Philippines nabs accused coup plotter

(Reuters) – A fugitive former colonel and senator accused of masterminding a coup plot against Philippines President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was arrested on Wednesday, authorities said.

Gregorio “Gringo” Honasan, implicated in nearly every coup bid hatched in the Philippines in the past 20 years, was caught a couple of hours after midnight in Manila after police spent weeks tracking him through intercepted mobile phone calls.

“We have spent so much time and resources to get him. Now we can proceed with the process,” Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez said.

Prosecutors want to question Honasan, hailed as a hero of the “people power” uprising that toppled dictator Ferdinand Marcos in 1986, over an alleged conspiracy by rogue troops, political foes and communists to oust Arroyo in February.

Honasan has been in hiding since Feb. 23, the eve of planned protests by leftist activists against Arroyo that the government has said were to be used by some soldiers to withdraw support for the president and spark an uprising against her.

The two-time senator tried to escape arrest by jumping from the second floor of a house, injuring his foot, an officer involved in the raid said.

State prosecutors have charged 45 people in connection with February’s alleged plot, including four communist guerrilla leaders, a former ambassador, a former state university president and more than 20 soldiers and police officers.

Many analysts suspected Arroyo, who has defeated two impeachments bids over allegations of vote-rigging and corruption, of ramping up the alleged conspiracy against her to allow security forces wider scope to crack down on her enemies.

The Southeast Asian country is no stranger to rumoured and actual plots after more than a dozen coup attempts in the last two decades and popular revolts that ousted presidents in 1986 and 2001 with the backing of generals and powerful bishops.

Honasan is already facing rebellion charges over a failed mutiny by young officers in 2003.

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