13:56 GMT +323 October 2019
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    Philippine Justice Secretary Leila de Lima gesturing during an interview with AFP in Manila

    Philippines Government Slams Attempt to Install 'Junta'

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    The justice secretary of the Philippines has released a statement condemning alleged efforts to carry out a 'coup d'etat.'

    The Justice Secretary of the Philippines, Leila de Lima, released a statement on Sunday condemning an attempt by political rivals "to instigate or foment a military-backed 'people power' uprising," and named former defense minister Norberto Gonzales as one of those involved in efforts by the National Transformation Council  [NTC] to bring about "the installation of a civilian-military junta." 

    "A junta by any other sanitized name is still illegal and unconstitutional,” de Lima stated, PNA reports, declaring that “the government will not relent in applying the full force of the law against them in order to protect the people and the State from an unconstitutional and illegal power grab."

    The National Transformation Council announced itself to the public in August last year when it released "The Lipa declaration: An urgent call for national transformation," which demanded the resignation of current President Benigno Aquino III, and called for the NTC "to assume the urgent and necessary task of restoring our damaged political institutions, and "the Armed Forces of the Philippines, as the constitutional “protector of the people and the state,” to extend its protective shield to the council, and not to allow any armed group to sow violence, disorder or discord into its peaceful ranks."

    On Sunday de Lima threatened NTC members with criminal charges including "conspiracy or proposal to commit rebellion and coup d’ etat," conspiracy or incitement to sedition and illegal assemblies, naming Gonzales and, according to the Manila Times, an "aggrupation of disgruntled GMA allies," referring to Aquino's predecessor former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who left office in 2010. 

    Last week Philstar reported that Gonzales had admitted to pushing for a change of government, but denied accusations of an illegal attempt at overthrowing the government. "I'm mobilizing our people… It's not a coup, it's people power," he said in a TV interview, and also denied being the "very rich man" named by  Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago as bankrolling the coup.

    Santiago made reference to Gonzales earlier this month, citing intelligence reports of a coup being plotted, during the course of a Senate investigation into a police operation targeting Islamic terrorists Zulkifli bin Hir, for whose arrest the FBI had offered $5 million, and Basit Usman. The operation, which was carried out on January 25 in Mamasapano, in the country's predominantly Muslim south, resulted in the deaths of 44 police officers.

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