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No statements from detained Rangers without lawyers present

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By Joel Guinto
Last updated 03:59pm (Mla time) 10/29/2007

MANILA, Philippines — Fourteen Army Scout Rangers detained even without formal charges for their alleged participation in a supposed coup plot in February 2006 coup refused on Monday to give their statements to investigators on the advise of their lawyer.

The Scout Rangers’ lawyer, Vicente Verdadero, said he advised the 14 elite troopers not to give any statement since they were not accompanied by civilian counsel when investigators from the Army Inspector General went to their detention cells at Camp Capinpin in Tanay town, Rizal province.

“They cannot be investigated without a lawyer,” Verdadero said in a phone interview.

It was the first time the statements of the 14 enlisted men have been sought since they were detained in mid-2006, Army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Ernesto Torres Jr. said.

Torres said a “shortage of manpower” at the Army Inspector General delayed the investigation of the enlisted men and that cases of human rights abuse, including those involving retired major general Jovito Palparan, had taken first priority.

“But we have reports coming from their units that would warrant their investigation on this case,” Torres said in a separate interview.

Torres refused to elaborate on the “reports” but said they showed “prima facie evidence for their complicity in the February 2006 destabilization [plot].”

On Thursday, 26 fellow detainees of the 14 Scout Rangers were discharged from service after the Philippine Army said there was a “preponderance of evidence” that they violated Articles of War 67 (mutiny) and 97 (conduct prejudicial to good order and military discipline).

Torres said the detainees agreed to have their statements taken, with their lawyer present, on November 9.

“We’re still hoping they cooperate in the investigation…process in order to have a speedy impartial investigation…Their statements will be taken with the hope of probably mitigating them from the case,” he said.

The 14 enlisted men were allegedly part of a plot to declare a mass withdrawal of support from President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on February 24, 2006, the 20th anniversary of the 1986 People Power uprising that toppled the Marcos dictatorship.

Twenty-eight officers — 19 Scout Rangers, the rest Marines — are facing court martial for mutiny and are also detained in Camp Capinpin.

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Written by joelguinto

Mon+00:002007-10-29T08:35:55+00:00+00:0010b+00:00Mon, 29 Oct 2007 08:35:55 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am10

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