MANILA, JULY 13 -- A senior Philippines military commander said today that an armed forces major has been arrested and other Army personnel are being sought in connection with a plan to overthrow President Corazon Aquino's government.
Brig. Gen. Alexander Aguirre, commander of forces defending the national capital region, said the arrested officer had been part of a military-civilian plot to seize Manila International Airport, the adjacent Air Force headquarters and other government facilities in an effort to force Aquino to step down.
Government television said this evening that five military officers, including two majors, have been arrested. It attributed the information to sources at armed forces headquarters.
Aguirre said military investigators are seeking an unspecified number of soldiers and others recently discharged who are suspected of involvement in the plot.
The military announcement follows last week's disclosure of tape-recorded conversations in which deposed president Ferdinand Marcos was heard trying to buy $25 million worth of weapons to outfit an army to overthrow Aquino. Marcos admitted Sunday that he had discussed a possible invasion of the Philippines, but he said his plan was predicated on what he believes is an imminent "communist takeover" here.
Aguirre said the major's arrest and his confession had "preempted" a coup attempt against Aquino by right-wing civilian and military elements, probably linked to Marcos. He said recent bombings in the Manila area are linked to the coup plot.
A Manila newspaper, quoting a senior military source, said today that passengers from international flights were to be taken hostage and used as leverage in negotiations with the Aquino government.