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Military court accepts 54 officers’ plea bargain

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7-year sentences to be cut short

By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
Last updated 05:05pm (Mla time) 04/11/2007

MANILA, Philippines — (3RD UPDATE) A military court trying junior officers involved in a failed 2003 mutiny accepted on Wednesday a plea bargain offer from 54 of the accused and then paved the way for their early release by cutting their seven years and six-month sentences by almost half.

magdalo1.jpg

The officers changed their not guilty pleas on charges of violating Article of War 97 (conduct prejudicial to good order and military discipline) to guilty.

In exchange, they sought the dropping of charges for violating Articles of War: 67 (mutiny), 63 (disrespect to the President), 64 (disrespect towards superior officer), and 96 (conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman), all of which carry heavier penalties.

On serving their sentences, which end January 27 next year, all 54 will be dishonorably discharged from the service.

Earlier in the day, the officers changed their plea to charges of violating Article of War 97 (conduct prejudicial to good order and military discipline) from not guilty to guilty.

In exchange they sought the dropping of charges for violating the following provisions of the Articles of War: 67 (mutiny), 63 (disrespect to the President), 64 (disrespect towards superior officer), and 96 (conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman).

Seven other officers refused to join the plea bargain.

On accepting the offer, the court, headed by Air Force Brigadier General Nathaniel Legaspi, sentenced the 54 officers to seven years but then credited the three years, eight months and 14 days they have been detained since July 28, 2003, a day after the failed mutiny.

The court also deducted a year from the sentences for each of three mitigating circumstances the officers had earlier invoked through their lawyer Edgardo Abaya — “their voluntary surrender, voluntary change in plea and their long time in detention.”

The court did not order the forfeiture of the 54 officers’ salaries and benefits, saying this was a matter to be decided by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the commander-in-chief.

“After confidential deliberation in chamber and upon secret balloting, [the court] declares upon unanimous vote that the accused are hereby adjudged guilty beyond reasonable doubt of violation of Article of War 97,” said Lieutenant Colonel Ana Escarlan, the law member of the eight-man general court martial.

Explaining the verdict, Escarlan said in court: “They are sentenced to serve under confinement[sic]…they brought great dishonor to the noble profession of arms and to the [military] establishment as a whole.”

Military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Bartolome Bacarro said the verdict will be forwarded for approval to the Armed Forces chief of staff General Hermogenes Esperon Jr., then to Arroyo.

“To be dishonorably discharged from the institution that you vowed to serve, that’s something big and heavy,” Bacarro told reporters.

Defense lawyer Trixie Angeles said they initially pushed for the reinstatement of her clients to the active service.

“This was what was initially agreed upon, so, it’s alright,” Angeles said, adding, “We have no thoughts about the feelings [of our clients]. They’re still processing it.”

Another defense lawyer, Hortencio Domingo, said, “It [verdict] is acceptable to them. There were no complaints.”

Domingo said the verdict was “reasonable” and his clients were expecting a dishonorable discharge since they pleaded guilty to one of the charges.

One of the 54 officers, who asked not to be identified, said: “Nothing [had been] happening in the case for too long. This is okay.”

Some of the officers were smiling as they were herded to vans taking them back to detention.

The officers who were sentenced do not include 29 others who are the alleged ringleaders of the failed uprising and who are charged separately for violating Article of War 96 before a court martial and for coup d’etat before the Makati regional trial court.

The officers, leading some 300 troops, seized the Oakwood luxury apartment in Makati City on July 27, 2003 to demand the resignations of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and defense and military officials over allegations of corruption.

But the uprising was quelled by the end of the day when the soldiers, who called themselves the Magdalo group, returned to barracks following negotiations with senior officers and former defense and military officials.

Earlier in the hearing, the court approved the release of four junior officers, upon recommendation of the Army Special Adjudication Board, which found no probable cause against them.

The four officers are: First Lieutenants Edmund Bandilla and Marcelino Mendoza, and Second Lieutenants Gerald Daen and Percival Alcanar.

Following is the list of the 54 junior officers who availed of the plea bargain:

1. First Lieutenant Wilfredo Camacho
2. Second Lieutenant Jigger Mondellana
3. Second Lieutenant Adrian Alvarino
4. Second Lieutenant Jayvee Macarambot
5. Second Lieutenant Archie Grande
6. Second Lieutenant Mark Dennis Derecho
7. Lieutenant Senior Grade Norberto Santiago
8. Lieutenant Junior Grade Marco Angelo Ancheta
9. Lieutenant Junior Grade Ronald Galicia
10. Ensign Victor Odulio
11. Ensign Ian Luis Badecao III
12. Ensign Ronald Diso
13. Ensign Arjohn Elumba
14. Ensign Brian Babang
15. Ensign Jeffrey Bangsa
16. Ensign Jonah Arugay
17. Ensign Jonathan Jay Adlawan
18. Ensign Emerson Rosales
19. Ensign Elmer Cruz
20. Ensign Rey Galano
21. Ensign Juvenal Azurin
22. Ensign Lyle Rosas
23. Ensign Cesar Tamba
24. Lieutenant Junior Grade Ceferino Diega III
25. Ensign Jeffrey Dakilanea
26. Second Lieutenant Danny Canaveral
27. First Lieutenant Ronald Ricardo
28. Second Lieutenant Leopoldo Apillañas
29. First Lieutenant Jonathan Costales
30. Second Lieutenant Oswald Dira
31. Second Lieutenant Samsudin Lintongan
32. Second Lieutenant Mark Damaso
33. Second Lieutenant Giovanni Balian
34. Second Lieutenant Edgardo Aguilar
35. Second Lieutenant Norman Spencer Lo
36. Second Lieutenant Larry Cendaña
37. Second Lieutenant Javelino Sani
38. Second Lieutenant Lexington Alonzo
39. Second Lieutenant Philmore Runn
40. First Lieutenant Patricio Bumidang Jr. (escaped from Fort
Bonifacio in January 2006 but recaptured six months later)
41. First Lieutenant Emerson Margate
42. First Lieutenant Julius Navales
43. First Lieutenant Jose Enrique Dingle
44. First Lieutenant Jeffrey Caoguiran
45. Second Lieutenant Laurefel Caballes
46. Second Lieutenant Warren James Tayaban
47. Second Lieutenant Warren Quasay
48. Second Lieutenant Nestor Jason Gamboa
49. Second Lieutenant Archiebel Rañel
50. Second Lieutenant Jeffrey Tacio
51. Second Lieutenant Regino Orteza
52. Second Lieutenant Noel Tomonglay
53. Second Lieutenant Joel Plaza
54. Second Lieutenant Charleston Tan

View article as posted on INQUIRER.net

Written by joelguinto

Wed+00:002007-04-11T09:51:25+00:00+00:0004b+00:00Wed, 11 Apr 2007 09:51:25 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am04

Posted in Uncategorized

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