The Philippine military has created an elite 600-man "countercoup" force, according to an opposition legislator, who said he will ask for an official explanation.

Army officers, who would not speak for attribution, confirmed the report and said some of their members, too, were questioning creation of the force.

Opposition assemblyman Antonio Cuenco told reporters in his central Philippine province of Cebu yesterday that he will file a resolution seeking a legislative inquiry into the force.

A well-placed source in the Philippine military said the existence of this countercoup force under the Army's commander, Maj. Gen. Josephus Ramas, was no secret.

Sources in a growing reform movement within the military, which was started by young officers to rebuild the armed forces' tattered image, said they feared that the countercoup force was the spearhead of Ramas' own ambitions.

Ramas reportedly put together the force in Fort Bonifacio in the Manila suburbs, including elements from the Army, Navy and Air Force. It excludes the police constabulary, which is under the acting chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Fidel Ramos.

The reform movement officers are said to support professional leaders, among whom they include Ramos. The reform movement, after making its organization public earlier this year, is said to be increasing its influence among the 13,000-member officer corps.

The movement has to be seen as a threat to generals favored by President Ferdinand Marcos. An informed source said Maj. Gen. Ramas had sent word to his officers discouraging them from joining it.

Officers of the reform movement are said to fear the ambition of Ramas more than that of Gen. Fabian Ver, the chief of staff who went on leave to stand trial for the slaying of Marcos' rival, Benigno Aquino Jr.

One officer said, "Ver is totally loyal to one man -- Marcos -- but Ramas is only loyal to himself." Ramas, 63, is described as a favorite of the powerful first lady, Imelda Marcos.

Ramas has control of all key resources that are necessary to prevent a coup or to launch a coup, a military source said. A colonel asked: "Why is there a need to train a countercoup force? To counter whom? Nobody can launch a coup except Maj. Gen. Ramas himself."

Ramas controls the military security command, an intelligence function with units all over the Philippines, as well as the armor regiment. Most of the tanks and the armored personnel carriers are in Fort Bonifacio. He rolled out some of the tanks onto the streets of Manila last December to forestall disorder when Marcos was ill.