Fidel Ramos says coup ‘a possibility’ if Estrada acquitted


HONG KONG, AFP

Former Philippine president Fidel Ramos warned Tuesday a military coup was possible if the current embattled leader Joseph Estrada was acquitted of corruption charges.

Ramos, in Hong Kong to promote Philippine investment opportunities, told journalists that a coup “could be possible but it is not probable” adding that a palace coup” was also a likely scenario.

He said a palace coup would result in Estrada supporters moving the president into a ceremonial position and establishing a transitional government to take over.

“In that kind of arrangement — I am sorry to say — I will fight because it’s unconstitutional,” Ramos said.

Ramos — a South Korean and Vietnam war veteran who maintains strong links with the military — said a coup by the army was a possibility.

“I am calling it a possibility not a probability.”

But he added another scenario would be the withdrawal by the military and police establishments of their support for Estrada, who serves as their commander in chief.

That would be reminiscent of 1986 when a people power revolution backed by General Ramos ousted former Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

Estrada was impeached on an array of corruption charges by the House of Representatives in November and is now facing a graft trial in the senate.

He will be ousted if convicted by the senate on charges of receiving bribes from illegal gambling bosses, siphoning off public funds and protecting a friend involved in an insider trading scandal.

A verdict is expected by Feb. 12.

The 63-year-old former movie star has denied the accusations.

Ramos said speculation that Estrada’s team had already obtained enough support from the senators sitting in judgment to obtain an acquittal was justified, adding the “numbers are definitely against a conviction”.

A two third majority from among the senator-judges is necessary for a conviction. There were 24 senators originally but one of them has resigned and another died. One more senator is in the United States undergoing medical treatment.

Ramos said there were eight “hardcore” supporters of Estrada sitting on the panel, at least one must switch allegiance if the prosecution is to be successful.

He said Filipinos were angry and hungry as the country’s economy fails, unemployment reached 12 percent and the currency strikes record lows against the U.S. dollar.

“I do want better conditions for the people of the Philippines,” he added.