Philippine authorities have foiled a fresh plot to oust President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, arresting an opposition lawyer, three retired colonels and a former police officer, the national police chief said on Thursday.
Avelino Razon said the group was also trying to extort up to $10 million from a Japanese trader as part of efforts to raise funds to launch destabilisation activities to topple Arroyo.
"We have enough basis to charge them for a plot to commit coup d'etat," Razon told reporters, adding the police have expanded an inquiry to determine the extent of the new plot and "find out who else might be involved".
Police have recommended filing of charges against those arrested. Officers were piecing together details of the fresh plot after stumbling across it in the course of an extortion inquiry, he said.
The lawyer, aligned with the opposition, was having lunch with three retired colonels and a former police officer when police rounded them up at a restaurant in Manila on Wednesday.
"It was an entrapment operation after the group had asked a Japanese businessman to provide them with funds to stage fresh attempts to oust the president," Razon said, adding the initial complaint came from another lawyer.
The lawyer was one of the defence lawyers of a marine colonel facing mutiny charges for his role in an alleged coup plot against Arroyo in February 2006.
All three former soldiers have been linked to several past coup attempts since 1989 while the former police officer has an arrest warrant for the murder of an army captain in 2001.
Raymund Fortun, a lawyer of former president Joseph Estrada, told police investigators the group was trying to extort money from his client, the Japanese trader, threatening to frame him for the murder of two former employees.
Fortun said he was willing to testify in court "based on my own personal knowledge of the actions of the group" after he was also threatened with physical harm.
"I was told the money from my client would be used to oust the president," he added.