MANILA (Reuters) – Gunfire was heard in front of a luxury hotel in Manila, where about two dozen soldiers were holed up in a mutiny bid along with an indeterminate number of stranded journalists, guests and staff.
Three armoured personnel carriers were also moving towards the Peninsula Hotel, a witness said.
“We are ready to go at any time,” Manila Police Chief Geary Barias told reporters outside the Peninsula Hotel in the heart of Manila’s Makati financial district.
The rebel soldiers holed up there had stopped people from leaving the premises as a 3 pm (0700 GMT) deadline for them to end their mutiny passed.
A Reuters witness said around 200 people, mainly journalists but also guests with luggage waiting to leave, were in the lobby of the hotel, where around two dozen troops have called for the overthrow of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
Armed soldiers were positioned at the hotel’s exits.
Guests still inside the hotel were calm. Dave Anderson, from Anchorage Alaska, had flown in overnight to Manila.
“I haven’t been to bed yet. They came and beat on my door and told me to leave by 3 p.m. They told me to take my bag, so here I am sitting in the lobby because I can’t go out.”
Hundreds of soldiers and police have taken up positions around the hotel. Additional troops were ready to be deployed.
The soldiers, backed by a former vice-president, a senator and a bishop, have called for people to join them but no crowds had gathered in the rain outside the hotel.
Around half of the troops in the hotel face trial for a failed mutiny in 2003. They dramatically walked out of the court on Thursday, followed by some of their guards, and marched to the hotel.
The Philippines has seen more than a dozen coup attempts since the overthrow of President Ferdinand Marcos in 1986 and residents of Manila are used to varying degrees of unrest. Thursday’s drama attracted some curious onlookers.
gunfire is being heard, teargas was set off… i hate how they resort to violence. i’m not siding with anybody, as both parties have not planned things pretty well.