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Archive for October 25th, 2007

Esperon: Report on ’04 ‘cheating’ with ‘higher ups’

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
Last updated 03:37pm (Mla time) 10/25/2007

MANILA, Philippines — Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff General Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said it was not up to him to release a military fact-finding board’s report on alleged cheating operations in 2004, supposedly involving military officials, because it is not with him.

Esperon said the report, prepared by retired vice admiral Mateo Mayuga, had been forwarded to “higher offices” and has not been returned to the office of the AFP chief.

“At this point, I cannot [release the report]. For as long as it has not been returned to the office of the chief of staff, I cannot act on it,” Esperon said in a television interview, when asked if the Mayuga report would be declassified like the AFP Provost Marshal’s findings on the loss of a license plate linked to the case of missing activist Jonas Burgos.

In the report, Mayuga, the former AFP Inspector General and Navy chief, absolved Esperon and three other generals mentioned in the so-called “Hello Garci” wiretaps of involvement in alleged election fraud.

But the report was never made public in full after excerpts were released in early 2006. Officials said it was forwarded to then defense secretary Avelino Cruz Jr., who in turn submitted it to Malacañang.

Esperon said he was not sure if the report has been returned to Cruz’s successor, Gilberto Teodoro Jr.

In the purported wiretaps, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was allegedly caught talking to former elections commissioner Virgilio Garcillano about plans to rig the 2004 elections in her favor, with the military’s help.

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Written by joelguinto

Thu+00:002007-10-25T08:43:49+00:00+00:0010b+00:00Thu, 25 Oct 2007 08:43:49 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am10

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Discharge of Rangers a ‘rights violation’–lawyer

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
Last updated 03:06pm (Mla time) 10/25/2007

MANILA, Philippines — A “grave abuse of discretion” and “blatant violation of human rights.”

This was how the lawyer of 26 Army Scout Rangers allegedly involved in a supposed coup plot in February last year described their discharge from the service after being detained for over a year without formal charges.

“Definitely, this is very much more than a grave abuse of discretion,” an incensed lawyer Vicente Verdadero said. “It’s a blatant violation of human rights.”

“The cardinal question is this: why [were they discharged] just now? After more than a year, why not immediately after the investigation,” he told reporters.

Army chief Alexander Yano discharged the 26 soldiers based on year-old recommendations by the Inspector Generals of the Armed Forces and the Philippine Army.

Yano’s predecessor, retired lieutenant general Romeo Tolentino, put off the discharge until the 28 officers who allegedly led the botched uprising could be arraigned on mutiny charges.

But Yano decided to implement the recommendations because the case has continued to drag and the officers have yet to be arraigned almost a year after the trial opened last December.

Verdadero said that, contrary to the Army’s allegation, the 26 dismissed troopers were not planning to joint anti-government rallies on February 24, 2006 but were merely called to Manila from their base in the Bicol region to augment the Special Scout Ranger Company in Fort Bonifacio.

“They were following a legitimate order from their operations officer, based on an order coming from the headquarters if the Philippine Army,” Verdadero said.

When the troops were halted at a checkpoint in Sipocot town, Camarines Sur province, they were actually on their way back to their Bicol base after being informed of “problems” in Manila.

At that time, the Scout Rangers’ operations officer was Major Oriel Pangcog, who was investigated over the supposed coup plot, but was cleared and never charged.

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Written by joelguinto

Thu+00:002007-10-25T08:42:49+00:00+00:0010b+00:00Thu, 25 Oct 2007 08:42:49 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am10

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Trillanes invites doubters to witnesses’ safehouse

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
Last updated 12:24pm (Mla time) 10/25/2007

MANILA, Philippines — Senator Antonio Trillanes IV dared fellow senators Gregorio Honasan and Francis Pangilinan to see his “witnesses and informants” who would bolster his claim that the government was behind the explosion at the Glorietta shopping mall in Makati City last week.

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Trillanes said his witnesses were members of the “special operations” team of National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales, and were being kept in a safehouse.

He also branded as a “cover up” results of the investigation that the explosion was an industrial accident.

Honasan and Pangilinan had criticized Trillanes for linking the government to the explosion without providing evidence.

Police investigators are eyeing industrial accident as the cause of the blast, after no bomb components were found in the basement of Glorietta 2, scene of the explosion.

Investigators said a combination of methane gas from sewage pipes and diesel fumes from a tank, both in the basement, could have triggered the explosion.

“We will present the witnesses in due time, we are debriefing them,” Trillanes told reporters on the side of his coup hearing in Makati City.

“He [Honasan] said put up or shut up. I will put up, I’m inviting them to the safehouse where we are keeping the witnesses and informants,” he said.

Without elaborating, Trillanes said the witnesses would prove that “the government was responsible [for the explosion].”

“I assure the public that I do think before I talk,” he said, acknowledging the flak he received for his allegation.

Trillanes said the government initially denied that bomb components were found at the wreckage of the Superferry 14.

Later investigation revealed that the al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf bombed the ship where some 200 people were killed.

“This is not the first time that they are involved in a cover-up. This government did nothing to earn our benefit of the doubt,” he said.

A former Navy lieutenant, Trillanes allegedly led some 300 officers and enlisted men in a short-lived uprising on July 27, 2003.

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Written by joelguinto

Thu+00:002007-10-25T06:31:46+00:00+00:0010b+00:00Thu, 25 Oct 2007 06:31:46 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am10

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Ex-Scout Rangers chief fails to appear at hearing

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
Last updated 12:13pm (Mla time) 10/25/2007

MANILA, Philippines — Ex-Army Scout Rangers chief Brigadier General Danilo Lim was a no-show at the coup d’etat hearing of the Magdalo group of alleged mutineers on Thursday, where he had been set to take the witness stand for the defense.

Lim’s lawyer, Vicente Verdadero, told presiding judge Oscar Pimentel that his client received a subpoena from the court only on Wednesday afternoon.

Verdadero also asked the court why his client’s testimony was relevant to the case.

Defense lawyer Rene Sagiusag, who sought Lim’s testimony, said the general was part of negotiations for the surrender of the 300 Magdalo officers and enlisted men, who briefly seized the Oakwood luxury apartments building in Makati on July 27, 2003.

During the negotiations, Sagiusag said the soldiers were promised that only five of them would be charged, and only before a court martial, not a civilian court.

“He [Lim] is very much necessary to find the truth,” Sagiusag said. “He was at the negotiating panel.”

Verdader agreed and said his client would testify at the next hearing. Pimentel set Lim’s testimony on November 15.

Lim is detained at Camp Capinpin in Tanay town, Rizal province with 27 other officers charged with mutiny before a court martial over the alleged February 2006 coup plot.

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Written by joelguinto

Thu+00:002007-10-25T06:30:15+00:00+00:0010b+00:00Thu, 25 Oct 2007 06:30:15 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am10

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26 elite Army men linked to 2006 coup plot discharged

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
Last updated 08:20am (Mla time) 10/25/2007

MANILA, Philippines – Army Chief Lieutenant General Alexander Yano has discharged from the service 26 elite enlisted personnel linked to the alleged February 2006 coup plot, after they languished in detention for over a year without being served formal charges, his spokesman said.

The administrative discharge took effect on Wednesday, and the 26 enlisted men were set for transfer from their detention cell at Camp Capinpin in Tanay town, Rizal province, to Fort Bonifacio, where they will undergo “processing” before their release, said Army public affairs chief Lieutenant Colonel Ernesto Torres Jr.

“Effective Wednesday, 26 of the 40 EPs [enlisted personnel in Tanay, who were among those investigated for involvement in the February [incident] were discharged administratively from the military service and relieved from detention,” the spokesman said.

“They will not receive separation benefits because they were discharged for a cause,” he told Camp Aguinaldo reporters.

Fourteen other elite Army soldiers will remain detained at Camp Capinpin for “continuing investigation” while awaiting charges, he said.

Yano discharged the 26 based on separate recommendations of an ad-hoc investigating team, led by former Armed Forces Inspector General Rufino Lopez and the Army Inspector General last year, Torres said.

Yano’s predecessor, retired Lieutenant General Romeo Tolentino, put off the implementation of the discharge pending the arraignment on mutiny charges of the 19 Scout Ranger and nine Marine officers linked to the supposed plot, the spokesman said.

The officers have not been arraigned since their trial opened in December 2006 after they repeatedly questioned the legitimacy of the court handling their case and ejected several presidents of the seven-man tribunal through a peremptory challenge.

“It’s been dragging for a long time, so upon the advice of military lawyers, the CG [commanding general, Yano] decided to remove the condition [that the officers should be arraigned] and discharge them effective Wednesday,” he added.

The investigations found “preponderance of evidence” that the 26 soldiers violated Articles of War 67 (mutiny) and 97 (conduct prejudicial to good order and military discipline), Torres said.

Torres added it was within Yano’s power as commanding general, under Memorandum Circular 1017, not to extend the enlistment of foot soldiers, which has to be renewed every three years.

Formerly stationed in the Bicol region, the 26 soldiers were halted in Sipocot town in Camarines Sur province, while allegedly on their way to join anti-government protests on February 24, 2006, the 20th anniversary of the 1986 People Power revolt that restored democracy in the country, Torres said.

Ex-Army Scout Rangers chief Brigadier General Danilo Lim and Marine Colonel Ariel Querubin allegedly planned to use the protests as a springboard for a mass withdrawal of support from President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who is hounded by allegations of election fraud.

Torres said Tolentino put off the discharge of the 26 soldiers since they could not be reinstated in case the court martial acquits their officers for mutiny.

“If the officers are exonerated, the damage to the soldiers will be irreparable,” he
said.

He said the 26 soldiers would remain at the Custodial Management Unit (CMU) compound in Fort Bonifacio in Taguig City for medical and dental tests and other administrative matters.

“They will be released as soon as possible,” he said.

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Written by joelguinto

Thu+00:002007-10-25T06:28:43+00:00+00:0010b+00:00Thu, 25 Oct 2007 06:28:43 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am10

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