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27 Oakwood ‘leaders’ mulling plea bargain — lawyers

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By Joel Guinto
Last updated 03:32pm (Mla time) 06/06/2007

MANILA, Philippines — Twenty-seven of the 29 junior officers being tried for allegedly leading a failed mutiny in July 2003 are considering a plea bargain with military prosecutors, their lawyers said.

Except for ex-Navy lieutenant Antonio Trillanes IV, who ran for the Senate, and Marine Captain Nicanor Faeldon, the 27 are mulling pleading guilty to violation of Article of War 96 (conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman), or to have the charge downgraded before entering a guilty plea.

Violation of AW 96 is punishable by dishonorable dismissal from the service. Lawyer Edgardo Abaya said downgrading the charge could bring down the penalty to rank demotion.

Trillanes, who waived his appearance during the hearing on Wednesday at Camp Aguinaldo, had not been consulted about the possible plea bargain, Abaya said.

Faeldon, who briefly escaped detention in December 2005, prefers to stand trial as a matter of principle, alongside two other junior officers linked to the 2003 uprising, but are being tried separately from the 29 so-called core leaders, their lawyer, Trixie Angeles, said.

“My clients want to remain steadfast in their principles for the same [reason] that they went to Oakwood. They see no difference in the changes, they do not expect justice, but they submit peacefully to due process, so for consistency’s sake they will not submit to [a] plea bargain,” Angeles said.

Trillanes, who is detained at the Marine headquarters in Fort Bonifacio, is awaiting proclamation. He is ranked 11th in the latest Commission on Elections (Comelec) canvass for the 12 Senate seats up for grabs in the May 14 mid-term elections.

Abaya said the possible release or discharge of his clients in case the plea bargain pushes through would allow them to post bail on coup d’etat charges against them in the Makati regional trial court (RTC).

The Makati court granted the 29 core leaders bail in 2004, but they remained detained in military camps because of their pending court martial.

“It’s like they settled without admitting [they] did something wrong. Okay, I’ll agree [to plead guilty] if at the end of the day I will be discharged after the hearing drags. I would want to believe that it’s more of practicality,” Abaya said.

“They have been jailed for four years, and the case is bailable. They will still face the RTC and there will be no reason to detain them because of the court martial,” he said.

Also during Wednesday’s hearing, the court, headed by Brigadier General Nathaniel Legaspi, ordered the release of three junior officers being tried separately from the 29 after the Special Adjudication Board review found no probable cause against them.

The three officers are Navy Ensign Cesar Pangan Jr. and Marine Majors Yuri Pesigan and Danilo Luna.

“On the case of Pangan, Luna, and Pesigan, [the board decision] absolving them of the cases and dropping the charges, the motion is granted. They may be released from custody,” Legaspi said.

The some 300 junior officers and enlisted men linked to the 2003 uprising were tried in three groups — the People vs Maestrecampo case involving the 29 so-called core-leaders, the People vs Riaso case involving those who were charged with mutiny, and the People vs Ragil case which includes those who were linked to the uprising based solely on their inclusion in diskettes that were recovered from the Oakwood luxury apartment, which they seized and occupied for over 20 hours on July 27, 2003.

In April, 54 junior officers struck a plea bargain and were sentenced to dishonorable discharge from the service and imprisonment until February 2008.

In May 2005, 184 enlisted men were also released following a plea bargain, and were sentenced to demotion in rank and forfeiture of a portion of their salaries.

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Written by joelguinto

WedUTC2007-06-06T09:23:34+00:00UTC06bUTCWed, 06 Jun 2007 09:23:34 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am06

Posted in Uncategorized

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