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The BBC's John MacLean in Manila
"The authorities are hoping that at some stage Estrada will be prosecuted"
 real 56k

Thursday, 25 January, 2001, 10:46 GMT
Arroyo dismisses coup threats
General Edgardo Espinosa
General Espinosa - a 'dear friend' of Arroyo
The new Philippines president, Gloria Arroyo, grappled with charges that her government was under threat on Thursday, even telephoning a general rumoured to be plotting a coup.

Did General Espinosa say it explicitly that he will stage a coup? I will call him right now and ask him...

Gloria Arroyo
Mrs Arroyo - who also tried to contain the damage from the resignation of her defence minister on Thursday - caused a stir at a news conference when she telephoned Lieutenant-General Edgardo Espinosa of the Marines.

She asked reporters: "Did General Espinosa say it explicitly that he will stage a coup?"

"I will call him right now and ask him... he is a dear friend of mine," she said.

Mrs Arroyo
Mrs Arroyo waves the phone after calling the general
Minutes later, an aide brought a mobile phone to Mrs Arroyo with the general apparently on the line.

"Are you going to stage a coup against me?," she asked.

Mrs Arroyo told reporters that the notion of a coup was "beyond the general's imagination".

Since she was sworn in as president at the weekend after a military-backed popular uprising ousted Joseph Estrada, there have been persistent rumours of coup attempts.

Mrs Arroyo said on Thursday there was no chance of Mr Estrada returning to power.

Resignation row

But correspondents say her theatrical news conference -broadcast live on national television - failed to dispel doubts about the stability of the new government.

How can I serve in the cabinet together with [Abadia] when I initiated the investigation against him

Defence Minister Orlando Mercado
Mrs Arroyo's administration suffered its first blow when Defence Secretary Orlando Mercado resigned over the appointment of a corruption-tainted minister.

Mrs Arroyo attempted to quash notions that Mr Mercado's resignation meant she was losing her grip.

She said he wanted to go simply because he wished to run for a seat in the Senate.

Corruption allegations

But in announcing his resignation, Mr Mercado made his objection clear to the appointment of Lisandro Abadia as national security adviser.

Mass protest
Mass protests helped topple Mr Estrada
He told reporters: "How can I serve in the cabinet together with [Abadia] when I initiated the investigation against him and up to this time [the charges are] still pending in the courts?"

Mr Abadia was military chief of staff when officials uncovered a case four years ago involving misuse of tens of millions of dollars in military pension funds.

Mr Mercado was also defence minister in Mr Estrada's government. He withdrew his support last week from Mr Estrada's embattled administration and joined the opposition.

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See also:

25 Jan 01 | Asia-Pacific
Philippines coffers 'empty'
23 Jan 01 | Asia-Pacific
Estrada banned from leaving Philippines
20 Jan 01 | Asia-Pacific
World leaders welcome Arroyo
20 Jan 01 | Asia-Pacific
Challenges confronting Arroyo
21 Jan 01 | Asia-Pacific
Arroyo moves to bolster economy
25 Jan 01 | Asia-Pacific
Analysis: Philippines stability at stake
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