to counter it.

“We are on the lookout for that, we can still read some information in newspapers, but we have not verified anything. But if they should do it again, I must tell you that the resolution will even be quicker,” said Esperon, when asked by journalists if there are plans by rightist groups to stage another uprising in time for the second anniversary of the foiled February 2006 coup plot.

“That’s part of command functions, you’ll always be on the lookout for such things but I must say at this point, they can try to move now and they would see that a stronger force would counter them,” he added.

The AFP chief also emphasized that while the military is prepared for any eventuality, destabilization attempts would fail because they would not be able to muster popular support, as shown during the failed July 2003 Oakwood mutiny, the foiled February 2006 coup plot and the Peninsula Manila standoff last Nov. 29.

He also said that soldiers, especially those in the frontlines, are too preoccupied with their tasks, especially at a time when they are trying to meet the 2010 deadline set by President Arroyo for the military to defeat the communist insurgency, as well as the terrorist Abu Sayyaf group.

“We will continue to monitor these things, it’s part of being (prepared), and we will never let our guard down. Anyway, if there is something, then we will see if they would get the support of the people.” he said.

In a separate interview, Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro said there was a remote possibility that some groups might attempt to grab power again, but at the moment all he has received are general assessments from intelligence agencies that there are no specific reports of destabilization attempts.

“Right now, as far as I can see, it’s not, but you know information just crops up suddenly, and things like these are really done below ground level so it’s hard to get credible information. It just happens,” he said.

Teodoro said if there would be plots to overthrow the government, it would not come from within the military ranks but from political groups.

Several military officers are at present facing charges before military and civilian courts for their alleged involvement in past destabilization plots against the Arroyo administration. – James Mananghaya

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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