Does revolt pay in Philippines?

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

Leaders of last month's foiled coup in the Philippines lost the battle, but in the political ricochets that have followed, they may be winning the war. Yesterday's resignation offers of the entire Aquino Cabinet, 12 days after the Aug. 28 coup, send a strong signal to the military that armed rebellion can win concessions from the civilian government, according to military analysts.

One concession might be the possible removal of President Corazon Aquino's executive secretary, Joker Arroyo, a Cabinet member who has been openly critical of the military.

The Cabinet action provides Mrs. Aquino the flexiblity to fire Mr. Arroyo. Last November, a similar move resulted in the letting go of four members.

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Removal of Aquino's top aide would meet just one of the demands of rebel officers, many of whom remain at large with several hundred soldiers.

The new Congress reacted to the aborted coup by quickly taking up bills to increase military wages and spending - again, a rebel demand.

And Aquino is reported by close associates to have decided to retire the armed forces chief, Gen. Fidel Ramos, in the near future. Ramos was the main target of the coup leader, Col. Gregorio Honasan. Both men helped bring Aquino to power last year by leading a relatively nonviolent mutiny against then-President Ferdinand Marcos.

Two other rebel demands - a tougher crackdown on corruption and cleaner election management - have not been taken up by Aquino since the violent challenge last month to the constitutional democracy she has helped restore.

Three times in the past, Aquino has considered removing Arroyo, who is perhaps her closest confidant. He is a former human rights lawyer who defended Aquino's husband while he was in prison under Mr. Marcos and also defended many captured communists. He is considered a leftist by many in the military.

As executive secretary, Arroyo has also made enemies among business and Roman Catholic activists who had backed Aquino against Marcos. Since the coup, a former anti-Marcos group of business professionals has urged Aquino to fire Arroyo so she can make peace with the military and build a united front against a communist insurgency.

On Tuesday, Arroyo accused three prominent businessmen of treason for seeking his ouster, claiming they had sought business favors from him but failed. One of them was Raul Concepcion, twin brother of Aquino's secretary of trade and industry, Jose Concepcion. At Wednesday's Cabinet meeting, Secretary Concepcion helped lead the mass resignation.

Another Cabinet member nearly as controversial - and vulnerable - as Arroyo is Teodoro Locsin Jr., the President's legal adviser and speech writer. He is close to Arroyo and was openly critical of the military's counterattack against the rebel soldiers.

These public criticisms of Aquino aides mask more private concerns among many Filipinos about her ability to manage a divided, poor, and restless nation. To prevent further splinters in her administration, Aquino plans to convene a temporary group of Cabinet secretaries, congressional leaders, people in the private sector, and the military into a ``council of state.''

She will announce the names of the members today, but the council's agenda is unclear. The President plans to go to the Vatican next month, and the council could serve as a governing body while she is out of the country, some observers say.

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