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Filipino leader declares state of emergency

President struggles to keep control of government amid rumors of a coup

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MANILA, Philippines — President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo declared a state of emergency today as she struggled against a reported coup plot and a possible repeat of the protests that ousted two of her predecessors.

The announcement came after the military said a general had been arrested in connection with a coup plot and as people defied a ban on rallying at a shrine of the 1986 revolt that ousted Ferdinand Marcos. Clashes erupted as police tried to disperse the protesters.

Arroyo said her action was the result of ongoing efforts by the political opposition, along with both the extreme left and the extreme right, to bring down the elected government.

"I am declaring a state of emergency because of the clear threat to the nation," a defiant Arroyo said in a taped, nationally televised statement.

"This is my warning against those who threaten the government: the whole weight of the law will fall on your treason. You are unhinging the economy from its strengthening pillars."

Arroyo held a predawn emergency meeting of her national security council, said her chief of staff, Mike Defensor.

"The president is in control and is taking steps to avoid trouble," Defensor said, adding that an unspecified number of civilians and military officials had been arrested and eight to 10 more were being sought.

Army chief of staff Gen. Generoso Senga reported that army Brig. Gen. Danilo Lim, head of the elite scout rangers, was among those arrested and marine Col. Ariel Querubin was being sought. Senga said the military will remain loyal to the constitution and the democratically elected government.

Checkpoints appeared around the capital. Media were barred from the main military headquarters, Camp Aguinaldo, where reinforcements arrived in eight armored personnel carriers. An armored personnel carrier sat outside the marines' camp, with a truckload of marines in full battle gear nearby.

Police already were on red alert nationwide as widespread reports of a coup plot have circulated for more than a week; even elementary school students were discussing it in detail.

Army chief Lt. Gen. Hermogenes Esperon has said 14 junior officers were identified as being involved, and that the military stood ready to crush any takeover attempt.

Arroyo survived three impeachment bids in September related to complaintsof alleged corruption and vote-rigging. Opposition groups have continued to call for her resignation.